News » Whistler

Excellence Awards nominations open

The Whistler Chamber's gala recognizes local businesses



It's time once again to recognize the best in local business with nominations for the 2018 Whistler Excellence Awards open until Feb. 2 at midnight.

More than just an honour for greatness in your field, Kara McMaster has seen firsthand what that kind of recognition at a local level can do for an entrepreneur. A winner of the Rising Star of the Year in 2017 for her marketing efforts with Caveman Grocer, she has since started a new digital business in the wake of a strong public response.

"It was kind of crazy. After I won the award, my phone started ringing from local business people within the community and people being referred who wanted my help, and I had to keep turning them down. They wanted me to do digital marketing for them, help them get websites to convert better and do all these things I did with Caveman. Finally my husband was like, 'Stop turning people down, start the agency you've always wanted to do.'"

Partly thanks to the "street cred" provided by the award, her new venture, McMaster Digital, already has a full client load, although she's looking to hire more employees and expand before her second child arrives.

McMaster was nominated for the Rising Star award by Caveman's operations manager Samy Black, for her efforts in growing the paleo meal delivery service, particularly over the last two years, a period that saw their sales double. Started by McMaster and husband Travis back in 2012, the company services the entire Sea to Sky and Lower Mainland, with further potential expansion coming.

While the award recognition helped connect McMaster to new clients, not every business will receive the same benefits. But for Paul Howard and his company, ZEP Mountain Bike Camps, their Innovative Business of the Year award was a nice reminder that all the hard work they've done over the past decade was worthwhile.

"We've worked so hard for 10 years, a lot of it unpaid, behind-the-scenes, so — it sounds kind of selfish — but it's really just nice for us," said Howard. "We have the award sitting in our office. It feels good to know you've done all that work and it was nice for us to have it officially recognized by someone else."

Howard's goal was to raise the standard of mountain bike coaching, and over the past 10 years, ZEP Techniques has grown its unique mountain-bike instructor training camps from a small Whistler operation to a globally certified program. Last year, the company taught 700 instructors from all around the world.

The best part about the Excellence Award for Howard was meeting a lot of similarly driven business owners and entrepreneurs at the event.

"That's what I like about Whistler, there's so many cool business owners in Whistler. They're all taking a risk or making a move, and a lot of them are making it happen. It was definitely a cool event to go to and see all those people in one room at one time. For us, that was the coolest thing; it lets you know you're not the only crazy ones," he said.

This year's awards ceremony is set for April 25 at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Other awards include Business Person of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Whistler Experience Service (Small Business and Large Business), Sustainability in Action Business, and the Whistler Champion of Arts and Culture.

"It was an amazing opportunity, and whoever wins it this year, they're in for a wild ride," said McMaster. "It was such an honour to be with all those people and be a part of that night and be recognized in that way. The Chamber was awesome. They gave us a really big stepping stone. I don't think even a lot of local people knew about our business before that night."

All nominees must meet a general criteria, like being located in Whistler, not having won the award within the past 10 years (except for Small and Large Business Service Award) and be a Chamber member in good standing. Each award also has specific criteria for nomination. All info is available online at