The Inspire Series is a circuit of empowering speakers and their journey’s. We feature women who have inspiring lessons to share, highlighting the events that shaped their lives and what they learned about themselves and being a leader.

The dialogue is in a smaller group format often over dinner or a cocktail hour with the goal being that guests get to know one another beyond their job titles. Before and during dinner, new acquaintances strike conversations that are as diverse and varied as the professional women attending. 

After our speaker, there is an opportunity to ask questions and talk amongst members. The Inspire Series provides a space for likeminded women to network, and share ideas in a small, intimate setting.

Past Speakers

Sandra Kochan

Sandra started her professional career as a lawyer. Moving to British Columbia from Saskatchewan, she soon joined her husband's family as co-owner and Marketing Director of a small vineyard and winery. During her time in the industry she served as a Director of the BC Wine Institute, Chair of the Regional District of Central Okanagan's Agricultural Advisory Committee, and also served on the Board of the Pacific National Exhibition. She was a regular columnist for several wine and food publications in the Okanagan and Vancouver and contributed to travel guidebooks such as 'Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest.'

After her time in the wine industry, Sandra began consulting. This work led her to coordinate the BC Agri-Tourism Alliance, the Okanagan Cultural Corridor, and contracts with the City of Kelowna.

Since becoming the City's Cultural Services Manager, Sandra has led development of the City's first Cultural Plan, attracted the national artsVest program to Kelowna, refreshed the City's cultural policy and grant administration and strengthened the City's investment in arts, culture and heritage.

In addition to attending as many arts and culture events as humanly possible, Sandra is a keen cook, gardener, reader and all-round maker of things and can occasionally be spotted busking and playing around town as part of the five-member ukulele ensemble 'Ukenagan.'

Hon. Lisa Raitt

The Hon. Lisa Raitt, MP for Halton, was first elected to the House of Commons in 2008. In July 2013, Ms. Raitt was appointed Minister of Transport, having to almost immediately deal with the tragic train derailment at Lac-Mégantic, Que. She served as Minister of Natural Resources in October 2008 and Minister of Labour in January 2010. Prior to her election, Ms. Raitt was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), where she had previously held the important positions of general counsel and harbourmaster. As a lawyer, Ms. Raitt specialized in the areas of intellectual property, commercial litigation and commercial shipping.

She continues to work closely with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness. A graduate of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Ms. Raitt also holds a Master of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Guelph, and later earned her law degree at Osgoode Hall.

 Hon. Lisa Raitt shared with us her own leadership challenges, lessons learned, and the importance of women both in government positions, and on boards, followed by a Q+A session.

Pilar Portela

Pilar Portela is Accelerate Okanagan's CEO. She has worked all over the Americas and brings 20 years of expert management and executive experience to the team. She has an MA in project management and has studied law and international trade.

Pilar is a master leader and brings planning and organization to a new level. She has an innate ability to align and bring focus into every situation. Her global knowledge of business development and her problem resolution skills fit perfectly with Accelerate Okanagan's mission to increase the number of tech companies that start and grow in the Okanagan.

Pilar is an advocate of helping others do their jobs to the best of their ability and will do everything in her power to ensure they have the tools necessary to meet and exceed expectations. Decisive and fair, she sticks to her commitments and offers support through motivation, empowerment, and personal and professional development.

Pilar keeps herself sane by reading, trail running, hiking, practicing flamenco and yoga. 

Pamela Thompson

Pamela Thompson is a certified life and business coach, speaker, facilitator and consultant. She is passionate about supporting women to thrive in life and in business. She has a diverse background and experience as a nurse, university professor, project manager and consultant in North America, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe. Pam has consulted with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and was commissioned by PAHO to research and write “Health Promotion: Improving the Health Status of Women and Promoting Equity”.

 She has created two successful management consulting businesses since the early 1990s; and is currently President of Global Village Consulting in addition to Creative Life Coaching. Pam is author of the upcoming book “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women”.

Pam shared her lessons learned from her life journey including keys to what she calls “Creative Living”.


Tara Cookson

Tara Cookson is a PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she is also founding director of the Gates Cambridge Professional Development program. Her interest in women's activism began as a board member of the Kelowna Women's Resource Centre, and has evolved into studying the impacts of one of the world's leading global health and development programs on poor women in Peru.

She is the second recipient of the Bill Gates Sr Prize in recognition of her remarkable research, demonstration of leadership and dedication to improving the lives of others. This was a unique opportunity to hear about a successful Kelowna woman and her lessons learned. 

Tracy Cobb-Reeves

Tracy Cobb has had dream jobs heading public relations for industry giants like Revlon, L’Oreal and Canadian fashion icon Peter Nygard. Her passion and skills led to opportunities to define Olympic venue futures and success working for Dragon’s Den maven at Venture Communications. Why leave international travel, award winning and life changing job outcomes? Where do you point a career rocket that really makes your mark count?  

Bonnie Thorne

Bonnie Thorne, Director of Mindfulness Programs and Outreach, Faculty of Education at UBCO.  Bonnie is a delightful, inspiring and energetic, out of the box thinker whose business card reads COLLABORATE. Bonnie shared her story, career path and what being mindful means to executive women.