The Small Business BC Awards has announced this year’s crop of nominees and three Tofino businesses are on the list.
Tofino Kombucha, Blue Crush Concierge and Surf Sister all received nomination honours and their fans are encouraged to head to smallbusinessbc.ca to vote them into the next round by March 8.
“Don’t forget to vote, even if it’s not for us,” wrote Surf Sister owner Krissy Montgomery in an email to the Westerly News. “Accolades like this can be a great support to small businesses! Thanks for the love Tofino!!”
Montgomery’s popular local surf school is up for SBBC’s Premier’s People’s Choice Award and Best Community Impact Award.
“I was surprised and felt very honoured,” she wrote. “It feels great to be acknowledged for our efforts. The community impact nomination is especially exciting as we’ve always strived to have a positive impact on our community and to give back where we can.”
She explained that Surf Sister launched in 1999 to foster a safe, supportive environment for women to get into the sport of surfing.
“As we’ve evolved and grown our passion and focus remains the same, to make surfing accessible to all people regardless of your sex, age or ability,” Montgomery wrote. “We want surfing to be an inclusive sport. I think our efforts have really paid off as Tofino has one of the most eclectic and inclusive surf scenes out there.”
She added that the love the company has felt from its community has been inspiring.
“I feel like our town has always supported Surf Sister. I think the best example of this is emphasized in the success and support of our surf contest the Queen of the Peak! The community really embraced it and we are always humbled by the local support,” she wrote.
Tofino Kombucha has been nominated for a Premier’s People’s Choice Award.
“It was just a total surprise,” Tofino Kombucha owner Kelsey Hendricks told the Westerly News.
Hendricks said the nomination was announced during a particularly hectic time for her business as she is transitioning from her garage-based operation to a warehouse.
“Like all moves go, it was stressful and it was a move combined with the scaled-up production and like anything new there’s growing pains,” she said. “So this came at a time when there’s ups and downs of a business. It definitely felt reassuring. It was a nice feeling…It’s just like, ‘Wow, OK, people really do like this.’”
Hendricks was on maternity leave in 2017 when she decided to research the feasibility of a kombucha company in Tofino and that research quickly morphed into a business plan and led to her launching her own in short order.
She said production has doubled every year since and she cited the support from her community as key to her success.
“I’m super glad I did it. I definitely got into business not realizing how competitive it was and I’m super fortunate to have started it in Tofino and to have had the local support of all the business owners,” she said. “If I was just someone in Nanaimo making Kelsey’s Kombucha, it would have been really hard. Having local support in Tofino, plus that Tofino brand recognition is definitely what got me here.”
She added businesses quickly buoyed her pursuit agreeing to carry her product in their stores.
“As soon as they started carrying it the sales took off, everyone couldn’t get enough of it,” she said.
“I had to make it grow as fast as I could to really keep the business viable and now that we’re in a warehouse and now that we have distributors it’s finally at the business point where I had always wanted it to be…I’m really thankful for the local support from Tofino and Island businesses that continue to support a locally made Tofino product and I’m really thankful that people keep buying our product.”
Blue Crush Concierge is up for the Premier’s People’s Choice Award as well as the Best Youth Entrepreneur Award.
“It’s just nice to have that recognition that we did do something good and our staff made a difference and people took the time to vote for us, there’s something to be said for that,” Blue Crush co-owner Erika Greenland told the Westerly News.
Greenland and her business partner Ashley Wells met in 2012 while working at the same resort in Tofino and each launched their own independent cleaning company in 2015. A year later, they decided to join forces and Blue Crush Concierge was born.
“We did basically a summer season independently and experienced the struggles of doing so,” Greenland said. “We talked about the business and the struggles of staffing and being everywhere as a small business owner and Ashley noted that it would be a lot easier if there were two of her and she thought that there could be two of her if we merged.”
Greenland said her focus on administration and Wells’ focus on staff management provide perfect complements and helped create a strong, professional infrastructure for the budding business.
“We were able to accomplish a lot more together than we were able to do apart,” she said. “If I were to say a regret, it would maybe be that we didn’t do it sooner, but we needed to do it independently to realize that to grow we would need someone else. With Ashley and I, our skillset is so polar opposite of each other that opposites did attract and it has worked. And, seeing what we’ve already gone through, I have faith and no doubt that we will continue on succeeding together as long as we want to in Tofino.”
She added the community’s support has been vital to the growth of the business.
“Community support is everything to us. This has been Ashley’s home for 16 years, it’s been mine for 10, and we stay here because of our small community,” she said. “Like the dishwasher in a restaurant, it’s kind of like the undersung hero in the cogs of a car. We do it because of the community…We do a lot of little things that we feel passionate about just because it’s helpful for our clients.”
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