When the media production company Beau Baker, Jon Hollif and Andy Vanhook worked for closed in 2011, they decided to found Appeal Production.
Nearly a decade later, the trio have expanded their video production business and won the 2019 Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year award.
“We’ve grown every year,” Vanhook said. “And I think we’ve grown more involved with the community every year.”
Four other local business figures took home awards from the packed dinnertime banquet at the Hotel Madison and Shenandoah Valley Conference Center in Harrisonburg on Wednesday.
The Yutzy family of Timberville won the Farm Family Stewardship award.
“It validates what we do every day,” said Dave Yutzy. Yutzy, along with his wife, Jewel, and their children, Aaron, 31, and Ben, 34, work on family’s 1,450-cow farm.
“In many ways you could say we’re selfish environmentalists,” Yutzy said with a laugh. “We want to maintain the land that we have so it’s productive for our own uses and for future generation’s uses.”
The Businessperson of the Year award went to Sarah Elson, the director of business relations for Massanutten Resort.
“I was stunned, to be honest with you,” Elson said with a laugh. “When Frank [Tamberrino, head of the chamber] called me on the phone, I thought he was prank calling me.”
Elson said she focused the most on team development throughout 2019.
“It just really helps me know that I am making a difference in what I’m doing,” she said of the award.
Chris Jones, an advertiser at WHSV-TV3 and Harrisonburg city councilman, won the Diversity Business Leadership award — making Jones the second recipient of the honor, first given out last year.
Jones was key in organizing the chamber’s first workforce diversity event at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center in June.
“It’s the business community’s responsibility to reach out to those individuals to let them know about the bountiful amount of opportunities available to our veterans, individuals that suffer from mental and physical disabilities, people of color, leadership roles for women and the like,” he said.
With nationwide unemployment at record lows, employers are searching harder and harder to find employees. The June chamber event was aimed at informing employers how to best tap into the diverse labor resources available in the Valley.
“I believe the chamber is really headed in the right direction,” he said. The business development group is “working to be as inclusive as possible with a variety of businesses, nonprofits and community members and leaders.”
The Community Champion award was given to Richard “Dick” Morin, the former president of the Page-Shenandoah Newspaper Corp. and former editor and general manager of the Daily News-Record.
Morin said he was pleased to have won the award, especially because his son and daughter-in-law were able to attend the event.
“I had a good ride,” he said of his work.
The 87-year-old has been involved with a number of local organizations, such as the Harrisonburg Rotary Club and the Rockingham Public Library board and for 38 years was on the board of directors for the Shenandoah Valley Economic Education board.
Morin’s career in publishing began in the military, where he managed a military publication and was won over by the industry.
“I learned an awful lot and said, ‘Oh boy, here’s a career,’” he said.
And for Baker, Hollif, and Vanhook, the award is no invitation to rest on their laurels.
“We’re investing a lot in how we’re going to grow next year,” Hollif said.
“We don’t see this as the end of the race,” Vanhook said.