The BC Achievement Foundation celebrated the 4th Annual BC Aboriginal Business Awards on Monday, November 26, 2012 in grand style. It was truly a night where we celebrated excellence in aboriginal business, acknowledged mentors and heroes and showcased outstanding business achievement.

It was a night to pay tribute to the honourees, honourees that are now the role models for other businesses and especially for the youth that were in the audience. It was an important night to recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of these aboriginal businesses.

What I liked best about these Awards are the short DVD’s that are shown about the winners and the remarks of the Outstanding Achievers. They share with us the keys of their success. You can watch these DVD’s at http://www.bcachievement.com/aboriginalbusiness/recipients.php

More than one person mentioned their dream, their vision, that drove them to start and business and make it work. The Youth Entrepreneur Award went to Shelley Stewart of SRS Trucking located in Merritt BC. It was her dream to drive a logging truck. She bought her first truck at 20 and now has a thriving business of 6 trucks. She manages her business and young family and loves what she does.

Seizing the opportunity was another secret to the success of Braker Electric. Cliff Braker took over his father’s company and was doing electrical work in Port Alberni. BC. He got one job in Ucluelet, and then all of a sudden he had a lot of work in Ucluelet and all over the west coast. He brought on more people, and has done many residential, commercial and industrial installations that has brought him success and an enviable reputation.

Building relationships was another key to success to be recognized as Outstanding Business of the Year for a Joint Venture. Finding the right partner like Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Swiftwater Power Corporation to develop Canoe Creek, a flourishing 6 MW run of the river project and this relationship has led to more projects.

Chief John Elliott of Stz’uminus thanked their financial institutions RBC who believed in their Project. The Coast Salish Development Corporation won the Joint Venture of the year award for their business with Fortis BC. This business operates a gas storage facility between Ladysmith and Chemainus on Vancouver Island. CSDC represents the Stz’uminus First Nation. Having money for equity and the project is integral to any project proceeding.

Jobkat Excavating (Citation for 1 to 2 person mentioned procurement opportunities with BC Hydro as a reason to start a business and then to keep it going. Procurement opportunities offered by many companies are an important part of many entrepreneurs businesses.

Education and training was also important. One young lady always wanted to be a pilot, and when she achieved her dream, she had to find a way to use her skill. Teara Fraser of Richmond BC founded Kisik Aerial Survey Inc. that provides specialized aerial image acquisition services. Being recognized as an Outstanding Achiever of a business from 2 to 10 employees, Teara encourages aboriginal women everywhere to find their passion in aviation, science and technology as she has.

Utilizing resources sustainably in the territory of the First Nations was also an opportunity and a stepping stone to success. Pentlatch Seafoods, a company of the K’omoks First Nation runs a shellfish aquaculture business that sells Pacific oysters and manila clams around the world. They have used their resources and turned it into a thriving business for their community. Another example of using their territorial resources is Duz Cho Logging of the McLoed Lake Indian Band. They were the winner of the Community Owned Business of the year and run one of the largest logging companies in BC.

In this day and age of technology, one enterprising young man is making industrial electronic communication equipment that are used in smart meters, use in the marine industry etc. Kevin Sebastian of Toolcom Technology possesses an engineering degree and has put his education to work in his passion for electronics.

Many of the honourees mentioned the need for trained, committed and expert staff, Several recognized their wives as the one who kept the books and managed the office. Another key to success!

The Individual Achievement award is for a person who has made a significant impact on aboriginal business. This year that person was Garry Reece, Mayor of Lax Kwa’alaams First Nations. Garry brought his community from being very heavily in debt to one that is thriving in many businesses like Embark Engineering, Coast Tsimshian Resources which has opened an office in Beijing, a fishing processing plant, and other businesses in the works. Mayor Reece brought many of his community on stage with him and said that this was an award he had to share with council and members including youth and elders because nothing would have been possible without them. A powerful message-community development can only occur with the support and involvement of the members and then to use the proceeds of business for the members and in the case of Lax Kwa’alaams, building an incredible swimming facility right in the village.

There were other businesses that I won’t elaborate on and you can find them all on the webpage noted above.

This year had the most attendees ever. 560 people! The Awards get more popular every year. Why? Because it is a positive, inspiring event. It is a place to go and network, meet potential new business partners, financial institutions, technical services experts, and find out who is doing what in aboriginal business.

The Honourees bring their families, friends, community members and business partners. Braker electric had two tables cheering loudly for them. Enthusiasm was present for all the winners and a standing ovation for Garry Reece.

Minister Ida Chong was there on behalf of the Premier and making opening remarks. Scott Fraser, NDP MLA, was present as well. Also, former Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Tom Christen was present and continues his work with aboriginal people. As was former Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl and he as delighted to witness the ceremonies. Many company CEO’s were present and especially those who sponsored the Awards, New Relationship Trust, BC Hydro, Teck, Encana, and Spectra Energy. There were also dinner sponsors of All Nations Trust Company, Shell and Vancity. Without all these generous sponsors, these awards would not happen. Many thanks to these sponsors who help to put aboriginal business excellence in the spotlight!

Politicians on the First Nations side were out in force as well and amongst the crowd was Grand Chief Ed John, Dan Smith, Chief Doug White, Leah George-Wilson and Ray Harris of the First Nations Summit and Regional Chief Jody Wilson Raybould of the BCAFN. Many chiefs and councilors were present as well. Doug White speaking on behalf of the Leadership Council and reminded everyone of how important our culture was in business principles.

It is the place to see and be seen. If you are or want to be involved with aboriginal people in business this is the place to be. If you haven’t been to one of these Award ceremonies you must make sure you put it in your calendar for next year.

Not only should you attend, but nominate an aboriginal business. In my closing remarks at the ceremony I challenged everyone in the room to nominate a business for next years awards. Businesses of all kinds, it is amazing the mix of businesses that are run by aboriginal people. It is exciting to see the areas of business where aboriginal people are making a difference.

TD in its report of 2011 reported stated that the aboriginal marketplace was worth $24 billion dollars and this will increase to $32 billion in 2016. First Nations are becoming an economic force. TD also states in its 2012 report that there are 32,000 aboriginal business-entrepreneurs across Canada and this doesn’t include corporations or community development! These are significant numbers! http://www.ccab.com/uploads/File/TD---Debunking-Aboriginal-Myths.pdf and http://www.ccab.com/uploads/File/TD-Economics---Estimating-the-Size-of-t...

It is great to watch the progress of business. In the first year of the awards 2009, Jacob Beaton and his company Copper Moon was awarded the Male Entrepreneur of the Year Award. This year, we celebrate the merger of this company with Castlemain to become an all service company assisting other businesses. Evolution is inevitable. Last year Chief Clarence Louie was acknowledged as the Individual Achiever of the Year, and this year, N’kmip Winery was made the #1 winery in BC and the #2 in Canada. The businesses that are recognized are going places and we will see more success stories from all award winners throughout the years to come.

Next year, come be inspired, be recognized as a nominator, honouree, sponsor, or supporter! Be a part of the Aboriginal Revolution in revitalizing indigenous Economies. Thanks to the BC Achievement Foundation for organizing these awards and making this recognition possible.

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