Inspiring next generation innovation

A workshop called Ignite The North will be making stops in 11 northern communities to inspire youth on opportunities in the north

A panel of local business owners spoke about the challenges

What started out as an idea to spark innovation in the north, has quickly become a traveling event putting that idea into action.

The concept of inspiring the next generation of innovators started with Albert Koehler, a Prince George city councillor and board member of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC).

“We are helping wake up youth to what can be done in urban and rural communities,” said Mr. Koehler. “It’s about education increasing, diversification and resiliency of communities. I came from a little community of 200 people, believe me,  there is lots happening in Vanderhoof.”

The Ignite The North workshop will travel through 11 northern BC communities this fall including Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, Burns Lake, Houston, Smithers, Telkwa, McBride, Valemont, Mackenzie and Prince George.

The first stop was Vanderhoof on Oct. 1 showcasing a number of guest speakers, local entrepreneurs and an interactive creativity session.

The first panel consisted of Laurie Wallace from Wallace studios, Denise Doswell of Little Valley Farm and Dick Thiessen from Omineca Source for Sports. Each speaker educated the audience on a number of topics including risks involved, getting started, challenges keeping up with changing times, and influences of technology within their business.

When asked about the first few years of business, Ms. Wallace shared that it wasn’t always easy. “Theres a job that feeds you and theres a job your trying to establish,” said Ms. Wallace. “But if you start out low it will be ok. If we started out with something successful we might have run away screaming.”

Ms. Doswell shared one of her challenges working on a farm as being the ‘sandwiched’ generation, having to accommodate ideas from 20 family members in both past and future generations.

“Sometimes a passion can be your weakness so setting yourself up with that filter of what is important is very important. It’s about being able to change with the times, knowing when to change and willing to be a life long learner.”

Continually learning himself,  Mr. Thiessen buys and sells online and has been able to sell products across the country as far as Gander Newfoundland.

“Remoteness no longer defines you,” said Mr. Thiessen. “Technology allows you to look at new products and sometimes that new product can bring in a lot of value.”

Each panelist was also asked why they had chosen to stay in Vanderhoof.

“Why not Vanderhoof, it’s in a unique situation on how we are geographically located,” said Mr. Thiessen. “Being so close to PG and the southern corridor it makes commuting easy and we still have a rural lifestyle, a place to grow a family.”

“The agricultural area here is huge.”  said Ms. Doswell.  “We have some wide open areas not being used how they could be and the potential of agricultural land here is on the rise.”

“Besides, you can always go away and came back,” said Ms. Wallace. “I can go to my kids schools, work, post office, everything within a few minutes. In a bigger city it would take an hour. We should almost be pushing our kids out of town so they can’t say we kept them here but, they will come back. The grass isn’t always greener.”


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