Business people and entrepreneurs expressed their gratitude to all those who helped them weather the COVID-19 pandemic at the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Awards on Wednesday night.
Habitat for Humanity Red Deer Region CEO Karen Vavrek said in a challenging year central Alberta businesses stepped up to help the organization, which recently handed the keys over to four families who moved into two duplexes built in the Aspen Lakes West neighbourhood in Blackfalds.
Habitat has now helped build more than 40 homes in central Alberta.
“Red Deer and central Alberta have some of the most generous, giving businesses in the province, if not the country,” said Vavrek, in accepting the award in the non-profit category.
At a time when many businesses were struggling to keep their own doors open they still gave to Mustard Seed, the Child Advocacy Centre and Habitat, she said.
About 180 people attended this year’s award show, which was held at the Cambridge Red Deer Hotel and Conference Centre.
Dustin Cabelka, who owns Go Services Inc. with his father Devin Cabelka, said it has not been an easy year for the company that won in the category for businesses with 21 or more employees.
“We had a tough year like everyone else, but we saw big growth in the sanitation industry,” said Dustin Cabelka, whose company’s payroll ranges between 40 and 60 employees.
“It’s been tough dealing with COVID and now getting into mandatory vaccinations,” he said, adding staffing remains a challenge as it is for many businesses.
The business is focused on on-site services, including waste management and sanitation. They were focused on the industrial sector but are doing more work in the commercial and restaurant sectors as well as providing services for weddings and events such as the Ponoka Stampede.
Cook with Meg was the winner in the category for businesses of one to 10 employees.
The business was started by Meg Tucker, who was the creator of the original Shaw TV kids cooking show Just One Bite. The certified professional cook was also a top-25 finalist on Master Chef Canada.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Tucker pivoted to build her Cook with Meg food community. She provides live and on-demand cooking classes for adults, families and children in 10 provinces, neary 30 U.S. states and four countries.
Tucker said she started with 27 families. Eighteen months later, she has now taught 3,000 families the ins and outs of cooking.
“I’ve always loved to cook,” said Tucker in accepting her award for a business with one to 10 employees. “What has been really great about my journey is I didn’t know where it was going to take me.”
That journey has seen her teach cooking classes to children in a Vancouver hospice and to a group of Seattle families who have children with Down Syndrome.
“Kids are the most resilient, most creative, most magical little beings,” she said. “We don’t give them enough credit.”
The Breathing Room Yoga Studio and Psychle, at 2840 Bremner Ave., won in the 11-20 full-time employee category. The business offers a wide variety of yoga and spin classes and can also connect clients with massage therapists.
Co-owner Bonnee Gregg, who has fought cancer, thanked her friend and co-owner Krista VandenBrink for helping her get through.
“I’m so grateful you are in my life,” said Gregg.
VandenBrink said the past year has been very difficult for the business because of health restrictions that have kept them closed for 10 of the last 18 months.
“But we have made it through and we made it through with each other,” she said.
“We are so grateful to our yoga community and our cycle community who are showing up for us.”
The Young Entrepreneur Award went to Bestea Chill Out Café.
The business at 4702 5oth St. offers authentic Taiwanese fresh bubble milk tea and juice. Customers can try everything from the top-rated Bestea Classic Trio Mil Tea to Oreo Tokyo Cheesecake or a Fresh Purple Yam Ube Latte.
Owned by Kristina Mejica and her husband Mel Cruz, the business has been open for nine months.
Mejica said the couple moved from Grande Prairie to start the business. Mel quit his job as a truck driver to join his wife and the two have made the business a success.
Mejica said she looks forward to a time when their customers can come in without their masks and everyone can see each other’s smiles.