Over the past 30 years, Kelowna has changed dramatically. Our population has more than doubled, earning us the title of ‘fastest growing region in B.C.' New industries and infrastructure have transformed our economy and cityscape, and in some regards it’s almost unrecognizable. The promise of a bright future for Kelowna is indicative of even more changes. For example, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COED) projects a population of 455,000 by 2036.

In this time of dramatic transition and huge economic success, it’s comforting and important to reflect upon the stable things in our city. For example, anyone who’s lived in the Okanagan for a couple of years will have heard of the retail company, Andre’s Electronic Experts.

“My father started Andre’s Electronics in 1976,” said Andre Blanleil, owner of the locally owned and operated electronics chain. “Back then, the store was a TV repair shop. That was 40 years ago, since then we’ve become a store that spans over the interior offering a range of electronic goods. Who would have thought?”

That’s a good question. Who could have predicted that one man’s dream of fixing electronic goods for a relatively small agricultural community would evolve into a provincial-wide chain with over 20 locations, including a car wash and liquor store? Much like our Okanagan, this dream expanded and reached a size and height no one in the 1970s could have predicted.

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When KelownaNow went down to Andre’s Electronics to chat with Andre and his sons Chad and Kyle, we were struck by the degree to which Andre's Electronic Experts has evolved and expanded, the biggest influencers of the evolution being Chad and Kyle.

A story of children stepping up and helping to manage a family business isn’t unique to Andre’s electronics. According to the Central Okanagan Centre for Economic Development, Kelowna is currently home to 17,500 businesses. Of these stores, 95% have fewer than 20 employees and many of these are family owned and operated.

In other words, many of our local businesses have gracefully aged to a point where they’re depending on the next generation of their family to continue the legacy. If you’re in the business world, chances are you know of quite a few family businesses going through the same thing.

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“My father isn't ‘passing the torch’ so to say,” said Kyle Blanleil, Andre’s oldest son. “However, over the previous ten years, Chad and I have stepped into significant positions within the company. We’ve consciously decided to influence the future of our dad’s company. I know of five to ten other family businesses going through the same process.”

This influence has been imperative to the success of Andre’s Electronics. Much like how Andre inherited a business from his father and transformed it into a retailer capable of competing with international giants, Chad and Kyle also have skills that promise to propel Andre’s Electronics Experts forward.

Chad is fondly described as the ‘marketer’ of the company, while Kyle is given the title of ‘executor,' meaning the structure guy. With these three foundational bases covered, Andre’s Electronic Experts can grow and develop even further.

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“When it comes to Andre’s Electronics, I’m still The Creator,” laughed Andre. “I’ll wake up at 3am in the morning, think of an idea and send Chad and Kyle an email. With the help from my sons, this idea becomes a reality. I can do more of what I like and they do more of what I don’t like while the business still thrives.”

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So, you might be thinking about how this story relates to you. Why would KelownaNow decide that Andre’s Electronics and their succession fits under the category of ‘stuff that matters.'

Apart from being a great local business that positively contributes to our community, Andre’s Electronics is a great example for our city.

Much like Andre’s, Kelowna is looking towards a future of succession. We’ve grown into a prosperous city due to the hard work and diligence of an older generation. This generation has built prosperity in various industries, from manufacturing to retail to tourism. Much like how Andre looks towards his sons Chad and Kyle to ensure his family legacy continues, Kelowna must look towards the next generation, especially if we’re to secure a bright future for our city.

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How has Andre’s Electronics managed to stay successful? "It was successful because we always jumped into the next big thing. For example, in 1989 we jumped on cellular. This has arguably kept us in business ever since. I can’t stress this enough, to be successful you must stay relevant.”

An ability to move with the times and stay relevant kept Andre in business and also promises to keep Kelowna in business. When Kelowna puts its faith in hard-working, innovative young individuals, much like the dedicated family behind Andre’s Electronics, we will continue to thrive and accomplish great things.

KelownaNow’s Young Entrepreneur series demonstrates the success and hard work of many young individuals who have achieved great things for themselves and our community. To learn about our visionary innovators, check out our Okanagan Innovators series.

Due to the hard work of businesses of today and tomorrow, perhaps in 40 years Kelowna, much like the Blanleils, will reminisce upon the past and this ‘who would have thought we’d be where we are today?’

And, I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty exciting idea.

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