Filaprint wins best concept at small business awards

Jodie Mitchell accepts an award.

Jodie Mitchell, owner of Filaprint, accepts her award for Best Concept at the BC Business Awards in Vancouver on February 25.

Trent Ernst, Editor

Tumbler Ridge business owner Jody Mitchell of Filaprint is $1500 richer after taking home top honours at the BC Business Awards on February 25.

Mitchell was still a bit flabbergasted at winning the awards when she spoke to Tumbler Ridge News on Friday.

“I was extraordinarily shocked,” she says, when she realized it was her name that had been called for Best Concept.

Mitchell says she went down to the awards ceremony hoping to enjoy the day, and meet some of the other businesses that were nominated. “It was a beautiful day, 16 degrees out,” she says. “The sun was shining, the grass was green, and I sat on the deck at my sister’s place and painted my and my mom’s toenails,” she says. “We spent the day at Granville Island, then went to the Pan Pacific hotel where the awards were being held. I felt completely out of place. I’ve never been to anyplace that fancy. I was stunned at how beautiful everything was.”

She was looking forward to meeting the other contenders. “I had one in mind that I thought for sure would win, and I wanted to get to know them, and talk to them.”

As each category was announced, they played a short promotional video from each company. Mitchell said she couldn’t help giggling at how silly seeing herself on a giant screen in front of a room full of “important business people” seemed.

“They said my name and I can’t really remember anything after that,” she says. “I had nothing prepared to say. They played Back in Black by AC/DC as I was walking up, and I said something about how it was a good thing I was wearing a black dress. I talked about the support I got from Community Futures, from the community. Spoke a little bit about company, and I spoke about Tumbler Ridge.”

She was handed the trophy, and went back to sit with her mom, but they told her they had to take photos. Then, she tried to go back to her table again. “And they’re like, ‘no, you have to pick up the rest of your prizes.’ So I tried to go again and there was a live interview. Then this, and that and I was thinking ‘where’s my mom, I want to see my mom.’”

After the ceremony, one of the photographers chased her down to do a re-shoot. “They said I looked too shocked and ridiculous in the first batch. I was just giggling and smiling ear to ear.”

Mitchell says the whole process has been something of a blur. She didn’t even know she had been nominated until about two weeks before the closing of the event, which was based on popular voting. “All these other companies had a month and a half of promoting themselves, saying go out and vote. When I got nominated, I promoted myself around Tumbler Ridge, and on social media, but didn’t expect anything, because I was coming in right at the end of the race against all these businesses.”

But she made the top ten. “I was shocked,” she says. “After that, there was lots of rigorous work to show my business plan, marketing strategy, etc. to a panel of experts. It was probably 20 pages of ‘show your work and prove yourself’ to make it from top ten into top five.”

She says she put a lot of work into the response, but she did it honestly. ““I don’t have an education in business, and I told them that. I don’t have a university degree, I’m just a mom. Because I didn’t have the qualifications and education, I wasn’t going to pretend I was someone I was not. I live in the north. When things break, you have to fix it. It’s a very do it yourself kind of place, and that’s what I put in my submission.”

She also made a video, which Brandon Braam of Above Tumbler Ridge helped with. “I’m sure I got bonus points for his awesome video,” she says. “Then there was a ‘Dragon’s Den style interview’” that happened in the middle of January. There was a panel of five wonderful judges that were from different walks. I had to do homework on the judges so that when I did my pitch it would appeal to them, but ultimately it came down to me just being honest with them I decided I wasn’t going to change what I do, so I cleaned up the basement office, got rid of the Legos and empty juice boxes, but then decided that these are just people, so I explained what I do and why I enjoy it so much.”

She was one of the few entries who did the interview remotely; most of the other businesses showed up in person. She’s not sure if that helped her cause. “Maybe being in person was more intimidating,” she says. “They say ‘okay, go,’ and I had ten minutes to pitch. I had a presentation, and somebody down there ran it while I spoke. I managed to get through the presentation, then 30 minutes of questions. I sipped my coffee and talked to them like I would talk to anyone else. When they would ask a question I didn’t have the answer for I would say ‘I don’t know.’ Apparently they liked my story. I took it lighter than maybe other people did. I decided to have fun. I mean, I did my hair differently, spoke more eloquently than I normally do. I didn’t slough it off, but I just wanted to be me. It was very honest, and if you’re honest, it’s not hard to answer questions. I’m going to give them the best answer. I gave them exactly what I had, which is the knowledge that I enjoy what I’m doing and other people seem to like what I do.”

While the cash prize is nice, Mitchell says the big bonus is a full year’s worth of free education and programs from small business BC and mentoring and media coverage and support from their network. “When they asked me during the pitch what winning would mean, I told them ‘I didn’t have the education, and this would get me the education, help me further my business. That’s what I focused on.’ That’s the most valuable part of the prize for me.”

So, what’s the next step for Mitchell. “I decided I wanted to start an Eco-friendly 3D company, but I didn’t want to fill out small orders, so I found niche with mountains. Recently, I’ve decided to teach people how to 3D print and start their own small businesses. There are a lot of people who want to have a 3D hub, so I’m teaching them how to do it, so they can run their own business. In the last few days, I’ve had several companies hire me to come in and mentor them. I’m just going to stick with land models in my basement and teaching 3D printing.”

As part of that, says Mitchell, she wants to see a 3D printer at the Tumbler Ridge library. “I’m doing some other stuff through the school district. That’s the path that I’m focused on: helping people and teaching people.”