The next honoree in the Top 20 Under 40 program is the unstoppable Ashlee Kingsbury. A third-generation entrepreneur, Ashlee was born and raised in Salmon Arm. While she currently splits her time between BC and Alberta, the Shuswap is where her roots grow deep.
Her family started the Shuswap Lake Estates Development in the 1970s, and her mother eventually took over the Shuswap Lake estates golf course when Ashlee was in her teens. Like so many other businesses in the tourism sector, Ashlee and her family were looking at improving the business after navigating several challenging years. Last year, their involvement in the Tsust’weye program gave them a pathway to sell the company, and Ashlee supported her family through that transition.
Ashlee is also employed in the oil and gas sector, and this past year Ashlee’s employer sponsored her position in the Avatar Innovations Incubator program. Participants were given eight weeks to develop a business plan and present it to industry leaders. This program allowed her to utilize her oil and gas expertise and form a renewable energy company. With collaboration between the Avatar program and her co-founders, also all women, they developed and launched GeoConnect.
GeoConnect provides her clients with GeoExchange energy. GeoExchange extracts heat from the ground beneath a home and brings it inside. A challenge of broad consumer adoption of GeoExchange has been the significant upfront cost, which Ashlee and her team address by providing a one-stop service. From design, installation, maintenance and providing financing with little to no upfront cost to the users, this innovative approach to renewable energy has sparked massive interest in the energy community. “By owning the system we take the financial burden off of the consumer. With today’s technology, these systems work best in larger buildings or a district system. Our vision is to refine the technology so that it will be more affordable to the average consumer and will be installed in homes all over Canada,” says Ashlee.
Her strong desire to promote tourism while maintaining a balance with environmental stewardship inspired her to join the Shuswap Chamber of Commerce. She became a board member of Economic Development, where the team worked together to develop the Market in the Bay. An event that was inspired by other local communities doing similar events.
Ashlee is a busy woman. Her roles as a mother, wife, employee and business owner are demanding. Still, she maintains balance through self-care, daily meditation, and time with family. When she isn’t changing the face of the energy industry, she is also a mom to a firecracker four-year-old. In non-COVID times the Kingsbury family travels together as often as possible. They love exploring new places, cultures, and the beautiful Shuswap area.
In this week’s Top 20 Under 40 feature, we are spotlighting Shelley Desautels. Shelley is a wife, a mother of two teenagers, a fantastic singer, and someone who never backs away from a challenge.
Shelley was born and raised in Vernon, BC. After graduation, she obtained a degree in geography and her GIS Diploma. Shelley took the entrepreneurial leap and started her own business, Mighty Owl Mapping, focusing on forestry and community mapping projects, and she is also an instructor at Okanagan College for the GIS Certificate program.
It may sound like a great deal of work, but that’s not all Shelley does. In fact, it’s not even close!
Shelley also works as the Service Officer at the Legion. When her husband left the military, she quickly realized how difficult it was to navigate the red tape and paperwork Veterans Affairs required. Shelley’s first-hand experience allows her to assist others in similar situations, and she works diligently to connect veterans with the services and community organizations they need.
But, again, that is still not the end of her to-do list. When looking at the needs of our community, Shelley is always quick to step in and help. That attitude has landed her several other executive roles, including secretary of the BC Community Forest Association, secretary of the Canadian Federation of University Women, treasurer for Boxing for Wellness and director for the Shuswap Cycling Club.
This past fall, you may have also seen Shelley’s infectious smile on campaign signs throughout the region as she was the local Liberal candidate in the federal election. Not coming from a solid political background made for a steep learning curve, but Shelley approached the position like she does so many others, with an honest desire to help and the work ethic to show up for the job. The experience was both eye-opening and rewarding, and don’t be surprised if you see her name on the ballot again!
Like the nominees before her, Shelley also understands the importance of time management. Balance comes from focusing on the task at hand and remembering to take time for herself, too. When she’s not contributing to the community or organizing her calendar, you may find her unwinding with yoga or a great Dr. show on Netflix.
Thank you, Shelley, for all you do!
The real estate agent.
The community supporter.
The fella with a face for radio, like his old man used to tell him.
For our next Top 20 Under 40 honouree, we are featuring the one and only Craig Shantz. If you know Craig, this recognition will come as no surprise. And if you don’t, well, you probably should.
Craig was born and raised in Salmon Arm, with his grandfather initially moving to the area in the 1930s. Craig grew up loving all the Shuswap had to offer, but he followed the money to the oil patch after graduation. While in Alberta, he ran grain truck at a family farm, worked in the oil field, and eventually continued his post-secondary education at SAIT, where he studied marketing. He was introduced to the world of real estate by one of his instructors, Rene Blais. Surely it was more than the three-piece suit he wore that impressed Craig, but that swag combined with his knowledge left an impact. Enough, in fact, that it convinced Craig to move to Vancouver and learn about the commercial real estate appraisal world. Craig was hooked on the career and has never looked back.
In 2008 Craig returned to Salmon Arm to work as a licensed real estate agent with Remax. Over the past 14 years, the markets have changed as fast as the technology. Craig has adapted and kept up with current trends while never losing focus of the essential part of business, customer relationships. It’s been key to running a successful business. “Like Ian Grey always says, if you treat people right, word gets around!” notes Craig with a laugh. Of course, there needs to be a balance when it comes to accessibility – technology allows customers to have instant access to you anywhere, any time of day. But it can be managed, especially when you have dedicated assistants as a part of the team.
Craig’s most notable achievements, however, don’t come from his real estate accolades, sales awards, or endless jokes. His real impact comes from the support he continually gives to the community.
With the help of his closest friends and colleagues, Craig makes sure that any community fundraiser is a success. From Bollywood to the Food Bank, SPCA to the Pride Festival, Craig and his cronies show up time and time again. They dedicate their time, talent, and most importantly, their cash to keep the community healthy and causes funded. It is not just the contributions of a single person that leave an impact, but the collective force of many. Craig is quick to praise others who contribute alongside him, like Josh Bickle and Sunny Dhaliwal.
When looking to the future, Craig is focused on business growth and taking more personal time to enjoy all this community has to offer.
Thank Craig for your endless support to the community!
Our next feature in the Top 20 Under 40 program is the incredible Kayla Butts. Kayla is not only an entrepreneur, but she is also the mother of a child with special needs.
Kayla was born on Vancouver Island and moved to Salmon Arm in her teens when her father relocated to the Shuswap for work. While living in Blind Bay without a licence proved challenging for a teenager, she quickly learned to love the area and can’t imagine ever leaving this beautiful city. “The community is fantastic,” she notes, and she is grateful for the overwhelming support shown for her and her son.
In 2018, Kayla welcomed her baby boy Jaxon to the world but was rushed to BC Children’s Hospital and needed life-saving surgery at just two days old. They spent the next four and a half months in hospital with Jaxon as they worked to diagnose and monitor his multiple ongoing conditions. Kayla has faced this tremendous adversity with humour and gratitude, two things we could all use a bit more of these days.
While spending time at the Children’s hospital, Kayla worked on several committees designing posters and a health app. The work gave her a creative outlet amid focusing on the health care needs of her son.
Her business, Inked Mama Customs, was started in 2020 after her passion for designing and creating went viral on TikTok. Kayla had created a sticker and posted it online, and overnight she went from 3 to 36,000 followers. Opportunity knocked, and Kayla answered. Her company now produces a full line of risque stickers, decals, and t-shirts, as well as graphic design services. Inked Mama Customs is strictly online sales for now, and Kayla has big plans to expand over the next five years. But for the immediate time being, her priority now is caring for her son.
To see more of Kayla’s sassy creations, be sure to check out her Etsy shop, Inked Mama Customs!
As we near the end of the Top 20 Under 40 program, it’s our honour to feature business owner and coach Sean Scott.
Sean grew up in the Kootenays and met his now-wife, Rebecca, while attending college in Nelson. When their studies were complete, they moved to Salmon Arm to work in the golf industry. 18 years and three kids later, they are still here, loving the life they have built in this fantastic community.
Sean and Rebecca are the owners of Gym of Rock, Salmon Arm’s incredible rock climbing gym. They started the business in 2019, and the one-year anniversary also marked the start of closures due to the Covid pandemic. These past two years have been challenging, but the gym adapted and offered new ways to stay open.
Climbing, it seems, isn’t just a sport for the Olympics and elite athletes looking for new ways to train. Because climbing is an individual sport and a mental test, it’s been a hit with all those looking for a safe and fun challenge. Climbers don’t need to be athletes to participate, and many people on the spectrum have developed a love for the sport. Climbing is inclusive, self-regulated and fun for all.
When sean isn’t at the gym or his regular job, you will undoubtedly find him on a local baseball diamond. Sean helps to coach multiple teams with Salmon Arm Minor Baseball and is an invaluable asset to the organization. With three young boys who are as passionate about the game as he is, they often are at the field every day of the week from April to October.
The coaching commitment takes up a lot of Sean’s time. Still, he is passionate about giving back to the community, particularly the kids. The impact that a coach makes on a kid lasts for life, as a great coach teaches far more than game skills. Sean demonstrates the value of hard work and dedication in his everyday life, which translates to the field seamlessly.
Coaching baseball 4-5 days a week is no small feat. For Sean, though, it’s all about giving back while doing something you’re passionate about. Talk about a win-win!
When he’s not working, coaching or climbing, Sean and his family love to hit the slopes at one of the local ski hills or catch a baseball game.
Congratulations, Sean on being one of Salmon Arm’s Top 20 Under 40!
To book your climbing time or register for one of the awesome kids’ camps, check out www.gymofrock.com.
In our final feature of the Top 20 Under 40 program, we recognize the unstoppable Jordyn Konrad.
Born and raised in Salmon Arm, Jordyn grew up with an active lifestyle and an interest in multiple sports, including figure skating, speed skating, and swimming. For years she trained with the Sockeye swim club in Salmon Arm, which eventually led her to attend university as a varsity swimmer and obtain her degree in kinesiology and health science. After completing her studies, Jordyn worked in Uganda on a six-month internship with Global Affairs Canada.
Upon Jordyn’s return, she was approached by Peggy Maerz, owner of Bulldog’s Boxing, about being a coach and boxer. With all the transferable skills from her sports background, she quickly picked up the sport. Fast forward just five years, and Jordyn is now boxing at an international level and has her eye on the 2024 Olympics!
The dedication required to pursue this goal hasn’t just been her own. Time on the bag and in the ring is essential, but so are the people in Jordyn’s corner. Peggy has been instrumental to her growth and has pushed her to pursue her dreams.
When asked about the challenges in her life right now, Jordyn replied, “I feel like I’m living the dream!” But she also notes that there are other obstacles she must face.
It can be challenging to train full time while also working to live. For athletes at this level of competition, sponsorships are essential. On the advice of training partner, two-time Canadian Olympian Mandy Bujold, Jordyn joined the millions.co platform, which sells athlete merchandise. And when Jodyn’s sales number came in on top, it landed her a feature on a New York Times Square billboard. This level of visibility will be critical when looking for sponsors on the way to her Olympic dream.
Coaching has been put on hold for the time being while Jordyn travels between BC and Ontario for training, but it will resume when time allows. Jordyn has directly influenced hundreds of youth in the area. With over a decade of coaching various sports, she notes that the kids inspire her just as much as she inspires them.
The ongoing support that Jordyn receives from the community has been incredible. At times, individual sports can feel lonely, but Jordyn knows she is never alone. Her gratitude for the Bulldog community and her hometown is apparent, and she thanks everyone for their support on this incredible journey!