co+Lab has launched a community spotlight series called “Inspired and Innovative”, or I&I, that highlights the amazing work of our local professionals, entrepreneurs and game-changers. You’re in for a treat as this is the inaugural feature on a true community champion, Dennis Powers!
Dennis Powers – Community Connector
Dennis Powers is a connector, project manager, and entrepreneur. His love for the Kelowna tech and creative communities inspired him to start the #MADNightsKL event which showcases marketers, designers, and advertisers from the Okanagan as well as around the world. With over twenty years of experience in his field, he’s an authority on the subject.
Kodie — Gimme the lowdown on yourself, the elevator pitch, if you will.
Dennis — Well, I started out as a musician, then through that I went into video and film, then I got into interactive video, which led me into interactive media.
K — Why stay in Kelowna? What’s the draw? Why not go somewhere else?
D — Well, I grew up in the Okanagan and I moved away to Vancouver to pursue a career in the arts, the creative industry. They weren’t really being supported in Kelowna at the time, back in the day. Eventually I owned a business, sold that business, sold everything actually, then decided where to go next. Well, basically I decided let’s go home, back to the Okanagan.
K — So when you came back you kind of became the change that you wanted to see?
D — No! I had no plans, no clue of what I was gonna do. Because of my background in interactive video I landed a gig with an online marketing company and started selling for their creative people and their creative services. But it wasn’t a very connected community. It wasn’t like Vancouver, where I’m sort of from. It wasn’t until people like Shane and OKDG came around, and then Richard started 2nd Thursday that I started to see that there was more that could be done. I wanted to be involved. So I got involved with Digital Okanagan, basically begged them to put me on the board of directors. I had to go through a series of interviews, it was hell! Which is good because they want to make sure that you’re going in there for yourself and not as a resume padder. I was there to help and I kept talking about a way for marketers and designers to get together. I thought that was a gap in the events that were going in the Okanagan, and they kept saying, “Well, start something!” I was kind of a reluctant starter of MADNights. Richard Taylor started talking to me about it, Richard’s a good starter. He just goes, and I like to test the waters first. So we did it, we started just before Christmas in 2012 and it’s been going ever since. It’s a small sort of really intensely connected group.
K — Running that and getting involved with Digital Okanagan what sort of lessons have you learned?
D — I don’t know if there was an a-ha moment after joining Digital Okanagan. I think there was an a-ha moment regarding MADNights when I thought, “Wow this is something needed in the community and people actually like it and we can keep it going.” I think right around the time that… Y’know that book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? I was reading that book around the time that I was thinking about joining Digital Okanagan and it was talking about legacy. It was then that I started thinking about how I’m going to impact my community and that was when it all started coming together. My thoughts on that, what Digital Okanagan was doing, and what I could do with Digital Okanagan. Then that started leading me to think about other entrepreneurial ideas.
K — Kelowna now has organizations like Accelerate Okanagan, Digital Okanagan, and we’re starting to see this push towards coworking spaces. What about this sort of community and coworking movement what really excites you?
D — I think it’s about being somewhere where the action is. Rather than being locked up in your own little space, which can be fine, but if you’re trying to grow as a person, grow as a professional, and grow your business you have to stay connected. So a coworking space allows you to do that with other people doing the same thing as you. Just to be there you never know when an opportunity will pop up. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and how are you going to be in the right place when you’re working out of your house, y’know? If you’re working with like-minded people they want to collaborate with you and you’ve got a better chance of being in that right place. It’s really cool. You’re definitely not going to get those opportunities sitting at home.
K — If time or money weren’t an object what business/event/movement that you’re not a part of would you start up or stand behind?
D — I think, honestly, I love what I’m doing. I would do what I’m doing, except that I’d do it bigger, faster, harder. I’d love to think of ideas that make good business sense and find people to work with and develop those ideas then go on to the next idea. Get it running and then go on to the next idea. That’s what I kinda work towards.
K — You’ve said before that you were a musician in the Vancouver scene, so, finally, what song best describes your work ethic?
D — I don’t even know if it’s my song, but the only thing I can think of right now is Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World. As a song to play it’s lot of fun. I’ve always kind of identified with it and it meant something to me. I don’t know what it meant, but I know I liked it.