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Celebrating Calgary’s Small Business

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Despite the roller coaster of the economy, inflation, unemployment stats, Mergers & Acquisitions, post-pandemic rebounds and quirky broadsides like business new normals, small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) continue as the undisputed and vital drivers of Canadian – and Calgary – business.

The Calgary Chamber’s 2023 Small Business Week (SBW), all set for October, promises to be  exciting, valuabl, and much-deserved recognition. Calgary’s Small Business Week is a special time to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of teams, business owners and changemakers in Calgary.

SMEs are the economic engine of Calgary. They create jobs, support communities and bring innovation to industries which are Calgary business.

“A vibrant business community doesn’t exist without small businesses. They are the backbone of innovation and transformation in our local economy, here in Calgary,” says the enthusiastic Corey Kotyluk, vice president Independent Business Banking with connectFirst Credit Union and a major sponsor of Calgary’s SBW 2023.

“SMEs find new ways to solve problems when larger businesses are sometimes too slow to respond. They are nimble and can react quickly with creativity. They’re at the heart of diversifying our economy and they are transitioning us to a more robust business community for tomorrow.”

Desiree Bombenon is co-CEO and chief disruption officer of SureCall, the innovative, Calgary-based company which customizes customer service processes, and a major SBW sponsor. “We know that small business makes up the largest part of the Canadian business landscape, and Calgary is no exception. Our local businesses are extremely supportive of each other and want to see small business in Calgary grow.”

Brian Hierath, regional manager Business Banking with Servus Credit Union, and a major sponsor of Calgary’s SBW, points out that small business owners are resilient while navigating challenges like rate increases, continued supply chain disruptions and wage pressures brought on by a narrow pool of applicants. “Small businesses contribute to the vibrancy of our community,” he says. “For some new Canadians, operating or being part of a small business is an opportunity to build a life and a future for their families in Calgary.”

Small and medium-sized businesses play a crucial role in Calgary’s economy. “SMEs comprise a substantial portion of our workforce, stimulating local job creation and employment opportunities, and lending to our economic growth,” explains Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “They are also a key factor in the economic resiliency of the city.”

Area business stats confirm that, as Calgary continues to diversify, SMEs play a critical role developing innovative solutions and technologies.

“By virtue of their size, they are more agile and can readily adapt to take advantage of changing markets and trends. Across Canada, small businesses are struggling with labour and rising costs. No one has escaped these challenges,” Yedlin says.

“Finding and retaining skilled workers is often a challenge for small businesses – and this is on top of higher inflation, rent and interest rates.”

“Small Business Week is important because it continues to highlight the solidarity of our business community, and the relationships that builds future success,” Bombenon says. “Small Business Week is a celebration of Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit, and it continues to foster a strong and meaningful impact by bringing business and community together.”

The Chamber organizers are revved and ready with a variety of sessions and opportunities for businesses to network, strategize and learn from one another, and a lineup of relevant and interesting events – everything from employment contracts to negotiating tips and advancing Indigenous entrepreneurs.

The SBW Award night gala is always a Calgary special event, in many ways. This year, the 40th anniversary Awards gala on Friday, October 20, will recognize Calgary’s business best!

And the winners are:

  • The CPA Alberta Social Entrepreneurship Award, for the Calgary small business that has been a leader in finding ways of doing business while doing good for the large community and environment.
  • The Servus Credit Union People’s Choice Award presented to the Calgary small business that can demonstrate they have engaged the loyal support of their community. This award is determined by a public vote.
  • The Air Canada Resilient Business Award, for the business who has shown, and continues to show resiliency, compassion, and dedication since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The Bow Valley College Innovation Award, for the Calgary small business that is pushing conventional boundaries and is disrupting and reshaping their industry through groundbreaking achievements in bringing innovation to market.
  • The TD Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award, for a Calgary small business that is a leader in progressing principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in their workplace and community.
  • The Grant Thornton Emerging Growth Award, is presented to the new emerging small business that has shown rapid growth and profitability in its first 1 to 3 years of operations and shows the potential for future growth and commercial success.
  • The ultimate hardware at Small Business Week, the connectFirst Credit Union Small Business of the Year Award, for the Calgary SME that demonstrates significant business achievement, sustained growth and the potential to become a leader in Calgary’s business community.​

Ankur Mahajan is co-founder and CEO of Pulp Shred, the dynamic local company providing affordable, convenient and secure drop-off and pickup shredding services in Calgary, and a recent SBW Award winner.

“Being a small business owner is a lifestyle choice, and a great honour and privilege, personally and professionally,” he says with enthusiasm. “Because 98 per cent of businesses in Alberta are small business enterprises employing less than 100 employees, the economic ecosystem cannot exist without having the large and small companies coexisting, collaborating and competing. If the large companies are the magnets for attracting talent, capital and growth for the city, the small businesses are the lifeblood, the nerve-centre and fabric of the city, bringing the communities together. One cannot exist with the other.”

Mahajan adds that the SBW Award is a recognition of the positive impact of local businesses, and that Pulp Shred was humbled and grateful for the SBW recognition. “It gave us a lot of validation, confidence and morale boost that our Triple Bottom Line approach to business is recognized and appreciated by Calgarians.”

Andrew Obrecht is a respected entrepreneur and co-owner of the popular YYC Cycle Spin Studio, a recent Calgary SBW Award winner. “As a small business, you’re nothing without your community and culture,” he points out. “Being a small business allows you to foster the connection and energy that you want within your walls and to nurture the valuable relationships with every person that walks through the doors.

“The challenges, especially over the last few years, is the balance between business needs and the needs of customers. We have had to make some tough decisions, like shutting down studios, because it was the only way we could right-size the business to survive.”

According to Corey Kotyluk, “connectFirst understands the challenges and needs of our small business members, and we work alongside owners to find solutions that work best for their unique situations. Sponsoring Small Business Week is an opportunity to us to stay connected with the  special Calgary community and continue fostering important relationships – which is really at the heart of every small business.”

SureCall’s Desiree Bombenon underscores the importance of Calgary’s Small Business Week, highlighting “the solidarity of our business community, and the relationships that builds future success. It is a celebration of Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit, and it continues to foster a strong and meaningful impact by bringing business and community together.”

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