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.
We are #OKGNtech is 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 Chris. Chris Stephens is the Founder and CEO of Twirling Umbrellas. When he’s not building killer websites with friendly humans, you’ll find Chris balancing his time between hiking, camping and taking his kids to their practices and games.
Where do you work in the Okanagan?
I’m the Founder and CEO of Twirling Umbrellas. Before that, I was in a variety of different sales jobs. When I first started Twirling Umbrellas, it was just freelancing. I was doing everything from customer acquisition to the actual work. But we have a pretty big team now so my role is mostly account management, building relationships with clients, and supporting our team and culture.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
It’s not the same every day. I like the creativity and being a part of things that are interesting and different. We work with a whole range of different clients and each one brings a new challenge, a new industry, and an opportunity to learn something new about their business that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned.
How did you get into this kind of work?
I’ve always had this hobby of building websites for fun. When I was a sales rep, my clients would often ask what my background was and I would tell them about my hobby. They would typically ask if I could build them a website. After I heard that enough times, I decided to see if I could make it as a freelancer and build sites for a living. I quit my job in 2014 on April Fools day, started working out of my basement, and Twirling Umbrellas has been growing steadily ever since.
What’s been your favourite part about growing Twirling Umbrellas?
I have a background in development but I’m not a designer or a writer. As we’ve grown, it’s been exciting to hire people into these specific roles because, each time you do, you get this feeling that everything you’re producing as a company is that much better. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to look back at what we produced in the early days, but I still love that feeling. You get to see how much you’ve grown and evolved.
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
Focus on the product. There is a big demand from small businesses to create something really meaningful. So much of our business is built on referrals and word of mouth that comes from creating great products. Nothing else really matters in that respect. People often wonder what they’re going to do next to try and attract more customers, but you can’t go wrong with improving what you’ve got.
How were you first introduced to the OKGNtech community?
Shortly after deciding to get serious about freelancing, I stumbled across Accelerate Okanagan’s programs. There used to be something called Marketing and Design nights which I was really interested in. I didn’t have an agency background so that was a way for me to learn more about what to do and how I should operate.
What do you enjoy about the community?
People here want to support companies that are operating in the community. I’m constantly shocked by where some of our referrals come from. You think it would be a direct connection between clients, but there’s often a few degrees of separation. If you have a good reputation and you do good work, that will come back to you.
Is there a piece of advice that you like to share with others?
Focus on your own stuff and do the best that you can. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter what your competition does, nothing they’re doing is going to impact what you’re doing.