Two of the five Penticton businesses entered in the Small Business B.C. Awards have made it into the final round.
“It’s really great to get some recognition. We’ve been in the community for over eight years,” said Larissa Russell, founder of Henna Hut, which was nominated in the best marketer category.
Bill Broddy, the president of Wine Crush Market, echoed Russell’s reaction, saying it was exciting and flattering to be chosen as a finalist. They were nominated in three categories — Best Concept, Best Innovation and the Premier’s People’s Choice — and are a finalist in Best Concept.
Wine Crush Market and The Henna Hut now face a Dragons’ Den-style panel of business experts who will determine the winner in each of their categories.
Russell said she’s ready to handle the presentation to the experts, likening it to being back at UBC, where she completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
“We’ve created videos and done work on social media, lots of applications, lots of talking to the judges,” said Russell. “I am excited. I feel I’m prepared, so hopefully I will do our artists proud there.”
The origins of the Henna Hut go back beyond university.
“It was a business I created when I was a student at Pen High,” said Russell. “I’ve always been an artist and I was looking for a job that was meaningful to me.”
The business has grown over the years – their tents can be found at both Okanagan and Skaha Lake beaches, and at markets in Penticton, Summerland and Naramata.
“Every summer we hire at least 10 student artist interns,” said Russell. “It takes a lot of creativity, but if someone is an artist and able to create something, it is pretty easy to teach them.
“All of our interns are given training and in the end, they are very good at it.”
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Wine Crush Market, which started making breads infused with wine grapes last year may not have as long a history, but they are moving quickly.
Broddy says the story of how Wine Crush came to be might sound like an urban legend, if it wasn’t true.
He moved to the Okanagan a year-and-a-nhalf ago to retire after spending 30 years in the computer industry and being involved in a couple of other startup companies. It wasn’t long before he became bored with retirement.
As a hobby, he began making sourdough bread at home, and was experimenting with using grapes in the fermentation process. Then he visited a winery and noticed the wine maker shovelling pomace, the pulpy residue of the crushed grapes, out of the press.
“It was quite a bit like the slurry I was using putting into the sourdough,” he said. When he found out how much of the grape flavour and nutritional elements are still in the crushed remains, which are usually discarded to compost, an idea was born.
“I started working with the crush. It turned out really good,” said Broddy. “It had lots of flavour, it had some unique aspects to it that I really liked. I tried it out with other people and they really liked it.”
He put a team together to start working on turning it into a business.
“We’ve been at it for about a year now. We opened up a production shop on Brunswick Street last April,” said Broddy. The product range is expanding too, as the Wine Crush team finds uses for almost all parts of the grape left behind by the winemaking process.
They’re working on not just breads, but mustard, sausage, cheeses, even a coffee blend incorporating roast grape seeds.
“Our target for this summer is to put picnic stations into upwards of 50 wineries,” said Broddy. They’ve also just opened a new storefront on Main Street.
I think that is one of the reasons we got to the finals. We could accurately define the need, that there is all this waste that has great potential in the food industry. We could define products it would fit easily into,” said Broddy.
Pitches will be held in-person at Small Business B.C. in Vancouver between Feb. 6 to 14 and the winners will be announced at the annual Small Business B.C. Awards ceremony at the Pan Pacific Vancouver on Feb. 23
Recipients of Small Business B.C. Awards will be recognized with the Premier’s Prize in the amount of $1,500 cash, a one-year all-access pass to Small Business B.C. education, resources and experts and one-on-one business mentorship with notable advisors from the award sponsors.
Full list of finalists click here.