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