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Local hat trick at Small Business BC Awards

Three Sea to Sky companies are Top-10 semi-finalists



A trio of local businesses will be vying for honours in the 15th annual BC Small Business Awards after making the list of ten semi-finalists in their respective categories.

Local charity Zero Ceiling is nominated for Best Community Impact, waste company Sea to Sky Removal qualified for Best Concept and Rising Knead Bakery is up for Premier People's Choice.

"I definitely wasn't expecting that," said Rising Knead founder Megan Stringfellow. "I was actually down in Mexico when I found out, and quickly jumped on social media to try and get votes."

Rising Knead makes handcrafted sourdough breads and pastries, but without a storefront, Stringfellow has just been selling at Whistler and Squamish farmers' markets the past few summers. This is the first winter Stringfellow will be keeping her operation running, selling at markets and also honouring a wholesale contract with Whistler Blackcomb.

Stringfellow's operation is a tiring one, baking all night so her bread can go to the markets fresh out of the oven at 7 a.m. That would be a great detail to put in the writing pitch semi-finalists have to submit to a panel of judges, but unlike other categories, People's Choice doesn't have an application portion. Instead, the category will be narrowed down to five finalists based on vote totals, and each company will then make a short presentation.

"It's a three minute pitch about your company in-person, which sounds a bit daunting to me. I like to bake by myself at night time. I'm not much of a crowd person. Just to get to the top 10 is pretty cool with me," said Stringfellow.

For Sea to Sky Removal, separating itself from the pack shouldn't be a problem; separating things is their livelihood afterall.

Started just a few years ago by Cinci Csere and her husband Chris Arkell, the company hand-sorts waste for construction sites in the area, diverting around 300 to 500 pounds of recyclables from hitting the landfill each month.

"There are a lot of waste removal companies, and we do have competition, but I think what sets us apart is that we do hand-sort through everything," said Csere. "It's kind of a quality assurance. And then the recycling stations, — no one does those on construction sites. There's a minimal amount of people that even do recycling. I think having those stations on site really set us apart from most waste removal companies."

Along with setting up easy-to-use recycling stations on job sites, they provide recycling tutorials to crews so that not all waste ends up in one bin. They also donate reusable items to non-profits like Squamish ReBuild and Whistler Re-Build-It Centre.

"We see the damage that's done at the landfills, and we want to create a solution for that and we want the construction industry to follow suit," said Csere.

Zero Ceiling has been operating in Whistler for 20 years, and through their Work 2 Live program, are taking at-risk and homeless youth of the streets and bringing them to a supportive mountain environment. They provide housing, employment, mentoring and outdoor experiences.

"We're definitely honoured to be nominated for the community impact award," said Sean Easton, co-executive director. "Part of the reason I think it's a good fit for us, is that Whistler is such a diverse community, and the individuals that we support really add to that diversity.

"I often refer to Whistler as a bubble, and I think the individuals in our program help to burst that bubble a bit. I think that's why our mission resonates with a lot of the locals. People acknowledge that it's a privilege to live and work up here, and one that not everyone gets. To be able to share that opportunity really takes the whole community."

Top five finalists will be announced in January, and winners will be announced in February. Award winners for each of the 10 different categories will receive $1,500 and a one year all-access pass to Small Business BC education and resources.