This year has been a big one for us - we started off the season with the seven of us in our family sitting around the dining room table one night at supper. "It's our 20th anniversary in business," we said, "We better make it our best one yet!"
But let's back up a bit...three years ago was a significant turning point - it was the year that all three of us kids moved back home to Kelowna and decided to join our parents on the farm and in the business. For me, I was eager to tackle the website and spruce up our online store. My sister-in-law was desperate to rid the place of plastic packaging. And my brother wanted to get the word out about our farm and dive into online marketing - something we'd never done much of before.
Since then, we've redesigned our website, rebranded with a new logo and label design, eliminated plastic packaging and sourced unique biodegradable options. Our mom came up to us one day and asked if it would be worth mentioning our sustainable farming practices to our visitors - she had never thought anyone would be interested before then! All along we'd had this unique story, and we were beginning to realize just how important it was to start sharing it with as many people as we could.
Finally this year we felt like we were at a point where our business was ready to get noticed. We researched and entered several small business contests, at last with the confidence that we might actually make it past the initial selection round.
The first 'wow' moment was when we were notified by the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest that we'd made it into the top 75. We were thrilled and extremely overwhelmed, suddenly finding ourselves at the start of our harvest and needing to make, edit and submit a finalist video in less than a week. Somehow we got it done and uploaded it just in time, then went back to the garden to continue picking. A few weeks later when we found out that we had been awarded bronze, we couldn't stop smiling and laughing and hugging and dancing - we did it!!
Not long after, we were notified that we'd progressed to the second round of the Canada Post E-Commerce Innovation Awards. At this point, we were deep into our busiest time of the year and were rarely in the office - we were busy picking, distilling, and making products in overtime to keep up with our summertime rush. We could not even begin to believe that, after all these years, we were receiving the recognition we'd been working so hard to achieve. We were equally incredulous and feeling in over our heads - when would we have the time to submit coherent and convincing written responses for the Canada Post awards?! We were so excited, and yet the timing of it all was making us a little batty. We submitted the best responses we could manage, sent them off, and more or less forgot about them.
Fast forward to late August - our season was beginning to wind down, our main harvests were over, we finally felt like we could catch our breath. And then we got the phone call that we'd been selected as a finalist for the Social Responsibility Award with Canada Post. We were absolutely shocked, and for a moment didn't really even think it was true. "Are you sure?" I asked my brother, who had answered the phone. "Is this for real?!"
You need to remember that we grew up in this business. We helped set up farmer's markets and holiday event booths. We embossed labels, programmed cash registers, learned to distill. We spent weekends pulling weeds, picking rocks, planting seedlings. We know exactly where it all started and how much effort had gone into making it what it is today.
And now suddenly, our little farm was on a big stage next to major companies and some incredible Canadian success stories. We were invited to attend the Canada Post awards gala in Toronto, and we decided that after such a busy, crazy, exciting season - why not go celebrate and have some fun?!
We three managed to slip away last minute, hop on a plane and enjoy a day and a half in the city. As we waited in the airport, we realized that it had been over a decade since the three of us had all travelled together, despite seeing each other almost every day at work. So we made a point of squeezing in a couple hours of quality family vacation time along the boardwalk!
The rest of our short trip to Toronto was full of learning, growing and networking among some incredible speakers and panelists during the day, and the gala at night.
That evening, we felt like celebrities as we walked into the banquet hall, and kept pinching ourselves that it was all really happening. Throughout the supper, a slideshow looped with photos of the companies who were finalists, and we couldn't help but stop and stare every time ours cycled through.
We returned home to the farm absolutely inspired and filled with a renewed passion for everything we do. Making big change isn't always the easiest path to take, but we are so proud of what we've accomplished over the past few years and are incredibly thankful for all of YOU for following along! THANK YOU for helping us make this season truly one of our best ones yet :)