Three keys to small business success

In February I had the good fortune to attend the Small Business BC annual awards ceremony, celebrating excellence in small business within the province of British Columbia. It’s always an inspiration to hear about new business ventures, and frankly to be in a room with so many people out there “making it happen.” I deliver monthly marketing workshops for Small Business BC, so I am always interested in what insights I can glean about the winners, and then share that with the aspiring entrepreneurs I have the pleasure of teaching in my classes.

The nomination process is grass roots from the community, culminating in a short list of 5 nominees within each category being profiled at the event as well as making their case before a panel, along with further input through polling and social media prior to the event. Here’s a run down on this years winners.

Premier’s People Choice: Sea to Sky Air, Squamish Sea to Sky Air transports people by small aircraft and floatplanes to remote areas previously only accessible by seasoned hikers and bold adventurers. While encouraging adventure experiences, they are rooted in a culture of protecting the environment.

Best Concept: Winecrush, Penticton Winecrush collects pressed grapes from local wineries and use it in meat, cheese, bread and mustards, to create unique food offerings while keeping previously discarded waste out of landfills.

Best Immigrant Entrepreneur: Lilian Cazacu Most notable beyond a legal practice based on authentic relationships and a personable approach, is the fact that Lilian came to Canada 10 years ago with no capital, not knowing anyone, and not speaking English. A quote from his acceptance speech says it all, “Have patience when you have nothing, and an attitude of gratitude when you have something.”

Best Employer: Central Kitchen, Kelowna Billed as a kitchen and bar, Central Kitchen is focused on people first – both customers, and employees. Treating servers well in an industry rife with abuse helped them achieve high levels of retention and an environment of passion and purpose based on values.

Best International Trade: Wise Monkey, Vancouver Wise Monkey sources coffee leaf tea from the founder’s Nicaragua farm in a traceable and sustainable manner.

Best Innovation: Terramera, Vancouver Terramera replaces conventional chemical pesticides with high performance plant products for agriculture, pest control and consumer use.

Best Marketer: The Argosy, Prince Rupert The Argosy is a studio and gallery for anything funky, collectible and unique. While they have achieved word of mouth far beyond the reaches of their remote location in northern BC, much of their success is based in nurturing influencers and creating a unique profile through Facebook and Instagram.

Best Apprentice Training: Ironside, Chilliwack A metalworking shop in Chilliwack since 1902, Ironside has remained a go to provider for the industry, based solidly on a reputation for quality, design and skillful employees.

Best Community Impact: Rainbow’s Roost, Kamloops Rainbows roost boast “acres of wonder” as an escape back to nature property where people rediscover the fun and health benefits of outdoor activities and healthy living.

Best Company: Rocky Point Ice Cream, Port Moody Rocky Point does handcraft small batch ice cream using local ingredients. They are family owned, with an emphasis on customer service and community service.

When reviewed for common themes at the core of their success, several emerged.

  1. Fulfill an unmet market need – through a niche product or service
  2. Capitalize on a trend – sustainability, recycling, healthy living, back to basics, local
  3. Be people and service oriented – employees, customers, community

While the pursue of similar themes is no guarantee for success, it’s certainly worth noting if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, or looking to focus your business, these are winning attributes. Although the nominees and winners were very diverse, these commonalities not only united them, they were at the core of their product or service offering.

The heart of good marketing is based on being unique in some way and appealing to a distinct target audience, while remaining difficult to imitate. Learning from these companies is a great place to start in understanding how that concept really works.

Mary Charleson

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