Friends at startupvernon.com have been canvassing for stories about what made people move to the Okanagan. I would like to add mine using their questions (slightly adjusted).
NOTE: On November 30 our friends in Vernon will be hosting this years #megageekbeers which brings together community members from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops and surrounding areas. I hope to see you there! RSVP here →
Where are you originally from?
We came to Kelowna from Vancouver, where was had lived for just a year after moving back to Canada from Japan.
After having our second baby, we spent a few months in Armstrong where my parents retired. The original intention was to go back to Vancouver, but that changed after just a couple of months.
What were your biggest concerns about moving to Kelowna? What helped you overcome those worries?
When it was first suggested to me to move to Kelowna (by my parents), my first reaction was “I dunno how to drive a tractor!”
But after couple of months attending Digital Okanagan meetups, and learning about the types of technology opportunities here, I decided to quit my job at Apple and start a new path here.
And to echo some of the other responses, Kelowna’s reputation as a retirement community was not exactly attractive. But things are getting more diverse (not just age-wise but also a bit ethnically) and we have a somewhat progressive and young municipal administration which is making things better (eg. increasing density, active transportation, etc) for retirees and non-retirees alike. At the time I moved here I could already see that my impressions of Kelowna was well out of date.
What kind of research did you do before you moved to Kelowna?
It was really being here and meeting people. Having the opportunity to hang around for a couple of months is a real luxury that most people do not have.
What other cities did you consider moving to?
Hmmm… we weren’t really planning on leaving the Lower Mainland. It just kind of happened. Really happy it did though!
What’s kept you in Kelowna?
Family for sure. It is a great place to raise small children, and with extended family here we get lots of support.
The community is great too. As I have written elsewhere:
We have lived for 3 years in Kelowna. Since leaving my hometown at 18, this is the longest I have ever lived in one location. I am involved in a few different community groups including the startup community, Japanese immigrant community, the wider immigrant community, and others. … at this point in my late thirties, with all the connections to the local community that I have been building over the past few years, I am finally achieving a sense of long-term belonging.
Career wise it has been great. I have been exposed to many opportunities that I would not have in a larger centre.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering moving to Kelowna?
I always advise people that we are in the West, and it is kind of frontier land, so we need people that are resilient and willing to help build. For people looking to make a real impact, the Okanagan is a great place.
About running your company
[I am going to skip these questions since I do not run my own company here. But I will say that we are an international company that is based in Kelowna, and we a growing like crazy. Probably the biggest challenge — something I think most other companies here face — is finding talent. Our talent pool is too shallow, so we need more great people to move here!]
What would make Kelowna even better?
Housing affordability, less inequality, immigrant services, protected bike lanes… I have a long list of pet issues 😜 but this might be more of an objective place to start.
Kelowna has been great to us, but there is certainly much room for improvement. The cool thing is that I see many people fighting to make it a better place, which makes it just that much cooler to be here.