In association with the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and JCI International, the Western News presents Top 40 Under 40, with Max Picton as the first of 40 weekly spotlights on local entrepreneurs, nominated by their peers, deemed to be among the very best in Penticton.
As many people his age left Penticton to chase down work elsewhere, Max Picton decided instead to build his own dream job here.
“Penticton is home. I absolutely love this place,” he said.
“But I realized that if I wanted to be able to live here and do so comfortably and be able to afford the lifestyle I wanted to have, it was going to require me getting into business for myself and creating my own opportunities.”
Picton, 32, is the president of the Barefoot Beach Resort, which has won praise for not only beautifying the southern entrance to the city at Skaha Lake, but also offering a unique visitor experience with its 11 yurts and 130 campsites.
This week, the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with JCI International, announced Picton as the first nominee in its Top 40 under 40 event, sponsored by Prospera Credit Union.
He was also singled out for praise in this past winter when he won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the chamber’s Business Excellence Awards.
Picton took on the Barefoot Beach Resort project full-time in the spring of 2013 following a dozen years spent mainly in the bar industry, the final three of which were as general manager of the Best Damn Sports Bar.
He’s done it all with minimal post-secondary education.
“I took a bartending course in college, but that hardly counts,” he said with a laugh.
When he began work at the Best Damn Sports Bar, Picton intended to learn the ropes and eventually buy out the business owners, but the plan changed.
“We kind of had different visions of the company at hand and I had an opportunity to go pursue Barefoot here. For me, when I looked at the options, that was more the direction I wanted to head in,” he explained.
Best Damn Sports Bar owner Duane Jordan said he and Picton are still friendly, despite their business arrangement not working out.
“He’s a sharp guy and he sees the big picture of things,” Jordan said of his one-time protege.
“He has the awareness of what’s going on. He has a vision that he wants to make things better, and he’s a very good promoter and marketer, and really understands social media.”
Jordan, who also owns the Pasta Factory, said Picton is “still learning the ropes and still working hard,” and has all the tools necessary to become a business success.
“I love what he did down at Barefoot,” the restauranteur added.
The multi-million-dollar resort, which opened June 28, had a “phenomenal” summer, Picton said, even “with very little marketing force behind us.”
“It was more just word of mouth. The construction kind of overlapped our opening, so we never really had time to take a deep breath after building it to say, ‘OK, now how are we going to market this and push it and get it out there?’”
He said the yurts’ occupancy rate neared 90 per cent by August and the units are already 25 per cent booked for next summer.
Picton, who works 12 to 16 hours a day and enjoys exercising in his free time, was pleased to hear Jordan described him as a big-picture thinker.
“There’s nothing wrong with focus,” he said.
“But if you get too narrow-minded and too focused on the immediate task at hand, you can fail to see that bigger picture.
“There are a lot of moving parts within a community and you can’t be too narrow-minded for that.”