Maybe it is the landscape that draws those who like to take risks and give it their all to Squamish. Perhaps it is just in our water.
Whatever the reason, this town is full of startlingly impressive entrepreneurs, volunteers and organizations.
Annually, the Squamish Chamber of Commerce recognizes shining stars with its Business Excellence Awards.
The Chief took some time to get to know those who were honoured.
This is the second in our two-part series on the 2017 winners.
Citizen of the Year
For the last 42 years, Bryan Couture has volunteered much of his time to making Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival the best it can be.
What keeps Couture coming back is his passion for what he calls the “best lumberjack show in the world” and the family of volunteers he gets to work with. “The same people year after year and new people coming in year after year” are highlights of volunteering. He felt he had the time to give what others may not have. His passion for forestry started when he was in Ontario growing up. “I always had in my mind as a kid pictures of being a logger,” he said. When he moved out to B.C. over four decades ago he took a course on Vancouver Island.
“How not to get killed, basically is the course,” he said with a laugh. In the course there were approximately 55 other men and most were from Ontario.
“B.C. was a destination for a lot of people who heard about it and how nice B.C. is.” The course administrators found him a job in the industry.
He got into competitive loggers sports when his foreman, who also competed, encouraged him to try it.
“And the rest is history,” he said. “I just kept going and started my own business doing lumberjack shows around the world, but always kept Squamish as number one.”
Through his travels he promoted Squamish, encouraging many to travel to the district to compete.
“I have been to Europe so many times and introduced the sport… so now for those guys in Europe, their number one bucket list is to come to Squamish.”
Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival
Project of the year
Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival turns 60 this year so it is fitting it’s being honoured with the project of the year award. As Squamish has grown up around the event, more and more festivals have been added to the local calendar and yet the loggers’ festival, on Aug. 3 to 7 this year, remains a must-attend event that draws thousands of spectators.
Event spokesperson Amy Fast credits the success of the festival and the award to the large team of volunteers who work year-round to put on the weekend-long festival.
Fast noted that the festival feels and looks professional, but volunteers power it.
“Everyone loves working on the festival, regardless of the recognition, but it is kind of nice that we are organizing a festival for the community and the community recognizes it by saying, ‘Yeah, we think you are pretty great too.’”
Squamish Days is cited as the longest running festival held in Squamish.
While it started out with actual loggers and others in the industry, who showed off their talents at the weekend events, the modern festival is made up of many competitors and spectators who are not in forestry.
The festival allows Squamish to remember where it came from, and celebrate community and the skill of loggers’ sports.
“Loggers sports is the only sports that is derived from a profession,” said Fast. “These are skills that loggers and lumberjacks had to use in the forest hundreds of years ago, as well as in the current day,” she said. “It is a sport, an activity, that has been created to use those same skills… which is really different.”
The fact Happimess won an award won’t come as a surprise to many Squamish parents of young kids. The business, which allows children to be creative without having to worry about the mess they make, has had a lot of buzz around it since it launched just six months ago downtown next to the Squamish Seniors centre.
The idea is that children learn and develop best through sensory play, but letting a child play with paint, crayons, sand and water can be a scary proposition for parents who like to keep a neat home – so Happimess is a safe space to explore and create without having to clean up.
It has become a popular spot for birthday parties as well.
Marcus Monopoli said he and co-owner Dalia Monopoli were a bit shocked to receive the Innovation Award given his company isn’t technology based.
“This all started because we saw the benefit of sensory play for my daughter when we were living overseas and couldn’t find something similar here in Canada,” he told The Chief.
Monopoli said his company also gives back to the community and hosts free Coffee & Chat sessions with local experts who discuss parenting issues.
The company also supports “mompreneurs” by utilizing their services and products as much as possible.
“It’s been a fun ride so far and we have still a lot of growing to do,” he said.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Robyn Balez takes social media to the next level for her clients. Her company, Socially Robyn, helps Squamish companies and organizations with their online image and marketing.
Raised in Squamish, Balez, 31, left town for a time to obtain an education in marketing. She returned four years ago and launched her company two years later after she helped both the annual Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival
and home detailing business Nate Solutions with their social media outreach.
“Everyone just kept telling me I had a knack for it and I enjoyed it,” she said.
Balez notes that Squamish is a “huge Facebook community,” as well as being a place where many choose to start up new businesses.
Balez said she was surprised to win young entrepreneur of the year given her company hasn’t been around that long. Asked for a reason she stood out in a town full of young startups, Balez said community involvement is her strong suit.
“I am trying to brand myself as supporting local businesses. I volunteer in the community and all of the marketing I have been doing has been geared toward showing off Squamish,” she said. “People see that and it resonates with them.”
Sea to sky Community Services
Non-Profit of the Year
It is fair to say that almost everyone has been touched by the work of the non-profit of the year, Sea to Sky Community Services. The organization offers 40 programs throughout the corridor that provide support for people from birth through the senior years.
Whether the need is for food, housing, comfort or even concussion support, SSCS is there.
Estelle Taylor, communications and fundraising manager for the organization, said given the number of non-profits in town, staff at Sea to Sky Community Services were honoured to have won the chamber of commerce award.
“This award is a great testament to the hard work of our caring, professional staff who every year help thousands of children, youth and adults in ways that build their skills, abilities, confidence, self-worth and mental health,” Taylor said.
“This is a big year for us, as we have almost finished building Centrepoint.”
Built in partnership with Squamish United Church, Centrepoint is the mixed-use development nearing completion on Fourth Avenue and Victoria Street downtown.
The completed facility will include the administrative and program space offices of the Sea to Sky Community Services and 32 units of social housing.
“We like to think that those who voted for us did so not just because of our strong record, but because of the strong future Centrepoint will bring to us and to the wider community.
With this new building we will be able to help even more people, and to respond to our community’s growing and changing needs.”