Sudbury’s Bell Excellence Award winners survived during difficult times

Thursday evening, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce hosted the 25th annual Bell Business Excellence Awards.

This year, the chamber received 146 nominations for its 10 award categories.

Among the winners was Black Labb, a clothing company that was founded by two Sudburians in 2020. It won the Business Start-Up award.

One of the co-owners, Linda Audette, said winning was a surreal feeling

“We’re still taking a little time to process it," Audette said.

"It’s really nice to get a tap on the back. It’s truly our customers that are designing for us, we’re just bringing all of the ideas to the table and making it happen.”

“I mean, you don’t actually go to an award ceremony thinking you’re going to win, and we were up against some amazing businesses,” added co-owner Becky Calabakas.

Audette owns The Plus Size Factor, where Black Labb clothing is sold. She had to close the doors on multiple occasions due to the pandemic, but she said it all led to where they are now.

“We were deemed non-essential, but continued with our curbside (sales), with our online store and also continued with our manufacturing," Audette said.

"There was a lack of shipping, a lack of goods available, even throughout Canada -- our Canadian manufacturers were suffering just like we were. So, we said, let’s do this and we went right into manufacturing and we (held) our first launch party in September 2020."

The Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Kyle Marcus, owner of The Alibi Room.

He said he couldn’t have won the award without his staff.

“It’s absolutely overwhelming,” said Marcus.

“It’s really hard to take credit for things, especially when you don’t really feel like you did them all on your own. I have an exceptional team that I honour every chance that I get."

Now that lockdowns seem to be a thing of the past, he is looking forward to a busy summer.

“We’re really excited for patio season," Marcus said.

"We have an even larger patio coming this year. You know, we really see that community aspect, COVID really showed people that we need each other, that we need to be together … Having my team back to work is an incredible blessing.”