Graphic designer Samantha Wey came to the Boundary on vacation to visit her brother and found herself with a job to overhaul a local electrical company’s website.
“I got hired on for a contract, did the website, and then I just didn’t want to leave,” Wey recalled.
The art school grad now runs her own small business, with the aim of helping other local entrepreneurs along with the own endeavours. Last week, they all got together at the Kettle Valley Golf Course in Rock Creek for the Boundary’s first BizConnect, an event put on by Community Futures as a way to offer networking opportunities to business owners in the region.
They don’t get a chance to get together much,” said Community Futures Chair Alan Peterson, because they’re so scattered – it’s a huge area.”
The region itself has a greater overall percentage (1.5 per cent) of self-employed workers than B.C. as a whole (1.4 per cent), according to the 2016 Canadian census.
“The area is doing quite well,” said Duane Eek, a director-at-large for Community Futures, about the Boundary’s capacity for business. Eek’s family has lived in the valley for generations and seen ebbs and flows of economic growth.
(“My dad used to say that he didn’t build the mountain, but he helped take down the scaffolding,” Eek said).
While Eek sees resources companies like Vaagen Fibre Canada and Interfor as some of the main employers in the region, Eek said that there’s also new business culture cropping up in the region: namely, cannabis.
“Cannabis is getting to be a big thing,” he said. “A lot of people are going to be employed with that.
“That looks like it’s probably our biggest horizon job.”
Alan Peterson, chair of the Community Futures board, said that having a representative from the Osoyoos Credit Union available at the new Riverside Centre in Rock Creek will also be a boon to businesspeople.
“It’s one of those little things to get people thinking about business and coalescing,” Peterson said about having more meeting space and financial resources available in the West Boundary.
Nevertheless, Eek admitted that it can be tough for some businesses to thrive beyond tourist season in the Boundary. That success depends on “due diligence,” he said. “You’ve got to put out a good product and get people to use it and be efficient at doing it.”
Wey said that she saw a need in local businesses and groups looking to promote their brands.
“It’s a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of work, and you need to have a big drive for it,” she said about running her own business. “So I commend anyone in town that’s like starting from scratch.”
She said that opportunities like BizConnect are valuable in an online word.
“As much as I’m advocating for online presence,” Wey said, “it’s nice for you to meet people you normally wouldn’t meet.”
The next BizConnect meeting will be held on Oct. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Grand Forks Curling Club. Residents, business owners and employees alike are invited to attend.