- Words by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe
Just over a year ago, Steve Stalenhoef opened the doors to The Collective, a 10-suite space in Kelowna for beauty and wellness entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses in a low-risk, community-minded environment. Designed to be beautiful and highly photographable, with one-year leases, The Collective has grown into a thriving business and an invaluable stepping stone for many entrepreneurs. But it may not have happened if not for a failed opportunity and a leap of faith.
Steve had been working as a construction manager in Edmonton for years, and felt the need to change things up.
“I applied to be a guide at a company that specializes in international tourism. You could work in Spain, France, New Zealand. It’s a really great way to see the world,” he says.
Selected from a pool of over 2,000 applicants, Steve was offered a job, and quickly set about liquidating nearly all of his assets to get ready for his globe-trotting adventure.
“I sold my house in Edmonton and came out to Kelowna to kill some time before the job started. My folks live in Kelowna, so I was crashing on their couch. I had a suitcase with two pairs of jeans and a sweater in it,” he says, laughing. “That was in February of 2020.”
With everything shutting down at the start of the pandemic and his new job cancelled, Steve found a different path forward when he decided to build The Collective.
“I was fairly liquid. I’d just sold my house and all my stuff, and I thought, ‘what the hell, I’ll build something beautiful before the world ends.’”
Having the opportunity to design and build something independently—without being beholden to a client—was huge for Steve. And having already done a similar project in Edmonton for a client, he had also seen firsthand how offering short-term leasing opportunities in a beautiful and Instagram-worthy space could be transformative for new entrepreneurs.
“To build something that facilitates entrepreneurship is so cool to me,” he says. “It’s such a huge risk to leave your existing employer and rent a space. This space is designed to be more flexible. It’s not as intimidating as the five- to eight-year leases you often see in the commercial setting. It’s a middle ground step they can take, and a way to reduce the risk.”
And because it’s designed to be a transitional step for entrepreneurs as they grow, the 10 suites often have high turnover, allowing new entrepreneurs to get their own leg up as previous tenants move on to larger spaces.
For Steve, Kelowna couldn’t have worked out better. He’s the head of a thriving entrepreneurial community, married to the beautiful woman he met when he first landed here, and immersed in the endless stream of outdoor adventures the Okanagan offers.
“I can’t really tell you what I did for fun in Edmonton, but after coming here, it’s rock climbing and mountaineering and fishing,” he says. “You feel like you can’t do it all!”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
Taking this question literally, I would have to say David Thompson. He was a pioneering geographer and an explorer. I’d have to walk about 100,000 kilometres, but if you’ve ever driven the David Thompson Highway, imagine what a walk that would be.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
That’s a tie between sushi and tacos. I don’t think I’ve ever been really full from these. I’ve just run out of sushi or tacos
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend
selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I would use it to build a unique, possibly bizarre house. Something that’s risky from an architectural and design perspective. The whole thing might not work out, but I’d take the opportunity to try and build something and treat it more like an experiment.
I’ve seen a lot of very expensive construction projects where the owners wanted to find ways to shave costs, and usually the first place that happens is in the design process. Stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime is my pet peeve.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
I converted an old horse trailer into a mobile wood-burning sauna. Sitting in that sauna, parked on Okanagan Lake, is currently my favourite place to do nothing.
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
In my 20s, I was in a band for years and I’m so proud of our terrible, low-budget recordings.
What makes your heart beat faster?
Building beautiful structures and spaces. When I get to step back from a unique project and I realize how immersed in the design and construction I’ve been, I get a pretty profound sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Also, my wife.