When Afke Zonderland set out to fill what she saw as “a serious gap” in the raw foods market with her home-based business, Okanagan Rawsome, she hoped it would catch on. She never thought about whether or not she would win an award for her efforts.
The winners will be announced at a gala held in conjunction with the Open for Business Awards in Vancouver next month.
While the 70-year-old entrepreneur says she’s excited by the prospect of being recognized for her work, Zonderland says Okanagan Rawsome was inspired by her personal passion for “nutritious, honourable food,” and a desire to share it with others.
“I think there is a huge need for people to get back to the earth,” she said, recalling Okanagan Rawsome’s “humble beginnings.”
“I’m an outdoors person, and pretty active, so feeling well, to me, is huge. At age 60, I decided I wanted to do something really worthwhile, that’s beneficial for the community at large.”
After a successful career in interior design, Zonderland said she was ready to get back to her “farm-girl”roots and began offering workshops on raw food and the benefit of cooking with it.
“My husband I and both grew up on dairy farms in the Netherlands, and my father used to say the health of the herd, depends on the health of the soil, and I think that’s so true. And I wanted to help people take control of their food choices by providing beautiful, nutritious local food using the very best our local farms have to offer.”
Her daughter, Anna Gorman, the company’s co-founder, encouraged her to parlay her knack for healthy food preparation into a business, and Okanagan Rawsome was born.
Ten years later, the family-run business is still growing and their line of organic crisps are being sold in some of BC’s biggest natural food chains, including Whole Foods and Nature’s Fare.
Zonderland says she loves that enthusiasm for raw foods has increased since they launched, but says their are currently no plans to move the business out of the North Okanagan, preferring to be “a big fish in a small pond,” rather than “a little fish in an ocean.”
“We need to be eating good food that we can share with our friends and family,”she stressed. “We’re happy to be a part of contributing to that.”
Now in its 15th year, the Small Business BC awards is reportedly the largest small business awards competition in British Columbia. The winners will be announced in Vancouver on Feb.23. The winners will receive $1,500 cash, a one-year All-Access Pass to Small Business BC education and experts, and, of course, the distinction of being named one of B.C.’s top businesses.
Zonderland beat out nearly 600 nominees from across the province for her spot, and is competing against Duffy Baker Construction Corp. (Penticton), Rising Knead Bakery (Whistler), The Gibsons Butcher, (Gibsons) and ULAT Dryer Balls (Parksville).