Local resaurant owner and operator, Kjeryn Davis of Bukwildz and Viva La Sirena took home the Cheryl Darling Memorial Award – Outstanding Business Woman of the Year during the 2016 Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.
“It’s taken me a few days to be able to process it all,” said Davis on Monday afternoon. “It came as such a shock to be recognized in that way. Having spoken with a few local women they told me that this award isn’t typically given to someone who hasn’t been in the community for very long or who didn’t have 10-15 years business experience behind them.”
While she may not have been aware of this heading into the awards, it’s something she will be eternally proud of and grateful for.
The Business Woman of the Year award is a memorial honouring Cheryl Darling (1950 – 2009), a local business woman who was known for her innovation.
“She pushed so hard against the glass ceilings of her day and that’s why we have this award,” explained Davis. “It’s usually given to people who are pushing the limits in their own ways, which makes it that much more of a compliment.”
During her acceptance speech at the 2016 Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, Davis detailed her journey to Sylvan Lake, explaining how she had bartended in Sylvan Lake when she was 18. Seeing the business potential in Sylvan Lake, three years ago she moved with her daughter, Koragin.
Davis, then 27, was new to the business world but had a passion for food, fun and customer service – the perfect combination for a business owner on Lakeshore Drive.
“The day I opened Bukwildz I had negative $6,000 in the bank. It was a tough first few months,” said Davis. “I said sorry a lot of times that first summer, but we made it through.”
“A lot of my staff are here tonight and have been with me a long time. They’ve stuck with me because they saw the sparkle in my eye.”
The second summer Bukwildz was open, Davis said the business boomed.
“The second summer, we killed it. Absolutely killed it,” she recalled. “My staff worked together as a team. We stuck together and it’s because of them that I am standing on this stage today.”
“I care, I really care. I appreciate it every single time you walk through the door of my business.”
Following the success of Bukwildz, Davis opened Viva La Sirena (Long Live The Mermaid), located adjacent to Bukwildz on Lakeshore Drive. The tapas and sangria fueled restaurant features a variety of unique culinary experiences as well as unique events such as a weekly jazz night.
“A lot of times as a business owner and entrepreneur you can feel like you’re really just beating away to your own drum,” said Davis. “You don’t go into it expecting recognition and it can really feel like an uphill battle for, so when you are recognized it means that much more.”
“When things start to click, your numbers go up, your business starts working on every level and you begin to get recognized – it’s a big pat on the back and it reminds you to keep moving forward with what you’re doing.”
Davis wished to thank not only her, but also the Rotary Club of Sylvan Lake and the Chamber of Commerce.
“Being involed with the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce helps me to keep a pulse on the community,” said Davis. “Unless you are out there and involved in the community, then you’re really only guessing at what people want.”
“It’s easy to lose sight of your community when you’re entrenched in work – buried in paperwork or sweating behind a grill. So getting out there and going to those Rotary meetings or to Chamber events gives me that break I need to get out there and help people as well as clear my head.”
She added, “You can see what others are struggling with and you think of ways you can help them give back to the community. Sometimes it’s the other way around and you’re the one asking for advice from other Rotarians or Chamber members. It’s an amazing support network.”
Davis also sent a special thank you to her daughter, Koragin.
“I have to thank my daughter, she puts up with so much, – I’m not exactly a normal mom,” said Davis. “It makes me really appreciate my staff, because they can pick up the slack for me where I can’t.”
“Today for example, I have to take my daughter to ballet at 3 o’clock, other days I’ll be coaching soccer or doing what I need to do. My staff will never give me any trouble over me not being there at times, because they understand I’m a mom first.”