There’s a Woolwich contingent among the list of nominees for 2018 Business Excellence Awards announced last week by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. It’s a group that includes the likes of Breslau’s Mike the Roofer, St. Jacobs-based Menno S. Martin Contractor, the Elmira Sip N’ Bite and the Woolwich Bio-En Inc.
The annual awards recognize not only business excellence in the respective categories, but the nominees’ impact on the wider community.
“What we’re looking at really for all of our award categories is a commitment to public service,” explained chamber vice-president Art Sinclair.
In the running for the KW’s Small Business of the Year award alongside nine other nominees is Mike the Roofer. The Breslau business, run jointly by the eponymous Mike Ninaber and his wife Amber, has been steadily building a reputation of integrity and quality in the region.
“Just the fact we’re being nominated as a small business, it’s exciting. It’s possible recognition for the efforts we’ve been pushing through and striving towards,” said Mike Ninaber.
Ninaber started working with his father in the roofing and construction business during the summer months while in high school – or from “humble beginnings,” as he describes it – and gradually came to start his own business with his father’s help in the late 1990s.
In 2005, Amber joined Mike in matrimony and, from there, the company, leveraging her talents on the administrative and office front to grow the business. The couple form an effective team, neatly delineating their roles, with Mike on the rooftops and Amber on the front desk.
Amber Ninaber explains that they strive to teach homeowners, who often tie up considerable money in their roofs, to make the best possible decisions, keep them accountable and emphasize the homeowners’ rights.
“I say it probably four times a week,” she said. “All we want to do is equip you to make a good decision. We genuinely want homeowners to feel empowered to make the right call, and we’re out of line if we think that has to be us.”
Menno S. Martin Contractor was selected in the category for the Employee Engagement Award. The longstanding contracting business in St Jacobs has roots going back decades in the community to its founding in 1942. To mark the 75th anniversary of the company, co-owners Art Janzen and Trent Bauman, who became the business’s third generation of owners after purchasing the business in 2010, wanted to do something special.
“It seemed to be a no-brainer when it came time to celebrate our 75th that [our] ‘putting people first philosophy’ just needed to shine through,” said Janzen. “And it needed to be about giving back to the community that got us to where we are.”
To honour the legacy of the original founder, Menno S. Martin, as well as the subsequent owner Laverne Brubacher, Janzen and Bauman put together an initiative that brought together the whole staff in that altruistic spirit, and could certainly be said to have engaged their employees.
“We enabled all our staff here to give back,” explained Janzen. “Using the number $75 to commemorate our years in business, we gave each of our employees, including myself and Trent, $75 to use for random acts of kindness. So it could be broken up into increments if you wanted.”
Each employee was given a month to perform their acts of kindness, and then at the end-of-year Christmas party, the employees shared their stories with one another.
“We had one of our staff here, he wanted to inspire a future builder,” said Janzen. The employee went to the Lego store where he saw a single mother with her son who was playing with this one Lego kit.
“So he went up to [the mother] and said, ‘I’d like to buy that,’ and he explained who he was and why he was doing it. And I got an amazing email from this woman who was just so grateful that we would do that with our staff, and she assured me that she would one day pay that forward,” says Janzen.
Besides that, the company also gave each of their employees $500 to donate to a charity of their choice, and donated a day to the Kitchener House of Friendship, putting their professional skills to use in construction for the organization.
In the Service Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism bracket, the Elmira Sip N’ Bite received the nomination. Naide Schnider, owner of the family restraint, said she was happy to be nominated, especially alongside fellow nominees like the Cambridge Mill.
In the Environment & Sustainability Award category, the Woolwich Bio-En Inc. plant, which processes some 70,000 tonnes of organic waste each year, producing green energy in the process.
The winners of this year’s Business Excellence Awards will be announced at an awards gala on February 22.