Whistler well represented at Small Business BC Awards 

Nonna Pia's named Best Company, Infinity Enterprises Best Immigrant Entrepreneur

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED. - SIMPLY THE BEST Pepe Barajas of Infinity Enterprises Group and Norm and Natasha Strim of Nonna Pia's were honoured at the Small Business BC Awards last week.
  • Photo submitted.
  • SIMPLY THE BEST Pepe Barajas of Infinity Enterprises Group and Norm and Natasha Strim of Nonna Pia's were honoured at the Small Business BC Awards last week.

Norm and Natasha Strim of Nonna Pia's Balsamic Reductions have some lofty goals for their product.

"We want to be the Kleenex of balsamics," Natasha said with a laugh.

"When someone talks about balsamics we want them to be saying Nonnia Pia's and not even mentioning balsamic reduction."

Being the most recognized brand in balsamics would indeed be an accomplishment, but judging by the success Nonna Pia's has had to this point, it may not be completely unreasonable.

At the Small Business BC (SBBC) Awards on Feb. 26, the Dragons' Den-approved Nonna Pia's took home another accolade in the form of the Best Company award.

Pepe Barajas of Infinity Enterprises Group was named Best Immigrant Entrepreneur.

"It really means a lot, because it reinforces the commitment that I have towards my employees to become a better leader for them every day," Barajas said.

"It also means I can share it with them. I may have received the award, but it was only possible due to the tremendous effort that they all put into the businesses every single day."

Barajas, too, has been well recognized for his business excellence as of late, taking home last year's Rising Star of the Year award at the Whistler Excellence Awards.

"There are weeks that I pretty much work 10 to 12 hours a day, and sometimes seven days a week, so this kind of recognition definitely makes it worth it to keep trying," he said.

Barajas — owner of the Mexican Corner and La Cantina restaurants in Whistler — is now planning to take his operation to the next level with a food manufacturing company based out of Whistler.

"That's a massive plan to tackle, so that's why I need to plan it very well because the investment will be a bit more aggressive in that company," he said.

For Nonna Pia's, things haven't really slowed down since they inked a deal on CBC's Dragons' Den last year.

In 2015, the Strims plan to expand to the U.S. market in a big way.

"In the next few months we're hoping to see ourselves in some of the bigger chains in California and actually in Texas too," Natasha said.

And there's sure to be more awards along the way — Nonna Pia's' Cabernet Merlot Balsamic Reduction was recently deemed the winner of the Gourmet Condiments and Sauce category at the Product of the Year Canada awards.

But the Strims say they couldn't have done any of it without the support of Whistler.

"We could be in a major city somewhere and I don't know that we would have the same experience in growing a business, because the community is always there to support us whether it's the farmers' market, bringing our product abroad, being there offering us feedback," Norm said.

"We've achieved a lot of success, but we haven't done it without the support of Whistler as a community, so we're really grateful for that."

Barajas also wanted to thank the people of Whistler and Canada.

"Last year when I won the Rising Star of the Year I mentioned it, and I mentioned it (at the SBBC Awards), if it wasn't because of the weather, I would feel like I am in Mexico," he said.

"Canada has welcomed me in a very warm way."

Other Whistler finalists at the SBBC awards were Canadian Wilderness Adventures and RDC Fine Homes — both top-five finalists for the Best Employer Award.

Nonna Pia's was also a top-five finalist for the Premier's People's Choice Award.



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