Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce presents regional awards
The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce celebrated the success of local businesses and looked toward the future during its Regional Business Awards ceremony Thursday.
“We are excited to be honoring these phenomenal organizations who contribute to a strong business economy and inspire quality of life in our communities,” said Kristen Miller, the chamber’s president and CEO.
During the ceremony at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, a new board of directors was approved. The outgoing members were honored, and added members, such as Tyler Duncan (owner of Rusty’s Pizza) and Steven Janciek (general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Goleta), were warmly welcomed.
Also, the former chair of the board, Trevor Large, “passed the gavel” to Joey Zumaya, whose call to action is for everyone in the community to “get involved.”
In addition to this, Mr. Zumaya revealed the Chamber of Commerce’s priorities for the year: housing, economic challenges on Santa Barbara’s State Street and hospitality. In closing, Mr. Zumaya stressed the importance of local businesses in Santa Barbara, noting that even though Santa Barbara is beautiful, its hospitality industry could not run for a day without its local businesses.
The chamber presented eight awards to local businesses and nonprofits.
The Santa Barbara area company was started in 1996, and it has been the company’s goal, ever since, to “be a real estate company that gave back to the community,” said company owner Renee Grubb, who accepted the award.
She noted Village Properties has donated to schools and eventually started a program called the Teacher’s Fund, which was created to help Santa Barbara County teachers get the tools and materials they need for their classrooms and their students.
Over the years, Village Properties has donated $2 million to Santa Barbara public and private school teachers. In the years recovering from COVID-19, Village Properties has also worked with the Chamber of Commerce to provide critical data about the housing market, giving significant help to the community.
The Small Business of the Year award was presented to JR Bookkeeping, which was started in 2012 by sisters Juliana and Natalia Ramirez, who are very passionate about supporting and investing in the community — which they recognize as the reason for their success. They started their business in their living room and now serve Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, celebrating their 10-year anniversary last April.
In the past 10 years, Juliana and Natalia have employed more than 40 individuals, the majority of whom have been women, and several have gone on to start bookkeeping businesses of their own.
JR Bookkeeping enjoys giving back to the community through several local organizations that were instrumental in their success in the early years.
The Entrepreneur of the Year award was given to Kyanna Isaacson, which she says is her greatest achievement. Mrs. Isaacson started working at Jersey Mike’s 15 years ago, this Saturday.
In 2021, she opened her first Jersey Mike’s on Fairview Avenue in Goleta. Now, she owns 12 Jersey Mike’s (three locations in Santa Barbara and Goleta), and she chooses her locations carefully in order to give back to the community that supports her restaurants.
She has donated to nonprofits, and she is known for her generous support of many local schools and charities because of her business. Most recently, she raised money for San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara.
The Large Business of the Year award was presented to Village Properties, which was nominated twice for this award.
The Milestone Business Award was given to the Santa Barbara Zoo for reaching its 60th anniversary this year. Santa Barbara Zoo President & CEO Rich Block accepted the award.
The zoo just opened its newest habitat, the Australian Walkabout, which features kangaroos, wallabies and emus.
The zoo’s “Early Explorers” program became the first licensed outdoor preschool in California, becoming a trailblazing preschool program in the state to connect young children with nature.
In addition, last year, the Santa Barbara Zoo was recertified as an autism center. In 2022, the zoo employed more than 300 regular and seasonal staff members, and it gave back more than $200,000 to support families, schools and other nonprofits to ensure that the zoo is accessible to everyone.
Mr. Block expressed his gratitude to the community for its support.
The Hospitality Business of the Year award was presented to the Santa Barbara Adventure Co. Founder Michael Cohen accepted the award after being introduced by Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara.
Mr. Cohen’s company is celebrating 25 years of being in business.
In addition to supporting the tourism industry, Santa Barbara Adventure Co. incorporates financial and logistical incentives to reuse, repair and reduce its carbon footprint through composting, electronic paperwork, recycling, zero waste reporting, waste management training and rewarding employees for zero waste practices.
The Community Business of the Year award was presented to Momentum WORK Inc., which provides a key bridge between local businesses who need a reliable workforce and people with disabilities who are able to contribute and want meaningful jobs.
Momentum WORK, Inc. was recently awarded a 3-Year CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities), accreditation that signals a service provider’s commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback and serving the community. Jake Lowry of Momentum WORK Inc. accepted the award on behalf of the organization.
The Green Business of the Year was given to BEGA North America. Accepting the award were Shawn Webb and Ivan Gregory.
BEGA invested more than $4 million in solar energy production to power its electrical needs at the Carpinteria campus, eliminating reliance on traditional sources of electricity and reducing its carbon footprint by 903 metric tons annually. The solar energy project included 2,008 fully recyclable solar panels capable of generating an estimated annual production of 1,274,317 kWh of electricity.
The Nonprofit of the Year award was presented to the United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County. The award was accepted by CEO Michael Baker.
In 2021, the clubs opened as full-day learning and enrichment centers while schools remained closed. They also started serving hot dinners at all club locations as part of the Zero Hunger Food Program.
The clubs serve more than 3,000 youths annually, providing a safe, positive place to learn and grow. Promising their future resilience, the clubs claimed, “Whatever comes our way, we will be there.”