Winners Announced: 2024 Business Excellence Awards Gala

Kitchener, ON – On Thursday, March 21, 2024, the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, and the Waterloo Region business community came together in person and virtually to honour the extraordinary contributions of the organizations and volunteers who were nominated for the 14 categories of the 2024 Business Excellence Awards. CTV’s Daryl Morris acted as host and Master of Ceremonies for the evening’s celebrations with nearly 600 in-person guests (plus 60 live streaming party guests at Waterloo Brewing and 100 virtual) including business leaders, dignitaries, and community professionals.

2024 Business Excellence Award Winners

Award Category


Business of the Year (Over 50 Employees) Award MTE Consultants
Business of the Year (11-50 Employees) Award REM Web Solutions
Business of the Year (1-10 Employees) Award W Design Co.
New Business of the Year Award (Under 2 Years) The Poop Valet Pet Waste Removal Service
Community Builder of the Year Award Westmount Signs & Printing
Employee Engagement Award Dillon Consulting Limited
Environment and Sustainability Award Meal in a Jar
Health & Wellness in the Workplace Award Waterloo Regional Police Service
Service Excellence in Hospitality/Tourism Award St. Jacobs Market District
Innovation Award Conestoga College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning
Michael R. Follett Community Leader of the Year Award Tony Giovinazzo (Activa)
Non-Profit/Charitable Award LiftOff Black Innovation Hub
Volunteer of the Year Award Conrad Lovell (RBC Dominion Securities)
Young Professional of the Year Award Ediz Kemal (Tone-Gar Group of Companies)

Business of the Year Award (Over 50 Employees)
Winner: MTE Consultants

MTE Consultants has established itself as a premier provider of engineering consulting services for over 35 years. Their sustained growth, averaging a remarkable 12% year-over-year growth since 2006, reflects a robust business model and strong client relationships. Notably, in 2023 their Kitchener office alone contributed to 50% of business, highlighting a significant Regional presence. Employee satisfaction is also extremely high with a low turnover rate and annual employee survey scores consistently surpassing 85%. Client retention also remains a core strength, with 89% of business attributed to existing clients. MTE Consultants’ commitment to proactive leadership is evident through their support of educational institutions and active involvement in industry organizations, with over 20 team members contributing their expertise to various committees and board roles. Furthermore, their dedication to corporate citizenship is admirable with over $150,000 donated to charitable causes in 2023 alone.

Business of the Year Award (11-50 Employees)
Winner: REM Web Solutions

REM Web Solutions has offered a comprehensive service portfolio spanning web design, development, and digital marketing over the past 23 years. Their WebWizard platform empowers clients to manage digital content effectively, reflecting a commitment to innovation and proactive leadership. They pioneered Software as a Service (Saas) solutions before the term existed, revolutionizing customer support in the industry. Despite being a small business, REM Web Solutions has achieved remarkable growth, boasting 140% revenue increase between 2023 and 2024. REM Web Solutions’ dedication to employee satisfaction is evident through initiatives like a 4-day workweek. Their corporate citizenship is exemplified through pro bono work for non-profit organizations and involvement in community initiatives.

Business of the Year Award (1-10 Employees)
Winner: W Design Co.

W Design Co. Creative Branding House was previously known as Lesley Warren Design Group. But after 16 years, was rebranded to better reflect its evolution. With a focus on future growth and succession planning, the company offers expanded services alongside its signature boutique experience. Committed to employee well-being, W Design Co. provides a range of benefits and perks, including Cowan Group Benefits Plan, flexible work hours, and a pet-friendly office. Their collaborative and inclusive culture fosters creativity, professional growth and, and equal opportunities for all team members. Client satisfaction remains paramount, which is evident by a 100% retention rate for tier-one clients and a stellar net promoter score of 81. Financially, 2023 marked a record-breaking year with a 48% increase in sales and impressive margins. W Design Co. demonstrates a strong commitment to social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Providing a 10% discount for not-for-profit clients, they’ve saved partners approximately $22,000 in 2023. They are actively involved in community and chamber events, and often sponsor local initiatives.

New Business of the Year Award (Under 2 Years)
Winner: The Poop Valet Pet Waste Removal Service

The Poop Valet Pet Waste Removal Services, founded by spouses Rick and Sherry Couchman, began as a part-time endeavor, blossoming into a thriving pest waste removal service. Inspired by a backyard campfire scene in 2022, Rick envisioned a unique business solution after observing family dogs. Recognizing the scarcity of similar services in Canada, he embarked on establishing a professional pet waste removal company. With the recent addition of part-time employees and projected 2024 growth, their impact extends beyond business. The Poop Valet Pet Waste Removal Services tackles community cleanliness, responsible pet ownership, and supports local charities. In their first 13 months of business, they accumulated over 50 recurring clients, showcasing rapid growth and financial success, projected to exceed $80,000 in 2024. Engaged in local initiatives, they uphold integrity and contribute to community well-being. Despite personal struggles with mental health, Rick’s resilience and dedication not only transformed his life but also made a positive impact on the community, championing mental health awareness and donating to local charities such as Partners with Paws and the Jersey Girls.

Community Builder of the Year Award
Winner: Westmount Signs & Printing

Westmount Signs & Printing has built their business around supporting the community they live and work in. Their belief in community involvement as a social responsibility drives everything they do. In 2023, alone, they sponsored over 100 local organizations, providing nearly $50,000 in financial and in-kind sponsorships to non-profit organizations and charities. This substantial investment directly empowered various community-focused initiatives, including educational programs such as literacy workshops, STEM initiatives, and after-school tutoring programs. In addition to in-kind sponsorships, they also focus on collaborating with other local businesses Their belief in community involvement also extends to their team members, with their Employee Volunteering Initiatives. They also prioritize environmental responsibility, with sustainable practices and investing in eco-friendly processes. Westmount Signs & Printing views their success not only as a measure of their business achievements but also as a reflection of the positive change they contribute to the community.

Employee Engagement Award
Winner: Dillon Consulting Limited

Dillon Consulting Limited, with more than 1,100 employees, are committed to fostering a culture of continuous learning and development, with an investment that surpasses the national average per employee. In the last fiscal year alone, Dillon Consulting allocated substantial resources to training and career development. They offered a diverse range of programs such as the Early Career Development (ECD) program, which provides enriched learning opportunities to new staff, and offers peer networking. Dillon Consulting’s initiatives, like the Innovation Incubator and the Dillon Innovation Award, empower employees to contribute creative solutions to meaningful problems, further fostering a culture of empowerment and entrepreneurship. They also actively promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through ongoing training, and reduce employment barriers and support underrepresented groups. Their commitment to employee ownership, wellness programs like Emotional Intelligence training, and flexible work arrangements has established them as a leader for Employee Engagement.

Environment & Sustainability Award
Winner: Meal in a Jar

Founded on the principles of innovation and sustainability, Meal in a Jar has revolutionized the food industry with its convenient and eco-friendly Meal in a Jar service. This Canadian company has garnered widespread acclaim for its commitment to providing fresh, ready-to-eat meals delivered directly to customers’ doorsteps, all while prioritizing environment responsibility. Their dedication is evident in their choice of eco-friendly packaging, opting for recyclable glass jars over plastic, reducing plastic waste and minimizing environmental impact. Also, their zero-waste philosophy, exemplified by producing meals only when orders are received, significantly reduces landfill contributions. By locally sourcing ingredients from farmers and producers, Meal in a Jar not only supports sustainable agriculture practices but also reduces carbon emissions related to transportation. Their focus on natural ingredients, such as using Greek olive oil in their in-house made sauces, promotes healthier food options and environmentally friendly farming practices. Meal in a Jar sets a high standard for sustainability in the food industry.

Health & Wellness in the Workplace Award
Winner: Waterloo Regional Police Service

The Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) stands as the seventh largest police service in Ontario. With a commitment to public safety and community partnership, the Waterloo Regional Police Service extends its dedication to the wellbeing of its 850 sworn officers and 375 civilian professionals. Understanding the unique challenges of policing, the Waterloo Regional Police Service prioritizes the health, safety, and wellness of its members, and recognizes the direct impact on the community they serve. In addressing physical health, they provide comprehensive fitness facilities, regular classes led by professionals, individual coaching, challenges for a healthy environment, ergonomic support, and rigorous safety measures. For mental health, they offer dedicated Wellness Unit, Peer Support Team, Wellness App, Respect in the Workplace Unit, and psychological support services. Furthermore, initiatives promoting work-life balance include flexible work plans, family assistance programs, tuition reimbursement, and quiet reflection spaces. In 2023, the Waterloo Regional Police Service “Wellness in the Workplace” survey had a remarkable 95% approval rate, indicating a strong satisfaction and support for the initiatives implemented by the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

Service Excellence in Hospitality/Tourism Award
Winner: St. Jacobs Market District

The St. Jacobs Market District, is distinguished as the largest year-round indoor/outdoor farmers’ market in Canada and is a premier tourist attraction in Waterloo Region. It is an iconic community asset, and even more so recently, a bustling hub of activity. The St. Jacobs Market District hosted 24 special events in 2023 alone. The same year, they reached over 1.6 million social media profiles through organic Facebook and Instagram posts. The St. Jacobs Market District’s success is clear from its impressive visitor numbers, attracting over 1 million visitors annually, with approximately 57% of them traveling from over 40km away, reflecting its regional and national appeal.  In 2023, the St. Jacobs Market District’s revenue surpassed $10 million, marking a significant milestone in its growth trajectory. Additionally, the St, Jacobs Market District’s contribution to the local economy is evident in its support of over 500 vendors, including 33 new full-time vendors.

Innovation Award
Winner: Conestoga College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning

At Conestoga College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, innovation IS their service. They help their partners innovate and bring new ideas to life by connecting them with faculty, researchers, and students with the expertise and experience required to address their research and development needs. They help their partners access the experts and cutting-edge research infrastructure in Conestoga’s research centres and labs. By working with Conestoga College, partners can also access various funding opportunities that help cover the cost of collaborative research and development projects. Conestoga College is home to six applied research centres spanning science, engineering, business, and social innovation and two centres focused on entrepreneurship and commercialization. In 2023, Conestoga College ranked as one of the top 20 research colleges in Canada by engaging with 121 industry and community partners, starting 96 new projects, and providing paid research work experience to over 250 students. Conestoga College’s commitment to innovation is evident in its proactive approach to fostering a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship. Initiatives such as the Conestoga New and Emerging Research Grant (CNERG) and the newly established Centre for Commercialization emphasize the college’s dedication to innovation.

Michael R. Follett Community Leader Award
Winner: Tony Giovinazzo (Activa)

Despite the industry he works in, Tony Giovinazzo understands that community extends far beyond that of roads, sidewalks, and houses. It’s where you and others around you have a feeling of fellowship. Tony, and his team at Activa, believe in bringing life to communities… and feel it is incumbent on them to provide to Waterloo Region’s vitality through their support of organizations and business partners which are proud to call Waterloo Region home. Through his leadership as CEO, Tony Giovinazzo has been able to make a significant community impact, supporting affordable housing initiatives, and encouraging physical activity for current and future generations. They were even recognized for their community contributions, as the Community Builder of the Year Award Winner at the Business Excellence Awards in 2021. Outside of the office, he is a proud Honorary member and past president of the Kitchener-Westmount Rotary Club, he is a strong believer in “giving back to this great community”. Tony has volunteered his time to serve on the Boards of University of Waterloo, Family & Children Services of Waterloo Region, Sanguen Health Centre, the Economic Advisory Committee of Waterloo, and the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board, to note just a few. He was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his substantial volunteer work and commitment to the well-being of children. Tony has an accomplished professional background, a proven dedication to serving his community, and a focus on creating an engaging work environment as an employer of choice for his colleagues.

Non-Profit/Charitable Award
Winner: LiftOff Black Innovation Hub

LiftOff Black Innovation Hub, a Black-led and Black-serving incubator, stands out through its support for Black entrepreneurs in Waterloo Region and Wellington County. LiftOff Black Innovation Hub has directly supported over 120 Black businesses, providing them with coaching, mentorship, and viable funding opportunities. In the past year alone, LiftOff Founders have received over $250,000 in funding from various sources. This support has not only empowered individual entrepreneurs but as a ripple effect, contributing to the economic development of the community. One LiftOff Founder they supported last year was Peter Pearse-Elosia of DigiMillennials who hosted AfroVibes, the highly successful, first ever African cultural festival in Kitchener.

LiftOff also focuses on youth development, by mentoring and training 2 students through the Canada Summer Jobs program. This proactive engagement with the younger generation aligns with broader societal goals and positions LiftOff as an organization invested in building future leaders.

In addition, the opening of LiftOff Black Innovation Hub’s physical location within the SDG Idea Factory provides a dedicated space for collaboration and community engagement.

Volunteer of the Year Award
Winner: Conrad Lovell (RBC Dominion Securities)

Conrad Lovell’s commitment to helping others extends far beyond his role as an Investment Advisor at RBC Dominion Securities. As the current Chair for the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Business After 5 (BA5) Committee, Conrad not only plays a pivotal role in organizing events that facilitate networking opportunities and promote local businesses’ growth, but he actively encourages other committee members to do the same. He fosters an environment where creativity, collaboration, and dedication thrive. Conrad actively engages with other chamber members and is a champion for the community whether it is through his involvement with the Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area (BIA) Board of Directors, the City of Kitchener’s winter skating rink program, and his support in recruiting local family physicians. Conrad’s genuine passion for people is evident not only in his career trajectory, but also in his volunteer efforts, where he strives to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of those around him.

Young Professional of the Year Award
Winner: Ediz Kemal (Tone-Gar Group of Companies)

As the General Manager at Tone-Gar Group of Companies, Ediz has demonstrated an unwavering passion for serving and protecting his community. He graduated with Honours from the Police Foundations program at Conestoga College in 2006. He started his career as a security guard, which evolved into a leadership role through hard work and commitment. His extensive qualifications, including certifications in tactical communications, conflict management, and more highlight his breadth of expertise in the security industry. Recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 under 40 Young Leaders in the security industry by SP&T News, further solidified his reputation as a standout professional in his field. Under his guidance, the company has achieved a remarkable client retention rate exceeding 98%, and his emphasis on ongoing training and development has established a “Best in Class” standard within the Region, positioning the company as a leader in the industry. With the support of his life partner, and mentorship from Tone-Gar Group of Companies’ ownership, Ediz, a first-generation immigrant, has been able to reach his educational, personal, and career goals. He embodies the Canadian dream- a testament to the boundless opportunities for success and impact in a diverse and inclusive society here in Waterloo Region.


For further information contact:

Carolyn Marsh
Events Manager
Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce