Introducing our Top 10 thought leaders of 2023

Taking a fond look back at some of the most inspirational thought leaders from the stories we told in 2023

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Throughout 2023, the Kootenay region continued to thrive as a hub of entrepreneurship. At Kootenay Business, we’ve had the privilege of engaging with some of the distinguished thought leaders who have taken the reins and made a lasting impression on their communities.

Without further ado, we present our annual Top Thought Leaders of the Year for 2023, shining a spotlight on those individuals who are not only shaping discourse but are also actively nurturing positive change in the world. Their tireless efforts and unwavering commitment make them true trailblazers.

— Tim Matwey photo


#1. Twin sisters Robyn Hansen and Becky McArthur

Title: Owners of Twisted Peaks

Thought Leadership: These sisters have taken on two businesses together, having also purchased MJ’s Floral Boutique before selling it and starting up a frozen yogurt shop. They sensed that Cranbrook needed a dining option that was open into the evening and on weekends, aside from sit-down restaurants. They ended up opening Twisted Peaks in May of 2020—a gutsy time to start a food service business, to say the least. The risk paid off. By 2022 they were awarded Best New Business of the Year by the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce.

Memorable quotes: “It's a big experiment, essentially, so it's not for the faint of heart.” - Robyn Hansen “We had lineups down the block for every single hour we were open.” - Becky McArthur

Read the full story: Family and fro-yo at Twisted Peaks in Cranbrook

— Photo courtesy of Wildelore


#2. Carissa and Chas Misener

Title: Owners of Wildelore

Thought Leadership: Carissa and Chas Misener have sparked conversations within and beyond the Nelson community with the launch of Wildelore, their burgeoning clothing brand specifically tailored for active new mothers. The duo introduced a versatile sweater designed to adapt to women's changing bodies during maternity, nursing, and postpartum phases. Beyond its stylish and comfortable design, the garment uniquely enables wearers to maintain an active outdoor lifestyle without any disruption.

Memorable quote: “This business couldn’t be birthed in a more perfect place! It is only through being out here that my life began to reflect the heartbeat of the mountains, and the activities.” - Carissa Misener

Read the full story: Wildlore is a game-changer for Kootenay moms

— Photo courtesy Drift + Sonder


#3. Sisters Joanna and Aysha Haines

Title: Owners of Drift + Sonder

Thought Leadership: The Haines sisters put considerable effort into curating merchandise aligned with their values and brand, focusing on quality, sustainability, and ethical sourcing. Their shop features a refillery, allowing customers to minimize packaging waste by bringing in refillable containers for various products. Drift + Sonder has seamlessly integrated into the community, proving to be an ideal match for discerning Kootenay customers.

Memorable quote: “We created our roles in a way that supported our natural abilities and our differences—we complement each other really.” - Joanna and Aysha Haines

Read the full story: Curating thoughtfully made goods in Fernie

— Photo courtesy of Linden Lane Farms


#4. Matthew Carr

Title: Owner of Linden Lane Farms

Thought Leadership: Matthew Carr, an experienced grower and entrepreneur, is the agricultural force behind Linden Lane Farms situated in Krestova in the Slocan Valley. Despite being only in his twenties, Carr boasts over a decade of farming experience, having initially ventured into the world of plants during his high school years due to his passion for horticulture.

Memorable quote: “I think our farm has grown because I've paid attention to what my customers have asked of us over the years.” - Matthew Carr

Read the full story: Growing with a lot of grit at Linden Lane Farms

— Kimberley Rae photo


#5. Sisters Lin Egan & Anna Steedman

Title: Owners of Winderberry and Edible Acres Farm & Café & Catering

Thought Leadership: Lin Egan and her sister Anna Steedman grew up in the thriving enterprise of Winderberry Farm, a well-established garden centre in Windermere, B.C., founded by their parents. They are now co-owners (alongside their respective partners), actively growing the business, which has expanded to include an organic farm, a cafe, and catering services. The next generation, their sons, now explore the greenhouses and fields that constitute Winderberry and Edible Acres Farm & Café & Catering.

Memorable quote: “When that first cucumber grows and peppers and tomatoes are available, it's like a celebratory meal for our family.” - Lin Egan

Read the full story: Winderberry Farm—A business that has grown to work for a family

— Photo courtesy Courtenay Rudy


#6. Michael and Courtenay Rudy

Title: Owners of Boundary Hill Farm

Thought Leadership: Michael and Courtenay Rudy—the farmers and proprietors of Boundary Hill Farm in Grand Forks—have made a name for themselves in the world of sustainable agriculture. Initially pursuing different professional trajectories, their paths serendipitously crossed 13 years ago at a farmers market. The couple now has five children together, and they run their business using sustainable, full-cycle farming practices on their expansive 36-acre property.

Memorable quote: “Farming is surprisingly romantic. The connection with the earth and to the food you are growing—it was hard not to become a farmer once I got involved.” - Courtenay Rudy

Read the full story: Coming full circle at Boundary Hill Farm in Grand Forks

— Photo courtesy of Funk Haus Craft Lab


#7. Jess Murrell, Brigitte Franyo and Jaime Funk

Title: Owners of Funk Haus Craft Lab

Thought Leadership: Jess Murrell, Brigitte Franyo, and Jaime Funk are successfully running Funk Haus Craft Lab, a vibrant establishment in Kimberley that serves the local arts and crafts community. Prior to their venture, Franyo and Funk were already close friends. Murrell, relocating her food truck from Ottawa, collaborated with Funk to open the J2 Ranch Meat Shop within Funk's catering business, The Green Door. As the three began working together, a natural business relationship evolved.

Memorable quote: “We were all getting sick of buying online and felt we needed to start selling great curated products to the makers, crafters, artists and hobbyists of the area.”

Read the full story: Crafting a strong business relationship

— Photo courtesy of Kaslo Sourdough Pasta


#8. The Lettrari Family

Title: Owners of Kaslo Sourdough Pasta

Thought Leadership: Owned by Silvio and Gabriele Lettrari, Kaslo Sourdough Pasta has embraced the involvement of their entire family in the business. Crafting a legacy that spans generations is no small feat, and the Lettraris invested significant effort to shape the company into its current form. A noteworthy aspect of their products lies in the incorporation of fermentation to enhance the health benefits and digestibility of the pasta. In an era where customers are growing more health-conscious, this innovative approach has proven to be an excellent way to meet evolving dietary needs.

Memorable quote: “We all worked together to bring to market the first commercial sourdough pasta—and the rest is history!” - Heidi Lettrari

Read the full story: Kaslo Sourdough Pasta: What is the family recipe for success?

— Iván González Montoya photo


#9. Nigel and Laura Francis

Title: Owners of Cartwheel Farm

Thought Leadership: With assistance from Columbia Basin Trust and other funding, Nigel and Laura Francis are in the process of installing a 96-panel solar array. This array will serve as an energy source for their new Chinese-style eco-high tunnel greenhouses. These interconnected systems are designed to propel the farm towards its objectives. Laura and Nigel envision operating Cartwheel completely independent of fossil fuels. Additionally, they anticipate year-round food production, challenging the conventional limitations of traditional growing seasons. Both objectives represent proactive measures in response to the challenges and responsibilities associated with a changing environment.

Memorable quote: “We're making these investments in a large part to protect our way of life from climate pressure and to try to buffer what we do from growing climate insecurity.” - Laura Francis

Read the full story: Creston organic farmer is aiming for year-round food without fossil fuels

— Photo courtesy of Sigi Liebmann


#10. Sigi Liebmann

Title: Owner of International Timberframes

Thought Leadership: Sigi Liebmann, the forward-thinking founder of International Timberframes, turned his childhood fascination with timber framing into a flourishing enterprise. Evolving from an enthusiastic young apprentice into a seasoned industry expert, Liebmann's enduring passion for the craft propelled him to establish a company celebrated for its outstanding craftsmanship and unwavering commitment to quality.

Memorable quote: “You can only get good at anything if you do it for a long time and love it.” - Sigi Liebmann

Read the full story: From childhood dream to industry leader: Carving a path with International Timberframes in Golden

Read our lists of previous thought leaders:

2021 Thought Leaders
2022 Thought Leaders

The title of “thought leader” is an honour to be earned, and we’ve bestowed it on these 10 business people. And, indeed, KootenayBiz is going to continue to put a spotlight on thought leaders in all of our Kootenay and Columbia communities in 2024. So stay tuned for more inspirational stories. Please contact us with your suggestions for other Kootenay entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, we truly appreciate you—our readers and advertisers—for making us part of your life and business world.

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