Two Indigenous, North Shore businesses have been voted the best in British Columbia.
Warrior Plumbing, a mechanical contracting company, and DK Architecture, a First Nations architecture firm, were crowned winners of the 2022 Indigenous Business Awards winning Business of the Year, for a one-to-two person enterprise and an 11-plus-person enterprise respectively.
The awards are held by the BC Achievement Foundation, with an aim of championing the contributions of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs across the province, and helping build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous economies.
Tsleil-Waututh handyman Curtis Thomas, president of Warrior Plumbing, said it came as "a pleasant surprise" to be acknowledged, and his team, all from Indigenous backgrounds, "humbly accepts" the award.
Thomas, who started the company in 2010, said his role in plumbing has transformed over time from "a means to feed the family" to an opportunity to be a role model in his community.
"Plumbing has become an avenue for me to be able to give other people an opportunity to train and be mentored. Not just to take care of their families, but to be role models themselves. To me that's what it's all about, that's my mission," he said.
"It's about continuing to build our Indigenous economy."
Anne Giardini, chair of the BC Achievement Foundation, said each of this year's awardees were "standouts," thanks to their unique offerings and services.
"Each of this year’s Award recipients provide new opportunities, help build stronger relationships, and contribute to more inclusive and resilient communities," she said.
When it comes to selecting a winner, Giardini said many factors are taken into account - including the business’s growth, innovative practices, quality of service, opportunities for Indigenous employment, successes and overcoming of challenges, and the benefits provided to the community or its members.
This year’s award theme, "Thuyshaynum: preparing the path, directing the feet," was chosen to put a spotlight on those specific businesses working to correct perceptions of indigenous history, and rebuild long-fraught relationships.
Dave Kitazaki, LEED AP of DK Architecture, is a member of the Xaxl’ip (Fountain) First Nation. With his work, Kitazaki aims to assist First Nations in their cultural revival, by providing built environments that honours and reflects their cultural identity.
He said that the growing education about First Nations in the general public is "great to see," and that now, more and more, they are being approached to assist other Architectural firms on large projects that need to have First Nation inclusion, involvement and consultation.
"The turning point is that now people are starting to talk about and pay attention to Indigenous businesses," added Thomas.
"For a long time we've been here and we've been working hard and have been successful, but not in the public eye."
"I think that's what is the real turning point, how people outside of the Indigenous community are recognising businesses as well and aren't afraid to talk about them and turn the light on them in a positive way."
Staff at the two North Vancouver companies will join the other six winning businesses, entrepreneurs, partnership entities and community-owned enterprises for a formal gala ceremony at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on Nov. 29. The public are invited, with those wishing to attend able to buy tickets from the BC Achievement Foundation's website.