Comox Valley home-based businesses honour their own

Since 1998, the Comox Valley Home-Based Business Association has been “embracing the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Last week, the organization celebrated that spirit at its 13th annual awards gala — presenting awards to members who were nominated by their peers in nine categories.



Since 1998, the Comox Valley Home-Based Business Association has been “embracing the entrepreneurial spirit.”

Last week, the organization celebrated that spirit at its 13th annual awards gala — presenting awards to members who were nominated by their peers in nine categories.

The CVHBBA, which is open to all small businesses (not just home-based businesses) meets monthly (from September to June) and provides networking opportunities for association members, encourages and assists members in their personal and professional growth, acts as an advocate to promote the growth and acceptance of home-based business in the Comox Valley, and participates in decision-making about economic development that affects the Valley.

The meetings are held at the Best Western Westerly Hotel in Courtenay on the first Thursday of the month.

Here are the award recipients:

Members’ Choice Award: Dian Smit, Nerds on Site

The Comox Valley Home-Based Business Association’s Members’ Choice Award is about appreciation and acknowledgment of service. Any current member in good standing whom members felt had gone above and beyond in his/her selfless contributions to the HBBA in 2010/2011 is eligible for this award.

Smit is a self-professed nerd and darn proud of it.

Whether dealing with her Nerds on Site clients or with members of the HBBA, she answers questions with the patience of a saint and provides solutions in a language that “non-techies” can understand, and repeats it as often as necessary until they get it.

Almost always dressed in her signature Nerds on Site red and always with a big smile on her face, Smit is an active, supportive and knowledgeable member of the HBBA and other networking groups, and is an active member of the community.

Over the past few months, she has put in untold numbers of hours not only to get the HBBA’s website visible on the Internet, but to ensure that it is an interactive and useful tool for members.

Merit Award: Russ McKinnon, Phantom Screens

The dictionary defines “merit” as “having superior quality or worth, a quality deserving of praise, or an aspect of character or behaviour deserving of approval.”

At last June’s annual general meeting, McKinnon accepted the position of program director on the condition that he could make some changes to the meeting format and boost the educational aspects of meetings. He did not disappoint.

With the support of his business partner and wife, Winifred, McKinnon has also grown Phantom Screens well beyond what would normally be considered a home-based business.

One of the nominations for McKinnon summed up his personality and attitude perfectly: “Russ is always professional, honest and will go the extra mile in his business, on the HBBA Board of Directors, and in the community with other networking groups and various fundraising initiatives.”

Environmental Award: Debbie Ross

This award is in honour of those individuals who are making an effort to honour our planet.

Being an environmental crusader isn’t always about rinsing jam jars and flattening tin cans. A true crusader thinks outside the blue recycle box and looks for ways they can make a difference in their own world.

Ross’ world revolves around sharing the gift of music, so she came up with a clever way to reduce costs for her students, to reuse music books and to re-play music.

In past two years, she has co-ordinated the redistribution of more than 400 music books, enabling students to trade old books for new ones as they progress through her piano lessons.

The barter and trade program has proven to be popular and a great help to families and individuals who may not be able to afford new music books.

Inspiration Award: Sue Troughton, Ensemble Wellness

The award is presented to the individual and their business for which excellence is a habit.

Nominations for Troughton were peppered with words of appreciation and references to her bubbly personality, mentoring skills and positive attitude. There was even some reference to her exuberant Spotlight Speaker presentation, which was complete with a soundtrack and personal assistants.

One nomination in particular, however, summed up the reason that Troughton and Ensemble Wellness is most deserving of the award for inspiration.

“Sue helped me focus on positive energy during a rough time in my personal life … which translated into helping me affirm my business goals. Like most people, I know how to do my work, but I needed a friend to tell me I was on the right track.”

Innovation Award: Lisa Graham, Seadance Photography

The criteria for this award is someone who has improved his or her business by introducing a new product or service or diversifying an existing product/service.

In her member profile in the May HBBA member newsletter, Graham wrote: “Does a good hammer make a great carpenter? Probably not! Quality of work is a result of who is using the tools.” Or, in her case, camera equipment.

Photography is her new career path and she has dived into it with admirable passion. While she shoots all the usual stuff like weddings, portraits and product marketing stills, Graham, quite literally, takes the art of photography to new depths. She combines her love of scuba diving with the art of photography and is excelling in the world of underwater portraits.

Her underwater portraits of children, families, fashion models, brides and even swimming dogs are creative, artistic, and — most importantly — innovative.

Ambassador Award: Steve and Carolyn Touhey, Two Eagles Lodge

The award is presented to someone whose business has been featured prominently in the local, national or international media; a business whose product or services may be unique to this region; someone who promotes the Comox Valley in advertising and promotions; has done something newsworthy that puts the Comox Valley in the public spotlight from a local, regional, national or international prospective.

The Touheys speak about Vancouver Island in general, and the Comox Valley in particular, with such pride and passion that it is difficult to imagine that it has only been five years since they built their home, their bed and breakfast business, and their new lives in Canada.

The Touheys have been tireless in their efforts to promote tourism in the Comox Valley, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Two Eagles Lodge was presented with the Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau’s 2010 Torch Award for Hospitality and is a finalist in this year’s awards. In January, it was named the 2011 Tourism/Hospitality Business of the Year as recipients of a Vancouver Island Business Excellence Award.

While awards are important, it should also be noted that the Touheys have also earned the respect of their colleagues, made a multitude of new friends and developed a stellar reputation for hospitality, integrity and community spirit.

Lawrence Belfrage Memorial Award: Donna Clairmont, Clairmont Custom Draperies

This award is in memory of long-standing CVHBBA member Lawrence Belfrage, who passed away unexpectedly in May 2009.

Belfrage’s motto, in business and in life, was to “share a smile.” The recipient of this award will be someone who shares that same gregarious spirit and who shows support of the social networking and teamwork aspect of the CVHBBA.

Those who joined Clairmont for last summer’s Canada Day Parade will know that she has a sunny personality, even when it is raining. In addition to serving as the HBBA’s marketing director, Clairmont has spent the last year re-branding and marketing her business with great success.

Despite all the energy she has poured into building her business, she found the time, energy and enthusiasm to orchestrate the volunteers and supplies for HBBA’s award-winning entry in the 2010 Canada Day Parade, organize a successful HBBA Trade Show at Crown Isle, and is already busy preparing for next year’s events.

New Business Award: Dianne Goodacre, The Balance Sheet Book Keeping Services

The award is to recognize those who have successfully launched a new home-based business in the past 12 months and have achieved measurable success; have attracted media attention, have developed consumer support and/or customer loyalty, and/or shown commitment to the community and the HBBA.

Goodacre moved to the Comox Valley last fall and got her bookkeeping business up and running within a few weeks. She immediately recognized the value of immersing herself in the business community, instead of sitting back and waiting for business to come to her. Within just a couple of months of her arrival, she had built a website, secured several clients and graciously stepped forward to become the HBBA treasurer, filling a recent vacancy on the board of directors.

One of the nominations for Goodacre said, “Her professionalism is admirable, and her enthusiasm contagious. She has a sincere desire to help her clients achieve their personal and fiscal best.”

Business of the Year Award: Terri Perrin, Fine Art of Intention Feng Shui

This is a culmination of all award categories and is designed to acknowledge HBBA members who have demonstrated exemplary effort in their business or in their industry, leadership in the association and involvement in our community.

In the two years since launching her consulting business, Perrin has delivered interactive and inspirational workshops to audiences from Campbell River to Victoria and even in Alberta. She was been well-published in the local media and is effectively using Internet-based communications to market her products and services.

In addition to running her business, Perrin is also an accomplished freelance writer whose articles on feng shui and a myriad of other topics have appeared in many local publications, as well as print and web-based publications in North America.

This year, Perrin took her writing to a different level. In January 2011, she published her first feng shui book, working with a network of international resources to deliver an accurate and informative manuscript. She also chose to work with HBBA member Lisa Graham for the photography, and she deliberately chose a local graphic designer. Her goal was met — she successfully created a professional, first-class, “made in the Comox Valley” product that is now selling in North America.