Throughout 2024, we’ll be connecting with Kelowna and area residents to discover more about the people who call this region home, to learn about their favourite places, and to find out how tourism impacts their lives, while also highlighting the benefits a strong tourism sector creates for Kelowna and its surrounding communities.

Follow along to learn more about Kelowna from those who know it best—locals.

Natasha Alfred

Natasha Venderburg

Designer, artist, and business owner, Natasha Alfred, was born and raised in Kelowna, a city which she says "borders on perfection" thanks to its mild temperatures and proximity to Okanagan Lake. 

"Over the years, I’ve discovered that it’s a true blessing to have grown up in the valley—from the scorching hot summer days to exploring Mission Creek’s trails. The proximity of everything created a tight-knit community that holds a special place in my heart," says Natasha. "I love the small-town feel where you bump into someone you know at the grocery store while still being big enough to discover new things constantly. Witnessing Kelowna's transformation from a small town into a vibrant hub of potential and inspiration fills me with excitement for the future, not only for my business but also for our community."

Natasha runs Natasha Vanderburg Co., a stationery shop specializing in floral and botanical forms. She notes that the creative community within Kelowna helps fuel the potential of her small business, where owners collaborate and build each other up.

"Kelowna's pro-business climate also offers a lot of incentives for small business owners, including accelerator programs, grants and funding, and many networking opportunities," she adds. 

Organizations like Accelerate Okanagan provide entrepreneurs with the support they need, through many of the programs and opportunities Natasha mentions. It's no wonder these supports exist in Kelowna, which was listed as the most entrepreneurial city in Canada in the Financial Post's 2016 annual ranking. The Thompson Okanagan region, within which Kelowna is located, also showed the fastest growth of small businesses between 2016 and 2021 and had the second-highest per capita concentration of small businesses in the province according to BC’s Small Business Profile 2022

Along with her stationery company, Natasha is also co-founder of 99 Rows, a "sought-after wedding venue nestled in Lake Country" on 9 acres of land, bursting with rows of pinot gris and pinot noir vines. 

"The centrepiece of our sweeping vineyard is a breathtaking glasshouse, drawing couples from around the globe while simultaneously working with so many incredibly talented local vendors," says Natasha.  

Close to 24,000 weddings were held in BC in 2019, generating more than $1.2 billion per year according to the BC Wedding and Event Industry Association. The pandemic resulted in the postponement of weddings and other large events; however, in the first quarter of 2022, there was a 28% increase in the number of weddings in Kelowna as compared to the previous year. With the popularity of spring, summer, and fall weddings, there is no doubt that this number increased as the year went on. Many of the weddings happening in Kelowna bring visitors from near and far, generating revenue for the community beyond wedding-related businesses, such as accommodations, restaurants, and activities. These visitors in turn have a direct impact on Natasha's life as a business owner.

"Tourism in Kelowna impacts my life by providing a sustainable business through collaboration," notes Natasha. "It not only sustains my ventures but also fuels my creative endeavours, allowing me to both contribute to and draw inspiration from the community around me."

She adds that visitors to Kelowna offer a unique outlook, bringing joy and inspiration to locals in the community, as well as adding to the community's diversity. 

"Having a wellspring of cultures, life experiences, and perspectives not only enhances our community but positions us as an ever-growing and forward-thinking Kelowna."

Here are a couple things to do that Natasha recommends to family and friends when they visit Kelowna

Exploring Downtown Kelowna

"When our out-of-town family visits, it seems to have become a tradition to take them on a stroll downtown, taking in the sunset lake views with ice cream in hand from Parlour."

Downtown Aerial 7
Photo credit: Nic Collar Film

Visiting Area Wineries

"Another favourite activity is indulging in the local wineries throughout the valley. Some of my favourite wines come from CedarCreek Estate Winery and Gray Monk Estate Winery! And, of course, we can't resist a bit of good-natured persuasion to lure them into experiencing our own family vineyard, 99 Rows in Lake Country. Picking grapes has become a must-do Okanagan activity, and we like to think of it as our way of sharing our region's authentic, hands-on essence."

Gray Monk - Scenic Sip
Gray Monk Estate Winery. Photo credit: Shawn Talbot Photography

View more of what Natasha loves about Kelowna