Looking sharp in a Black Tie

Dan Hudson wipes a tear from wife Andrea’s cheek after the young couple was served a Young Entrepreneur award for their Hudson’s On First restaurant. - Andrew Leong
Dan Hudson wipes a tear from wife Andrea’s cheek after the young couple was served a Young Entrepreneur award for their Hudson’s On First restaurant.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

He may have been wearing a spiffy tie when he collected the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce Black Tie award, but the winning solution behind Andrew Higginson’s consulting company partly stems from a laid-back, flip-flops-and-shorts-friendly work space.

“We try to have fun at work here, and we often say we work hard so our clients can play hard,” Higginson said Monday, after banking the Black Tie in the Business Achievement, 1-10 employees category during Saturday evening’s posh ceremony in Brentwood College School’s Crooks Hall.

“We’re right out of Mill Bay, and we’re just a small office, but we’ve got projects all over North America,” he said. “Everyone here is very passionate and this award certainly wasn’t an individual award; it’s a team award.”

The Brentwood College School alumnus and owner of the construction consulting company creates cool projects like zip-lines and climbing walls, as well as building trails and bike shelters. He was among two other business achievers and various other award winners announced Saturday.

Duncan’s Matrix Marble & Stone took top spot in the business achievement 11-19 employees category.

“There’s another 16 staff at the shop and they’re the reason I’m here,” Allenby Road shop owner Ivo Zanatta said upon accepting the award.

A similar message was carried by Buckerfield’s Kelvin McCulloch, who introduced managers Robert Andersen and Allan Boer at the ceremony, and thanked all his employees, some who’ve been at the local home and garden, animal feed and farm shop for more than 40 years.

Buckerfield’s won in the 20 or more employees category.

“I’d like to thank the Academy...,” joked McCulloch during the event that saw lots of shenanigans, including auctioning off Duncan, North Cowichan and Ladysmith mayors Phil Kent, Jon Lefebure, and Rob Hutchins as chefs for private dinners.

This year’s ceremony saw the most number of guests in its 18-year history with 288 seats filled. The Chamber received 108 nominations this year, and shortlisted 24 finalists over eight categories.

Selecting winners wasn’t an easy task, said the chamber’s Elizabeth Croft. But judges follow standard criteria in each of the categories.

“There’s always a big requirement for community commitment,” said Croft. “It can be community in the form of donations to sports teams and other stuff like that, but it’s also very much about keeping the economy at home; that’s really important,” she said also pumping up businesses providing locals with secure and fulfilling jobs.

“The best part of my job,” she said, “is meeting the people involved with these businesses. They all have deep roots in the community.”

Other winners:

Cowichan 's best of its best business leaders saw former Duncan mayor Mike Coleman crown Saturday's annual Black Tie gala with a Lifetime Achievement award.

That honour from the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce wasn't a secret — like eight other Black Tie winners unveiled at a festive ceremony for 280 in Brentwood College's Crooks Hall.

Costumer Service kudos were uncorked for to Jeff Downie and his Old Firehouse Wine Bar.

MaryAnn Deacon of the Cowichan Valley Hospice Society earned Volunteer honours, while Andrea and Dan Hudson were served a Young Entrepreneur award for their Hudson's On First restaurant.

The envelope heralding the Green Business winner was zip-lined from the ceiling, naming Dan Armstrong and Karen Hallquist of Velocal Delivery.

Gordon Smith of Cowichan Woodwork won the Art In Business award.

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