Nfld. & Labrador

Resilient businesses toasted in St. John's Board of Trade awards show

In a year like no other, the St. John's Board of Trade celebrated those who have fought and survived a year defined by disease and a history-making blizzard.

ClearRisk, Colemans, PAL Airlines and St. John's International Women's Film Festival celebrated

St. John's Board of Trade CEO AnnMarie Boudreau helped hand out the awards Wednesday. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

In a year like no other, the St. John's Board of Trade stepped back from praising the city's best local businesses to celebrate those who have fought and survived a year defined by disease and a history-making blizzard.

"We couldn't count sales or revenues or judge who moved the most product because the circumstances were different," said St. John's Board of Trade's CEO AnnMare Boudreau on Wednesday.

Instead of the usual hardware, the board of trade launched what it called the Business Resilience Awards "so that we could measure business differently and keep pace with what our community needed and how our community was acting."

There was no gala, either. Rather than renting a hotel ballroom, the board of trade organized the event at a studio at Canadian AV and streamed to the group's members. 

The board's first Business Resilience Awards had five categories. (St. John's Board of Trade)

Physically distanced because of COVID-19, the event was a fitting way to honour businesses that had to change their way of doing things as well. 

Awards were broken down into five categories: Opportunity Seeker, Boundary Pusher, Service Star, Community Champion and the Overall 2020 Resilience Award. 

PAL Airlines took home the Opportunity Seeker award. The company, despite Snowmageddon in January, managed to add a new route in 2020.

"We saw that there was a gap in Atlantic Canada and that there was a great demand to connect Newfoundland with New Brunswick," said Janine Brown, PAL Airlines' director of business development and sales. 

PAL Airlines' Janine Browne says it's been a challenging year for the airline industry but her company pushed to new heights. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"That required a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of people during a very challenging time."

Browne described the award as validation for the hard work staff that PAL staff have done to get through the pandemic.

PAL also added the Bombardier Q400 to its fleet. 

"We're really excited about this — a 76-seat aircraft," said Browne. "This is going to make sure that we can meet the demands of Newfoundland, Labrador and eastern Canada, and be sure to fill any gaps that become available."

Pushing boundaries 

The St. John's International Women's Film Festival won the award for Boundary Pusher. The group began working in March to prepare for an event that always draws crowds together into a theatre. 

"We're known for a big signature event in person connecting audiences with filmmakers and really being able to celebrate and showcase the city," said festival executive director Jenn Brown.

Jenn Brown of the St. John's International Women's Film Festival says some of the things incorporated into this year's festival be carried forward into future years. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"We normally bring in, you know, 100 presenters alone for our forums and panels."

This year, the festival had to figure out how to get people to get involved without actually being together, which meant moving it online. A shift to online streaming allowed the festival to reach audiences outside St. John's and indeed well beyond provincial boundaries. 

For the non-profit arts organization, being recognized by the board of trade was a victory itself. 

"As soon as COVID hit, people are looking to the arts more than ever for entertainment, but also that sense of community and connection," said Brown. "That's something that's such a core value of ours and so important to our work."

Colemans wins pair of awards

St. John's risk management software company ClearRisk was given the Community Champion award.

CEO Craig Rowe thanked the board of trade for the award on Twitter. 

Corner Brook-based Colemans walked away with two awards on Wednesday: the Service Star and Overall 2020 Resilience Award.

Sasha Persaud, the grocery chain's communications co-ordinator, said Colemans stepped up during Snowmageddon by paying its workers for shifts missed due to weather and then teamed up with local organizations to offer more access to food and donations. 

When the pandemic hit, she said, staff quickly got to work to change how they did business. 

"[We were] among the first to install plexiglass and have a dedicated shopping hour for our seniors, persons with disabilities and the immunocompromised," said Persaud. 

Sasha Persaud, communications co-ordinator at Colemans, says the company's win wouldn't have been possible without the public. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Like many others, Colemans also offered online ordering and curbside pickups.

Receiving the honour is a big deal for Persaud and the company, she said.

"We can't express how amazing this award means this year, because of everything that we've gone through as a community. And because of that, we don't just accept on behalf of ourselves, but for everyone." 

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