By Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As a cool winter breeze blows across the water’s surface on the southernmost point of Lake Okanagan, Nicholas Kruger, a father, professional pool player, and entrepreneur sat down to talk about being nominated as an Okanagan community changemaker.
Kruger says he feels, “flattered,” to be nominated as someone who made 2020 better.
“I didn’t expect something like this,” he says.
Meghan Harms heard the IndigiNews callout for the nominations and she nominated Kruger.
“While proudly Indigenous, he doesn’t limit his mentorship abilities to the youth of his own community,” she says.
“When my children announced their desire to open a small business, Nik was immediately drawn to helping them,” says Harms.
Father, entrepreneur, pool player
Kruger, from Penticton Indian Band is the owner of Connoisseur Wine Tours, which offers wine tours, including private tours, sightseeing, limousine service and chartered bus services in the Okanagan.
He is also the owner of Float Penticton, a shuttle service that picks up customers anywhere within Penticton, bringing them to the river for a float, and then dropping them off when they complete the river channel.
For Kruger, entrepreneurship extends beyond businesses. He likes to share his insights with people on how to run a business successfully.
“I like to share that kind of stuff with people with entrepreneurial tendencies,” he says.
“All the good things that [have] come with it and the bad things…so that they can not make the same mistakes as I made.”
Running his businesses he says he hopes young people take notice that there’s an alternative life than working nine to five.
“People are very used to working nine to five and whenever the young people see me out there running my own business, get successful, it gives them the courage to go out there and do it too,” he says.
Kruger’s businesses primarily run during the summer months, so he uses the wintertime to travel and play pool professionally. He says he has won various tournaments around the world, including being part of the team that won the World Championship Bar Table 9-ball tournament in Oroville California in 2006.
He also represented Canada at the Chinese Eight-ball World Championships in Yushin, China.
And took second place 24th Annual V.N.E.A International Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2004, among many other wins both nationally and internationally.
“I don’t win the titles for me. I win them for my mom and dad,” says Kruger.
He says that the biggest singles tournament he’s ever won was the Andy Mercer Memorial Tournament.
“People see that, they see me travelling, going out there, leaving the reserve and doing stuff on a larger scale. And hopefully, I inspire one or two people to be able to do the same,” he says.
Giving back to community
When Harms sent in the nomination for Kruger she also recognized Kruger’s contribution to the community.
“Some may know him from his comic relief on various local social media community groups where he exhibits a talent for mediation through humour,” she says.
Kruger, who posts regularly on the Penticton Facebook page, which has over 23,000 members, says he often shares jokes, positive quotes and educational posts.
“My grandma always said as long as they’re happy or making people smile is the most important thing,” he says.
He also believes in giving back to people and community.
“It’s important to give back because people helped me,” he says. “It’s a respect to the people that helped me when I first started out…is to help other people.”
One way that he does this is by hunting for single mothers, Elders, and children without fathers.
“I hunt for single moms and for Elders,” he says.
He recently made a video for single mothers and youth without parents on how to process traditional meat to help build up their confidence.
“There’s not as much abundance of animals in the mountains, so we have to spend more time in the mountains. So when we get something we like to give it to them and then hope that they can have someone help them process it,” he explains.
“So I made a video for the single moms or the Elders or the youth that don’t have parents so that they can go back and revisit it and be able to process the animal… on their own terms and build confidence for themselves.”
He also points out that every family harvests meat differently and how teachings are shared.
“There’s certain families that are better at different things and we would go out to those families and we would learn from them,” he says.
“Your family might do it differently and that family might do differently. It’s okay. There’s no wrong way to do it. And just let them know that. I think it’s good if we all learn off each other,” he says.
Kruger hopes for giving back is that finding ways to get together and share is the most important thing.
“The more ways that we know and share the better we are as a community.”