Justin Jackson is a business owner who’s lived in the Vernon area since 2012.
Where are you originally from?
I moved here from Edmonton, Alberta. I’d lived in Alberta my whole life, so moving to the Okanagan was a big change!
What were your biggest concerns about moving to Vernon?
My biggest fear about moving to the Okanagan was that I’d miss the tech community in Edmonton. Being surrounded by people who are passionate about growing, and improving their skills is important to me.
There were other concerns too. When I moved here, I was working remotely as a Product Manager for a software company. I was worried that if I lost that job, I wouldn’t have any other options (locally). Besides Disney Interactive, there wasn’t a lot of tech in the area.
What helped you overcome those worries?
When I came to check out Vernon, I reached out to Kevin Poole (Manager of Economic Development for Vernon). He took me out for lunch and introduced me to Kazia Mullin who was organizing some local tech events.
Through Kazia I met some other remote workers, which eventually lead to us starting Geek Beers. I realized that there are tons of really talented people moving to the area. They move here for the lifestyle but work remotely.
What kind of research did you do before you moved to Vernon?
I did a ton of research on the internet. One of my searches was for “okanagan tech.” Steve Wandler‘s name kept coming up. He’s the founder of Metabridge and FreshGrade. I wrote him an email at midnight saying: “Hey Steve if you’re ever in Edmonton, I’d love to go for coffee and ask you questions about moving to the Okanagan.” Steve replied at 1am: “I’m flying to Edmonton today! What time would you like to meet?”
That meeting alleviated many of my concerns about moving to the area (although, Steve wanted me to move to Kelowna!)
I also reached out to other folks I knew who had moved from Edmonton to the Okanagan, and asked them for their advice.
What other cities did you consider moving to?
Once I got my remote job, I knew I could work from anywhere. My wife and I started by thinking internationally: France, Mexico, Portland, etc… But after some research, we thought it would be best for our kids if we stayed in Canada. Our short-list for Canadian cities was Halifax, Montreal, Victoria, or somewhere in the Okanagan.
Why did you ultimately choose Vernon? What attracted you to the area?
Growing up in Alberta, it had always been my dream to live in a BC ski town. So my wife and I started researching different places and looking at how close they were to the ski lift.
Vernon was the perfect mix: a nice sized, affordable city, 20 minutes to Silver Star Mountain, 30 minutes to the airport, and surrounded by beautiful lakes.
I also remember watching this video, with Kevin O’Brien from Kalavida Surf Shop:
The line that stood out for me was him saying: “Vernon is the best-kept secret in Canada.” Hearing his pride and excitement for the region was inspiring.
Another thing that helped is we knew some families who lived in Vernon who said it was a fantastic place to raise kids.
What’s kept you in Vernon?
The hot summers here are amazing. The beaches are beautiful. And the winters are way more mild than Edmonton! (I sometimes joke that the Okanagan is like the Bahamas of Canada).
We’ve done way more recreational activities since moving to the Okanagan: swimming, paddleboarding, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing.
Also, since we’ve moved here the downtown core has gotten better. There are high-quality places to eat like Ratio Coffee, Station BBQ, Marten Brewpub, and Eatology.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering moving to Vernon?
The most challenging part about moving to the Okanagan is finding work. If you don’t have a remote job, and you haven’t been offered a job locally, my advice would be to wait.
I’d also say you should visit the city in all four seasons. The summers are very hot and dry. The winters aren’t -30C, but typically involve a lot of snow (you need to get up to Silver Star to get above the clouds in the winter too).
You run your own company here. What’s it called and what do you do?
Initially, I was doing consulting work for tech startups in Portland and San Francisco.
In 2015, I started offering online training for tech companies, usually around product development, marketing, and improving the bottom-line.
A year later, I went full-time with the MegaMaker brand. It’s a private membership site for people who are making their own tech products.
In 2018, I co-founded a new startup called Transistor.fm. It’s a podcasting platform I’m building with my friend Jon Buda (he’s in Chicago).
Where are your customers located?
The majority of my customers are in the United States. I charge exclusively in USD (which is nice when the exchange rate is in my favor!)
What’s the best part about running your company from Vernon?
On a snow day, it’s incredible to have the freedom to drive up to Silver Star and snowboard for a couple of hours!
I help run Cowork Vernon downtown, and the community there is amazing. It’s a 5-10 minute bike ride from my house. There are lots of good places to get food and hang out.
What’s the hardest part about running your company from Vernon?
It’s small! There aren’t many opportunities (at least for me) to grow my business locally. Almost all of my growth comes from the USA and Europe.
What would make Vernon even better?
I’d love to see more creative professionals moving here, and joining the community. Freelancers, software developers, designers, animators, video editors, small startups.
The best part about Vernon is the people I’ve met here.
You can find Justin on the web here: