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Tla’amin Nation business wins BC aboriginal award

Tla'amin Convenience Store's successful business reflects first nations culture
MOM AND SON: Tla’amin Convenience Store co-owners Eric Blaney and his mom, Gail, along with Eric’s wife Miel (not pictured), will attend the BC Aboriginal Awards in Vancouver on October 19. The store is being recognized for outstanding business achievement. Dave Brindle photo

Since opening in July 2014, Tla’amin Convenience Store has been accumulating business awards like banners in the rafters of a hockey rink.

Eric Blaney, the store’s co-owner, will receive a BC Aboriginal Business Award for outstanding business achievement at a gala dinner ceremony in Vancouver on October 19.

In 2015, the store was the Horizon Business Awards recipient for beautification from Powell River Chamber of Commerce. That was followed by BC Small Business Awards recognition for being in the top five in the entrepreneur of the year category as first runner-up and second runner-up in best community impact, which recognizes socially responsible businesses.

“I understand 536 businesses were nominated through the province for a number of different prestigious awards at those BC Small Business Awards and we were pretty stoked to make it to the top 10,” said Blaney. “We were even more stoked to make it to the top five.”

Awards the store has been recognized for are related to the important place it holds in the community, said Blaney.

BC Aboriginal Business Awards were launched in 2008 to honour and celebrate business excellence. A total of 15 aboriginal businesses, entrepreneurs, partnership entities and community-owned enterprises will be recognized at this year’s gala dinner.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Cathryn Wilson, executive director of the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, which sponsors the aboriginal awards.

The outstanding business achievement category Tla’amin Convenience Store was awarded in included nominated businesses that employ 10 or more people.

“They’ve done a lot of entrepreneurial innovation to serve the first nations in their community and they do an enormous amount of giving back,” she said.

Blaney said the business would not be where it is without its clientele.

“They are the ones who put us here,” said Blaney. “In order to receive this award, we have to be nominated by people in the community or organizations. We appreciate those nominations and we appreciate the community for coming in and making us the business we are today.”

Blaney said part of his business model is cultural authenticity that begins with the name of the store, taken from the Tla’amin language.

“Most people still call it Sliammon because that’s what they’re used to, but Tla’amin is who we are and we’re proud of that,” he said.

In becoming more culturally appropriate, Blaney said the store will stop the sale of offshore tourist trinkets.

“We want to lose the stuff made in China,” said Blaney. “We’re looking for art made locally and in Canada by first nations people.”

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