Geometrik

Geometrik

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.”

Valens

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.

Natures Formulae

Many entrepreneurial journeys start out of a founder’s home, often the garage or basement. For Barbra Johnston, the journey started at her kitchen sink, where she launched Natures Formulae Health Products Ltd. more than 30 years ago.

As a pioneer in Western Canada’s health and wellness industry, it was Barbra’s vision and dedication to developing all-natural products that laid the foundation for the company’s success.

“We are one of a few Western-based manufacturers in the cosmeceutical and nutraceutical industry,” says President, Alison Yesilcimen.

Today, Natures Formulae has moved on from Barbra’s kitchen sink, now occupying a 30,000 square foot facility in Kelowna. More than 80 team
members work at the facility, developing and manufacturing the company’s own line of branded products, as well as private label and custom all-natural products for national and international brands.

“We are honoured to have developed thousands of products in our in-house research and development lab,” says Yesilcimen. “Our formulators seek out products and ingredients that can drive new innovation.”

The search for unique and innovative natural ingredients is a global endeavour but starts in the company’s backyard. In fact, Kelowna’s official flower, the Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or Okanagan Sunflower as it’s known to residents, is just one of the local ingredients making its way into Natures Formulae’s products.

“We are all about health and wellness, which is why living in nature’s playground has been instrumental in shaping our organization,” Yesilcimen says. “Natural is our niche. Full stop.”

“Many organizations have supported our business throughout the last thirty years. More recently, we have worked with UBC [Okanagan] and Okanagan College to find graduates looking to start their careers. Many of our employees have graduated from these incredible institutions.”

Waterplay

“Basically, anything you see in a public, open space we either manufacture or source and then sell. Playgrounds, spray parks, street furniture and amenities such as benches, shade structures, washroom facilities, tree grates, bike racks, litter bins, you name it.”

“Depending on how you segment our industry, we would be the second or third largest supplier of equipment for splash pads in the world and a similar position for the suppliers of park and playground equipment across Western Canada.”

“Of course as a manufacturer dependent upon the export market, proximity to a growing international airport is important,” she adds. “Since moving from Penticton, we’ve grown from nine employees to seventy locally, with about twenty-five more who are based elsewhere.”

After three decades, the company still adheres to its rather lofty goal; “for every child to have access to an amazing park within a ten minute walk of their home. For a vast array of reasons, but most importantly for the social fabric of society, equitable access to quality parks should be deemed essential.”

“Here in the Okanagan, we’ve achieved a lot, but not every child has access to a high quality park nearby. In those terms, we have a lot to do still as an industry advocate. I haven’t counted, but I’m guessing we’ve contributed product to perhaps 75 – 100 parks in the Okanagan and that has a pretty big impact locally. So there is a certain amount of success in that to be proud of.”

Pela

After seeing plastic debris in the water around Hawaii, Saskatoon environmental consultant Jeremy Lang felt compelled to do something about it. So, in 2011 he helped invent Flaxstic®, a tough but compostable material made from flax straw. Then he started making phone cases. Then things got interesting.

After meeting Jeremy in 2015, entrepreneur Matt Bertulli invested in Pela, and soon became CEO. “I didn’t particularly care too much that he was making phone cases,” says Bertulli. “But I definitely liked that he had this compostable material that seemed to have a better end of life than plastic. So I was really interested in what else it could be used for.”

The company went on to diversify. “Now we have all kinds of other compostable accessories like smart watch straps and Airpod cases. We’re also making sunglasses and lenses from special polymers that are landfill biodegradable. We own a personal care brand for deodorant, shampoo and conditioner and currently have several new products we’re working on. Pela is a brand that makes products with a graceful end of life. The idea is to get rid of plastic waste.”

“While looking for a location, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Kelowna were all options. We flew out here at seven in the morning and met with the mayor and then Corie and Krista from COEDC. In just one day I think we met anybody and everybody in Kelowna. They were really welcoming.”

“The thing that surprised us was everybody was singing the same tune. In Toronto, there’s a lot of different businesses competing for attention and here was Kelowna telling us they’re really focused on startups and tech. The community was clearly thriving and it seemed like a really good place for business. So Jeremy and I moved here with all the injection molding machines and set up a small manufacturing facility.”

“I think my initial fears around a city this size was just recruiting talent locally, finding certain senior levels of people. But it’s been pretty easy so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We’ve managed to attract some pretty wicked people.”

“The lifestyle here is awesome. I’m a mountain biker and I like to ski and this place facilitates a very active outdoor lifestyle. And that’s also great for the kind of brand we’re building. We attract those kinds of people and they’re creating the kind of culture we need to build.”

“The perception is the pace of work here is slower, but people are just as effective and they get more done and they’re just happier. So this has been very refreshing. Sort of like a restart to my entrepreneurial journey.”

How does Bertulli sum up that journey?

“We liken it to surfing. We happened to be in the water with a surfboard and a very large wave came along and we happened to know how to surf very, very well. So it’s all just good luck but the right sequence of events counts. I call it a really good return on luck.”

“Pela is a brand that makes products with a graceful end of life. The idea is to get rid of plastic waste.”


Matt Bertulli
CEO, Pela

Vitalis

Widely used in the botanical, food, and pharmaceutical industries, CO₂ extraction is a process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull phytochemicals, waxes and oils from plants. For example, it removes the caffeine from coffee beans. In the world of cannabis, it allows companies to create product lines derived from a broad spectrum oil.

“Vitalis was born from a long journey of seeking better CO₂ extraction solutions and systems,” explains Co-founder and Chairman Joel Sherlock. “We went to all the big players to study their equipment and spoke to extractors about what they liked and didn’t like, then used those findings to engineer the largest commercialized CO₂ extraction systems on the market.”

“Today, producers come to us from all over the world and all types of industries – cannabis, hemp, pharmaceutical, F&B, and essential oils – to turn their organic materials into pure extracts. What separates us from a lot of our competitors is the fact that we’re an OEM. Our systems are fabricated, manufactured, and tested in-house at our Kelowna facility, giving us complete control of the quality and reliability of our products.”

“While our operations have grown to span five continents – and counting, we’re proudly rooted in Kelowna. Over the years I’ve launched a number of businesses in the area and what I’ve learned is that there’s no greater support than the help you get in small communities.”

“If I could offer any advice when it comes to starting a company here, it would be to put yourself out there in different ways. Be active in the community through organizations and events and build authentic relationships with others who can share their own learnings. One day, you’ll be on the other side, repaying the favour.”

“While our operations have grown to span five continents – and counting, we’re proudly rooted in Kelowna”