Village Media, the owners of Northern Ontario Business, won the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce 2021 Business of the Year Award.
The award, bestowed on businesses that employ more than 26 people, was handed out at the chamber's Outstanding Business Achievement Awards held at The Machine Shop, June 16.
Village Media was established in 2013, expanding from SooToday to become an internationally-recognized digital media company business that now includes a growing number of local news websites based on the SooToday model located across Ontario and the U.S.
The company was launched by the Sault’s Jeff Elgie, Village Media CEO.
“The term ‘village’ suggested to me an intimate, connected community, and that’s what we wanted to build online, is closely connected tight communities in the cities we physically operate in. I love the feeling of that and it’s a great name,” Elgie said in a 2018 interview.
“There’s a tremendous amount of purpose in doing what we’re doing as you see communities lose any form of local journalism...when you start to see that and realize we can bring local news to a community, it really has created a sense of purpose in what I do,” Elgie said.
Apart from the Sault’s own SooToday, Village Media has local news websites in North Bay, Barrie, Bradford, Cambridge, Collingwood, Elliot Lake, Elora and Fergus, Guelph, Halton Hills, Innisfil, Midland, Newmarket, Sudbury, Orillia, Stratford, Thorold, Timmins, Sault Michigan, Broomfield and Longmont (in Colorado) as well as Alimosho, Nigeria.
The company also has partnerships with major media companies in eastern and western Canada.
Two other winners of note from last week's ceremony include Joseph Greco, who was honoured with the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Paint and Decor Concepts which picked up the Downtown Business of the Year Award.
Greco, a lawyer with Willson, Greco, Hagan Law Firm, is also part owner of several local IDA Drug Marts that have been renovated into large pharmacies that also offer a variety of goods and services for shoppers.
“It feels good,” Greco said. “It’s my goal to run a business that gives back to the community with my partners. That’s what we strive to do every day and this award just reinforces that people recognize that we are giving back and we’re not a big corporation. We’re locally owned and operated and we’re doing the right things.”
Most recently, Greco opened the doors of Urban Square Drug Mart, situated in the former Pino’s Get Fresh grocery store space on Trunk Road.
“It’s fantastic. It’s probably the nicest one that we’ve opened. We’re really proud of it, my partners and I. The design’s great, the content is fantastic. We’re really happy with the way it turned out.”
Greco and his partners purchased the IDA properties in 2019.
“It was our goal from day one to renovate all the stores. The location at Market Mall is coming up next. We’ve had good results and we have one more renovation to go.”
Greco said he is most proud of the repurposing of the historic former Davis Clothing building on Queen Street into Queenstown Drug Mart.
“Don’t worry too much about grades in school,” Greco said when asked to share advice for other young entrepreneurs.
“Obviously I’m a lawyer so I had to do well in school but there’s always a way to do something. Whatever that way that is, do what you have to do and have fun while you’re doing it. If you’re making money and not having fun, then what’s the point.”
“We’re really proud of the work we’ve done. We’re strong,” said Amelia Ritchie, Paint & Decor Concepts owner. Her downtown business - which carries paint, furniture, lighting and self care products such as candles and oils - has survived through COVID lockdowns and curbside service as well as supply chain issues.
“We found it a challenge but we just pushed through it with our customer service. We were outside in snow storms handing goods to people with curbside service. Our customer service is the best. We thought ‘we’re going to do this and make people happy.’”
“We love where we are downtown. We have this beautiful strip of amazing restaurants and small businesses popping up downtown. There’s so much. There are over 150 businesses that people don’t realize are there,” Ritchie said.
“The secret to success is loving what you do, not being afraid of change and having the support of local people. The small businesses of this city will not survive without local people coming in and telling us what they want and need.” “They’re the reason why we succeed. They’re the reason why we’re getting better, and having a great staff.”
“Just believe in what you’re doing and surround yourself with people who support you, who are like-minded, who build you up and don’t bring you down,” Ritchie said when offering advice to up and coming entrepreneurs.
“Surround yourself with positive people. You can have the best ideas, and if you have the people who care about you they’re going to help you and be your vehicle to success.”
Other Chamber award winners include:
- Health & Safety Professionals Inc., took home the Business of the Year Award (1-9 employees)
- NORPRO Environmental, an N1 Solutions Company, received the Business of the Year Award (10 to 25 employees)
- Sault Ste. Marie YMCA was awarded with the Community Non-Profit Business of the Year Award
- Missanabie Cree Business Corporation grabbed the Indigenous Business of the Year Award
- Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation received the Employer of the Year Award
- Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie & Area were presented with the Diversity Award
- Sault College was recognized with the Leader in Accessibility Award
- Classic Neon & Sign Inc. received the Safe Work, Sound Business Award
- Tenaris Algoma Tubes Inc. were recognized with the Innovation Award
- Arthur Funeral Home - Barton & Kiteley Chapel received the Customer First Award given to a business, not-for-profit or agency
- Rolling Pictures was presented with the Rising Star New Business Award
- Hogan's Homestead received the Community Investment Award (up to 25 employees)
- PUC Services Inc. was awarded the Community Investment Award (25+ employees)
- Sisterhood Productions received the Beyond Sault Ste. Marie Award (1 to 49 employees)
- McDougall Energy Inc. was handed the Beyond Sault Ste. Marie Award (50+ employees)
- Meghan Brazil of Great Lakes Honda was handsed the individual Customer First Award
- Jonathan Boyer-Nolan of Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services received the Indigenous Professional of the Year Award
- Chris Cooper, owner of Catalyst Fitness, received the Chamber President's Award
- The Algoma Vaccination Support Council was recognized with the Volunteer of the Year Award
- Rod Goodall of Aladdin Carpentry & Upholstery and Final Touch Property Maintenance Services was presented with the Paul Dalseg Community Achievement Award
- Marnie Stone of Stone's Office Plus was named to the Skipper Manzutti Award for Business Achievement