Two Whistler businesses nominated for BC Small Business Awards 

Public voted The Oracle and Kahuna Paddleboards as finalists for International Trade Award

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After a fire ravaged their Tyndall Stone Lodge location last month, staff members at The Oracle could have certainly used some good news.

They had to wait a few weeks, but that news came in the form of three nominations for the Small Business BC Awards, recognizing entrepreneurs who've made positive contributions to the province.

The Oracle, which offers unique gifts, home décor, jewelry and fashion, as well as holistic and spiritual services, was voted by the public as a Top 10 semi-finalist for the Best International Trade Award.

Fellow Whistler business Kahuna Paddleboards is up for the same award, which honours B.C. small businesses with exciting and viable trade business that contributes to the province's economy.

"The fact that our store is kind of invisible right now is super funny," said Oracle owner Kelly Oswald of the damaged Village location. The Oracle also has a location in Sechelt.

"I'm really proud of the fact that we got nominated."

Whistler realtor Steve Legge owns Kahuna Paddleboards, one of the companies driving the recent boom in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding in Canada. Legge did extensive research to create a stable board that would enhance the paddleboarding experience before beginning production in 2010, and retail sales the following year.

"We started out with only six stores in 2011 and have grown pretty rapidly," Legge said. "I think that's why we were nominated; because of our growth in a sport that's taking off, and we've been able to meet that demand."

Kahuna boards are produced in China and sold exclusively in Canadian stores, and have sold out every year since launching, Legge said. Kahuna made and sold 120 boards in 2011, 180 last year, and 510 in 2013. Legge said 900 boards have been ordered for 2014.

The Oracle is also up for two other BC Small Business Awards, for Best Workplace and Best Employer. General manager Terri Gercovich said it's the store's commitment to the community and their suppliers abroad that inspired her to begin working there over three and a half years ago.

"It's a real team and family environment," she said

"We're a local business that gives back to the community — we're always doing fundraisers every single year that not only help the local community but where we actually buy from. We do a lot of fair trade, and it's really important for me to share with customers where these things come from."

Oracle staff works directly with the individuals creating the store's handmade products in Mexico and Indonesia. They also regularly donate raised funds and a portion of their profits to two causes: a Mexican organization that supports women and children who've been abused, and a foundation in Bali that provides education to Indonesian children in need.

Oswald said she's been told her Whistler Village location could be up and running again by June, and credited her staff for the nomination and how they've dealt with the past few trying weeks.

"This award is completely staff driven, and I don't think we'd have the customers we do without them," she said. "Watching them go through this fire and the way they handled it, it was so amazing. They're not staff, they're family."

The nominees must now complete an extended award application that will be used to determine five finalists in each category. The top five finalists for each award will be announced Jan. 30.

The overall winners will be honoured Feb. 27 at the Small Business BC Awards ceremony in Vancouver. More information is available at www.sbbcawards.ca.

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