When Lilian Cazacu left Moldova more than a decade ago, he and his wife – Ala – had a dream of building a new life for their young family in Canada.
With no job prospects, unable to speak English, and armed with his law degree that he soon learned wasn’t recognized in Canada, he had reason to be overwhelmed and give up. But his passion to build that better future for his wife and one-year-old daughter wouldn’t let him quit.
He set to work. And those efforts were recognized in spades on Thursday, when the Langley notary public was crowned the community’s businessperson of the year.
Each year since 1989, the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce presents this award – which now bears the name of its first recipient – the now late George Preston of Preston Chev Olds Cadillac. And this year, in seeking to recognize a community leader, contributor, and successful business operator (like the award’s namesake), they picked the 41-year-old Aldergrove father of four to carry the proverbial torch.
Admittedly, there were moments along Cazacu’s path when he wondered if their dream could or would ever be realized. But he persisted. He was not to be deterred.
In 2014, he figured out his solution and Lilian Cazacu Notary Corporation was formed. In the past five years, his business – located next to Costco in the Willowbrook neighbourhood of Langley – has grown to employ a team of eight people, and Cazacu is proud to see it continue to grow.
Besides leading his successful notary practice, chamber past president Scott Johnston – when presenting the award – said Cazacu also gives back to his community by being involved in various community projects and organizations.
Last year, those efforts earned Cazacu the crown of the chamber’s entrepreneur of the year. In 2017, he received the Small Business of BC award for best immigrant entrepreneur, and in 2016 he received the Langley chamber’s U40 businessperson of the year title.
This week, he received one of 11 awards presented during the chamber’s annual Business Excellence Awards night, an event that drew a sold-out crowd of more than 300 people to the Cascades Casino ballroom.
Going up on stage to accept his award, as well as cheers and applause from the audience, Cazacu was obviously moved by the experience.
“My wife gave me two instructions. Give a speech and don’t cry. So, I’ll try not to do it,” Cazacu said, generating some laughs from and support from the crowd.
But, the night was not without a few moments of emotion for the 41-year-old father of four.
He described the accolades as a surprise, “because a lot of good candidates” were nominated.
He also acknowledged that many “great community leaders” had been recognized with this “prestigious” award in past, and he described being classified in with the likes of them as “a privilege and an honour.”
Drawing a comparison to a duck on the water, he said people seldom see what’s going on below the surface – much like his notary business.
While he was being presented with the award, Cazacu said he accepted it on behalf of his team and his family who do the “big work, the hard work, the team work, and make the sacrifices” needed to make a business like his succeed. He thanked them for making the business – and by extension the award – possible.
The special recognition bestowed on him Thursday is not expected to really change what he does or how he does it, Cazacu said. But it does stoke the fires – his passion to keep doing what they do by making a difference in people’s lives one person at a time.
He described Canada as a “blessed country” and said he is glad the pursuit of their dream brought them to Canada, and specifically to Langley.
In this country, he said, “I think if you’re hard working and you’re honest, it’s almost impossible not to succeed.”
Quoting the former U.S. president Barack Obama, he added, “The world needs more Canada. I’m going to take that a step further and say Canada needs more Langley,” Cazacu suggested.
And then taking it a step further, proposing that Langley needs a little more of “you,” he said, pointing around the room at his fellow business operators, attempting to inspire them to keep giving of themselves.
“Let’s change where we are, and the world will become a better place.”
All of the business excellence awards presented Thursday night included:
• Community Impact Award (for-profit)
Recipient: Rare Affairs Event Management
Sherryl and Chris Parsons were on hand to receive the presentation from chamber president Brad Kiendl
“The team at Rare Affairs Event Management Inc. have a passion for creating unique and memorable events that bring people together. Now in its 20th year, the company works with local, national and international clients specializes in awards show, conferences, leadership forums, community events, team building retreats and much more. Their team vision takes your vision and turns it into a reality, allowing you to be a guest at your own event.”
• Community Impact Award (non-profit)
Recipient: Kimz Angels
Founder Kim Snow and her team of angels received the award from Langley Advance Times publisher Lisa Farquharson
“Kimz Angels is an outreach team helping the less fortunate in our communities. They coordinate the collection and delivery of the clothing, furniture, non-perishable food, baby necessities kids’ toys, school supplies and shelter for families and individuals. Their motto is ‘Always be humble & kind.’ Kimz Angels is made up of just ordinary local residents trying to make one small change in a person’s life that can get them back on track.”
• Environmental Leadership Award
Recipient: New Car Dealers Association of B.C.
President and CEO Blair Qualey received the award from Port of Vancouver’s municipal and stakeholder relations advisor Ram Chungh
“The New Car Dealers Association is the provincial association that represents 390+ new car and truck franchised dealers throughout BC. The Association speaks on behalf of the retail new automotive industry to the public, media, & government, & deals primarily with the legal, environmental, and consumer issues relating to new car sales in BC. The Clean Energy Vehicle Point of Sale Program is administered on behalf of the province of BC by the New Car Dealers Association of BC.”
• Service Excellence Award (in retail/service industry)
Recipient: Envision Financial
Business Banking advisor Leanna Napolitano received the award from Aldergrove Credit Union’s Gus Hartl
“Envision Financial is a premier provider of banking, investment & insurance services for residents & businesses in the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland and Kitimat. A division of First West Credit Union, BC’s third-largest credit union, Envision Financial brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision-making to banking. They create real value for their members through personalized advice, exceptional day-to-day banking products and ongoing commitment to innovative technology solutions.”
• Service Excellence Award (in the food and beverage industry)
Recipient: Ban Chok Dee Thai Cuisine
Parinya Lopston was on hand to receive the award from North Langley chamber director Frank Bucholtz
“Ban Chok Dee Thai Cuisine started in Langley in 2009 and is a family-owned, full-service, dine-in restaurant with seating for up to 120. A 2nd location opened in Maple ridge in 2016, and a cooking school (BCD Culinary Academy & Catering) opened in Langley in 2018. An exciting new Langley Restaurant, Food by Fanta, is now open for lunch and soon dinner.”
• Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Recipient: Daryl Berden of Ridgewater Homes Ltd.
Berden received the award from Aklilu Mulat, Trinity Western University’s senior vice-president of business administration & CFO.
“Daryl has earned the reputation as an efficient and meticulous contractor with a history of satisfied customers spanning 30 years. Daryl’s passion for his clients and projects is reflected in the quality of work and his portfolio of successful jobs. This clearly portrays his creativity, constructions ability, attention to detail and quality of work.”
• U40 Businessperson of the Year
Recipient: Travis Strain
CFP Travis Strain was presented his award by KPU executive director of marketing and recruitment, Joanne Saunders
“Travis has been running his financial planning practice in Langley since 2006 and focuses on guiding clients reach their personal and financial goals. He is actively involved with multiple charitable organizations and spends his time and efforts on helping those in the community who require assistance with obtaining support.”
• Small Business of the Year
Recipient: Travel Professionals International Langley
Carol MacKay and Rob Houston received the award from Leanna Napolitano, Envision Financial’s business banking advisor
“Travel Professionals International is a professional travel consulting and planning service. Their goal is to establish a trustworthy relationship with clients in a professional manner and provide high quality and unique travel experiences with service beyond expectations. Travel is their passion and is truly the driving force of their lives and our business.”
• Medium Business of the Year
Recipient: Bonetti Meats
Carlo Bonetti was on hand to receive the award from Louise Fogharty, vice-president of financing and consulting at Business Development Bank of Canada
“Bonetti Meats is a good old-fashioned butcher shop right down to the brown paper wrapping. We offer various kinds of in house made sausages, bacon, smoked hams, and a wide range of Italian grocery products. They carry AA and AAA beef, pork, lamb, chicken, deli meats and cheeses. They proudly support our community and base ourselves on family values.”
• Large Business of the Year
Recipient: JD Farms Specialty Turkey
Three generations of the Froese family were on hand to accept the award presented by Alysia MacGrotty, the community relations specialist at Trans Mountain
“JD Farms is a true family run operation, founded by Jack and Debbie Froese in 1979, and now managed by their children Jason, Marilyn, and Jenny. Third generation farmers, JD Farms is proud to provide specialty turkeys that are certified fed a non-GMO vegetable grain diet without any antibiotics. JD Farms operates a retail & bistro on their farm.”
• George Preston Memorial Businessperson of the Year
Recipient: Lilian Cazacu
Notary Lilian Cazacu was presented this award by CBM Lawyers LLP partner Scott Johnston