Nominations open for Chamber awards

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It’s time for Okotoks residents to recognize the town’s business community.

Nominations are open for the annual Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards. The awards come in eight categories: best business with seven or more employees, best business with six or fewer employees, new business of the year, business person of the year, outstanding customer service, social profit, employee relations and environmental stewardship.

Chamber of Commerce president Andrew Gustafson said the award ceremony is the perfect opportunity to shine a light on the business community and celebrate the hardworking people that keep Okotoks running.

“Taking a moment to say thank you and encourage them to keep up the amazing work, so people can continue to be encouraged to shop local, that’s so important,” said Gustafson.

He said the awards are popular in the community and the Chamber receives a lot of nominations every year as people recognize businesses going above and beyond for their customers. In 2015, close to 150 nominations were sent in, he said.

“People are nominating a business for something very specific as opposed to. ‘I had a reasonably good experience, I’ll throw their name in the hat,’” said Gustafson. “They’re really putting some thought toward a nomination, and they’re really meaningful that way.”

Business of the year for 2015 was awarded to Bow Mark Paving. The team at Cactus Club Salon and Spa was “surprised and honoured” to learn they’d won two awards last fall – employee relations and environmental stewardship.

Mandy Patterson, owner of Cactus Club for six years, said the recognition meant a lot for the salon as it celebrated its 25th anniversary.

“Sometimes when you are sort of just working on the day-to-day and sort of got your head down, you don’t really get an opportunity to celebrate the successes you’ve had,” said Patterson. “Sometimes you don’t even realize where you’ve been and where you are now.”

She attributes the salon’s achievements to loyal clients and a dedicated staff, some of whom have worked at Cactus Club for 20 years or more.

She spent the past couple of years giving recognition where recognition was due, honouring those long-time employees. The efforts came back last fall when she learned the salon had won for employee relations.

The award came as a surprise, she said.

“Employee relations is something where, you always try to put your staff first, but it’s not really something that you think of on a daily basis in terms of, ‘Am I doing a good job of this? Would I be recognized for this?’” said Patterson. “I just try to keep up an environment of teamwork and compassion and understanding because without the staff really there’s no business.”

The environmental stewardship was a gratifying award to take home, she said. Cactus Club has been striving to reduce its carbon footprint for years, and being recognized for its efforts was flattering, she said.

About a year and a half ago, the salon became a member of the Green Circle Salons, which follow specific practices to reduce the environmental impact of their businesses.

Staff at the salon have been specially trained and are conscious of their behaviours to ensure they are dedicated to the Green Circle Salons program, she said. All of the hair at Cactus Club is also collected and shipped to a facility where it is transformed into special booms for cleaning up oil spills.

Chamber of Commerce CAO Cheryl Actemichuk said the awards help bring business people together.

“It’s important, especially in these economic times, for us to maintain the networking relationships within our businesses,” said Actemichuk.

She said honouring businesses for their customer service and their ongoing successes also hits home the fact Okotoks is not suffering as much as other communities during the economic downfall.

“This is an opportunity for us, not only as a Chamber of Commerce but as a community, to come together and show support for the businesses that are helping our community stay strong and vibrant,” said Actemichuk.

This year’s awards ceremony will be held at the Foothills Centennial Centre on Oct. 20. Tickets can be purchased on the Chamber’s website for $75 each.

The deadline to nominate businesses for any of the eight categories is Oct. 10. Nominations for Business Excellence Awards can be made online at www.okotokschamber.ca.

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