Nonna Pia’s prepares for busy year

The Whistler company has been nominated for two major awards in 2015

 Local company Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions is starting the year with three nominations for two different awards.  

After a successful 2014 — during which they struck a partnership deal on CBC’s Dragon’s Den — the balsamic reduction makers have been named a semi-finalist in the 12th annual Small Business BC Awards in the categories of People’s Choice and Best Company. Last weekend, they also found out that they are among the Canadian companies to pass a jury vote and become finalists for the 2015 Product of the Year Canada.

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“We’re really excited,” said Natasha Strim, president of the family company. “2014 was a big year for us. It was definitely an eye opener in understanding what we can achieve. I think 2015 is going to be even bigger.”

In November, the Strims — including Natasha, her husband (and chef) Norm, daughter Georgia and son Oliver — appeared on Dragon’s Den and struck a deal for $200,000 for 18 per cent equity with “dragons” David Chilton and Arlene Dickinson. Their goal was to expand to eastern Canada. Since then, the deal with Dickinson has fallen by the wayside, but their relationship with Chilton has continued to grow.

“Even before we closed the deal, (Chilton) was helping us so much,” Natasha said. “We had a great relationship with him from the beginning. He said, ‘You’re in B.C. Why aren’t you in the rest of Canada? Why aren’t you in the U.S.?’ We got pushed so hard. I don’t think we took a break from March until November.”

But it’s paid off. In the last two months, the company has gotten into Loblaws in eastern Canada, Sobeys Ontario and Sobeys Atlantic. They’ve also made a U.S. business plan and are heading to California for presentations, including one with Whole Foods.

“We’ve pretty much covered all of Canada as far as major retailers go,” Natasha said. “The next thing for us is to make sure people like the product.”

Part of the challenge is getting noticed on the shelves of big stores. To that end, awards can play a big role. Nonna Pia’s was one of five Whistler companies to make it to the semi-finals in the Small Business BC Awards (see sidebar for more on the others). They submitted late, but managed to rally enough voters to make it to the next stage, which will be turned over to a jury. The winners will be revealed on Feb. 26.

The Product of the Year award, meanwhile, will move to a national consumer survey before its winners are chosen in February.

Accolades from locals have been coming from all corners of Whistler since their big TV appearance. “People love the fact that they know us personally and we’ve done so well and they like that they’ve contributed to our success,” Natasha said. “Being a small town, there have been so many hands that have touched our company.”

Whistler businesses dominate small business awards

Five Whistler businesses are among the 10 semi-finalists for Small Business BC Awards.

They include Canadian Wilderness Adventures for Best Employer, Infinity Enterprises Group for Best Immigrant Entrepreneur, Lighthouse Visionary Strategies for Best Community Impact, Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions for Premier’s People’s Choice and Best Company and RDC Fine Homes for Best Employer.

British Columbians nominated their favourite small businesses for the awards from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30 and the semi-finalists were revealed last month. Over 460 nominations were received from around 70 communities, including nine nominations from Whistler, according to a press release.

Now, the semi-finalists will face a panel of judges who will choose the top five finalists, to be announced on Jan. 30. Finally, the winners will be honoured at an event on Feb. 26 in Vancouver.

For more information on the awards visit sbbcawards.ca.

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