Our top ten thought leaders of the year

We’ve chosen 10 inspirational leaders, and their stories are worthy of a second read

by Kerry Shellborn


“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”—Apple’s iconic ‘think different’ campaign

While the Kootenays may not have people as famous as the creative thinkers mentioned in Apple’s memorable ‘think different’ campaign, our region doesn’t take a back seat to anywhere in the world when it comes to thought leadership.

Case in point: The 10 thought leaders that KootenayBiz was privileged to catch up with during the last 12 months.

Without further ado, here’s the KootenayBiz list of ten thought leaders who are doing their best to change the world for the better.

Eden Yesh.

— Photo credit: Lisa Yesh

#1 - INVERMERE, BC

Eden Yesh: Bringing power to the people

Title: CEO and president of Kootenay Solar and Rocky View Solar

Thought Leadership: To call Eden Yesh a big thinker may be an understatement. He spends his waking hours developing practical solutions to heat and cool our homes more efficiently with solar power. And now he wants to use what he has learned in the energy world to fix our financial systems. It’s a good thing Yesh doesn’t need much sleep.

Memorable quote: “It’s a new take on capitalism, which has for too long been unbridled and focused on centralizing wealth and increasing shareholder profits at all costs.”

Read Yesh’s full story: This Invermere, B.C. thought leader’s motto could be “bringing power to the people”

Jody McInnes

— Photo courtesy Jody McInnes

#2 - CRANBROOK, BC

Jody McInnes: Practicing what he preaches

Title: Owner or part-owner of four different businesses: Stillwater Consulting, The Local Plate, Table 23 Holdings and Cherry Creek Estate

Thought Leadership: McInnes is a consultant with a difference—he actually runs businesses. Four of them to be exact. How does McInnes manage to juggle all those companies without dropping the ball? Simple: he hires for cultural fit, not technical know-how. Good people can be taught skills, but the opposite isn’t always true.

Memorable quote: ”We get the right people on board, support them in their role, and give them room to excel.”

Read McInnes’ full story: Multi-business owner, entrepreneurial master strategist and calculated card player

Pilar Portela sitting and enjoying Kootenay lakeview

— Photo courtesy Pilar Portela

#3 - KASLO, BC (And beyond)

Pilar Portela: Thinks globally, acts locally

Title: Regenerative economic and development catalyst and impact investor

Thought Leadership: Portela explores technology-based solutions to global issues, such as climate change, renewable energy sourcing, smart rural-urban development and food security.

Memorable quote: “Over the next decade, every industry will morph, changes will come faster and investors will look for those that can overcome it all while doing good.”

Read Portela’s full story: From digital evolution to sustainable methods, this Kootenay catalyst is here to help businesses

Grant Sharam and Jim Cunnington sitting on e-bikes

— Photo courtesy eTrikes Canada

#4 - KIMBERLEY, BC

Grant Sharam and Jim Cunnington: Green means go 

Title: Entrepreneurs

Thought Leadership: Originally from Australia, these two business partners found their way to Kimberley, B.C. where they saw the need for affordable, green transportation—leading them to start eTrikes Canada.

Memorable quote: “To charge your eTrike battery in B.C., you will use about 13 cents worth of power. Combined with the range of modern e-bike battery cells, you’ll get about 400 kilometres for every loonie you spend.”

Read their full story: Keeping the Kootenays up to speed with eco-friendly electric trikes

Audrey Duval in foreground, standing with two other woman, all have mountain bikes.

— Photo courtesy Shred Sisters

#5 - GOLDEN, BC

Audrey Duval: You go, sister!

Title: Entrepreneur, teacher, coach

Thought Leadership: Audrey Duval is the entrepreneur behind Shred Sisters—a company that teaches clients mountain biking skills in a supportive, community environment. All of the programs are led by women, and only women can participate.

Memorable quote: “Kicking Horse was the first ski hill I skied at when I moved out west, and I totally fell in love with the mountain.”

Read Audrey Duval’s full story: Forging a sisterhood on mountain bikes in the Kootenays

Jacomien van Tonder

— Photo courtesy Jacomien van Tonder

#6 - TRAIL, BC

Jacomien van Tonder: Coming full circle

Title: Director for Metal Tech Alley

Thought Leadership: What is a circular economy? It’s a different way of doing business where waste is considered a resource instead of a cost. It’s about using valuable resources wisely and finding innovative ways to better the environment and the economy. van Tonder and the team from Metal Tech Alley in Trail are now world leaders in this new way of doing business.

Memorable quote: “It was a very proud moment for me to be able to tell the world about the Lower Columbia region as an industry-friendly area with high environmental standards”

Read Jacomien van Tonder’s full story: Global Green Business Award goes to Metal Tech Alley in Trail, B.C.

Patrick Tolchard

— Photo courtesy Valley Zipline Adventures

#7 - INVERMERE, BC

Patrick Tolchard: Adventures in business

Title: Entrepreneur

Thought Leadership: While the rest of us were solving Wordles these past years, Tolchard was launching a startup, taking a diploma in digital marketing and volunteering in his community. Oh, yeah and he did this while running three adventure businesses in the Columbia Valley.

Memorable quote: “One of the reasons I went into business was because I was tired of being treated like a number.”

Read Patrick Tolchard’s full story: Three outdoor tourism businesses leads to adventure for this Columbia Valley entrepreneur

Kyle Thornley

— Photo courtesy Metal Mind Forge

#8 - REVELSTOKE, BC

Kyle Thornley: Forging his own path

Title: Blacksmith

Thought Leadership: Kyle Thornley put his own twist on the lost art of blacksmithing while sharing his passion for metal with others in the Kootenays and beyond.

Memorable quote: “It is quite an exciting process being 'in the moment' with hot bars of steel!”

Read Kyle Thornley’s full story: Forging the way: How this B.C. artist is taking blacksmithing to new heights

Andrea Legg, smiling and holding mug.

— Photo courtesy Virtue Tea

#9 - NELSON, BC

Andrea Legg and Alex Balcer: Calm after the circus

Title: Co-owners, Virtue Tea

Thought Leadership: Talk about a career shift—these two members of Cirque du Soleil pivoted from a high-flying life on the road to settle down in Nelson where they now offer the perfect cup of tea.

Memorable quote: “When we arrived, it was as if Nelson embraced us, everything just fell into place. We have been thrilled to live here every single day, the community here is incredible.”

Read their full story: Two members of Cirque du Soleil find love and run off to start a business in the Kootenays

Janice Alpine.

— Photo courtesy Janice Alpine

#10 - CRANBROOK, BC

Janice Alpine: Helping Indigenous operators to grow and thrive

Title: Business Development Officer/Tourism Engagement with the Ktunaxa Nation

Thought Leadership: Alpine and her colleagues work with those who are interested in starting out in business, and also alongside established businesses that are looking to grow. Although their focus is on members of the Ktunaxa Nation, they work with any Indigenous individual or Indigenous-owned business.

Memorable quote: “Today we have a lot of individuals that are aware that there's an opportunity to be your own boss, to be your own business operator.”

Read Janice Alpine’s full story: The Ktunaxa mean business

Read our list of ten thought leaders from 2021

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