While it may seem hard to believe, Geometrik, one of the largest wood ceiling manufacturers on North America’s West Coast, started out as a children’s furniture shop. The Kelowna-based company was operating in a 3,500 square foot workshop when Vladimir and Natasha Bolshakov purchased it in 2007.

The furniture production was soon phased out to focus on incoming orders for wooden acoustical panels, a craft Vladimir learned in his native country of Ukraine and honed while working in the U.S. for four years before settling in Kelowna.

The shift in business brought exponential growth to Geometrik—they’ve twice moved to larger manufacturing facilities to keep up with demand. The company’s fully customizable and ready-to-install products are now manufactured in an efficient 30,000 square foot factory.

As an active participant in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Geometrik is focused on reducing or eliminating the environmental impacts of its manufacturing process.

“Our mission is to be a sustainable business—not just by using raw/recyclable materials, but in a broader sense, by providing sustainable employment and sustainable relationships with our suppliers and community,” Bolshakov says. “This focus for the last 14 years has resulted in enduring relationships both internally, within our company, and externally with our customers.”

This commitment to sustainability, along with Vladimir and Natasha’s combined experience in industrial engineering and economics respectively, have been integral to Geometrik’s success. Add to that the combination of their talented, highly skilled workforce and leading-edge industry technology, and it’s no wonder they’ve been able to consistently add to their impressive portfolio of projects.

This portfolio includes close-to-home projects like the Okanagan College Center of Excellence and UBCO Teaching and Learning Centre, as well as international projects like the Law building at Stanford University and the Illumina Campus at Lincoln Centre. With their array of completed projects and a continued focus on growth, you just may be admiring Geometrik’s work firsthand the next time you’re in a building with beautifully designed acoustical panels.

“We fell in love with the Central Okanagan on our first visit in 2007. It was then and there we made the decision to build a company and commitment to the Okanagan Valley.”


SKYTRAC’s Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT) was the first GADSS-compliant product to go to market. From there, the Kelowna-based company signed a partnership with Embraer, the third-largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, to add GADSS technology to all new E1 and E2 jets.

This ADT system is just one example of SKYTRAC rising to the challenge for its customers and the industry.

“The reason Embraer selected us was for our superior technical expertise and commitment to quality. We stood out as the only company working with previous years of flight data and aircraft tracking. We were the only company agile enough to meet the rapid timelines required for such a project.

The company was founded in Penticton by a group of experienced aviators who wanted to explore the possibilities of GPS technology being used for non-military purposes. Since its humble beginnings, SKYTRAC has brought to market products in tracking, flight data monitoring, and satellite communications. Their work touches law enforcement, aerial firefighting, emergency medical services, the oil and gas industry, and government sectors.

In addition to its work on GADSS, SKYTRAC partnered with Iridium to offer some of the fastest Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite connectivity to manned and unmanned aviation through the Iridium Certus service.

As one can imagine, these game-changing technologies have led to exponential growth for the company. SKYTRAC now has more than 120 employees in its Kelowna, Ottawa, and Victoria offices.

“It has really been a success story going from a startup in a basement to a globally-renowned aviation data company,” Manson says.

Even as they have gotten bigger, SKYTRAC keeps the same level of expertise, says Head of Marketing, Reuben Mann. “We’re a true all-in-one provider. We don’t just give you the box, we give you the connectivity, all the different capabilities. If someone wants a new capability, we’re literally creating it for them and going to market with it,” he says.

But what makes SKYTRAC unique amongst other large avionic companies is its commitment to the Central Okanagan. Manson himself is a product of Okanagan College. “We’re not shipping people in from other markets. We’re hiring locally and training people up,” he says. 

The future of aerospace is fast paced, and the real-world implications are truly lifesaving.

“It is definitely an interesting ride. Buckle up. Every day is exciting and there’s always something different,” Mann says. “I can’t imagine working somewhere else, it’s fun and challenging and I feel like we’re making a difference.”

“I’ve travelled with this company and been to a lot of places. In the Okanagan Valley, there’s a culture with the talent we hire that is different from other locales. It’s a hidden gem.”


The Valens Company, which is one of Canada’s most successful cannabis companies, knew that keeping things simple would be the key to their success when cannabis became fully legal.

“Some people overcomplicate cannabis,” says Valens CEO, Tyler Robson. “We’re really a consumer-packaged goods (CPG) company that manufactures cannabis. It’s focusing on the fundamentals and getting out of your own way.”

How Valens got to this point is a testament to the company’s vision of positioning itself as a global consumer company connected to Kelowna, one of the most cannabis-centric places in the world.

The vertically integrated, publicly-traded company has grown to more than 370 employees with manufacturing facilities in Kelowna, Toronto, and Vancouver. Valens has a strong foothold in Canada and the United States, as well as 19 other countries—and counting.

“We’ve achieved success because we’ve gotten so far ahead of everyone else. It took a while for the market to catch up. We hit the ground running once it went legal federally,” Robson says.

While the company starts with the product in mind, it ends with the needs of its customers. Since cannabis customers don’t fit into one box, Valens transitioned from being a sole extraction company to developing consumer products in the medicinal, wellness, and recreational sectors.

“It’s a personal experience that everyone uses for different reasons,” Robson says. In a rapidly growing space like cannabis, thinking strategically is a major competitive advantage. Valens’ Chief Commercial Officer, Adam Shea, says that thinking five steps ahead is part of the company’s DNA.

“A lot of companies in the cannabis field are reactive… We go to where the puck is about to go, not where it is,” he adds.

“Being part of the Okanagan community has always been an asset to us. We are in the business of making products that can potentially enhance people’s lives – and we cannot think of a better place to do it.”

Basing Valens in Kelowna was also a strategic move. Both Robson and Shea tout the cannabis culture in the Okanagan Valley and the local officials and businesses who supported Valens’ operations as Canada moved towards legalization.

The company also benefits from local talent who are tuned in to the needs of the cannabis sector and understand the market.

“You can hire accountants and lawyers, but finding seasoned cannabis talent is very tough,” Robson says. “The depth of experience here is second to none.”

As they grow, Valens is looking forward to more countries opening up to cannabis and more consumers looking for safe, high-quality products that are effective for their individual needs. This forward-looking mentality combined with the fusing of deep knowledge of cannabis and consumer goods makes Valens a force to be reckoned with.

“Look out, we’re just getting started. The bar is quite high, but we have the team to achieve it.” Shea says.

Hyper Hippo

Hyper Hippo’s success perfectly illustrates the John C. Maxwell-coined term, failing forward. By learning from their mistakes and taking a new, creative approach, Hyper Hippo’s team launched its flagship game and set off on an unstoppable growth trajectory.

It started in 2012, when Lance Priebe founded Hyper Hippo after leaving Disney, which had acquired his first Kelowna-based company, Club Penguin, in 2007. Priebe’s first venture helped put Kelowna’s tech community on the map, as it was still seen as a “remote” community in BC when he launched Club Penguin.

With $5 million in startup capital for his new venture, Priebe and the Hyper Hippo team got to work on building Mech Mice, which was slated to include an online game, television show, and more. Six months in, with almost no capital left, it was clear that Mech Mice would not be a success. They learned from their mistakes and Priebe gave the team the freedom to take risks and build anything they wanted over the following six months.

Through this process, AdVenture Capitalist was created and successfully launched in 2015. Seven years later, the idle game (sometimes called clicker or incremental games) has been downloaded more than 50 million times and is one of the most successful mobile titles ever released.

Hyper Hippo’s presence in Kelowna is one of the reasons that the Central Okanagan is known globally as a digital animation and gaming powerhouse.

“I can walk on Google’s campus and say we’re from Kelowna, and they say, ‘Oh yeah, Hyper Hippo.’ We’ve been very blessed, and it proves that this world from an industry perspective is getting smaller and smaller,” says Hyper Hippo’s CEO, Sam Fisher, who believes that the biggest key to the company’s success is working strategically in a spirit of true partnership. The simple philosophy that guides the company is also key.

“We’re not educators, we’re not politicians, we’re entertainers,” says Fisher. “We bring that little bit of entertainment to your day to make things just a little bit better.”

In its quest to attract top talent, Fisher notes that Hyper Hippo has to “take care of the people and give them a good place where they want to be and live. Kelowna is first-class when it comes to that.” The company is too, as evidenced by the Best Places to Work award they received in 2021 from

Most recently, Hyper Hippo launched Dungeon Dwarves, its first idle game on Netflix, which is currently available in 15 languages in more than 190 countries across the globe; 14 new languages will be available in an upcoming release.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to collaborate with a team who clearly loves games as much as we do and who support our vision of entertaining and inspiring players around the world,” said Priebe in a press release for the game’s launch.

Based on their track record, it’s likely gaming history will continue to be made by Hyper Hippo for years to come.

“You’re always working with new trends, new technology, new people, and new players [in gaming]. It doesn’t matter how established you are, you gotta be scrappy. Our focus is on how we get things done.”


Steady, sustained growth is a feature of many Central Okanagan companies and is certainly the case for WTFast, which launched in 2009 to create plug and play network optimization for gamers. Today, the company employs 40 people, has 11 patents to its name, and makes millions of gamers very happy.

The happiness of the end user is achieved through the company’s Gamers’ Private Network (GPN), which is similar in nature to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). WTFast’s patented technology finds the fastest connection from a gamer’s computer to the game server, minimizing the network latency, or ping as it is known in the world of online gaming, that gamers despise.

It is the “interesting and challenging/novel work” the company is doing, which includes developing technology to level the playing field through connection equalization, that CEO and Co-founder, Rob Bartlett, says allows the company to attract and retain top talent. That and the fact that “the Okanagan is one of the nicest places to live in Canada.”

“Like many Albertans, we spent some time vacationing in the Okanagan. We got tired of the cold Alberta winters and generally fell in the love with the great work/life balance in the Okanagan, so we decided to move here,” says Bartlett.

As a self-described “Internet Hermit,” Bartlett says it was encouragement from the team at Accelerate Okanagan that pushed him to get out of his shell and take advantage of face-to-face opportunities in the region. This face time was vital for the company’s growth, Bartlett adds, as it allowed him to secure millions in investment and close distribution deals with multi-billion-dollar corporations.

“The region is a great place to build tech and while we are doing a lot of remote working these days, it isn’t hard to convince people to move to the Okanagan for those face-to-face meetings.”


When a business is included on three fastest-growing company lists in one year, you know they are going places. This was certainly the case for Kelowna-based Bananatag, who in 2020 was listed on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 North America List, The Globe and Mail’s list of Canada’s Top Growing Companies, and Rocket Builders annual Ready to Rocket list, which profiles BC tech companies who they predict will grow faster than their peers by delivering on technology sector trends.

The rise to the top started when Corey Wagner helped launch Bananatag in 2011. He and his co-founders, who all grew up in the Okanagan, set out to help companies, especially those with a distributed workforce, successfully deliver their internal communication.

“Our core belief is that internal communication moves people, and people move companies,” says Wagner. “Our solutions have been developed for enterprises who are looking to bring employee communication and employee experience to a new, modern level.”

Over 10 years, the Kelowna- based company grew to 150 employees and opened an office in Vancouver. In March 2021, Bananatag was propelled even further ahead when it merged with Germany’s Staffbase, a company with complementary software and strength in the European market, to form the world’s largest and fastest-growing internal communications company. While the Bananatag name has been retired, the ethos of the company remains.

Staffbase now employs more than 675 people across North America and Europe, providing service to 1,350+ businesses worldwide, including companies like Adidas, Audi, and Ikea.

While Wagner notes that the institutions and infrastructure in the Okanagan provided great support for the business, he believes it’s the world-class people in Kelowna that are the biggest draw.

“When new team members join, they always comment that everyone is so nice, people recognize that, and they want to be part of it.”

“Starting a business in the Central Okanagan is great because you and your employees get to enjoy a lot of the benefits of being near a major centre, without a lot of the downsides.”


When it comes to farming, it’s all about timing. That’s what makes Okanagan-based Jealous Fruits the envy of cherry farms throughout the world.

The company capitalizes on the higher altitude of its orchards and Okanagan Lake’s moderating effect on temperature to extend cherry harvest into mid-September, so they can export product long after others have completed their seasons.

“There’s a big gap between Northern Hemisphere production and when the Southern Hemisphere production starts out of Chile and Argentina, as they don’t start until November,” says Jealous Fruits’ Sales Manager, Julie McLachlan.

“If we can pick fruit in early September, store it or put it on a boat to China, it’ll be sold in mid-October, when there will be literally nothing available in the world except us.”

Launched as a fruit stand in the early 1900s, Jealous Fruits is owned by the Geen family, with David Geen serving as the company’s CEO, running the operation with his two sons, Eric and Alex. The company is now the only vertically-integrated cherry grower in Canada, meaning they have the capacity to grow, process, and package their crops in-house—controlling the process from blossom to box, as McLachlan notes. “When you buy from us, you know you’re getting our fruit,” she says.

In the 1990s, David Geen saw an opening in the global market for cherries. With their years of experience and David’s reputation as one of the top cherry growers in the world, they went all-in. That was when their international business took off.

“There’s no place like the Okanagan. There’s a great sense of community, a lot of growth happening in the Valley. There’s quite a future for us.”

Growing cherries can be a risky investment, though. McLachlan notes that “cherries are a high-value crop because of its finicky relationship to heat and rain.”

Moreover, to compete as an international agricultural exporter, farms have to produce a significant volume. To meet international demand, Jealous Fruits has invested heavily in its infrastructure. In fact, the company opened its new, state-of-the-art 140,000 square foot facility in 2020.

The facility offers highly precise weight accuracy thanks to automatic box fillers. The latest technology, including the first UNITEC automatic palletizers in North America and optical sorting equipment, means gentler handling and quick identification of damaged product.

At its busiest, Jealous Fruits employs up to 1,200 staff, with more than 1,000 pickers throughout their 1,100 acres of cherry trees.

In 2021, the company produced its largest crop to date: nearly 7,000 tonnes, a 250% increase from the previous year. McLachlan says they are processing about 18 tons an hour.

In addition to mainland China, the farm has a sustained presence throughout Asia, including Taiwan and Japan. Jealous Fruits also exports to Europe and in 2022, they hope to enter the Korean market.

Geen says it’s extremely gratifying to see all of their hard work bearing fruit. “I take personal satisfaction in the jobs created and seeing our products shipped to markets around the world.”

“We’re very proud of the reputation that we have in the Central Okanagan and worldwide,” adds McLachlan. “It’s a testament to what David and his wife Laura have been putting into the company since the 1990s. It’s been a long time coming.”

Farming Karma Fruit Co.

As successful tree-fruit farmers, Karma and Kuku Gill worked and raised their kids on their Okanagan apple orchard—30 years later, the kids are all grown up and working alongside their parents to operate Farming Karma Fruit Co., the agritourism business the Gills launched in 2019. The transition from well-respected orchardists to successful producers of value-added fruit products and tourism experiences was supported by the community.

“Whether it was learning about manufacturing practices and equipment or retail sales and distribution, our community was able to assist us in different ways,” says Karma and Kuku’s son, Avi Gill, who is also the company’s president. It was a desire “to give back to the community,” he adds, as well as “the hope of sparking the interest of the next generation of agricultural pioneers,” that inspired Karma and Kuku to launch their family-owned and operated business.

Avi’s wife, Binny, and younger brother, Sumeet, are also involved in the business, using their unique combination of skills to make the company a success.

At the Gills’ Kelowna property, you’ll find Farming Karma’s production facility, where their line of fruit sodas, which are free of added concentrates, preservatives, and sugars, are made. 

Reflecting back on community partnerships, it was Peter Boyd of Independent Grocer who gave the Gills their first retail opportunity. After just three years in business, and thanks to some initial guidance from Boyd, Farming Karma Sodas can now be found in more than 3,000 stores across BC and Ontario, as well as select stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.

Avi says being situated in the Okanagan and having the ability to build off the consumer desire for the region’s fruit has helped Farming Karma establish a solid reputation. The local community is also to thank.

“When you’re looking to collaborate [in the Okanagan], there is always someone who is willing to help make a positive impact on your business.” That’s good karma, indeed.

“The support from the community is immense and there is no other place you would want to start. It’s accessible and easy to create a buzz in this community—consumers here are progressive and always looking to support local businesses.”

CedarCreek Estate Winery

As one of the original eight wineries in the Okanagan Valley, CedarCreek Estate Winery is a seasoned veteran who happily works with the other wineries in the region’s developed viticulture sector. But CedarCreek isn’t one to rest on its laurels. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The Central Okanagan winery, which has been named Canadian Winery of the Year at the InterVin International Wine Awards three times (most recently in 2019), is undertaking a significant transformation to be a fully organic vineyard.

According to Winemaker, Taylor Whelan, it’s a fundamental shift in how they’re thinking about their wines and their connection to the land they’ve farmed for more than 40 years.

“Everything you spray on the vineyard goes back into Okanagan Lake,” Whelan says. “The lake is our drinking water. As we conceptualize the closed loop, we want to make an effort to leave this place a little bit better than how we found it.”

The closed loop Whelan speaks about is the holistic philosophy of cultivating the natural ecosystem of the 50-plus acres on which CedarCreek resides. The winery doesn’t use anything that wouldn’t be found outside the natural area and relies on animals and plants to naturally combat disease and pests. In addition, CedarCreek employs an extensive composting program, leaving nothing to waste.

The shift in thinking can be summarized this way: in order to go forward, CedarCreek is going back. “Conventional agriculture is something that started in the last century, and it changed the way people farmed. A similar thing happened with vineyards. We’re on the journey back to what we were doing 100-150 years ago,” Whelan says.

“People can say viticulture is pretty natural but once you look under the hood, often it’s not,” he adds. “So, we’re making the commitment to say we’re going back and trying to be as natural as we can.”

And what about the quality of the wine? Did the move to organic maintain CedarCreek’s strong reputation?

In 2019, CedarCreek became certified organic in its farming and winemaking, part of a growing movement. In fact, when CedarCreek started the organic process, 4% of the Okanagan’s wineries were organic. Now, it’s close to 18%.

CedarCreek’s Organic Viticulturist, Kurt Simcic, says it’s even better. In his mind, going organic “led to a new range of wines, a tier above platinum. It’s been a natural evolution—the grapes grow differently, the flavour profile is changing, Taylor is producing more unique and more valuable wines.”

Whelan and Simcic point to organics as the first major achievement in a journey. CedarCreek is also partnering with Regeneration Canada, a national movement with a focus on regenerative land management, to see how they can further care for the ecosystem in which they farm.

“We’re not going to sit back and say, “We’re organic.” We can always do more and do it better,” Simcic states. “That’s an important piece to how we’re carrying on. It’s a super fun and exciting project to be a part of.”

If the winery’s track record over its 35-year history is any indication, there is sure to be more excitement, innovation, and award-winning wine in CedarCreek’s future.

“Many tourists who come to the region are surprised at what we can produce here. I love to see more international recognition for the Okanagan happening because there are amazing wines here.”

50th Parallel Estate


What started as a first conversation on a houseboat along the Shuswap became a fruitful marriage and business. The Krouzels founded 50th Parallel Estate Winery, one of the Okanagan’s largest wineries in one of the best viticultural regions in the world. They’re excited to connect people and place with each glass of Pinot.

After some lakeside contemplation, self-professed Glamour Farmers, Curtis Krouzel and Sheri-Lee Turner-Krouzel took the plunge to build their “slice of heaven,” 50th Parallel Estate Winery, on a 61-acre estate in Lake Country, north of Kelowna.

“The Central Okanagan provides one of the most diverse regions in the world in which to produce world-class wines and boasts uncompromised beauty and complementary tourism experiences that draw guests from around the world,” says Krouzel.

The couple hand planted the winery’s first 10 acres of vines in 2009. Krouzel used his engineering background to improve the process by designing a planting machine that was able to navigate difficult slopes on the property. From there, the team took on the challenge of growing notoriously difficult Pinot Noir grapes and went all-in with the varietal. In fact, it is the only red wine produced onsite, making up about 35% of the winery’s production.

In 2020, 50th Parallel launched its Glamour Farming canned wine, aligning with consumer trends and offering a more sustainable, fully recyclable option.

50th Parallel’s original winery was expanded by 15,000 square feet in 2018. The architecturally stunning space includes a tasting room, flexible indoor-outdoor space for banquets and events, and BLOCK ONE Restaurant, which made OpenTable’s list of Top 100 Restaurants in Canada for 2021.

“Let’s be honest, there is no lakefront city in the world like Kelowna. We are not an emerging international destination… we have arrived.”

In addition to helping source and secure meetings and conferences, Krouzel notes that Tourism Kelowna’s team “was very helpful in the early years, helping bring influencers and media to the winery to spread the word about our up-and-coming new business.”

“We have managed to achieve our goals of building a place where people want to come and visit and experience our wines, and most importantly we have built an incredible team that we are proud to
call our 50th family.”