Photographer Angela Gzowski and Barren Ground Coffee were two of 11 award-winners as the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce honoured local businesses on Friday.
Gzowski won the chamber’s Trailblazers women in business award, recognizing the city’s female entrepreneurs. Barren Ground Coffee was named Yellowknife’s breakout new business. Tom and Jer catering was proclaimed the small business of the year.
Northland Utilities was the corporate business of the year, Wallbridge Law Office received an Aboriginal entrepreneurship award, and Roy’s Audio Video Unlimited picked up the customer service award of excellence.
Gzowski did a double-take as she received her award on-stage at the city’s Explorer Hotel. “I was checking to make sure they had the right person,” she admitted. “This feels great, especially when you’re self-employed and only with yourself the whole time.
“I really appreciate all of what Yellowknife has done for me.”
Gzowski recently returned from a trip photographing the Sahtu for NWT Tourism and is well into the annual fall event season, while also working on a new territory-wide portraiture series.
“To grow from being an artist and to have a business can be a complicated matter,” she said. “Balancing your creativity with sending invoices and making money is a really weird mix of things.”
Gzowski worked for most of the awards gala as the event’s photographer. In one of the night’s standout moments, on being told she was receiving the Trailblazers award, a stunned Gzowski surrendered her camera to partner Jeremy Bird for her official photo as a winner.
The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy won the chamber’s community impact award, Gahcho Kué Mine took a WSCC-sponsored workplace health and safety award, and the CIBC bank was named the chamber’s member of the year for its involvement in fundraising and chamber activities.
Kyle Thomas, president of the chamber of commerce, himself picked up an award for young entrepreneurship through his digital communications company With Media. Guy Architects became the first winner of a new “innovation award” designed to reward businesses that disrupt the market.
Tom and Jer Catering with their award, flanked by presenters from accountancy firm and award sponsor Avery Cooper. Angela Gzowski/Angela Gzowski Photography.
Eric Binion, above right, with Barren Ground Coffee’s award and presenter Tracy St Denis of the territorial Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment (left). Angela Gzowski/Angela Gzowski Photography
“It’s nice, you know,” said Barren Ground Coffee co-founder Eric Binion, reflecting on his company’s award. “We feel like we’ve been working pretty hard and it’s nice to hear back from the community that there’s support there. It makes us happy.”
Barren Ground Coffee is in the process of moving from Yellowknife’s Old Town to a new downtown location. “Having the knowledge there is that support, that momentum behind us, makes it a bit easier and less worrisome when we’re going through the phases and transitions that we are at the moment,” Binion continued.
“We’re going to be hopefully getting some new equipment – probably a larger roaster and some other equipment … we’ll need that if we start building our business bigger, and eventually we’re going to be getting a fancy espresso machine and all that sort of stuff.
“It’s going to take time. I always want to manage people’s expectations. We might open our doors before Christmas but don’t expect to find a fancy espresso machine by then.”
More than 130 submissions were received this year for the 10 nomination-driven categories. A panel of judges selects a winner for each from nominations received.