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Small Business BC Awards Gala 2019

Celebrating excellence in British Columbia small businesses and contributions to the local, national and global economy

Global Influencer

Global Influencer
Global Influencer

Entrepreneurs work 365 days a year. British Columbia takes one night to celebrate their achievements at the Small Business BC Awards Gala.

The celebration of the small entrepreneur was the 16th Annual Fete of the 10 winners of the Small Business BC Awards at the Vancouver Convention Centre, February 21, 2019.

The Small Business BC Awards contest is open to all new and existing businesses registered in BC with fewer than 50 employees. Businesses can be nominated in as many award categories for which they’re eligible. All nominees receive valuable business education and support throughout the competition.

With over 600 nominations in ten categories, this event represented almost every sector of business in the province and attracted the most nominations to date in a banner year. It apparently was no small task to whittle those down to the Top 10 Semi-Finalists and Top 5 Finalists. The Top 5 Finalists in each category presented a ten-minute Shark Tank-style pitch to a panel of industry experts and leading entrepreneurs prior to the event.The People’s Premier’s Choice Award was determined by the highest number of votes.

For the second year in a row, The Open for Business Awards recognizes and celebrates communities that have cultivated a business-friendly culture that allows small business to flourish.

In the past couple of years, my world has been focused primarily on high risk business startups mainly in the disruptive technology space and certainly with companies that are innovative and going places. This side of entrepreneurship is exciting, filled with buzzwords to describe owners (founders), a merger or selling the company (liquidity event) and finding money (seed rounds).

These high tech founders are hoping to raise capital fast, prototype or innovate, then do a cash-out through a merger or acquisition via a liquidity event (sounds better than an exit strategy) and move on to the next best thing. Very exciting indeed!

The other kind of startup is the “small business.” It was a wonderful, inspiring feeling going back to my roots and meeting small business owners at these Awards who love the opportunity to build a business, earn a good living, contribute to the community and maybe pass the fruits of their hard work on to their children.

My first book was about the sole proprietor with a great idea, who had always dreamed of being a business owner and quit a good job to risk everything to go on his own. He’s determined to be independent and like 78% of all the businesses in the US (according to, it will start out as a sole proprietorship that will eventually grow into a micro-business. The number is pretty much identical in Canada.

British Columbia was built on the hard work of small business owners who make up 98% of all business in our province. That works out to about 389,000 small businesses (BC government stats). In British Columbia small business generated 35% of the province’s GDP – well above the Canadian average. 51% of small businesses were self-employed entrepreneurs with no paid help. BC ranked first in Canada in terms of small business owners per capita.

Small Business BC runs the annual awards and in their own words is the “Champion for British Columbia’s small businesses”. Funded in part by the Ministry of Small Business and the Western Economic Diversification Canada their resources cover most aspects of starting and running a small business. From helping with product research to workshops on negotiating contracts and hiring the right candidate, this organization is the one-stop shop for entrepreneurial programs and support. Small Business BC’s mission is simple. It is founded on the belief that small business owners need access to relevant information, appropriate tools, and resources to achieve successful and sustainable businesses.

The SBBC Awards cover the total spectrum of businesses and cover the following areas:

  • Premier’s People’s Choice Award
  • Best Apprentice Training
  • Best Community Impact
  • Best Company
  • Best Concept
  • Best Employer
  • Best Immigrant Entrepreneur
  • Best Innovation
  • Best International Trade
  • Best Marketer

Some of the winners followed emerging or growing trends like Long Table Grocery (Best Community Impact). Long Table is a locally-owned independent food hub that provides good food that’s sustainably sourced and is locally rooted in the Cariboo region of BC. They purchase local produce and food products when available, and purchase fair trade and organic produce when produce is unavailable locally.

In keeping with Canada’s liberal immigration policies it was good to see an award for the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur. I would have expected this to be awarded to an immigrant who made a hugely successful business after over coming diversity. However, two of the finalists were actually immigration consultants and the award went to Moving2Canada, a one-stop shop for free, impartial information and resources to make the transition to Canada enjoyable and simple.

Best Innovation went to Coulson Ice Blast. I’ve done a lot of pressure-washing but hadn’t heard of using ice or dry ice as a medium. This business is part of a conglomerate of companies working in a variety of industries including aviation, lumber manufacturing, logging, and gaming. Talk about diversification!

After going through the winners there were no real stand-out success stories as far as I could tell. Perhaps I’m jaded by working with some inspiring tech startups of late with big ideas and bigger financing successes.

Bearing this in mind and the fact that I love sailboats, it makes sense that my favourite was the Best Concept Award. This went to Barnacle Systems for their software that aims to help people who experience “boater’s anxiety” by monitoring the health of their boat whether they’re at the dock, at home, or half way around the world. If you’re familiar with the concept of a “smart home,” Barnacle Systems’ product works in much the same way, except on the water.

Brandon Wright, CEO of Barnacle, with a deep understanding of the Internet of Things, remote surveillance and electrical engineering, became an accidental entrepreneur when his beloved Catalina went aground in a storm. He knew there was a better way to keep an eye on such valuable property.

I know it’s tough to be an entrepreneur at times. The stable business that can consistently provide good service and produce a good product needs to be lauded. Too often we follow shortcuts, take customers for granted and forget that our society is based on the opportunities that people see and act upon.

I want to congratulate all the winners. It’s a milestone for your business and the exposure is great.

I’m encouraged that organizations like Small Business BC and their sponsors see the importance of supporting the grass roots entrepreneur. While the high tech startups get all the attention of accelerators, investors and the news, it’s the mom and pop operations that keep the country in business.

Gary is CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc. in Vancouver. He has mentored over 1000 business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018

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