Centretown businesses strike gold with Chamber of Commerce awards

By KRYSTLE CHOW
Published in the Business section of Centretown News.
Dec. 9, 2005

Michael Koudsi is the president of Sugar Mountain and bronze medallist for the Businessperson of the Year award
Michael Koudsi is the president of Sugar Mountain and the bronze medallist for the Businessperson of the Year award.
Photo by ANDRÉ FECTEAU for Centretown News.

Centretown’s businesses are getting recognition for their contribution to the Ottawa business community in this year’s Ottawa Business Achievement Awards, winning the gold in four of the six categories.

The community was honoured with two silver and two bronze wins at the Dec. 1 ceremony.

Local companies credit their success to Centretown’s busy location in the heart of the city.

“The exposure we get in Centretown is greater than if we were in the outskirts of the city,” says Michael Koudsi, president of Sugar Mountain and bronze medallist for Businessperson of the Year. “We’re right in the middle of the action.”

Businesses of different sizes and sectors from across Ottawa were nominated for the awards, which were organized by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

Nominees were evaluated on business growth, job creation, customer service, research and development and community involvement.

“It does represent a wide cross-section,” says Gail Logan, president of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a celebration of businesses across the community.”

Logan calls the awards ceremony the “Academy Awards of business,” and says businesses often use the honour of being a finalist to promote themselves.

She adds the awards bring attention to local industries which can be ignored in Ottawa, and focuses on the government and the technology sector.

Koudsi’s candy franchise is one example of how many Ottawa businesses are experiencing great growth and success in the national market.

When he bought the name and the rights to Sugar Mountain in 2000, there were two outlets in Toronto. Since Koudsi moved its headquarters to Centretown, the company has grown to 11 stores across the country.

“It’s a high-traffic area with a good demographic,” Koudsi says of Sugar Mountain’s main outlet on Elgin Street. It’s a particularly good demographic for a big purple candy store that attracts adults and children alike.

While some companies say it’s enough to be nominated, others say the prestige and added credibility may spur further growth.

“When we were nominated for the small business category 10 years ago, the exposure was huge,” says Koudsi. “I have a feeling we’ll have a lot more calls from potential investors.”

Public History Inc. was nominated for the Mid-Market Business of the Year category. It’s the second time the historical research company has received recognition for its success, having been a finalist for the Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade’s Small Business of the Year award in 1999.

Sheldon Rice, an investment advisor with Canaccord Capital Corp. and nominee for the Businessperson of the Year category, says there have been more people interested in working with his team of investment experts since his nomination.

“There’s a comfort level in knowing they’re dealing with someone who’s recognized,” he says. “It’s human nature to want to work with the best.”

He says the nomination recognizes his team’s work in giving back to the community, which gives him the satisfaction of knowing he’s on the right track.

Rice’s team helps women build successful enterprises and manage their wealth.

“It shows that we’re community-minded people, especially in a business where we deal with money all the time,” Rice says. “It tells people it’s not just about that, but it’s also about giving back and being a good citizen.”

Dan Carruthers, the owner and founder of the Permedia Research Group Inc., says he hopes his company’s second-place win for Small Business of the Year will make local businesses think beyond Ottawa’s borders.

Carruthers says it’s a surprise to get local recognition, since Permedia is primarily an international business which prepares research software for big oil and gas companies.

However, he says he hopes the nomination will send a signal to the local community.

“You don’t just have to think locally to create wealth for the community,” he says. “The whole
world is your customer base.”

Four of the eight finalists in the Businessperson of the Year category and at least one nominee in each of the other five categories were from Centretown.

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