By: Ivan Grbešić and Wanita Kelava (Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce)
Croatian-Canadians gathered to recognize and celebrate leadership, innovation and excellence within their business community as well as the many significant social and economic contributions made by the community to Canada at the 19th Annual Business Excellence Awards Gala hosted by the Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce a few days ago.
The special guest at this year’s event was Violet Grgich, President and CEO of Grgich Hills Estate. The Chamber was proud to host her first ever visit to the Greater Toronto Area and second visit to Canada. Some 600 business leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals and other members of the community were in attendance to meet the special guest and enjoy in wines from Grgić Vina featured at the event (including Pošip and Plavac Mali), each of which contributed to making the evening one to remember.
A number of business awards were presented at the event including to: Tom Beroš of Net Electric Limited for “Large Business of the Year”, Miro Biskupović & MiR Construction for “Small Business of the Year”, each of Ana Radić, Chief Operating Officer of Choice Properties REIT and Ivan Oršanić, Canadian VP and Country Manager of Palo Alto Networks for “Executive of the Year”, Eric Tolić for “Entrepreneur of the Year” and Dr. Steve Hranilović, Dean of Graduate Studies at McMaster University, for “Professional of the Year”.
Dr. Ivan Hrvoić was the recipient of the “Community Achievement Award” and received a standing ovation for his contributions to the Croatian community in Canada as well as his support of a number of charitable projects and ventures for researching Croatian history and establishing historical truths in Croatia. Finally, Ronald Black, Chief Operating Officer of American Iron & Metal Co. was honoured with the “Friend of the Croatian Community Award” for serving as a catalyst and demonstrating considerable generosity as it relates to the Croatian-Canadian Scholarship Fund, which is jointly administered by the Chamber and the Croatian-Canadian Library.
Each award recipient was presented with a numbered and signed print entitled “Infatuation”, created by the evening’s featured artist, Nada Sesar-Raffay.
With one of the highest priorities of the Chamber being the youth in our community, scholarships presentations in the amount of $2,000 were made to three outstanding university students including Nikola Cubelić (University of Waterloo), Adriana Salamunović (University of Ottawa) and Jessica Smiciklas (Brock University). The Chamber was honoured to host a Croatian-Canadian Art Exhibit organized by artist Tatjana Hutinec.
A portion of the sales from the exhibit as well as all proceeds from the silent and live auctions at the event were donated to the Croatian-Canadian Scholarship Fund. One of the focal points of the evening was an inspiring fireside chat between Violet Grgich and Victor Dodig, President and CEO of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).
The discussion provided an opportunity for those in attendance to learn first-hand about Violet, the Grgich family history including her world-renowned winemaker father Miljenko “Mike” (who recently celebrated his 100th birthday) and noted philanthropist mother Tatiana, Grgich Hills Estate, their ties to Croatia, the history of Zinfandel, and the future of their wineries.
Philanthropic and social responsibility initiatives were also a focal point, addressing the importance of corporate social responsibility and giving back to the community, and demonstrating how businesses and individuals can make a positive impact on society.
The discussion also recognized the work ethic, drive, and perseverance required to attain success and served as motivation and an example for our next generations – principles that are applicable to all generations and across all levels of business.
“I believe that wine is part of a healthy, happy and long life. Wine brings people together and makes them happy, which makes my job extraordinarily fulfilling”, said Violet Grgich, whose name will be added to an impressive list of previous special guests at the annual event, which have included successful members of our community as well as prominent political and diplomatic representatives from Canada, the United States and Croatia, ranging from the Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper; the Premier of Ontario, The Honourable Kathleen Wynne; the President and CEO of CIBC, Victor Dodig; businessman and TV personality, Robert Herjavec; NHL Hall of Famer and Senator, Frank Mahovlich; the President of Jimmy Choo Americas, Tanya Golešić; and technological innovators Mate Rimac (Founder and CEO, Rimac Automobili/Rimac Group and CEO of Bugatti Rimac) in the automotive industry and A.J. Piplica (Founder and CEO Hermeus) in the aerospace industry, among others.
In addition to enjoying wine from Grgić Vina (Trstenik, Croatia) over dinner, guests had an opportunity to sample other Croatian wines imported into Canada by Croatia Unpacked as well as a Croatian style lager produced in Canada by Baka Beer.
Guests were also treated to exceptional musical performances by Mia Miličević (anthems), Ponosni Hrvati (tamburitza) and Thomas Šulug (piano) during the course of the evening. Even Violet Grgich picked up an accordion to play some of her favourite Croatian songs to close out the event.
“On behalf of the Chamber and members of our Croatian-Canadian community, I would like to express how grateful we are and to thank our valued friend and inspiring guest Violet for flying in and out of Toronto from California to share her remarkable achievements as well as those of Grgich Hills, and her parents, and for speaking about the future of the business and the direction of the wineries. The evening was truly inspiring and Violet’s willingness and extra effort to travel across the continent for the sole purpose of joining us for the event says a lot about her and her family values and was very much appreciated by those in attendance”, said Ivan Grbešić, an executive member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.