SAINT JOHN – Julie Pugsley stood before hundreds of people Thursday night as she accepted the Emerging Enterprise Award from the Saint John Region Chamber of Conference, and reflected on how far she and her husband Matthew had come in the two years since they started their business.
Breakout Saint John is an entertainment and team-building company that features themed “escape room” games, where teams of players work together to find clues, solve puzzles and ultimately escape a room within 60 minutes.
“Two years ago this month we were thinking we were crazy with three little kids and we were negotiating a lease for the new business … and no one knew what escape rooms were,” Julie Puglsey told the crowd at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre. “In New Brunswick, we were the first one … I remember talking to fire marshalls and they’re saying, ‘You’re going to do what with people? You’re going to lock them in a room for fun.’
“Not only have they come out for fun with their family and friends, but I see so many people here who I recognize because you come for team-building events with your staff. That’s been a huge part of why we’ve been successful as a business.”
Rothesay-based River & Trail Outdoor Company won the award for Entrepreneurial Achievement. Sean Creary, who founded the company in 2012, says it’s more than just a retailer.
“At River & Trail we sell products, but we sell a lifestyle,” he said during his acceptance speech. “We try to help people get out to the outdoors, and not get outdoors across the country or the United States, but right here in our own backyard. Places like the Irving Nature Park, Rockwood Park, the trails out in the Kennebecasis Valley, our waterways. We have gems all around us and we really try to do our best to promote what we have right here in our backyard.”
Quispamsis-based MCL Construction won the Business Excellence award. Robert and Lynn McLaughlin started the company in 1978, and energy efficiency has been an important element of their construction projects for decades.
In his acceptance speech, Robert took great pride in emphasizing the progress the company has made since his son Brad came on board. Brad McLaughlin was recently named “Builder of the Year” by the Canadian Homebuilders Association of New Brunswick. He’s leading the way in doing energy efficient construction by building the first Certified Net Zero home in the province.
“I thank Brad for the opportunity to start the net-zero house, which is very important for our economy and for greenhouse gas reductions,” said Robert.
The annual awards gala hosted by The Chamber honours the Saint John region’s top businesses in seven categories. Here are all of the nominees and winners:
Business Excellence: MCL Construction Ltd (winner), Fundy Honda and PSAV Presentation Services.
Entrepreneurial Achievement: River & Trail Outdoor Company (winner), On the Vine Meat & Produce and Shadow Lawn Inn.
Emerging Enterprise: Breakout Saint John (winner), Create Over Cocktails, and Foghorn Brewery.
Passion for Change: This award exemplifies a person or persons that have decided to develop a business or businesses that fulfill their business and personal passion. There was a tie this year for the Passion for Change award: Mike & Vanessa Duncan (Duncan’s Electrical, Yoga Coop, and Rogue Coffee); and Yennah Hurley of KV Oasis.
Chair’s Award: Presented annually to an organization or individual that demonstrated substantial long-term contribution to, or impact on, the economic progress and cultural fabric of the community. This year’s recipient is the New Brunswick Museum.
Young Entrepreneur Award: Job Burns (Busy Day Chef)
Big Heart Award: PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools)