Chilliwack is known for a few popular food products, corn being the most obvious. Pork and dairy are right up there.
But how about grains for baking?
Taylor Gemmel is putting Chilliwack on the map with his ever-expanding local company, Anita’s Organic Grain & Flour Mill.
And now Gemmel himself is in the spotlight as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 for the Pacific region.
He is one of 42 finalists in nine categories for the prestigious award put on annually by the global financial firm. Gemmel is a finalist in the Social Impact category along with Peter van Stolk of food delivery service SPUD.ca, and the five partners behind Ten Tree International Inc., a clothing company that plants 10 trees for every purchase.
For years Gemmel was a partner at Anita’s but two years ago he became the sole owner, and with that has come expansion and changes.
“We’ve seen growth every year,” he said. “The organic industry is constantly growing and it’s really nice to be part of this industry. There is more and more awareness on the importance of what we are putting in our bodies, but also farming methods and how sustainable the farming is itself.
“All together it’s a fun industry to be in.”
As the leader at the company he employs more than two dozen people who in turn support their families in the Fraser Valley so he’s an important entrepreneur to be sure. But like a lot of leaders, he’s deferential to a fault.
“I don’t love the idea of being recognized like this really,” he said, adding that the EY program is well-respected and is a “celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit.”
“In the end what it’s about is more than myself,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur, you are being recognized in this fashion but it isn’t just me, it’s everyone else. That’s just a given.”
Anita’s has moved well beyond being a niche product at specialty shops with products lining the shelves at many stores, including big chains like Save-On-Foods and Costco.
In between being recognized by the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program, Gemmel is busy moving Anita’s to its new location. Currently spread over three locations, all will soon be consolidated at their new spot in the Legacy Pacific industrial park on South Sumas Road.
And Gemmel’s got two pieces of good news. The first is that they will have a retail shop where visitors can get their diverse line of flours, grains and other products. The second is for bread lovers as a bakery, Mark’s Bread, is setting up shop at the location.
Lui Petrollini, program director for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific region, pointed to the courage and strong leadership needed to create a business culture where risk taking is rewarded.
“This year’s finalists certainly meet those criteria,” Petrollini said in a press release. “They’re innovative thinkers who capitalize on market trends and disrupt traditional industries. And they’re doing it all while maintaining strong business integrity and extended community engagement.”
Now that the finalists have been named, the group will come together on Oct. 3 in Vancouver at the annual awards gala, where EY will name one winner in each of the nine categories selected by the independent panel of judges. One of those category winners will be named the overall Pacific EY Entrepreneur Of The Year and will later compete with regional winners from Prairies, Ontario, Québec and Atlantic for the title of Canada’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. The Canadian winner will go on to compete with national winners from across the globe for the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year in June 2020.