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Member Snapshots - July 2017

The strength of The Chamber is our members and the people that run these outstanding businesses. For July 2017, The Chamber featured:
If you would like to be featured in a Chamber Member Snapshot please send us an email or give us a call at 250-383-7191.



Natasha W. Crawford, Brown's The Florist

Name: Natasha W. Crawford
Position: Owner
Organization: Brown's The Florist
Founded: 1912
Number of Employees: 15
Member since: 1981

Brown's The Florist is an award-winning locally owned professional florist that focuses on sustainable business practices. Proud to carry over 75% locally grown flowers and plants. Open and delivers from Sooke to Sidney 7 days a week.

Member Snapshot Questions

What’s your favourite thing about your job? The challenge!! Margins are slim so I have very little room for error and always must be planning ahead—looking at the seasons and where different crops are being grown. There is more to this industry than one might think! It is constantly fluctuating and therefore a constant challenge to stay abreast (if not ahead) of the curve.
What is the best part about doing business in Greater Victoria? Victoria is a small town wrapped up in a big city. We love serving regular clients just as much as we love receiving an order from a brand new customer. Although we are one of many floral businesses in Greater Victoria, we have also loved that we are part of a collaboration and not competition; each shop has its own specialization and group of regular clients.
What project is your business proudest of? We have been asked to create flowers for celebrities, royalty, dignitaries, and commemorative occasions in Victoria from a time before the Parliament buildings were built or the Empress hotel opened. We can not a pick single event; however, we are proud of our relationship and support of our Canadian Military through WWI & WWII, to present day.
What sets your business apart from other businesses? Our longevity in Victoria is one of our greatest differentiators; with that name and reputation comes a guarantee of quality. We are proud of our heritage and make a strong effort to continue as a locally owned, sourced, and operated business in this growing global climate of big-box stores.
How is your business innovative? We are watching style trends and work hard to bring those trends to Victoria. We care about where our flowers are grown and the environmental impact those growing practices have on the workers and our world.
Why do you like working in your industry? Why wouldn’t we!? We get to work with fresh, fragrant flowers every day—and we get to help create memorable experiences for people.
How is your business involved in the community? Over 70% of our advertising budget is spent supporting local events to raise money for charity work in our community. We believe strongly in giving back and always have. Our community is worth investing in and it's a core value of our company—giving back.
How is your business environmentally sustainable? In every way we can be. From recycling everything we can within the store, sourcing locally whenever possible, to working with sustainable crops…. we work hard to remain as carbon efficient as possible.
What is one job you could never do? Window washing skyscrapers!!
What are you passionate about? Recycling and the environment.
Favourite place on Vancouver Island? In my garden with my family.
What do you think is the most important life lesson for someone to learn? To be able to admit when you have made a mistake or are wrong, and to do it with grace.
Who is your role model or has had the biggest influence on your life? Christine Dysart, the previous owner of Brown's—her straightforward, hands on, hard working approach to all business problems made her a leader in our industry and a delight to work for.
How do you relax? Take a stroll through Butchart Gardens—I make a point of enjoying this world class destination that is right in our backyard.
Where can we find you on the weekend? Chasing my 3-year-old!
What’s your favourite mode of transportation to get around town? By foot—there are so many neat nooks and crannies in this beautiful city that are best enjoyed by simply taking the time to stop and smell the roses!

Centennial Questions

How and when was your business founded? Our roots stretch back to the late 1800s, when Mary Ann Brown, a migrant from England with her own fruitful story in Victoria, B.C., established Fairview Esquimalt Greenhouses. Her nurseries expanded into flower shops and, when sold to William H. Brown of Brown Bros., eventually became Brown’s The Florist.
How has your business remained relevant for so long? A focus on customer service and quality product. The floral industry has been part of life’s milestone celebrations for hundreds of years—our product is naturally available, locally sourced whenever possible, and carries with it the symbolic love languages of numerous historic cultures.
How important is succession planning? Critical! As only the fifth owner of this blooming business, I was chosen from within the company by the previous owner, Christine Dysart, who worked with Brown's for 40 years!! Chris vendor-financed my purchase and was my business coach for a decade to ensure a smooth transition of ownership.
Is your business a family business? How many generations of your family have worked in the business? Do you have legacy employees (multi-generational)? While our business is not a family business in the strict sense of the term, we still consider ourselves to be family-owned. Our average length of employment is 8 years, and we have many employees who have been with us as long as 20+ years, including Kathy Blaine, our Manager of our Sidney location, who has worked at Brown's for 40 years!
Any famous company legends/stories/ghosts? While we cannot quite claim this as our own story, our predecessor, Mary Ann Brown of Fairview Esquimalt Greenhouses outlived 5 husbands and developed quite the reputation as both business owner and woman. We are very proud of the strong history of female leadership within our company. Her full story was beautifully covered by well-known author and Esquimalt Archives' volunteer, Sherri Robinson and can be found in "Esquimalt Centennial: 1912-2012".
Best customer story from over the years? You could ask each one of us at Brown’s The Florist that question and we would all have our own answer. From hand-writing the touching love letters sent through our online ordering system (some quite literally eliciting tears), nick-of-time florals for last-minute emergency calls, the buzz of serving high-profile clients, or the artistic challenge in creating full design sets… we meet with a new favourite story every time we turn on our Open sign!
How has selling your product changed over 100 years? The internet has been a blessing and a curse. We have the ability to showcase our product for customers and we guarantee what we sell; however, our industry has been easy prey for fraudsters who create fake flower websites—using popular searched names like ours so you think you are ordering from us, but they skim money from your order and have it delivered by another flower shop - it's a loss for the customer and damage to our reputation. If you ever order flowers on the internet, always make sure you check the shop address to confirm it's a real shop.
How have you adapted in selling your product for over 100 years? The internet has changed our selling process considerably. We now have people in Saudi Arabia ordering flowers through us to be delivered to family in Toronto! It is sometimes mind-boggling how the internet has changed the way we conduct business day-to-day, but we are ultimately very grateful for the global connection we can achieve through website referrals.
How will you continue to adapt your product for the next 100 years? There can only be speculation as to how our selling process will change in times to come. All we can say is that we are adaptable and not afraid of a new challenge. We are proud of the business we work for and will do everything in our power to continue to operate in years to come.
What do you see your business selling/providing in the next 100 years? We believe that the floral industry is timeless. Flowers speak a language that is as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago and we hope will continue to be equally relevant in years to come. Whether expressing emotions of friendship, adoration, love, sorrow, or appreciation; flowers tell a story in a thoughtful, graceful, and natural way that we believe will continue to thrive in years to come.


 

 

Mike Shemilt, Island Blue Print

Name: Mike Shemilt
Position: President
Organization: Island Blue Print
Founded: 1912
Number of Employees: 45
Member since: 1961

Island Blue as it is known today operates three divisions, a technologically advanced digital printing operation, including a book printing division branded as “Printorium Bookworks” and the Art Store is Victoria’s largest retailer of fine artist, graphics and craft supplies. 

Member Snapshot Questions

What is your favorite thing about the job? Working with staff and management to help grow the company with new services and products and our customers—it’s a privilege to help bring their ideas to life.
What is your company’s greatest strengths? The staff, many have been with the company for ten, twenty and thirty years, they have such a strong commitment in helping produce the best results for our customers.
What was your first job? Along with my brothers, at a very early age our parents had us stuff and lick envelopes every month to get customer statements in the mail.
Who is your role model or has had the biggest influence on your life?
My father, whether it was sports, personal or business, he was honest and fair, he always explained it the way it was.
How do you relax? A good glass of red wine!
Favourite summer activity? Head to the cabin at Shawnigan Lake.
If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead who would it be?
Mr. Davenport, the founder of Island Blue Print, it would be interesting to learn more about the company in its early years when my Grandfather worked in the company from 1916 – 1920. 

Centennial Questions

How and when was your business founded? Island Blue Print & Map Co. Ltd. was originally founded 105 years ago on July 4th, 1912, when Mr. Joseph Davenport was awarded a contract to remap the City of Victoria.
How has your business remained relevant for so long? Diversification: from map drafting to blue prints, drafting supplies to art & craft supplies, offset printing & copying to digital printing. Today, a big investment in technology in our print shop and keeping on top of trends in the art material business.
Do you still sell the same product you did 100 years ago? How has it changed over time? Printing of building drawings: originally manually developed using sunlight and liquid developer, today the use of high production digital printers. And we still sell pencils!
Is your business a family business? The Shemilt family has been involved since 1950, when Vic Shemilt joined the company, today it is operated by son’s Mike, Craig and Rob.


Scott Kolb, Victoria Golf Club

Name: Scott Kolb
Position: General Manager
Organization: Victoria Golf Club
Founded: 1893
Number of Employees: 200 in its peak
Member since: 2006

We are fortunate to have one of the most spectacular pieces of land (anywhere), but we also pride ourselves in the “Club” atmosphere that we provide. It’s like the Members' second home.

Member Snapshot Questions

What is the best perk of your job? Standing on our 9th tee. You see snow-capped mountains, ocean, and wildlife. There is something about the smell of the coastline, its rugged feel and west coast views that are hard to beat.
What’s your favourite Chamber event? Our Team enjoy the educational seminars offered by The Chamber, especially the various social media seminars.
How are you involved with The Chamber? Over the years, we have had a variety of our team attend numerous Chamber events, from luncheons to seminars, and we look forward to continuing to attend in the future.
Business lunch or after work drinks? Both have their purpose in educating and networking.
What is the best part about doing business in Greater Victoria? Victoria is getting bigger but still has a small town feel when it comes to the business owners. The degrees of separation from people seem very close.
What project is your business proudest of? Recently, building the new Turf Care facility with many environmentally-focused changes. Also, our restoration of the golf course started in 2009 and is nearing completion.
What is your company’s greatest strength? Location and financial position.
What sets your business apart from other businesses? The desire to continue to improve and invest in its course and buildings. We have reinvested over 10 million back into the club in the last ten years.
How is your business innovative? Golf and 124-years-old businesses don’t usually get labelled as innovative, but I would consider us the most innovative club in BC. We have drones assisting in making sure we don’t over-water and detect disease in our turf, we are using the first robotic greens mower in the country, we have a golf simulator for teaching golf, and we even have a Club App for our members to use for reserving events, making tee times and viewing their statements.
Why do you like working in your industry? Most golfers are also great people, so you can get such a wide variety of personalities. In my case, I have the good fortune of getting to know our members. Some are here a few days a year and others are here every day of the week.
What is the new with your business? The industry as a whole has had to evolve to make sure we are relevant to families. Gone are the days that a person could spend the whole day at the club without his or her family. We have really changed many of our programs to be family-focused. Our kids programs start at 4 years old, and we have worked hard with local schools to continue to grow the game of golf.
What was it about a boss/co-worker/employee that made them great to work with? Our staff make the difference for member experience. You can have a great course and elegant building, but you need the life of the staff to make a member feel like it’s their home.
Do you have a business etiquette pet peeve? People using the letter “I” too many times in cover letters. It’s your 30 seconds to tell me how you will solve my staffing problem, not to give a summary of your resume.
How is your business involved in the community? Over the years, we have been very involved with Victoria Women’s Transition House, KidSport Victoria, Power to Be and other great local charities.
How is your business environmentally sustainable? Our VGC Green Committee is proud of the work we have done around the clubhouse to reduce our environmental impact, and we continue to challenge ourselves. We have been working with a local company, Synergy Enterprises, for about two years now, and we have some great examples on how we have saved water and energy in our buildings and on-course. We are still looking at new ways to grow and encourage any member of our staff to join the VGC Green Committee to help better the Victoria Golf Club.
How is technology changing your business? Communicating to our customers is great, but it’s also more work. In the past, we would only put out a paper hard copy newsletter and that was how people knew what was happening at the Club. Nowadays, we have several communication tools: website, social media channels, e-blasts, emails, apps, posters, TV screen info boards and yes, even the old paper newsletter.
What is the one thing no one understands or knows about your business? Three things actually: 1) People underestimate how many people the golf industry employs. I think in many smaller communities in our province, it would be the leading industry employer. In Oak Bay alone, we employ more than 200. 2) That our golf course is actually not bad for the environment. We have 100 acres of green space surrounded by homes and businesses. We use very scientific processes to know how much water to use, and we invest thousands of dollars every year to do our part in being environmental stewards of our property. 3) I think the hardest thing that we and other private clubs have to deal with is getting past people’s perception of what a private club is. People think private and visualize stuffy and unfriendly, but the reality of all private golf clubs in Victoria is a family-focused, comfortable and welcoming environment.
What was your first job? Cleaning shoes and picking up the range balls.
What is one job you could never do? At the golf club, there isn’t any I wouldn’t do but I don’t think our Members would trust me on the kitchen line (I’m not a good cook).
Dogs or Cats? Dogs!
What do you think is the most important life lesson for someone to learn? To learn to enjoy the curveballs in life. When things go wrong, it’s not always a terrible thing.
Who is your role model or has had the biggest influence on your life? My wife for sure. Not only is she my biggest supporter, but she definitely helps me keep a balance in life. She also knows when to kick my butt.
How do you relax? This will sound odd, but going to Las Vegas and sitting by the pool or golfing is when I feel the most relaxed.
Where can we find you on the weekend? With the family, doing whatever my wife tells me!
Big city or the wilderness? In Victoria, I feel it’s easy to do both in one day.
Could you manage without your cell phone? No chance, I’m addicted.
Favourite summer activity to do in Victoria? Walking through the Inner Harbour in the summer. The life and activity make for some great people-watching.
Favourite social media for work/personal? Linkedin is my favourite. I’m really starting to enjoy the articles posted (that aren’t self-promoting).

Centennial Questions

How has your business remained relevant for so long? The sport itself has had some highs and lows, but we offer a family-feel for our Members and their guests. At one time, we had a 6th generation Member.
What is the key to longevity? In our case, staying true to what we are. We try to be the premier product on the Island and our continual capital investment in the clubhouse and course are proof of that.
Do you still sell the same product you did 100 years ago? How has it changed over time? Same as 100 years ago, only change is that we have focused on staying socially relevant vs just being a place to play golf.
How important is succession planning? We have a slightly different approach in that we try to hire people who want to grow. Employees wanting to grow into the position above them is great, but more importantly is having a team of individuals who are trying to continue to learn. This is what makes a great environment. We are fortunate in that if we do have to hire outside of our team, we have a strong reputation for advancing careers.
Do you have legacy employees (multi-generational)? Our 40+ year former Head Professional’s son is our Second Assistant on the Greens Maintenance team.
Any famous company legends/stories/ghosts? All of the above. I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but we do have some great stories from staff and Members of strange things that have happened over the years around the clubhouse. I often find myself telling my spooked-out staff to not worry—Doris (our resident ghost) is a friendly ghost who likes to play tricks from time-to-time.
How has Victoria changed in 100 years? Being more than just a “government employee” city. Our hospitality industry in Victoria has become world class.
How has selling your product changed over 100 years? Not much as the sport has been pretty much the same, but we have had to adapt with the social side of the needs of our community members.
How have you adapted in selling your product for over 100 years? By offering more family-oriented memberships, women’s and kid’s golf programs and fitness classes to appeal to the growing needs of our membership and local community.
How will you continue to adapt your product for the next 100 years? Expanding what we offer to our Members. At a recent seminar, I heard a good analogy of what the Private Club industry is—we are like a Cruise Ship. We offer exceptional food and entertainment, highly personable staff, all within an elegant building. Also, we offer programs that the whole family and adults can enjoy. Golf is a strong reason for many of our Members to join, but it is not the only reason why a family would invest in being a Member of a private club.


Jennie Edgecombe, YMCA-YWCA Vancouver Island

Name: Jennie Edgecombe
Position: CEO
Organization: YMCA-YWCA Vancouver Island
Founded: 1875
Number of Employees: 300
Member since: 1987

The YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island has a rich 140 year history in our community. With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y nurtures the potential of children and teens, improves the community’s health and well-being and provides opportunities to give back and help.

Member Snapshot Questions

What’s your favourite thing about your job? The people.
Business lunch or after work drinks? Lunch, but breakfast’s better.
What is the best part about doing business in Greater Victoria? The support and engagement of the community
What is your organization’s greatest strength? Our volunteers who share their time and talent and support the vision of building a strong community.
Why do you like working in your industry? The charitable sector has expanded rapidly in the last two decades and is now a major sector in Canada, being able to contribute to the growth and learn from the sector is motivating.
What is the one thing no one understanding or knows about your organization? The YMCA and YWCA are two separate organizations; we are one of only five combined organizations in Canada.
What is one job you could never do? Barista, I could never remember all the different options and types of coffee!
Dogs or Cats? Dogs.
Favourite place on Vancouver Island? Esquimalt Lagoon.
Who is your role model or has had the biggest influence on your life? I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from many inspiring leaders over the course of my career.
Favourite summer activity to do in Victoria? Taking the Harbour Ferries.
What’s your favourite mode of transportation to get around town? Walking.
If you had a superpower what would it be? Time travel.

Centennial Questions

How and when was your organization founded? The YMCA was first started in Victoria in 1875 by a group of citizens to create an organization that would provide a venue for learning and sporting activities during a time of economic depression when many young men were unemployed.
Do you still have the same programs as 100 years ago? We no longer have a Reading Room, and the Y now provides Licensed Childcare at 3 different locations. Other programs have evolved from a women’s residence to a Young Mom’s Supported Housing program and a Youth Supported Housing program, from sporting activities to Health, Fitness and Aquatic centres, from day camps at the Gorge to Outdoor Education, Youth Leadership and Camp programs at the Y’s Outdoor Centre.
How has your organization remained relevant for so long? The Y has developed partnerships and adapted programs, services and locations to meet changing community needs over the years.
Do you have legacy employees (multi-generational)? Yes, we have a wide range of ages amongst our staff from teens to some in their seventh decade.
Any famous stories? Emily Carr was one of the founding members of the YWCA in Victoria, her sister Edith was the first President of the YWCA
How will you continue to adapt your organization for the next 100 years? As the population grows, ages and becomes more diverse the demands for services will increase and change. The Y will continue to grow and evolve to meet these changing needs.


Dave Cowen, The Butchart Gardens

Name: Dave Cowen
Position: CEO
Organization: The Butchart Gardens
Founded: 1904
Number of Employees: approx. 600
Member since: 1987

As one of the world’ preeminent show gardens, The Butchart Gardens is a year round destination offering world class horticulture, fine dining and a variety of entertainment.

Member Snapshot Questions

What’s your favourite thing about your job? Seeing visitors enjoy the gardens. It’s amazing to see how people react to the displays and how much they enjoy what our staff creates.
What is the best perk of your job? Amazing work environment! I love arriving to work every day!
How are you involved with The Chamber? The Gardens has been a Chamber member for over 40 years. Mr. Ross felt that both The Chamber and Tourism Victoria were important to developing Victoria’s tourism sector.
What is the best part about doing business in Greater Victoria? Lots of passionate, locally owned attraction, transportation and tourism partners to collaborate with.
What is your company’s greatest strength? It’s very dedicated and talented staff.
Why do you like working in your industry? All we do is build something beautiful and make people happy!
How is your business environmentally sustainable? As a garden that has to produce a world class crop every year at the same location, we have to be strong eco stewards of our site. We use organic fertilizers, integrated pest management, have a very efficient composting and soil production facility….and we do not sell bottled water!
What was your first job? Worked in a pet shop and then a herbarium.
What are you passionate about? Beautiful landscapes.
Favourite place on Vancouver Island? Ogden Point Breakwater & Inner Harbour.
What do you think is the most important life lesson for someone to learn? Humility, the ability to listen and the need to be collaborative.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Only do things that you love.
How do you relax? Spend time with my wife and children.
Where can we find you on the weekend? This time of year? With my kids at the ball park, dance studio or soccer field. And in the garden!
Big city or the wilderness? Wilderness.
Could you manage without your cell phone? Categorically no. But I try during vacations.
If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead who would it be? Jennie Butchart!

Centennial Questions

How has your business remained relevant for so long? Through our 12 Month Pass holders we maintain a strong community connection, earning The Gardens many loyal repeat visitors when locals host friends and family or visit on their own. Visitors from around the world in all seasons continue to find viewing our beautiful, colourful gardens to be an enduring experience that stands the test of time. Even though the core nature of Jennie Butchart’s garden is preserved, every year The Gardens improves its display, varies its entertainment and offers different culinary experiences.
What is the key to longevity? By staying focused on what our team does best, we’ve sought to continually improve our colourful annual gardens, year round landscape, cuisine, entertainment and shopping. With over one million annual visitors, it is evident that The Butchart Gardens is as relevant in 2017 as it was in 1904 when Mrs. Butchart started her masterpiece.
Do you still sell the same product you did 100 years ago? How has it changed over time? The family and staff have worked hard to preserve the experience of Jennie Butchart’s estate garden as visiting such a colourful and intimate setting has proven to be an enduring experience. In that Jennie Butchart personally served tea to many of her guests, for many decades the tradition of ever improving hospitality, amenities and entertainment has been an important focus of the family and staff. Over the years, night illuminations, fireworks, illuminated fountains, musical entertainment, eco boat tours, a hand carved carousel and a large Christmas display complete skating rink have been added.
How important is succession planning? Very! In order to be as good as it is, it is critical that The Butchart Gardens remains under family management and stewardship.
Is your business a family business? Yes; now owned by the Great Granddaughter of Jennie Butchart
How many generations of family have worked in the business? 3 (Mr. Ross, Grandson took on The Gardens when he was 21 years old and The Gardens is now in the hands of his daughter Robin Clarke).
Do you have legacy employees (multi-generational)? Yes, many husbands/wives and children of staff have worked at The Gardens.
What do you credit for your longevity? A strong focus on quality, consistency and value; beautiful all year, high housekeeping standards and good hospitality.

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