A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support, and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.
Our community is strong and growing with record speed and maintaining a connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we've got a plan.
Introducing, We are #OKGNtech. A showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters, and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth, and more excitement. Follow along on the blog and on Instagram @OKGNtech to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.
Meet Joanna. Joanna Schlosser is the founder and CEO at Niche Wine Company and was the Brand and Communications Manager at Accelerate Okanagan. When she isn’t building brands and creating experiences for the community, you’ll find Joanna exploring local wineries with her husband or Beyblading with her son.
Where do you work in the Okanagan?
My husband, James, and I own a small winery, Niche Wine Co., located in West Kelowna. I spend a lot of my time there on the farm, but both of us also have full-time jobs. He works for the BC Cancer Agency and I, until recently, was the Brand and Communications Manager for Accelerate Okanagan. I’m transitioning to the Mark Anthony Group where I will be the Brand Manager.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love connecting with people, I love telling stories, and being a brand manager lets me do all of those things. At AO, I’ve loved building the brand, rallying the community, bridging gaps in how we can support different sectors, and building relationships with other institutions. It was great to be a part of this wave of growth that’s happening here in tech.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
Be curious. Making assumptions in creative space is a dangerous thing to do. Get your hands on as much information as possible, be able to input as much as you can output. And connect. Meeting new people and learning more about their lived experience is the best learning opportunity I’ve had.
Is it difficult to recreate or reimagine an existing brand?
You need to realize that the voice of a brand is a reflection of the people that are a part of it. It’s definitely a skill that needs to be honed. You’re never an expert, it can be easy to slide back into your own voice, you always need to critique and edit. Writers can pull apart information and present it to others in a digestible way. That can be a huge asset to a company.
How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?
When we moved to the Okanagan in 2014, we weren’t really a part of the OKGNtech community. Every year, we have a give-back part of our Winery. So, I connected with Alex, the Community Manager for AO, to see where Niche could fit in. For a 12 month period, Niche ended up donating all the wine for Startup Drinks. It was a two-pronged bonus for us—it got our name out there and we had an excuse to go to every Startup Drinks!
What do you enjoy about the OKGNtech community?
There isn’t a founder or CEO I’ve met that isn’t open to connecting with someone else. There really isn't a sense of competition that might exist in the larger ecosystem. Everyone is supporting everybody. We often say: “it’s all here now” and “we’re just getting started” and it feels really true. There is a sense that we are at the beginning of something big.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Or can share?
I feel like women in their careers can find themselves in a funny spot where, if they have children, their career has been interrupted multiple times. There’s this idea where you can miss an opportunity to build your career. But that notion is fading away. I’ve had 2 major career changes in my lifetime, who’s to say where I’ll be in 10 years? It’s never too late.
What’s been the hardest thing about Niche that you didn’t anticipate?
How to scale a business is one thing, but what to scale is another. In the wine industry, there’s been a focus on volume. You need to create a recipe that makes sense for you. It’s one way to scale, but there are a lot of factors involved. Niche joined AO’s Scale Up program and it has really helped us ensure that we’re living a balanced life while still finding success.