Lower Columbia: What drives the entrepreurial spirit?

Mary Austin is a contributor to the Trail Times, offering insight from Lower Columbia business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Mary Austin talks with Lower Columbia business leaders and entrepreneurs in her column

Mary Austin talks with Lower Columbia business leaders and entrepreneurs in her column

– Mary Austin is an active Board Member for both Community Futures and the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS). She is the Chair of the Lower Columbia Tech Club and the Lower Columbia Women’s Business Club. She is also co-owner of Austin Engineer Ltd. and feels fortunate everyday to be able to live and work with her family in this community. –

Growing up, I never imagined myself as an entrepreneur. I’d rather hoped to become a university professor. My husband Roger, who always dreamed of becoming an engineer, had already realized his childhood dream of working on massive dam, bridge, highway and mining projects when we started dating. Then we fell in love, and after working on huge constructions projects throughout Western Canada together, we realized we wanted to raise a family in this little piece of paradise. So we asked ourselves: what skills do we have that might be useful in the Lower Columbia?

Some background. We’d had the enormous good fortune to be able to live for a year in China. There, we witnessed raw entrepreneurialism in action. Despite the obvious social and environmental challenges facing modern China, there are also tremendous opportunities in a culture which faced unparalleled poverty only one generation ago. In our Chinese neighbourhood we were able to watch peasants, unable to own their own land, start simple businesses just by biking their apples to the city, then purchasing a small fruit stand, and quickly begin to imagine a bricks and mortar store as well as an eventual “franchise!”

We realized we’d both had phenomenal examples of good business practices, not only within our family and friends circle, but within our wider community. To give just one example of our “business heroes”, my grandparents operated a small shop in Rossland for over 50 years. They viewed their customers as friends and took great pleasure in selecting quality products their clientele would cherish for a lifetime. They had deep pride in their work and their community.

The focus of this column will highlight entrepreneurs who also take this same pride in their work and community. We will highlight locally owned businesses who employ 10-500 people based in Trail, Rossland and Fruitvale. Some of these entrepreneurs started their business from scratch, some took over businesses and grew them, and others are proud to continue their family’s legacy of excellence. All are deeply committed both to their business and to its role in the community. These business leaders don’t sell printing, but create the material that inspires confidence in a new business. They don’t sell groceries, but rather select the food that nourishes our families. They don’t sell software, but rather the community building tools that bring people together. They don’t sell rooms, but rather temporary homes for weary travellers who expect a high level of service in our small, but proud, community.

Rather than focus on specifics of their operations, this column will answer the questions: what drives these entrepreneurs to build and grow in this community, what makes working in this community unique and what compels them to strive every day to meet their customer’s needs?

As no business is successful on its own, we will also learn more about the people that create entrepreneurial infrastructure to enhance our region’s “entrepreneurial culture.” We will ask key “business advocates” who support entrepreneurs through education, funding and promotion of our region what drives them to continually champion our region’s businesses, what inspires them to continually push forward, and how they can work with budding entrepreneurs to take their entrepreneurial dreams and make them a reality.

This column will uncover the secrets of how some of the region’s hardworking entrepreneurs and business advocates contribute to the long term economic success of our region. We hope to encourage young and not so young people considering an entrepreneurial path and to see starting and running a business a worthy goal for the bright and motivated. We look forward to your questions and feedback and hope you enjoy our series!

Just Posted

Photo: Trail Times
Trail RCMP start June by nabbing impaired drivers

Latest brief from the Trail and Greater District police

“This is very costly to replace and it seems that Rossland is getting more and more theft and vandalism happening, which is really unfortunate,” says the commission’s Michelle Fairbanks. Photo: Submitted
Two plaques stolen from Rossland heritage square

The plaques were located at Washington and Columbia by the Olaus statue

No matter your age, the city’s two skate park hosts Jaryd Justice-Moote (left) and Brenden Wright can help you roll into a new pastime this “Summer at the Skatepark.” Photo: City of Trail
Free coaching at the Trail Sk8Park begins next month

The city is rolling into a summer of inclusive recreation by, for… Continue reading

Pastor Tom Kline
‘Why I became a Christian’ with Pastor Tom Kline

That night, a peace came over my heart that has remained from that day to this, 36 years later.

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
Old growth protesters begin 24-hour blockade of Castlegar’s main street

Members of Extinction Rebellion plan to stay overnight

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read