It wasn't one thing, but everything, that led to Grillers Meats in Lake Country winning small business of the year.

"Well, we're local and family-owned and involved in the community," said Celia Magraw, who owns and operates Grillers with husband Marc Ellam.

"We also source all our high-quality chicken, pork and beef locally. And, of course, there's our customer service."

Grillers was honoured at the recent Business Excellence Awards put on by the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce along with the winners in 14 other categories.

They are:

– Big business of the year: Beelineweb.com

– Business leader of the year: Anne Stewart of Turtle Bay Pub

– People's Choice Award: Neon Counselling

– Home-based business of the year: Memory Blocks

– Young entrepreneur of the year: Savana Bennett of Odette's Skin Care & Laser

– Trades: Kapiti Built

– Hospitality: Wooden Nickel Cafe

– Professional services: Interior Savings Credit Union

– Health service provider: Lake Country Optometry

– Rising Star Award: Invati Yoga & Wellness

– Tourism excellence: Intrigue Wines

– Family farm: Gambell Farms

– Volunteer of the year: Shannon Paul-Jost of Lake Country Health Planning Society

– Community service: Okanagan Rail Trail InitiativeDuck 'n Rebels

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Be real.

Have each other's back.

Have fun.

Make everything better.

These are the four core values of the company that owns Accent Inns and Hotel Zed in Kelowna.

They are also the mantra the hotels are using to attract and retain the best employees while a labour shortage threatens growth in the hospitality sector.

Accent-Zed has named the program Duck 'n Rebels after the fact there's a rubber ducky in every bathtub in every Accent Inns room and Hotel Zed is a rebel in the industry with its out-of-the-ordinary retro quirkiness.

Ducks 'n Rebels encourages employees to embody the four core values and be rewarded with badges of awesomeness, gift cards, smoothie parties, a special fund to help any staffer who is going through a hard time and 30 per cent employee discounts on cellphone plans, mattresses, furniture, exercise equipment, bikes and electronics.

All new employees also go through Welcome to Hotel Awesomeness Training.

The program is yielding results.

The company's 2018 employee survey saw 95 per cent answer yes to the question: I am happy to be here.

That's up from 85 per cent in 2017.

Staff turnover is notorious in the hotel industry.

However, Accent-Zed has seen an impressive 22 per cent of workers pass their 10th anniversary with the company.

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For buyers and sellers it's an online tool to audition realtors.

For real estate agents it's a way to impress potential clients and secure listings.

It's ListingLlama.com, the website and app developed by Summerland graphic designer and photographer Tarynn Liv Parker.

The service is free for home buyers and sellers to register confidentially with what they need from a realtor.

Realtors, who pay a monthly fee, can connect with buyers and sellers digitally and discuss.

The buyer or seller doesn't have to share their identity until they feel comfortable.

"We've built a platform that is comfortable for the public to honestly express their needs," said Parker.

"The platform lets realtors demonstrate why and how they are the best best and builds confidence between the two parties before getting into a contract. Listing Llama levels the playing field to allow the best agent to win with bids for a new client's business. Realtors don't need to be at the top of the popularity contest with the most attractive billboard and bus benches that cost an arm and a leg."

For the first month, realtors cans sign up for a no-commitment trial.

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For excelling in both his career and volunteerism, Kelowna's Ken Laloge has received the Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C.'s highest distinction.

The fellowship for the partner at Crowe MacKay is recognition of his 38-year career, which includes leading his firm's team of tax practitioners.

He's also a tax and accounting instructor in B.C. and Alberta and helped develop the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada in-depth and advanced tax courses.

Outside of accounting, Laloge has been a council member with Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C., is a 35-year member of Rotary and held executive administration roles with youth sports and Scouts Canada.

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Tasting is believing.

That's why the organization that represents B.C. Ambrosia apples growers sets up sampling booths at big events so people can try the fruit and be won over by it glossy red and yellow appearance, firm texture and sweet flavour.

Ambrosia slices were handed out at the B.C. Home & Garden Show in Vancouver last week and samples will also be available at the Tim Hortons Brier being held in Brandon from today until March 10.

The Brier is the Canadian men's curling championship and always attracts a big crowd.

You also have until March 15 to enter the Ambrosia Apple a Day contest by snapping a photo of yourself, family or friends enjoying the apple and entering it at AmbrosiaApples.ca for a chance to win a three-night stay at Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos.

The first Ambrosia tree was discovered growing the Similkameen orchard of the Mennell family in the early 1990s.

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Check out the region's tourism offerings or apply for a job at Tuesday's Central Okanagan Tourism Industry Showcase.

The fourth annual trade show will feature 40 vendors, including hotels, tour operators, attractions and other small businesses.

New this year, go2HR is organizing a hiring fair so those interested in working in the hospitality industry can connect with businesses and apply for jobs.

The showcase is 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Laurel Packinghouse in Kelowna.

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Steve MacNaull is The Daily Courier's business reporter and columnist. Reach him at steve.macnaull@ok.bc.ca.