Store Manager Deanna Berrington (left) and Mainstreet Fun Games owner Dee Connell showcase their Small Business Excellence Award that they won at the The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce 19 th Annual Business Excellence Awards. Photo by Erin Knutson

Community key to Business Excellence winners

Winners share some keys to success in Columbia Valley business excellence

The business community is buzzing after the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC) hosted its 19th Annual Business Excellence Awards Monday, October 23rd with 12 notable winners demonstrating that hard work, innovation and team effort doesn’t go unnoticed by their peers.

The Pioneer had the opportunity to chat with a few of the winners about their success and what it takes to shine in a community that provides exemplary services and products while meeting the needs of consumers in a challenging market.

Rising Star Business of the Year, Valley Zipline Adventures, has a different approach to ziplining that involves sustainability and eco-tourism. Since their opening on July 21st in Area G near Radium, the business has been going strong, exceeding all original expectations.

“Everybody is really hands-on and we provide an interpretive experience. We also try to be sustainable and we don’t generate a ton of waste. We are hoping to go off the grid in a few years by using solar panels,” said Patrick Tolchard, who co-owns Valley Zipline Adventures with Krista Burke.

The rising star business will continue with plans to grow and expand while interacting with the community by making contributions through fundraising for organizations like Global Animal Lovers Society (GALS) and the Invermere Companion Animal Network (ICAN).

Community involvement was a key theme amongst winners and part of the experience of commerce in a smaller community.

Main Street Fun & Games owner Dee Connell, sat down with the Pioneer, despite having come out of a recent surgery which was the main reason she was unable to attend the big awards night at Panorama.

Main Street won in the category of Small Business Excellence and Ms. Connell credits her staff as being essential to the success of her store, which features novelty items for kids and adults, while specializing in board games and even magic.

“What I like about small business excellence is that it’s a team award so it’s not just me standing out, it’s the store and all the people who care so much,” she said. “We try really hard to build a community and from the day I started my goal was to do that.”

According to Ms. Connell, interacting with the community is important on many levels for a business.

“We want people to know that we’re not just here to sell them a toy, that they’re here because we’re friends and they’re part of our gaming and toy community.”

Businesses work hard, said Ms. Connell, who spoke on mitigating the challenge of running a store in a seasonal market.

“I love it so much but it’s a rollercoaster of seasonal work and during summers you give up your life, because you don’t get to spend time with your family, but the trade off is the wonderful times we do get in the off-season.” she said.

Passion, resolve and commitment to providing the best possible service were also on the list for Food and Beverage Winner, Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery owner Mike Gray.

“I look at the nominees and it’s fantastic to be recognized because there were a lot of exceptional businesses that were nominated and we in the Valley need to celebrate that,” he said.

Mr. Gray also mentioned community engagement, exceptional service, a menu he loves, and live acts as part of his model for success.

Steve and Lori Ladas, franchise owners of the Invermere Sobeys, won Business Excellence 10+ employees, and credited hard work and a solid team effort for the award.

“We’re so proud to win excellence in our community and to be supported in our hard work and effort. We have 25,000 square feet, so we need the team to get things done,” said Mr. Ladas. Sobeys is hands-on and believes in the product they sell at their store with the owners spending over 90 per cent of their time on the floor.

Commitment to excellence were qualities that all of the businesses had in common, a trait that entrepreneurs in the Valley can be proud of according to CVCC President and Executive VP for Fairmont Hot Springs Resort (FHSR) Peter Smith, with FHSR winning in the Family Friendly Business category.

“A large part of the success of the business community is that they love it here, it’s not just a job. People are passionate about the Valley and they live, work, and play here with their families,” said Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith attributed employees with a large chunk of the success generated by local businesses.

“There is something about the Valley that makes people feel good,” he said.

Excellence is about repetition and what people do everyday and the business excellence awards create a friendly but competitive environment that fosters good business practice while creating results according to Mr. Smith.

“The Chamber is here to support and create economic development and we provide education and services to help small businesses. Better begets better,” he said of good business practice building on itself.

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