Brian Whiteway, the chief financial officer of Verafin, made three trips to the St. John’s Convention Centre stage Wednesday, each time coming back with a different award.
The St. John’s-based maker of anti-fraud software collected St. John’s Board of Trade Business Excellence Awards in three categories: growth in domestic and export markets, innovation, and — the top award every year — the titular Business Excellence Award (the St. John’s business community’s equivalent of the Academy Awards’ Best Picture Oscar).
Whiteway credited the company’s staff for its quick growth — in just a few years the company has gone from scratch to more than 800 clients worldwide and more than 100 employees.
“We’re extremely pleased and humbled to be recognized by the local business community,” said Whiteway after the awards, held with an audience of about 600 people in the convention centre. “Without the 118 people both here in Canada and our office in Alabama, we wouldn’t achieve anywhere near the success that we have achieved. It’s really a testament to their hard work and their efforts. We certainly wouldn’t be the company we are without them.”
Jo Mark Zurel, chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade, commended Verafin for its three wins.
“They’re certainly a great choice,” he said. “They’ve built a company from nothing just a few short years ago to a world leader in a very competitive technical area. And they did it with incredible entrepreneurial spirit, with virtually all of their employees coming from here, even though they market worldwide, and they still operate out of Newfoundland and Labrador, out of St. John’s, and they still win on a global business, and it’s incredibly exciting to see that sort of success here.”
Floor Source, which installs and services flooring and carpeting, took the New Start Up award, which Danielle Corcoran, co-owner with partner Geoff Taylor, said is a big momentum boost for the company — which is growing to the extent that Corcoran used her acceptance speech to announce that the company is hiring.
“It’s been a hard three years. The first three years of any startup is definitely the hardest three years, so it’s that motivation to continue doing a good job and keep moving forward,” she said.
Fred Earle was named Businessperson Volunteer of the Year for his work serving on the board of directors for the Agnes Pratt Home as well as chairing the Eastern Long-Term Care Association, and serving with the Rotary Club of St. John’s. Earle also volunteers with Scouts Canada and Stella Burry Community Services. He said anyone looking to make a difference in the community should figure out what they’re good at and donate those talents to causes they believe in.
“Find something that you enjoy, that you’re passionate about, and just provide your time. My skill is as an accountant, so I just provide skills in that role as treasurer and helping out in various organizations with the skills I’ve got. We’ve all got different skills,” he said.
Brent Smith, the “chief chocolate officer” of the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, accepted the Marketing and Promotional Achievements award this year, after winning New Start Up last year. He said this year’s win was a surprise.
“Last year we thought we had a pretty strong shot, because you could see who the new startups were and we thought we had a strong case,” he said. “This year, with marketing, we were up against big campaigns and our approach was a little different. We haven’t run any big campaigns, it’s been a really grassroots marketing approach, right from the design of the chocolate bars right up to my title as ‘chief chocolate officer.’ That has permeated the brand, and it’s fabulous to be recognized, especially among such an esteemed group. This business community is something to be so proud of, and the prosperity, the success and optimism in Newfoundland now, to be part of it as a business employing people and exporting product — very proud day for us.”