Posted Tuesday February 26, 2019


2019 Business Excellence Award Recipients Highlight Region’s Business Community’s Strengths

Last Thursday the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the Waterloo Region business community came together to honour the extraordinary contributions of the organizations and volunteers who were nominated for the 2019 Business Excellence Awards at The Annual Chamber Gala. CTV’s Meghan Furman acted as host and Master of Ceremonies for the evening’s celebrations.

Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce 2019 Business Excellence Award Recipient Details

Business of the Year Award (Over 50 Employees)
Waterloo Brewing Company

As a pioneer in Canada for the origination of craft beer, Waterloo Brewing has been local to Waterloo Region for 35 years. As a leader in innovation, they will continue this trend to be one of the first to legally produce a cannabis-infused beverage in Canada.
With one of the greenest brewhouses in North America, they are an industry leader in environmental sustainability. They have reduced their thermal energy consumption, water consumption, and wastewater generation by over 50% and reduced electricity usage by 33%, while increasing output by 300%. As well, Waterloo Brewing has installed new beer pasteurization equipment which has resulted in reducing 23 tonnes of C02 emissions annually.
Since the launch of the original brewery in 1984, they have experienced massive growth. What started as a small brewery now has over 170 full time employees and make more than a dozen products under their own brands, plus an ever-evolving portfolio of products for their contract manufacturing customers. This past November, they announced an investment of $9.6M to again expand their brewery and enhance their operations. Investing not only in themselves, but in their neighborhood has also contributed to their overall success. They sponsor various small-scale community events, adult sports teams and make annual donations to local food banks.

Business of the Year Award (11-50 Employees)
Little Mushroom Catering

Little Mushroom Catering is dedicated to sustainability, supporting local business, their employees, and of course, food. As one of five businesses with a FeastOn Certification in the region, they can prove they buy from local business. Little Mushroom Catering has been recognized for sustainability and environmental efforts for having a full recycling and compost program, as well as limiting overproduction for events.
What began in a home kitchen in 2010 quickly grew into a well-known Waterloo Region catering company. Hiring new staff, growing into a larger space, buying and amalgamating a promotional cookie company are just some of the ways Little Mushroom Catering has grown as a company in less than 10 years.
Little Mushroom Catering has proved they are committed to many local initiatives. They currently employ over 90% female managers, as well as hiring a diverse group of people. They support local charities such as Empty Bowls for the Foodbank and Hockey Helps the Homeless. With an expanding team, Little Mushroom Catering has an exciting future ahead.

Business of the Year Award (1-10 Employees)
The Event Firm

Unique to the Region, this full-service event planning firm provides custom event design on a per-event-basis. They customize their services to suit any budget, location or design and their clients take comfort in knowing the details are looked after. At their inception in 2010, they began with only DJ and lighting services. They have now increased their staff from 1 to 6, tripled their studio space, and launched several workshops and classes. They are also regularly featured on CTV and Rogers.

The Event Firm are moving their operations to their new event space in the Gaslight District to open later this year. This unique facility has 13,500 sq. ft. of space, a fully equipped kitchen, a built in 20-foot video wall and a state-of-the-art sound system. They are currently in the process of hiring 5 additional full-time staff members to accommodate the anticipated demand of this new space.

They believe in implementing and maintaining fair procedures and structures for their employees. At minimum they pay their employees $20/hour and work hard to ensure they maintain this standard of pay. They also strive to support their community and use local vendors and event spaces whenever possible. They pioneered a pop-up restaurant series, which was the first of its kind in the Region. They help promote local brands, artisans, suppliers, vendors and help foster relationships between attendees. As well, they allow chefs to showcase and experiment with new and innovative cuisine and provide a unique experience for those that have attended.

New Business of the Year Award (Under 2 Years)

Cellar52 opened its doors in December of 2017, and have since offered the community an intimate, elegant event space with a focus on service and attention to detail. They work to engage the community and have teamed up with local businesses (caterers, DJs, wedding planners) to enhance their client’s experience and support local. Being nestled in beautiful St. Jacobs provides guests a unique opportunity to shop, eat, and stroll around the city, which is unusual for an event space.

With only one full year under their belts, they are proud to have exceeded their forecasted success. They held 44 events in their first year, which surpassed their anticipated 24. Growth has been steady since opening its doors with both repeat and new customers. They currently have 5 part time direct employees, although they generate more indirect employment through out sourcing certain roles, such as DJ and catering. They are proud to be a living wage employer.

As a new business, they recognize the importance of good corporate citizenship, which is why they have partnered with several local vendors and suppliers to give their clients an exceptional experience. Supporting the local community increases brand recognition as well as bolstering their reputation. Understanding their potential (and current) impact on their community is key, and they will continue to be a proactive leader.

Employee Engagement Award

This company supports, encourages, and empowers their employees by providing an environment where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. They support workplace learning through several ways: financial reimbursement of professional training and memberships, career planning services, global talent exchanges, and formal learning through the GHD Business School. Their GHD Business School provides a variety of internal training programs, which encourage and facilitate skill development and knowledge transfer between employees.
Their commitment to diversity and inclusion is directly linked to their global strategy and includes championing gender equality, cultural diversity, LGBTI inclusion, adapting to the needs of generational workers and flexible working arrangements for their employees. They respect individual needs and situations, offer flexible and adaptive working arrangements to support families and caring responsibilities, and to enable their staff to pursue personal interests. Their 2017 People Survey was conducted by a third party, which received outstanding feedback from their employees. The survey concluded that GHD successfully engages their employees by consistently rating higher than the IBM norm.
GHD uses multiple formats to engage their employees, which includes social based intranet, used to connect employees across the globe to Young Professionals groups to GHD in the community programs. Their engagement includes both one-way and two-way feedback tools to ensure their employees can engage with each other and leadership. Their internal networks, such as Women at GHD, create a supportive network for their diverse workforce.

Environment & Sustainability Award

Ernst and Young is one of the world’s leading professional services firm. They have been in operation for over 150 years, with over 170 exceptional professionals working in their Waterloo Region office. They collaborated with other local businesses in creating the vision for a first-of-its-kind sustainable building in Waterloo Region – evolv1. Their recent move to evolv1 allowed them to reduce operational costs while enhancing high-preforming teaming, flexibility and engagement.
EYs Waterloo Region office has significantly reduced paper consumption with their shift to paperless processes, allowing them to eliminate the need for an onsite records room. In addition, they eliminated mugs/glass/utensils and provided their employees with their own travel mugs and set of cutlery that is used and washed by them accordingly, thus eliminating the use of a dishwasher and the amount of water and detergent used.
They have a target of 20% carbon reduction based on their 2009 year, which will easily be achieved by 2019. To date, they have eliminated 104 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, they created a centralized waste strategy to reduce the waste generated by the team. The benefits of this include not only reducing their carbon impact, but the benefit of attracting top talent through the alignment of values with these programs and their teams.

Health & Wellness in the Workplace Award
Parents for Community Living

This Not-For Profit promotes the inclusion of persons with developmental disabilities in the Waterloo Region and are just as committed at providing for their own employees. They are committed to being a healthy and mentally positive organization. They have a wellness committee that revises and updates its policies and programs on an annual basis and creates an annual calendar of fun and inspirational health/wellness events. Staff participates in external training events, webinars and workshops related to mental health and wellness in the workplace.

Recognizing that their most valuable asset is their employees, they have taken serious strides to ensure a healthy work environment. They recently purchased NOT MYSELF TODAY materials from the Canadian Mental Health Association and have been using the campaign to teach and support their staff members about mental health in the workplace through raising awareness and reducing stigma. Through this, they began Wellness Wednesdays, where inspirational quotes for positive mental health are shared.

The focus is not only on mental health, but physical health as well. They promote fitness breaks at meetings and staff training events. They do challenges, such as months free of junk food, as well as annual fitness challenges. A past theme was an extreme fitness challenge, where there are specific weekly challenges where you can gain extra “points”. They also created other unique challenges such as “Chopped PCL”, tailored after the popular tv show “Chopped”, to engage their employees. Understanding that both a positive mental and physical environment is incredibly important led them to win the Waterloo Regions Healthy Workplace Award for 4 consecutive years, culminating in the Platinum Award in 2017.

Service Excellence in Hospitality/Tourism Award
Charcoal Group of Restaurants

This group of local restaurants can be traced back to 1956 where it all began with the iconic Charcoal Steak House. This business has grown over the past 60 years based on their commitment to delivering superior hospitality experiences and a philosophy of constant and never-ending improvement. Their restaurants have a shared purpose to exceed their guests’ expectations and deliver on a truly memorable dining experience. With hundreds of amazing reviews online, it is obvious they are achieving their purpose.

Wildcraft, a popular location for both locals and tourists, recently underwent major renovations to both its menu and its atmosphere. They opened their doors over 12 years ago and are excited to share this new chapter with the community. They made significant renovations to the aesthetic design, as well as to the culinary menu. They also made an exciting revamp on the cocktail menu which includes a BarChef approach, which uses creative and unique ways to present cocktails.
This group of restaurants employs over 1,000 people throughout the Region, and they continue to make it their mission for responsible service within the communities they serve. They continually re-invest in their cities to push innovation in the local culinary scene. The Bauer Kitchen was recently awarded the Gold for Good Food Innovation by Food Day Canada. This prestigious award focuses on creativity and sustainability and is presented to food professionals across the Country who serve innovative menus based off of Canadian ingredients.

Innovation Award
McIntyre Group

This innovative creator and manufacturer of workplace furniture and acoustics is one of the Region’s best kept manufacturing secrets. Their 35+ year history has evolved from an office service provider to an innovative creator and manufacturer to address the everchanging needs of today’s work environments. Their mobile, foldable office workstations, benching and meeting spaces address the disruptive nature of today’s workforce, giving employers an agile and cost-effective solution. Swiftspace, invented and built in Kitchener, is the only product in the world that assembles in seconds with no tools required, and can be easily moved and reassembled by the user. Their products have given their clients vast savings, as well as allowed the users to stay happy and focused through eliminating excess noise, speech privacy, and speech clarity. Studies show that the exoBord not only addresses these concerns, but the ability of workers went up by 48%, and stress symptoms went down by 27%.
Their unique sound dampening architectural design is ideal for the new open concept work environment, as it deals with the issue of sound privacy. Created and fabricated right here in Kitchener, the exoBord is a leader in design driven sound dampening architectural acoustic. This product is 100% green, 100% polyester comprised of 50% recycled water bottles, and has the leading sound dampening ratings in the industry. Their products are created and manufactured locally and are distributed globally. Over the past few years, distribution across North America has taken off and has more than doubled their workforce. They are in the process of introducing the product line in Europe as well.

95% of their suppliers are within 100km, understanding the importance of supporting other local businesses. They are a living wage employer and believe in supporting the local community as well as local charitable organizations. They have developed strong ties throughout the Region and support numerous local charities.

Michael R. Follett Community Leader Award
Chief Bryan Larkin – Waterloo Region Police Services

This year’s recipient has been a progressive advocate and community supporter for over 20 years.
In 2013, he was recognized for his longstanding commitment to community volunteerism and his leadership within the OACP and awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2016, he was invested as a Member of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces by his Excellency and Right Honourable David Johnston.
He is easy to locate at the numerous community events around the Region. Bryan is a strong believer in community volunteerism and spends countless hours showing his support by attending as many events as his schedule will allow. He is proud to support many causes around our region including United Way and the Ontario Special Olympics and Coast to Coast Cancer Foundation. Bryan joined the Board of Directors for the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, is a Board Member for Nutrition for Learning and is a member of the United Way Campaign for Cabinet for Waterloo Region Communities.
Bryan is the 7th Chief of Police of the Waterloo Region Police Service. He is an active member of the International, Canadian and Ontario Associations of Chiefs of Police and serves on the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police as Vice-President. He Co-Chairs the Provincial Police Joint Health and Safety Committee and serves as a member on the CACP Drug Advisory Committee.
He is described by those who know him as a gregarious, humble and passionate leader in our community!

Non-Profit/Charitable Award

This organization is a cultural destination that offers programming and exhibitions that intersect art, science, culture and technology. They awe and inspire visitors from the Region as well as provide a unique destination for visitors. Their core values of experiential learning, unexpected intersections, and diverse voices are reflected in world-class exhibitions, curriculum-based education programs, and public events. This past year they celebrated their 15th anniversary and 2018 was filled with outstanding achievements and thrilling announcements. They announced their ambitious plans to expand in downtown Kitchener, which proposes a cultural hub that taps into the innovative spirit of the Kitchener-Waterloo community to offer an ever-growing range of experiences, events, and exhibits.

New programming and marketing initiatives resulted in high success rates for a few of THEMUSEUM’s programs. Their Underground Studio MakerSpace is a hands-on learning environment where youth can explore the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Through programs such as this, they had a record-breaking total of over 21,000 children, youth, parents and educators engaged with their Underground Studio programming in 2018. Not only do they engage youth, but also host conferences for young professionals, such as AltCon. This featured sessions on leadership development, data-driven marketing, and diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

They have proven to be a proactive leader within the non-profit sector through bringing a landmark facility to reflect the character of the Region. The announced expansion marked a critical and proactive step towards transforming downtown Kitchener into a vibrant cultural destination for residents and visitors alike. A thriving arts and culture scene play a critical role in employee attraction and retention efforts for businesses throughout the region, making this beneficial for the entire community.

Volunteer of the Year Award
Michael Hewitson – Royal LePage Wolle Realty, Brokerage

There are many outstanding volunteers with the Chamber of Commerce and all of the volunteers should feel very proud of the contributions they’ve made to business development in our community and throughout our region. Tonight, the Chamber would like to highlight one of these volunteers.

This year’s Volunteer of the Year is an advocate for the Chamber and the programs that we offer and shows his dedication in many ways. He has been an active member since 2010 and is currently a part of the Networking Breakfast Committee. Over the year he has been on the Chamber Young Professionals committee and has attended countless Chamber events. He has been a great resource on the Networking Breakfast Committee and is always bringing a fresh perspective to the table.

He has been a successful sales representative with Royal Lepage for almost 10 years. He has received numerous awards for his incredible service and commitment to his clients, including a Royal Lepage Award of Excellence in 2016. He actively participates in the Networking Breakfast Committee which aims to provide networking opportunities for local business professionals of all ages. With Michael’s commitment and knowledge, we have been successful in hosting such strong networking breakfast events.

His dependability and willingness to participate has stood out as a great example to all our volunteers. He is committed to providing opportunities to connect for all business professionals across the Region and should be recognized for his efforts.

Young Professional of the Year Award
Shelby Behling – Clean & Tidy

This impressive young professional has been making a name for herself over the past few years. Starting her own business in 2013, she has worked to grow to over 30 employees. She works hard to ensure that families not only have a clean home, but a safe home using all-natural cleaning products. Her number one goal is to give their clients their lives back and be able to spend time with their family and friends. Testaments from many happy clients ensure that she is fulfilling this goal, and truly making an impact on her clients lives.

She sees every day as a new challenge and adjusts processes on a regular basis to better serve their team and clients. She has done her research to ensure that her employees have a positive work environment and pays a livable wage that also includes employee incentive programs and benefits. Shelby works hard to ensure that her employees are properly trained, given a living wage, and are protected and treated like family.

She has won the Record Reader Award for Favourite Cleaning Service 3 years running, was featured in the Women of Merit magazine and a nominee for Oktoberfest Women of the Year in 2018. This incredible young woman has grown a successful business and truly made a name for herself across the Region.

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