Nominees for this year's Whistler Excellence Awards will likely be walking into a less hostile environment then event MC Bruce Croxon is familiar with on his hit CBC show, Dragon's Den.
The renowned entrepreneur was announced this week as the host of the third annual awards night recognizing the best of business in the resort.
The long-time Dragon, who will not return to the show for its ninth season, was an early adapter of digital technologies, and co-founded Lavalife in 1987, guiding the popular dating service to revenues of close to $100 million ahead of the company's 2004 sale.
Croxon is also an avid outdoorsman and experienced skier, and is happy to be hosting the third annual awards in his second home.
"I am thrilled to be hosting the Whistler Excellence Awards," Croxon said in a release. "I consider Whistler my home away from home and love the fact that so many small businesses are flourishing within the world's best terrain."
Event producer the Whistler Chamber of Commerce also revealed the full list of nominees for the ceremony, set for June 26.
"We're really stepping up this year with an incredible program for the love of business," said Chamber CEO Val Litwin in an email. "We have a real captain of industry in our MC, Bruce Croxon, and the talented list of award finalists speaks to the amazing business minds and passionate community builders that drive the success of our town."
Business mentor Sue Adams, co-owner of the Whistler Grocery Store and an active patron for the arts, joins Rotarian Jessie Pendygrasse, who has served on the board of the Whistler Community Services Society, the Mature Action Committee and Friends of the Library, and Anne Townley, a former emergency nurse who sat on the library board for 12 years and served on a number of other volunteer committees, as finalists for the Citizen of the Year Award.
Wayne Katz, owner of several village eateries, including Mogul's and Zogs, will vie for the Business Person of the Year Award with Purebread Bakery owners Mark and Paula Lamming.
In the Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture category, author and founder of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival Stella Harvey will be up against musician Stephen Vogler, who runs The Point Artist-Run Centre, and Whistler Arts Council director and former library director Joan Richoz.
The finalists for the Innovative Business of the Year are the Whistler Public Library, local manufacturer Prior Snowboards and healthy baby food makers Love Child Organics, who were awarded the largest closing deal in Dragon's Den history last year.
A new category for 2014 is the Rising Star of the Year, recognizing local talent under 40, with Mexican Corner general manager Pepe Barajas, Whistler Blackcomb communications manager Michelle Leroux and retired Olympic skier Julia Murray, who launched her own cereal company, Jules Fuel Whistler Superfood, in early 2014.
Cows Whistler, the Starbucks Village North location and Bear Necessities are up for the Service Excellence Award for small business, while Whistler Premier Resorts, Scandinave Spa and Ziptrek Ecotours will compete for the same award in the large business category.
The Sustainability in Action Business Award, honouring companies dedicated to environmentally conscious practices, will go to either RDC Fine Homes, organic food and juice bar The Green Moustache or Tourism Whistler Conference Services.
The Whistler Excellence Awards are set for June 26 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
Early bird tickets are available until June 17 at www.whistlerchamber.com.