UPDATED with photos: Best in business chosen at Black Tie Awards

The winners were crowned at the packed 2018 Black Tie Awards, honouring the best in business in the Cowichan Valley, on Saturday, April 7.

Put on by the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, the evening featured 24 finalists in eight categories, chosen from hundreds of nominations — a record number, according to Chamber President Julie Scurr — and a Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Norm Jackson.

The evening began on a solemn note, with a moment of silence to honour 15 people who were killed and 14 injured in a tragic crash between a semi-trailer and bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.

But the focus quickly shifted to honouring some of Cowichan’s most daring and successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople.

“When I survey this room, the people in this room really are exemplary of the kind of community we live in, whether it’s a small business you run, the volunteer hours you put in — there’s really a sense of putting yourself out there for the betterment of the community and the people who live in it,” said Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor, who also made a special presentation to Lifetime Achievement winner Jackson.

Bruce Williams, formerly of CTV, was one of those who lauded Jackson in introduction.

“He has boosted your quality of life in this Cowichan region,” Williams said. “There is not a community organization, individual, a business of any kind in the Cowichan Valley that has not been made stronger by the support of Norm.”

Taking home top prize in the other categories were:

Customer Service: Elly Ruge, Cowichan Auto Repair

Volunteer of the Year: Anne Balding and Claudia Roland, Meals on the Ground

Green Business: John and Katy Ehrlich, Alderlea Farm Cafe

Young Entrepreneur: Ian Smith, Victory Barber & Brand North

Art in Business: Lorraine Blake, Steps Ahead Dance

Business Achievement 1-10 Employees: Aly Tomlin, Ralf Rosenke and Morgan Moreira, Riot Brewing Company

Business Achievement 11-19 Employees: Taiji Brand Group

Business Achievement 20 or more Employees: Arbutus Farms

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Lifetime Achievement Award winner Norm Jackson, left, poses with Bruce Williams after joking that the two have often been mistaken for one another and must be secret twins. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Ian McPherson of Brentwood College School presents Lorraine Blake of Steps Ahead Dance with the Art in Business trophy. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Aly Tomlin, Ralf Rosenke and Morgan Moreira of Riot Brewing Company enjoy their win in the Business Achievement 1-10 Employees category with an impromptu bilingual acceptance speech. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Members of the Taiji Brand Group enter the awards prior to winning the Business Achievement 11-19 Employees. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Members of the Arbutus Farms team (centre) enjoy accepting the Business Achievement 20 or more Employees award. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Members of the Arbutus Farms team, centre, enjoy accepting the Business Achievement 20 or more Employees award, presented by Dan Little of Grant Thornton LLP. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Elly Ruge of Cowichan Auto Repair, centre, takes home the first award of the night for Customer Service, presented by Allen Peabody of London Drugs. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

John and Katy Ehrlich of Alderlea Farm Cafe accept the Green Business Award. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

Anne Balding and Claudia Roland accept the Volunteer of the Year award for Meals on the Ground from Tanna Lewis of Peninsula Co-op. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

The Young Entrepreneur Award went to Ian Smith of Victory Barber & Brand North, presented by Moira Hauk, Coastal Community Credit Union, left. (Mark Margerison/Highlight Studio)

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