Awards celebrate business, big and small

Erin McAuley speaks at the 2018 Samuel McLeod Business Awards. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Businesses and entrepreneurs, old and new, came together Thursday night to celebrate the enterprises deserving of recognition for their achievements over the last year.

Thursday was the annual Samuel McLeod Business Awards, hosted by the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce. While the annual award winners were revealed, the evening gala was an additional chance for the chamber to recognize this year’s legacy award winner, Wayne Hansen.

Hansen was brought on stage and given a star blanket from the Northern Lights Casino, a huge honour for him.

“I had always hoped to have one sometime,” he said. “I’m very happy to receive that. I’ll cherish it too.”

While Hansen is still involved with Prince Albert Alarms, he doesn’t run as many of the day-to-day operations, entering into retirement this past October. The legacy award, he said, is the perfect way to mark his time as a local business owner.

Hansen also reflected on the other award winners, the business winners, Thursday night. He was happy to see some new businesses mixed in with the community stalwarts.

“It’s so nice to see fresh blood in our community,” he said. “They’re young, full of energy, with great ideas and great businesses too.”

One of those newer businesses is Fringe Lash Lounge. Owner Erin McAuley was the young entrepreneur winner Thursday night. Her business has come a long way in seven years.

“I feel overwhelmed and honoured and excited and emotional,” she said after her win. “It’s something that’s so dear to my heart, being in the business community in Prince Albert. I feel very emotional.”

McAuley started her business in her apartment. She traded her dining room table for a lash bed, and had her clients come through the back alley, up the stairs and to her apartment.

“That was a big sacrifice, but I knew it was going to be worthwhile in the end,” she said.

I was a young mom, and starting a business was a big venture for me, but I had faith it would work out. Long days, doing lashes, going to trade shows, anything I could do to advertise my business.”

McAuley said there were times she felt like giving up. But she pushed forward.

“When we first opened our commercial location, I was nine months pregnant. There was a lot going on and it was stressful and Kevin (my partner) was working away. It was stressful, but we knew we had the support of our community, so we knew we’d be able to get through that.”

The business moved into that location four years ago. Now, it’s expanding, with five staff and a sixth position being filled soon. She credited the chamber with helping her succeed.

“We’re definitely always growing our skills and taking on new parts of the business,” she said.

“Going into business was a way to succeed, not only for my family and my daughters, but for the community and to be able to give back to those in need.”

While a newer business won the young entrepreneur award, one of Prince Albert’s most established won business of the year.

Lake Country Co-op was the 2017 recipient. The winner is chosen from the pool of nominees from all of the other awards. According to CEO Dean McKim, the win shows the passion of the firm’s employees and its co-operative ownership.

“We’re absolutely honoured and humbled to win that award,” he said.

“It’s all about our people. It’s 800 of our employees that serve our customers and care about what they’re doing every single day. It humbled us to be a part of this association. It’s a very progressive organization, with a strong board of directors and the support of the community. We’ve got 38,000 members who support us. We rely on that every single day we operate.”

McKim said the Co-op is a truly local company, and likes to help not just non-profits, but other businesses in the areas it operates.

“We are a local company. We are owned by the people who shop here. In turn, when we’re successful, we pay back patronage to our members, and that money stays here in the community,” he said.

“We’ve very focused on helping or wanting other businesses in our community to be successful. We believe that growing the community, and the business community is going to help our communities in the future, and ultimately our members.”