Celebrating Excellence in Aboriginal Business in BC

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Photo Credit:  BC Achievement Foundation

The 8th Annual Aboriginal Business Awards held on October 19th, were a resounding success with well over 600 people gathered to watch the bestowing of 16 awards to the best of the best in 9 categories. To me, these awards are the best as they are community based, local to BC and many people know and support each. 

The Aboriginal Business Awards are part of the work of the BC Achievement Foundation and since its inception in 2009 the number of aboriginal businesses vying for the awards has grown. The prestige of winning an Aboriginal Business award has escalated and many aboriginal businesses want the recognition.

The neat thing about the awards is the variation in the types of the businesses that aboriginal people run successfully.  This years awardees included video productions, hair and esthetics salon, a radio station, safety services, lawn and garden, a gas station, construction, a law firm, a convenience store, bear safety, a logging company and First Nations who run 2 or more entities that include many types of business. These businesses are from all around the province

The recipient in each category has a short DVD about their business and it gives you a good idea of what is important to the business owner, the number of aboriginal people employed, the innovation they offer and the quality of service that clients appreciate.  This year’s DVDs included humour that is in keeping with aboriginal way of being and had everyone in the audience laughing.  When you get a chance, the DVDs should be up on the website next week and would be worth your time to watch and get an idea of the quality of businesses that were recognized for excellence.

The awardees each have a few minutes to speak, the young entrepreneur of the year from Alpha Omega productions Nolan McAllister took a moment to take a selfie with the audience behind him.  Tim Tom Construction shared a story that the family really got a pick me up the day the award was announced as one of the brothers had just passed on a day before.  The award was dedicated to the brother. It was a special moment of reflection for the audience. 

Who knew there was a thriving business called Getumdone Construction or that you could get the best poutine and bannock Burger at Tla’amin Convenience store.  Was quite interesting to learn that Callison and Hanna are an all aboriginal law firm and have articled 7 aboriginal students through the years. In the Getumdone team, the husband claimed to be the pretty face and his wife the brains.  Some memorable moments as we moved through the evening.

Awardees shared their wisdom in business, things like valuing and respecting your employees as that what keeps the business going.  Another business had a staff meeting starting with a prayer and safety check every day before going out into the field.

The MC of the evening Kiefer Collinson kept the evening lively with his humour and familiarity with people.  He is an announcer from CFRN radio station that was the recipient of the Aboriginal-Aboriginal business partnership of the year.  CFRN serves a lot of northern communities and the audience was very enthusiastic when the award was given out. 

The awards each year are chosen by a Jury panel.  This year’s jury was comprised of Michelle Corfield, Glen Ohs and myself.  This is a very tough job as there are many applicants and there are so many great businesses to choose from.

Each year, the BC Achievement Foundation Board choose the recipient for the Individual Achievement Award.  This year it was Robert Louie, a long time Chief of the Westbank First Nation and now is an individual entrepreneur making award winning wines.  He told the story of how when he first got on council in 1974 they had no businesses and they operated in a small trailer with barely enough money to pay their very small staff and the Chief and Council.  Contrast that with where they are today with many thriving businesses, a beautiful government building and facilities that employ many people.  Robert Louie’s advice to entrepreneurs in room consisted of things like walk a strait line to your goal and don’t get off the path, keep your eagle in your pocket and don’t brag, and to let things flow off your back like water.

These Awards were supported by many Aboriginal leaders that included AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  From the First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John, Robert Phillips, Cheryl Casimir, and Leah George-Wilson.  Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson from BCAFN was also in attendance.  Newly elected President of the Metis Nation Clara Morin Dal Col also shared a few thoughts. 

 It was a star-studded evening, the red carpet event for BC Aboriginal Business. If you would like to capture moments from the evening do a search for #ABAGala16 on twitter and you will find comments and many pictures.

 The Awards have many great sponsors including New Relationship Trust, Teck, TD (new sponsor this year), BC Hydro, CN, Encana, MNP and Spectra Energy, and the Government of BC.  Steve Henderson of Spectra Energy told me the story of the first awards and how he had heard that Encana had taken a sponsorship and that they called and asked to be a sponsor as well-couldn’t be beat by the competition.  They have remained sponsors for all these years.  

If you haven’t been to one of these evenings, I encourage you to attend next year’s 9th Annual Gala and be inspired and empowered. If you have been already, keep coming, every year is different, fun and well worth your time. It is the place to see and be seen. Remember to nominate your favourite Aboriginal Business for next year's awards and you can also see them get an award.

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