Not for Profit of the Year: Lunchbox Café

The Lunchbox Café, as a café and catering business, also offers business training for adults with developmental disabilities who are supported by Community Living North Halton. The Café is active in supporting the community through programs such as: Pack-a-Bag for a Friend Foundation; Rotary Club of Milton; Habitat for Humanity; and the Milton Film Festival. Co-op options are available for Halton students looking to be involved in the Café.

The Lunchbox Café is a unique training centre where adults with developmental disabilities volunteer and learn hands-on skills such as cooking, cleaning, food prep, and serving customers.


Entrepreneur of the Year: Milton Vision & Sports Therapy Centre

Milton Vision & Sports Therapy Centre operates as a full-scope optometry clinic, an optical store, a vision therapy clinic, a neuro-rehabilitation clinic, and a sports vision training centre. The Centre, which opened in 2018 and is strategically located near the Milton Sports Centre, incorporates all the specialties Dr. Akerman learned in 18 years of optometric practice while adding “Sports Vision Training” to incorporate his love for sports and coaching.

The COVID shutdown was a nightmare, but Dr. Akerman persisted by making himself available for Milton residents in distress and seeing hem as emergency patients, by delivering spectacles to people’s homes, and fixing broken glasses while people waited in their cars. And, despite the pandemic, revenues at the clinic have increased annually and are on pace to be ahead of the original business plan.

During the pandemic, Dr. Akerman also used his knowledge and expertise to design a wide array of PPE products used in more than 500 optometry clinics across North America, including several branches of the U.S. military.


Businessperson of the Year: Brandon Parkes, IG Wealth Management

Brandon believes almost everyone has untapped energy in them. That’s why he believes in raising his own capacity and doing more. His energy has been used in his involvement with the United Way and the Milton Chamber, including a leadership role in the Milton Young Professionals. A large amount of Brandon’s time, money and resources are focused on Food4Kids Halton. Having had a less than optimal upbringing, Brandon is passionate about giving people a healthy upbringing. With Food4Kids, Brandon packs food bags, spearheads food drives and fundraising opportunities, as well as donating gift cards and, in the summer of 2020, a $5,000 donation. Halton Food4Kids recognized Brandon with their Individual Impact Award for 2020.

In his business, Brandon believes clients are not merely transactions. He channels his energy to overserve his clients and ensure their financial goals are achieved. It’s why he was one of only five recipients across Canada to win a 2020 national award from IGM Financial for exceptional business growth, exemplary community and charity involvement, along with balance with personal and family life.


Resilient Small Business of the Year Award: The Barn Door Studio

As a six-year-old local retail store supporting and showcasing local handmade businesses and hosting creative workshops, the Barn Door Studio had to transition greatly during the pandemic. Making matters worse, they were in the motions of expanding to a new location to add in a small café. But, while the pandemic has been a challenge, the Bard Door Studio kept their employees’ jobs secure and implemented strict COVID protocols to keep workspaces safe. A successful new website was created to let customers to order for curbside, free local delivery, or shipping. The Barn Door Studio enjoys being connected to the Milton community with workshops for children’s parties, girls’ nights out, team building, an even outside events at Holy Rosary School and police headquarters. When a Hollywood film was shooting outside the studio, they financial compensation given by the production company was donated by the Barn Door Studio to Halton Women’s Place. Since 2017, the studio has had exponential sales growth.


Resilient Medium Business of the Year Award: Country Heritage Park

Country Heritage Park (CHP) is an 80-acre site depicting a rural crossroads community reflective of the past 185 years, complete with 39 historic buildings, fairgrounds, pollinator and community gardens and a story built into the fabric of the innovators who built the foundations of modern food and farming. CHP brings learning to life, with its natural, one-of-a-kind outdoor classroom where education, sustainability, food literacy and farming is at the core of this Agricultural Society’s field of activities. In addition to educational programmes and events, Country Heritage Park is also a very popular destination for weddings and other family celebrations, corporate events, trade shows, historical events and re-enactments, film production, and local community and fundraising events.

CHP has 17 full and part time workers and was Milton’s largest employer of summer students in 2020 with 15 students gracing their operation in these difficult times, all done without an issue that impacted health and safety and there were zero covid cases registered during that time.

This past year, CHP provided ASL classes to employees to learn sign language to help Basel, their deaf Syrian farm worker, to not only adjust and be comfortable, but to also give staff an opportunity to see things from his perspective.

CHP also donated space at the start of the pandemic so the Milton Farmer’s Market could open weeks before it was even conceivable at other locations throughout the province, working with the Milton Chamber of Commerce and Halton Public Health to again ensure compliance. Not only did the market do exceptionally well at CHP, but the collaboration was also even acknowledged by local MPP Parm Gill during a moment in the Ontario legislature when he recognized the outstanding partnership that led to this taking place.


Resilient Large Business of the Year Award: RBC Royal Bank

RBC has been a strong partner in the Milton community with involvement in the Milton District Hospital Foundation, the Milton Chamber of Commerce, blood donor clinic drives, Women’s Shelter donations and sponsorship, Junior Achievement Central Ontario financial literacy virtual program deliveries, food bank donations, United Way, The Darling Home for Kids, Milton Youth Task Force, and more. During the pandemic, they hired 20 local individuals. RBC also repurposed one of their branches to be a proactive calling centre to reach out to our clients ensuring their financial affairs and well-being were in order as it was a really difficult time with business closures, loss of employment, etc. Another was tuned into a call centre to take on the overflow volume from their national call centre. Locally in Milton, RBC Royal Bank earned the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Bank in Town.

Corporately, RBC has a focus on diversity. BIPOC represented 35% of new hires and 40% of promotions in 2020. They announced a series of actions to help tackle systemic racism in our communities, including: $100-million commitment in small business loans over five years to Black entrepreneurs; and $50-million investment over the next five years through RBC Future Launch® for skills development and mentoring programs for BIPOC youth.