Awards showcase St. Albert's small business
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 20, 2012 06:00 am
It all started with a few rocks and gems. Luc Guillemette picked them up for his girlfriend Joan at their first date and turned them into a piece of jewelry.
The gift not only struck the right chord with Joan Guillemette, it also started a passion for jewelry that later turned into a business plan.
Joan and Luc Guillemette were this year’s winners of the Small Business Award, presented on Thursday night at the Arden Theatre.
Each year, the St. Albert & District Chamber of Commerce presents awards to a number of small businesses, recognizing their work and place in the community.
The ceremony also marked the end of St. Albert’s small business week, which ran from Oct. 12 to Oct. 18.
Luc Guillemette said they started their retail business Gemport in 1991 but served customers from home since 1976.
“We took classes on mineralogy, gem design, jewelry design… it was just a natural progression. We always believed that before you enter a field you should know the subject and build your client base,” he said.
“When we started we had a deal that we’d do it for six months as a trial and if we liked it, we would continue and we did.”
Chamber chair Darrell Baker said small business week not only brings recognition to small businesses in St. Albert but also gives them an opportunity to share their stories.
“There are a lot of phenomenal businesses that people just don’t know about. And there are a lot of humble people that run a lot of incredible businesses,” he said.
“Unless you have something that celebrates what’s going on with the businesses in the community you really miss the opportunity to showcase these things.”
This year was the first time nominations could be submitted online through the chamber of commerce’s website. Some of the nominees were self-nominated, while other submissions were made anonymously. Members of the awards committee submitted a few nominations as well.
Craig Pilgrim and Gladys Molly were members of this year’s awards committee.
Pilgrim, a realtor with RE/MAX, said many questions asked of nominees were specifically tailored to St. Albert, considering a business’ environmental impact or its customer service.
Nominees were also videotaped throughout the interview process. Following certificate and award presentations, award winners were shown on-screen talking about their businesses.
Molly, business advisor with ATB financial, said having 200 people watch business members descend onto the stage and seeing them talk on screen makes them stand out.
"I think it really highlights all the businesses and it’s good marketing for them. Their name is in the brochure, they get introduced on stage and their name is on the chamber website," she said.
During a short speech, Mayor Nolan Crouse used the opportunity to remind the business community of the importance of economic development in St. Albert.
Crouse said with the lands north of Walmart, the lands in Campbell and South Riel Business Park, as well as another 740 acres west of St. Albert, the city had about 1,000 acres of undeveloped industrial lands.
“The future is not something you enter, it’s something you create as a small business person,” he said.
“We are on the verge of economic development change and now we need leadership to find creative and innovative ways to attract new business.”
Heather and Darrell Haight moved to St. Albert for business.
Haight was at the awards ceremony to receive the Business to Business award of distinction on behalf of her husband. Darrell Haight is owner of Trace Associates Inc., an environmental consulting firm.
Haight said the company grew from three to 70 employees in five and a half years and her husband was very proud of his team.
“He did not expect to win this award. There were some strong nominations and he’ll be very shocked when I tell him and then really pleased,” she said.
Anxious, excited and hoping were the words Tammy Wilde used to describe her feelings that night. Wilde took home the Marketing Award for the Tudor Glen Veterinary Hospital.
She said her husband nominated the business and only told her about it afterwards.
“It feels like all of your work paid off in the long run,” she said.
“It was good competition so I kept telling him that I was sure these people would win.”
Other winners were Cheryl Joseph with Get Organized Business Management Systems for the Home Based Business award of distinction and John Farlinger with his company Farlie Worldwide Travel for Outstanding Customer service.
Leslie Cogswell received the Youth Work Experience and Apprenticeship Award for his work at Maxim Truck & Trailer, and Troy Biever received the award for Young Entrepreneur with Panago Pizza.
Ivan Mayer, president of CrackMaster Distributors, received the Chair’s Award of Distinction. The award is presented to a business that shows outstanding achievement and leadership in the community.