The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce held its 104th annual dinner Tuesday night at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington, naming FreshTracks Capital its 2014 Business of the Year, among other awards.
FreshTracks Capital, a Shelburne venture capital firm, has raised $36 million in Vermont in 14 years of doing business, putting Vermont “on the map” as a place where entrepreneurs can thrive, said Sara Byers, chairperson of the board of directors of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The firm has funded a number of well-known Vermont companies, including SunCommon, Eating Well, Draker and Vermont Teddy Bear. FreshTracks also provided the initial funding for Ello, the ad-free social network co-founded by Paul Budnitz of Budnitz Bicycles — also backed by FreshTracks — that exploded on the scene this summer, growing exponentially and attracting national attention.
The Community Excellence Award, recognizing an individual or business for unique service to the community, went to Burlington Labs, a full service drug testing laboratory, founded by people with experience in the addiction treatment community, according to the company’s website.
Yves Bradley of Pomerleau Real Estate noted that Burlington Labs has provided financial support for many non-profit organizations in the Burlington area, participating in events such as the curling competition at the HowardCenter and the Dragon Boat Race. Burlington Labs is also the lead sponsor for the Circle of Stars event, an annual fundraiser for the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County.
“They donate their services to homeless shelters and non-profit recovery homes,” Bradley said. “Any request from the substance abuse community, from prevention to treatment to recovery, is honored to the best of their financial capability.”
Next, Sara Byers presented the Rising Star Award, which recognizes an “up and coming leader” in the local business community, who makes a “conscientious effort” to better that community.
This year’s winner was Stephanie Hainley of White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors. Hainley was also named Woman of the Year in 2014 by the Burlington Business & Professional Women, and a Vermont Business Magazine Rising Star in 2014.
Tom Torti, president and CEO of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, presented the 2014 A. Wayne Roberts Entrepreneurial Spirit Award to Citizen Cider, a hard cider company on Pine Street in Burlington.
The award is named after Torti’s predecessor, who served the chamber for 20 years. The winner of the award is chosen with Roberts’ input. The award recognizes a business that started in Vermont, that shows a promising future, and that has demonstrated “significant community involvement.”
Citizen Cider was formed by Kris Nelson, Justin Heilenbach and Bryan Holmes in 2010 at Fort Ethan Allen in Essex, working with local farmers and offering them fair market prices for their fruit. Torti said part of the company’s mission is to make growing fruit more profitable and sustainable for local farmers.
The final presentation of the evening, the Creative Edge Award, was made by Tammy Shannon, interim publisher of the Burlington Free Press, who gave the award to Hotel Vermont.
Shannon described the downtown Burlington hotel as “Vermont’s own interpretation of a boutique hotel, reflective of the rich cultural heritage and optimism of Burlington and Vermont.”
Shannon said that since opening in 2013, Hotel Vermont has already garnered a number of awards, including being named one of the top 10 hotels to open in the country by TripAdvisors. Conde Nast named Hotel Vermont number 14 of the top hotels in the United States in 2014, and Design Magazine featured the hotel in its November 2014 issue.
“The design, development and operational teams have incorporated local and reclaimed building materials and farm-to-table cuisine to create an experience that simply celebrates the unique aspects of our culture,” Shannon said.
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