Nikki Csek jokes she’s allergic to small. That's why her Csek Creative and Now Media businesses are bringing in eight big names for the Level UP 2019 leadership conference in Kelowna on Sept. 27.

The lineup of speakers is impressive – former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper, Club Penguin co-founder and Dragons’ Den investor Lane Merrifield, former NBA player Walter Bond, former Success magazine editor Darren Hardy, Gusto Restaurant Group CEO Janet Zuccarini, former Apple marketing vice-president Omar Johnson and CEO Cybele Negris.

“We’ve always pushed the envelope at Csek Creative,” said CEO Csek.

“We tend to always start sentences with: ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if,’ so for the company’s 20th anniversary, I said: ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we could put on a huge conference.’”

Her husband and company chief operating officer Jim Csek came up with the leadership theme.

Csek chose Trinity Baptist Church as the venue because it has the required 1,800 seats in a beautiful theatre-style auditorium with excellent acoustics and audio-visual capabilities.

Tickets range from $299 for general admission seating in the upper deck and first balcony to $1,500 for premium VIP, which includes floor seating, meet and greets and photos with all the speakers, buffet lunch on site, cocktail hour and networking with the speakers and other VIP guests and dinner at Manteo Resort.

In between, there are $499 general admission with outer wing, balcony and floor seating, $699 general admission with floor and balcony seating and lunch on site and $799 VIP treatment with floor and first balcony seating, lunch on site with two of the speakers.

“The scale of this is huge and there is risk in bringing this to town because of the cost of these speakers for a day,” said Csek. “But this is an important conference that will sell tickets not just in Kelowna and the Okanagan, but attract ticket buyers from Vancouver and Calgary and across the country.” has ticket information.

“We vetted each speaker,” said Csek. “They will be here on purpose to talk leadership. We want the business community to be inspired and ready for 2020 and the future.”

The day will be jam-packed from 7:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. with each speaker presenting for about an hour.

A good chunk of each hour will also be dedicated to questions and answers to engage the audience even more.

– Jean Chretien was Liberal leader and Canada’s 20th prime minister from 1993-2003. He helped negotiate a formal coalition agreement between the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

– Stephen Harper was Conservative leader and Canada’s 22nd prime minister from 2006-15.

He’s credited with modernizing the Conservative Party and focusing on free trade, open markets and economic growth.

– Lane Merrifield of Kelowna gained fame as one of three founders of children's’ online playground Club Penguin, which sold to Disney for $350 million in 2007.

Since then, he’s started FreshGrade, a platform for teachers, parents and students, helped get Okanagan Centre for Innovation office building constructed downtown and joined the cast of the hit CBC-TV reality show Dragons’ Den.

– Shooting guard Walter Bond played professional basketball for the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons from 1992-95.

He’s now a motivational speaker and host of the Food Network show Giving You the Business.

– Toronto-based Janet Zuccarini is the owner and visionary at the Gusto Restaurant Group, which has Gusto 54, Trattoria Nervosa, Gusto 101, Gusto 501, Azhar, PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, Kiin, Same Same, Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen and Los Angeles-based Felix and Gusto Green.

Zuccarini was a judge on Top Chef Canada’s All-Stars fifth season and Top Chef Canada seasons 6 and 7.

– Omar Johnson is the marketing genius behind some of the most innovative campaigns at Beats by Dre, Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Campbells Soup.

He produced some of Nike’s most memorable TV commercials, including Rise with LeBron James and All Together Now with Kobe Bryant.

– Cybele Negris is CEO of, Canada’s original .ca registrar and provider of hundreds of domain extensions, corporate domain portfolio management, web hosting, email, security products and other online solutions.

She’s among Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame.

– As the editor of Success magazine, Darren Hardy interviewed and published stories on the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Wynn.

He’s now a success mentor, inspirational speaker and author of New York Times bestselling books The Compound Effect, The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster and Living Your Best Year Ever.


A whopping 95% of employees at Accent Inns answer yes to the question: Are you happy to be here?

That’s up from 85% in 2017.

North American Employee Engagement Awards took notice and handed the hotel chain a culture and purpose trophy at a recent ceremony in New York City.

Accent has properties in Kelowna, Kamloops, Richmond, Victoria and Burnaby, and Hotel Zeds in Kelowna and Victoria.

“Our greatest asset has always been our people, and we work hard at building a culture that fosters their success, both professionally and personally,” said Accent CEO Mandy Farmer.

Accent and Zed both have Welcome to Hotel Awesomeness Training program for all employees.

The company’s four core values are: be real, have fun, have each other’s backs and make everything better.

Accent also won business of the year at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada Awards and the employee first trophy at the B.C. Tourism Industry Awards.


Bowman Employment in Kelowna wants employers to know they can get a wage subside of up to $2,800 when hiring eligible youth age 18-24 for long-term employment as part of the Get Youth Working program.

Eligible youth are classified as unemployed or underemployed, not in full-time school and not participating in any other provincially or federally funded labour program.

Details at


Steve MacNaull is a reporter at The Kelowna Daily Courier. Reach him at

Recommended for you