Throughout 2023, 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.
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Jaclyn Robertson grew up visiting family in the Okanagan—which sits on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded tm̓xʷúlaʔxʷ (land) of the syilx people—every summer. These yearly road trips to Kelowna sparked and fueled Jaclyn’s love for the region, and she knew from a very young age that she wanted to call the area home one day.
“My husband and I met while in University—he was at STFX in Antigonish and I was at Mount Royal University in Calgary—and bonded over a mutual love of the world-class Okanagan and a mutual desire to one day raise a family in the area,” she says. “We both quietly applied to UBC Okanagan nearly 20 years ago, uprooting our lives for love and to chase the Okanagan sun…and the rest is pretty much history!”
Today, Jaclyn says she is “eternally grateful” to the Okanagan for having provided her with the “opportunity to design the lifestyle of my dreams as a young, urban professional in which I can be the mother I want for my two young sons AND simultaneously be the passionate, community-minded businesswoman who I innately am. “
Jaclyn and Ryan are certainly not alone in their desire to build a life in Kelowna after visiting the city for many years. In the most recent census, Kelowna was ranked Canada’s fastest-growing census metropolitan area, with a population increase of 14% between 2016 and 2021. It is evident that those visiting the region fall in love with the lifestyle and ultimately choose to make the move to the city.
Part of the lifestyle that appeals most to Jaclyn and her husband Ryan—known as Jax and Ry to those closest to them—is the connection one finds within the community.
“I have a deep passion for human-to-human connectivity…I am always inspired and fascinated by the people, spaces, and places that make up our incredibly rare community,” adds Jaclyn. “I’m wildly thankful to work, live, and play amongst such high calibre folks.”
Photo by: Jon Adrian
After graduating from UBCO, Jaclyn was driven to build off this deep-rooted connectivity, using the experiences she had in her hometown, and bigger Canadian cities, and her desire to be part of a collaborative arts and culture scene to spur her vision of what she could add to the small business community in Kelowna.
On top of this, Jaclyn notes that it is the “profound effort locals in the area make to live a sustainable and healthy lifestyle” that she cherishes and celebrates the most. This aspect of the lifestyle, along with her desire for collaboration and community building, inspired her to launch Okanagan Lifestyle Apparel Co., which has become a well-known brand in the Okanagan and beyond.
Given that Kelowna is touted as one of the best cities in Canada to start a business, it’s no surprise that Jaclyn decided to launch her business here. The city is located within the Thompson Okanagan, which 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 (103.9 per 1,000 population), according to BC’s Small Business Profile 2022.
Through her brand and brick-and-mortar OKGN Workshop, Jaclyn has spent well over a decade connecting with locals and visitors, noting that they “work synergistically to create this truly iconic way of living.”
“The Okanagan holds a tremendously unique ecosystem of locals who enrich the land, the community, and keep the economy flowing. I cherish the tourists who come from other markets, bringing such a vast array of skills, energy, and ideas,” says Jaclyn. “I find it inspiring, constantly observing the ways in which visitors flow through and impact the local market.”
Jaclyn says she takes the time to “generously listen and learn what locals and visitors alike believe to be magical about the area,” which helps fuel her enthusiasm and provides a visionary perspective that she can combine with her deep passion for the region to create a recipe for success. There is no doubt that her desire for connection and her willingness to tap into what makes the Okanagan lifestyle special will bring continued success to Jaclyn in the next decade and beyond.
Here are a few Kelowna recommendations Jaclyn gives to visiting family and friends
“When folks ask what I recommend them doing while in the region, before happily delivering my laundry list of outstanding local hot spots (get our OKGN Coffee Table Box for our suggestions!), I encourage them first and foremost to slow down and lean into the pace and natural elements of the region—the lakes, beaches, mountains, and trails—these elements make Kelowna incredibly unique.”
Make the Most of the Lake and its Adjoining Waterways
Photo by: Shawn Talbot Photography
“We are deeply intentional (pun intended) about living fully through all four beautiful seasons in this region. We swim in the summer, cold plunge in the winter. There’s something fiercely unique about our waterways…I send people to the water as a first stepping off point in visiting, without question or doubt.”
Stop by the OKGN Workshop
Photo by: One Peak Creative
“There is a reason people venture here and feel as though they can breathe deeper and more fully than wherever they came from. We protect the pace of life here in an amazing way. As folks discover a slower pace in the Okanagan, they flow into local businesses, explore our stunning local spots, experiencing the community and lifestyle more fully and more presently. The slow-down mentality really has much to offer this lifestyle—the gift that continues to give, again and again.”
View more of what Jaclyn loves about Kelowna