Business Excellence Award Winners 2023

Thirty six exemplary business. And 2023’s best of the best.

Here’s a closer look at the fine folks you picked for the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards

I. Business of the Year — Kalesnikoff / Ken Kalesnikoff

Kalesnikoff is a fourth generation family-owned and operated company started as a horse-logging operation in 1939. It’s expanded over the years to become a state-of-the-art sawmill and one of North America’s leading suppliers of mass timber.

Today, the mill employees 250 people at its $37 million facility. Approximately 100 of those new positions were created during the pandemic.

Owner Ken Kalesnikoff says the company “think in terms of generations, not quarters, and we treat our employees like family.”

Employees see the business as a family too — many have devoted their entire careers to the team. Charitable giving programs like Kalesnikoff Cares and Hope for the Holidays campaign have donated around $50,000 annually in financial gifts and in-kind contributions to support the community, our environment, local youth and families.

Winner’s Criteria — It’s been a difficult time in the forestry sector. Thirty five mills in B.C.’s Interior have closed since 2005. The industry has lost about 40,000 jobs in the last 30 years. Kalesnikoff has strived to take care of the land, and that stewardship has in turn helped take care of us, just like the sign outside the South Slocan mill says. The company had opportunities to take their new multi-million dollar endeavour elsewhere, but they chose to keep jobs and investment here. Founder Koozma Kalesnikoff, who started it all with a horse-logging operation so many years ago, would be proud.

Semi-Finalist  — Kootenay Co-op / Ashley Elliott & Amanda Verigin

Here’s some food for thought…In business now for 47 years, Kootenay Co-op provides jobs for 148 people, of each and every sort, it’s the Kootenay’s only community owned grocery store — not owned by an independent family or small group of shareholders – but by 16,000 of the people who live here.

Profits are reinvested directly back into the community.

The Co-op’s local commitment through the pandemic was remarkable, and brought with it some serious challenges, some of which made media headlines across the nation. With a leadership group including Human Resources Director Ashley Elliott and Marketing and Sales Manager Amanda Verigin, that commitment starts with the True Local program — a designation unique to the Kootenay Co-op — where products are made or grown within 160 kms of the store. Last year those suppliers were paid $3.6 million. Sixty nine percent of the Kootenay Co-op’s produce is from BC , 37 percent  of that being from the True Local growing region.

The store re-invests back into its employees through increased wages and benefit programs. Last year they gave back $121,000 in food donations, grants and sponsorships supporting a total of 97 local organizations, with $50,000 worth of organic produce going to local shelters and food cupboards each year.

Semi-Finalist  — Whitewater / Andrew Kyle & Mitch Putnam

The pandemic came, and so did the powder.

The pandemic left, but the powder kept coming. And so did Whitewater.

To some, it’s where you’d find the essence of snow sports culture. To others, it’s a skier and snowboard nirvana with a down-to-earth vibe. But for those who ski or ride — especially we very fortunate locals —  it’s been a place to disconnect, or reconnect, for the past 47 years.

Whitewater owners Andrew Kyle and Mitch Putnam, along with managers Rebeckah Hornung and Kirk Jensen, have grown the resort as organically and thoughtfully as they could. The hill provides 300 jobs — with a seven percent increase in wages across the board this year — and 30 volunteer positions.

“Whitewater elevates growth and athlete pursuits, culinary arts, artistic expression, backcountry exploration, community engagement and a sense of belonging,” Rebeckah says.

The mountain’s give-back has been awesome — partnering with Special Olympics BC to start a Nelson chapter, providing approximately $10,000 in donations to support community focused fundraisers and initiatives — and that’s just the tip of the pole. Next year we’ll see development of the Hummingbird Lodge and Campground — and a new chair lift.

II. Hospitality Excellence Award — The Royal / Kyle Chambers, Nicole & Marc Forest Smith

One of a number of entrepreneurial groups that bravely threw open the doors just as the global pandemic began, Kyle Chambers, Nicole and Marc Forest Smith opened The Royal with a mission to foster community through gathering. They and their 20 employees have created a unique space to eat, drink, access arts and entertainment, and engage with each other. Beyond the craft beers, ciders and chef Tony Lieu’s comfort-food menu, The Royal hosts acts of all sorts, from folk to country to rock, plus a space for creators and artists as well.

Winner’s Criteria — The Royal has been an exemplary food and beverage venue that has also provided art events, backcountry safety presentations, comedy nights, drag and burlesque performances, fundraising for the likes of Selkirk Music School, Farms to Families, Coldest Night of the Year, ANKORS — and worked very hard to provide a safe space for under-represented groups including Nelson’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community.

Semi-Finalist  — Broken Hill / Chad Hansen & Brad Filleul

Back in 2019, Chad Hansen, Brad Filleul and the Black Sheep Restaurant Group built a beautiful new hospitality venue out of the ruins of a burnt-out heritage building right in the heart of Baker Street.

Today, Broken Hill offers 24 beer taps with pints from the Kootenays and BC, over 100 whiskeys, a great bar-b-que menu and even a hidden speakeasy cocktail bar. Broken Hill shares its financial success with staff through bonus structures and above-average salaries, and donate to programs including Nelson Food Cupboard, Restaurants for Change and quietly help out other businesses in need.

Semi-Finalist  — Pitchfork Eatery / Mathieu Page

Mathieu Page says Pitchfork Eatery’s contribution to the community’s economic vibrancy is “similar to that of the symbiotic relationship of the mycelium in the forest.”

In business for six years, with 26 employees, Pitchfork is a farmer-owned restaurant at the corner of Herridge Lane and the Hall Street Stores to Shores thoroughfare — a farm-to-table establishment committed to local food and produce, social responsibilities and sustainability. A partner in the ‘Restaurants for Change’ Nelson Community Food Centre fundraiser, owners and staff believe there is no Pitchfork Eatery without local customers, staff, artists, farmers, and tradespeople.

Semi-Finalist  — Amanda’s Restaurant / The Kwan Family

Shortly after arriving here from Kamloops via the Lower Mainland, The Kwan family purchased the well-known Seven Sea’s restaurant on Baker Street. In January 1986 they changed the name to Amanda’s Restaurant, named after their daughter. In 2002, Amanda’s moved across the big Orange Bridge. Following a next-door fire in 2019,  Amanda’s closed, but then battled back at the beginning of the pandemic. The Kwans and their restaurant have been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to locals for nearly 40 years.

Semi-Finalist  — Beer Garden at the Hume / Martin Hospitality Group

When Dr. Bonnie Henry shut down indoor dining in early April of 2021, Ryan Martin and the Martin Hospitality Group quickly turned their small Hume Hotel parking lot into an outdoor dining area. Ryan says that while some people where skeptical at first, it turned out people loved sitting in the parking lot for beers and good times. Today, the Beer Garden at the Hume is a convergence of towering art, live music, food and wine — like a funky slice of Portland right on Vernon Street.

III. Tourism Excellence Award — Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism (NKL) / Executive Director Dianna Ducs

For many years, the aim to promote West Kootenay tourism was as vast and challenging as the lakes, mountains and forest that define this spectacular corner of the world.  In existence for 13 years, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism has today brought together over 700 tourism-related businesses and organizations. Executive Director Dianna Ducs, has built a team that includes international, indigenous and special needs staff and an array of local storytellers, that, through world-calibre words and imagery, capture this quaint, quirky and sophisticated destination.

Winner’s Criteria — This year’s Tourism Excellence Awards goes to NKL for the inspiring job it’s  done through a very difficult few years — providing lifeblood to tourism, while aiming to preserve our natural environment and our heritage, and notching two impressive firsts amongst all the province’s destination marketing organizations. Its Kootenay Lake Road Trip App has over 3,500 downloads, and its new podcast series — ten episodes in all — is the first podcast of all B.C.’s DMOs.

Semi-Finalist  — Baldface Lodge / Jeff Pensiero

Over the last quarter century, legendary names like surfer Gerry Lopez, two-time Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim, Hollywood stars and business icons of all sorts, have found their way to our beautiful mountain world — and holidayers from around the planet have followed, thanks to the vision of Jeff Pensiero and Baldface Lodge. Employing 103 people, Baldface and its newest acquisition Baldface Valhalla, provide a truly world-class all-inclusive luxury lodge experience for 3,500 backcountry enthusiasts every season — and incomparable support for our vital tourism sector.

Semi-Finalist  — Kokanee Mountain Zipline / Jay and Todd Manton

The stats for this nominee tell the tale. Three hundred feet off the ground. Speeds of up to 90 km/h, and 2,400 feet of all but free-fall by the seat of your pants — plus insights into the West Kootenays’ incredible natural environment and deep history. Thanks to the high flying skills of brothers Jay and Todd Manton, Kokanee Mountain Zipline has been in business for eight years, employ a staff of 15, and donate to local schools sports teams, KERPA, Nelson SAR, the Nelson Electric Tramway. Jay has been a member of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism from the start, and was its president for four years.

Semi-Finalist  — Ainsworth Hot Springs / Yaqan Nukiy, Lower Kootenay Band of Creston

Winners of the 2019 Business Of The Year, Ainsworth Hot Springs is considered a jewel in the West Kootenays’ tourism crown. The hot springs were first visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations, who embraced the nupika wu’u, or spirit water, for their healing and rejuvenating powers. Welcoming guests since 1930s, today the pools, cave and local and indigenous-inspired offerings of fine culinary fare, are owned by Yaqan Nukiy, the Lower Kootenay Band of Creston, a re-acquisition that has returned this sacred place the Ktunaxa.

IV. Retail Excellence Award — Hippersons & Home Building Centre / Randy Horswill and The Horswill Family

Hippersons has been in business for a century. Yup, a century. Home Building Centre has been around for 20. Together, they provide 65 stable and good-paying full and flexible part time jobs, with the buying power of a national chain, and the service of a locally owned merchant. Owner Randy Horswill believes that giving back to the community, and customer service, set the businesses apart, adding that “customers notice stores that have a special vibe, and ours is a fun place to work and shop.” Hippersons / Home Building also believes giving back is a key to success as well — something they do a lot of.

Judges simply couldn’t ignore the numbers when it came time to pick a winner in this category. Those numbers were 50 and 100. Hippersons / Home Building gives nearly $50,000 a year in donations to local campaigns. They served home owners, do-it-yourselfers and the region’s vital construction and development sector though the enormous supply chain challenges of the pandemic, and the ups and down of the near 100 years before that.

Semi-Finalist  — Zinnia Textiles / Jen Barnes

A women-owned and operated business opened by Kootenay School of the Arts grad Jen Barnes in 2018, Zinnia Textiles works with artists, makers, designers and businesses committed to alternatives to mass manufacturing. Celebrating diversity in size, shape and gender, the business encompasses a brick-and-mortar location on Baker that has doubled in size, a successful e-commerce program, its own in-house line, and offers super support for local campaigns at Selkirk College, The Vallican Whole, The Women’s Center, Valhalla Wilderness Society, ANKORS, Fridays for Future and Truth and Reconciliation Day, each year.

Semi-Finalist  — Valhalla Pure / Sam Baio

This quote might say it all.

“We NEVER, I mean NEVER, buy from Amazon.”

A stalwart in the Nelson and area outdoor retail scene, Valhalla Pure and owner Sam Baio have been in business for 27 years, today providing fair-paying jobs to 15 employees. The local Valhalla store supplies the Nelson area and anyone in Canada with products that get people out there. Sam says his store is one of 13 individually owned franchises that brings something very different to our small town, founding the Coats for the Koots drive, now in its ninth year, raising $7,000 for The Save Cottonwood Lake project, and several thousand dollars more every year to the Nelson Cycling Club.

Semi-Finalist  — Nelson Olive Oil Company / Michelle Rudell

Four years ago, local entrepreneur Michelle Rudell had a dream, a dream that she made happen.

The Nelson Olive Oil Company is an independently owned and operated retail store and tasting room that anchors the retail heart of the city at the corner of Baker and Ward. Her passion for creative cooking and healthy eating made her a student in the many health benefits of fresh extra virgin olive oil — one of the most indispensable ingredients in a healthy diet. The shop supports over a dozen local and national causes…and imports some of the finest extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the world.

V. Non-Profit-Community Organization Award — Kootenay Career Development Society (KCDS) / Executive Director Jocelyn Carver

Jobs. Everyone needs one. And every community needs us to have one too.

Two decades ago, the Kootenay Career Development Society was a small Nelson employment service provider. Today KCDS is a career, employment and employer services provider covering the West Kootenay, Boundary and Central Kootenay. Executive Director Jocelyn Carver and the KCDS team of 70 staff have helped thousands of clients identify training, get certifications and further education — which in tun leads to economic participation through employment.

Winner’s Criteria — In July of 2022, The Globe and Mail wrote a story with this headline: “Canada’s labour shortage is the country’s greatest economic threat.”

During the pandemic, our KCDS built an online employment services platform offering 24/7 barrier-free access to complete career development resources for everyone — including young adults, individuals with disabilities, the homeless — launched five COVID-response programs, and worked in vital partnership with Community Futures Central Kootenay, Work BC and Nelson Cares. To boot, in 2022, the international Great Place To Work authority named KCDS as the highest-ranked non-profit in the nation.

Semi-Finalist  — SHARE Housing project / Pastor Jim Reimer

Like jobs, we all need a place to live. And these days, that’s harder than ever.

Pastor Jim Reimer, the force behind Our Daily Bread, opened the 39-unit SHARE Housing project two years ago. Today the facility provides affordable, safe and energy efficient housing for working single or couples who are unable to find — or afford — a place to live. Fact — the rental market in Nelson is beyond the reach of many earning less than $18 per hour, Pastor Jim says “unless housing is provided, our workforce will be forced to move out of our community to areas where they can afford the rent and find work.”

Semi-Finalist  — Queen City Cruise / Nelson Road Kings

When it comes to high powered non-profits, these folks are big wheels. The Nelson Road Kings’ Queen City Cruise every September is considered one of BC’s largest car shows. In 2022 the cruise broke a new record for the event’s 20-year history, with over 450 registered vehicles — and raised $38,000 for Kootenay Lake District Hospital. Many of the hot rodders support local hotels, restaurants and shop for three days. Some businesses say it’s like Christmas in September. Club President Marcello Piro leads 85 members and a board of 12 directors.

Semi-Finalist  — Kootenay Co-Op Radio / Manager Ed Zych, advertising/community outreach director Amilie Sauquet-Davidson & Administrative Manager Paula Shandro 

Local culture, local views and local business. Kootenay Co-Op Radio has been on-air since 1999. Manager Ed Zych, advertising/community outreach director Amilie Sauquet, and over 70 volunteer programmers — many of whom trained themselves to broadcast through the pandemic while stuck at home — lead KCR’s mandate to be the cultural hub for Nelson, the Valley, Kootenay Lake, the East Shore and Castlegar. The station provides music, spoken word, event listings, community journalism and public service programming seven days a week. After a hugely successful family-friendly Block Party at Lion’s Park last spring, a renovation and re-brand, KCR will soon offer a live-performance and recording venue — and a powerful new transmitter.

VI. Rising Star Award — Ashman’s Smash Burgers & Fries / Aron & Mandy Ashman

After visiting Nelson in 2019, Aron and Mandy Ashman were in awe of how many restaurants there were in our small town — and loved the lack of big brand names. So, they moved here, opened a food truck and shifted into their own store at the culinary corner of Kootenay and Victoria Streets — mid-COVID. Ashman’s Smash Burgers & Fries and their ten employees filled a niche Aron and Mandy spotted — a burger joint offering a snack or a full meal for a good price.

Winner’s Criteria — All of these nominees have great stories. Judges felt that the winner of the Rising Star award stood out based on where the business started, when it started, and how far it’s come. Less than half a year had passed — and the pandemic had started — before the business moved from mobile to brick-and-mortar. There were some enormous challenges for a pair of business owners — a husband and wife no less. But they did it. And they say it was all because of the customers and the new hometown they’ve come to know, and who’ve come to know them.

Semi-Finalist  — Nelson Studio 88 / Ellie Hedges

Nelson’s Canadian Royal Legion Building has served the community since 1910. Ellie Hedges and her magnificent Nelson Studio 88 music and arts school have begun to write another chapter in the esteemed building’s epic tale. Opened last year, the venue provides space, inspiration and arts curriculum in various disciplines for kids, parents, friends and family to connect, explore and fulfill their creative potential. Ellie started with an independent piano studio 20 years ago, igniting a dream to create a hub for all arts and music disciplines in our community.

Semi-Finalist  — Taylor & Mae Eco Collective / Noa Dagan & Jessica Wood

Born out of the pandemic with an all-local mindset, Taylor & Mae Eco Collective is an eco-focused retail store and a low-waste natural product re-fillery. Noa Dagan and Jessica Wood offer small-batch, socially and environmentally responsible products, Canadian-based refill options and other low-waste lifestyle essentials. Most of the shop’s shelf space is taken up by local vendors — 85 percent of Taylor & Mae sales circulates in the local economy. Beyond the bottom line, Noa says, the shop always considers what’s best for the community, our families, bodies, and environment.

Semi-Finalist  — Beauties Pizza / Max van Stee, Alex Wickett and Grant Carr

The business was launched in the heart of the COVID crisis too, by an ambitious team of young entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector. The crew at Beauties Pizza — Max van Stee, Alex Wickett and Grant Carr — believe that a quality product and guest experience comes from happy staff. There are now 18 happy helpers on the Beauties payroll. Amongst the pizzaria’s humble claims to fame — every single night, the pizza slices that didn’t sell, are sent up to staff at the emergency room at the hospital.

Semi-Finalist  — Horse & Snake Vintage / Sophia Feliciello

In a world of concern for both the environment and economy, Horse & Snake Vintage endeavours to bring some light heartedness, and some lessons, into Nelson’s increasingly funky fashion scene.

Owner Sophia Feliciello says sustainability and jubilant self expression are at the core of the vintage retail venue, which just moved into a new home on Baker.  Horse & Snake perpetuates the idea that cleaning, repairing and restoring is far better than discarding and replacing. Clothes can actually last for generations — if you love ‘em back.

VII. Professional Service Award — Kays Road Contracting / Matt Hanlon and Jeff Harker

Serving public and private sector clients throughout the West Kootenay since 2006, Kays Road Contracting provides core services in civil work, excavation and site preparation, building a reputation for quality, competency and trust. Owners Matt Hanlon and Jeff Harker say the company is people-focused, prioritizing their 20 employees’ needs and well-being — and understanding that a positive, progressive work culture is the basis of success. Kays donates to a number of local causes, and was a construction partner in two of the city’s assisted living projects.

Winner’s Criteria — This category winner started out with a few shovels and truck or two 17 years ago. Today they have a fleet of 40 pieces of equipment. The word “Quality” adorned their staff t-shirts for years. Judging by the positive testimonials they’ve received from clients that include Kalesnikoff, Spearhead, Whitewater and a wide variety of project managers, quality is exactly what they’ve provided since the company first broke ground.

Semi-Finalist  — Maybank Mobile Veterinary Services / Dr. Rebecca Maybank

The nomination is for the dogs…and the cats, birds and hamsters too.

Maybank Mobile Veterinary Services performs vet visits right in the comfort of people’s and pets’ homes. It’s the Kootenay’s only strictly mobile small animal veterinary practice — providing our four-legged friends with high quality medicine and diagnostics, even palliative care and end-of-life support. Dr. Rebecca Maybank and her five staff know their patients and clients well, and they’re always there for each step of their patient’s lives, from the start to the end.

Semi-Finalist  — Family Financial / Paul Bowolin

It makes sense that Paul Bowolin’s business is called Family Financial.

Paul is a fourth generation Nelsonite who’s been offering advise on investments, personal insurance and banking for 29 years. So he knows, firsthand, the importance of this community, and he treats every client like family. In fact — his first client from 1994 is still with Family Financial. Paul’s been a dedicated volunteer with the Nelson Road Kings for years, and long time supporter of a number of local charity and sport organizations.

Semi-Finalist  — Peak to Moon Creative / Karen Kornelsen

Karen Kornelsen and her company Peak to Moon Creative have been providing copywriting, digital marketing, and business consulting for local entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits for the last four challenging years. Karen also helped many entrepreneurs and employees as the Slocan Valley’s Business Support Advisor with ETSI-BC. Before that she and Peak To Moon’s skills created the Kootenay Association of Science and Technology’s well-regarded Kootenay Pitch Competition and managed the Nelson Innovation Centre.

Semi-Finalist  —  Vitality Health / Dee Anne Nadeau

Good health is about more than just achieving ideal body performance — it’s also abut maintaining it. That’s the mantra for the twelve health professionals and support staff at Vitality Health, owned and run by Dee Anne Nadeau. Vitality works with patients to develop comprehensive plans that help them achieve long-lasting health — and also offers complimentary care to community sports teams and pro-bono care for lower income individuals.

VIII. Technology-Innovation Excellence Award — Woody Nelson

For anyone in the cannabis space, there’ve been some harrowing lows and highs since weed was legalized in October of 2017. But the high tech team at Woody Nelson, formerly Green Light Solutions, can lay proud claim to being the Kootenays’ first full scale cannabis producer. After five years, Frank Marcus and Woody Nelson’s 25 staff and 38 contractors are growing what they believe is the world’s best cannabis — with next-generation proprietary agricultural technology.

Winner’s Criteria — While many start ups across Canada tried, few have survived the promise, then plunge, of Canada’s newest industry with as much aplomb as Woody Nelson. They’re looking at future applications for their remarkable technology to the vertical farming of any food or fibre that can bee grown. That’s technology that enables them to reproduce any growing climate in the world, in minutes. And they’re looking already to expand overseas, all from their home on Kootenay Lake‘s North Shore.

Semi-Finalist  — Drop Designs and Manufacturing / Anders Malpass

Sprockets — they’re used in everything from watches to bikes to tanks and tractors.  There’s a company is South Slocan that can make any sprocket, and deliver it to their client same day. Drop Designs and Manufacturing is amongst the best in the business. Owner Anders Malpass has been at it for 17 years, with a staff of 75 that’s on its way to 100 by year’s end. The company designs, engineers, and manufactures from one of the most advanced facilities in North America, with cutting-edge machining and fabrication equipment and over two million pounds of raw and semi-finished materials.

Semi-Finalist  — Spearhead / Ted, Josh and Ben Hall

A hip and humble titan amongst the region’s manufacturers, Spearhead launched 35 years ago. Today the business — owned by Ted Hall and his sons Josh and Ben — has grown into an industry-leader, internationally recognized for its unique capabilities in the fabrication of wood, steel and magnificent architecture. Clients range from folks down the road to super stars around the world.

Semi-Finalist  — SMRT1 Technologies / Brad Pommen

After six years of research and development, SMRT1 Technologies offers interactive dispensing solutions focussing on healthcare supplies and retail products, through its own cloud based software. Brad Pommen pioneered his interactive health kiosks here in Nelson with the ANKORS team to provide no-barrier, stigma-free access to harm reduction supplies. Since then the original pilot projects in Nelson and Cranbrook have inspired communities across Canada to do the same.

Semi-Finalist  — Live It Earth  / Melissa Welsh, Mike Irvine and Maeva Gauthier

Clean, high-paying tech jobs, the promotion of environmental awareness, the export of non-industrial, low carbon digital products  — and a made-in-Nelson contribution to the education and increased empathy of kids from kindergarten to Grade 7, as well as teachers and parents world-wide. The on-line learning company Live It Earth was founded five years ago by Melissa Welsh, Mike Irvine and Maeva Gauthier. The business has grown by 400 percent in the last three years with parters including BC Parks, the Ministry of Environment  and Climate Strategy and Global Affairs.

IX. Inclusive Employer Award — Save On Foods / Store Manager Shane Warman & Assistant Manager Brad Sayers

Save On Foods, which for a long time was Overwaitea, has been providing Nelson and area with food and medicine for 98 years. The grocery store has provided employment for teens, students, and moms and dads with households to support, for nearly a century. Today Store Manager Shane Warman and Assistant Manager Brad Sayers lead 151 employees at our local Save on Foods. The store has one of the highest percentages of immigrant workers in the region, providing income to many of the city’s new and very welcome arrivals from all over the world, some in leadership roles, as well as staff from the LGBT community and still others with disabilities.

Winner’s Criteria — Judges had a tough time with this one too. There are a lot of businesses out there that realize the importance of retaining great workers of all sorts…but Save on Foods has a work force of which 22 percent of workers are from outside Canada — including international students at Selkirk — some in leadership roles, which helps them gain full citizenship and grow within the organization. There are disabled workers on staff, pronoun identification on name tags and a clear culture of diversity and inclusion.

Semi-Finalist  — Oso Negro / Jon Meyer and Anne Bokser Wishlow

Jon Meyer and Anne Bokser Wishlow have created a hub for all members of the community. A place described as “the beating heart” of Nelson, and one that’s committed to paying employees of all gender and race a living wage, from day one of employment. There are 31 employees at Oso Negro, they get paid — and encouraged — time off, and great benefits. Those are main factors in Oso’s ability to retain staff in a town with a traditionally transient work force. Oso is celebrating its 30 year in business this year.

Semi-Finalist  — Nelson Cares Society / Executive Director Jacqueline Nobiss

It was almost 50 years ago that a group of dedicated Nelson residents came together with a single vision — to create a fairer, safer, and more socially just Nelson for everyone. Today, the Nelson Cares Society, lead by Executive Director Jacqueline Nobiss, employs 150 employees. Providing programs and initiatives in advocacy, housing, employment, support services, and environmental stewardship, the society is considered one of the largest and most diverse employers in the region. Many of those employees have been with the organization for over a decade.

Semi-Finalist  — Nelson Boxing & Athletics Club / Jesse Pineiro

The Nelson Boxing & Athletics Club provides a safe place for people of all ages and abilities to develop themselves and improve their fitness, self-esteem, and overall health. Owner and now Nelson City Councillor Jesse Pineiro has seven employees, one for every year he’s run the Baker Street gym — which turns no one way for lack of funds, partners with KCDS’s PEERS program to employ people who face challenges re-entering the workforce, and take in folks referred to them by Nelson Street Outreach and Nelson City Police.