Passing on his expertise
Mark Krehel knew he was too young to retire at 45. But that’s the age he was when he sold Camco Cutting Tools, the Kelowna business he’d built for 18 years, to international player Kennametal of Pittsburgh.
“With Camco, we made, sold and distributed cutting tools used for metal and wood internationally,” said Krehel, who is now 56.
“I’m a type-A personality, quite often double-A or triple-A, so I couldn’t do nothing for long,” he added with a laugh.
So, Krehel got heavily involved in Kelowna United soccer, coaching his daughters’ teams and sitting on the Kelowna United board, including eight years as president.
“I couldn’t help but apply business models to Kelowna United,” said Krehel. “We took it from a small town youth sports club to a more business-like organization. That was necessary because we wanted to build a facility.”
That facility is the white bubble that goes up every winter beside the H2O pool to create temporary soccer fields for year-round training and games.
Concurrently, because of his business savvy, Krehel was in demand as an adviser, mentor and consultant to help friends and associates launch and grow businesses.
And then, a year ago, Accelerate Okanagan, the agency that helps tech companies start and grow, asked Krehel if he wanted to come on board as an executive in residence.
Krehel had a couple of friends who were already working with Accelerate as executives in residence and having a great time helping others, so he said yes.
“Accelerate was getting more and more calls for help from companies that weren’t pure tech businesses, but manufacturers that wanted to use technology in manufacturing and other traditional sectors,” said Krehel.
“That’s where my expertise lies.”
Krehel is particularly proud of the mentoring he’s been able to give three growth companies in the Southern Interior.
Axis Forestry of Kamloops makes and services parts for logging and mill equipment.
Piscine Energetics of Kelowna makes fish food from mysis shrimp harvested from Okanagan Lake.
And Aqua Air 247 of Kelowna makes machines that pulls moisture from the air to turn into drinking water.
“These companies come to Accelerate for help because they are using technology,” said Krehel.
“But they still need to know all the business fundamentals from corporate structure and human resources to management and financials. And that’s where I come in.”
Krehel is paid for his work as a mentor, and companies that use Accelerate’s services do pay a fee.
But the arrangement is designed to be low cost so small companies on a budget can get the help they need to launch, grow and hire.
Accelerate Okanagan has funky new space on the second floor of the new seven-storey Okanagan Centre for Innovation at the corner of Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street downtown.
Quite often, that’s where Krehel will meet with the people he is mentoring in Accelerate’s open-plan flex spaces.
“The concept is all about creative collisions as you come across people that you can help or that can help you, or both,” he said.
“But, as a true mentor, I’m also available to meet anywhere else or be in touch by phone, email or text.”
Mark Krehel, 56, an executive in residence at Accelerate Okanagan, is the 36th nominee for Kelowna Top Forty Over 40. He’s pictured here in the atrium of the new Okanagan Centre for Innovation, where Accelerate has space.