There are a few reasons for writing this blog:

  1. Jon and I got married a few weeks ago, and on a personal level, some of these local businesses went above and beyond to make our experience so special (and fairly relaxed);
  2. Cyclone turned 3 last week and some of the businesses listed here have been true community partners, both in assisting Cyclone with its goals of giving back to the community, as well as telling their own clients about “the Cyclone experience”. (And, as you’ll see below, some have been integral in both personal and business endeavours and you’ll easily see why they made my Top 10);
  3. Voting for The Coast’s “Best of” Awards ends this week and in addition to asking people to take a minute to vote for Cyclone, these local businesses deserve a shout-out and maybe your vote too! PLEASE VOTE (It takes only a minute of your time but could make a huge difference to the businesses and people you support): http://thecoast.secondstreetapp.com/l/Best-of-Halifax-2015-BOH15/Ballot/Health

What I propose to do here is to tell you a little bit about each business, give you their website and suggest that you check them out - perhaps you can comment by adding your favourites to my list as well.

Planning a wedding in 4 weeks is no easy task - it doesn’t matter how “small” or “laid back” you think it will be, there are always things that need to be done, such as buying a new dress (for the record, that was never the plan but when Jon got a suit, well, of course I had to have something too). So, off to Toronto I went, for ONE day, to try on and then buy a dress which was “something like” the dress I had seen online. Having it shipped to Halifax two weeks before the wedding, we were undoubtedly in a panic. On the advice of a friend, we walked into Daniels Tailors and following his suggestion to buy everything from corsets, to “cookies” (don’t ask), to “the” bra, we never felt rushed, we were never made to feel like we were crazy for leaving it to the last minute, and most of all, we (I) got a gorgeous dress out of it.

If you recall, a few months ago I wrote a very raw blog in which I said (and I paraphrase here) “sometimes things just suck”. In that blog, I mentioned how I was told by a physio friend of mine that it would likely be a year before I could do a real push up. 12 weeks post surgery today and I did a push up, actually a couple. Mark and his team deserve a whole blog, but the “key” (pun intended) things that set Mark apart from my other physio experiences is that he’s 100% honest, you are THE patient when you come in the doors (not one of three or five in which you’re left to do exercises while the physio checks on others) and, he works with you and your goals (not necessarily what is “standard protocol”). My goal was a push up - I got there way faster than even I thought and even though Mark called me a “fast healer” (code for perfectionist), I know that without his help and guidance, I would not, this quickly and safely, be on the road to “normal” again.

I had “heard” of the great Applehead in the past and then when Jon and I got engaged, I decided that as small and to be honest, inexpensive as we wanted it to be, I would spend money on a good photographer. So, again, less then one month before the wedding, I started an email dialogue with Liam which turned into a meeting a week later. Sold! Liam and Steph were absolutely the most fun people to meet and I knew from the minute we met them, they HAD to take our wedding pictures. And again, they didn't think we were insane hiring a photographer a few weeks out (luckily it was on a Sunday so we got them booked); they assured us that the “pose under a tree” look was not their style (certainly not ours); and, on our wedding day - pure magic. Jon and I were actually both dreading the “photo shoot” but truly, in addition to marrying my best friend, having Liam and Steph take our pictures (sheep and all) was one of the most amazing memories of that day.

With good reason, the ring was important this time (another blog, another day). Having done our research, we went into a few jewelry stores in Halifax and didn't feel “it”. Enter George and his team from Fireworks. Helping us understand the process (there is a process, which can actually be quite fun, when you design your own ring), George kept in regular contact with us as our rings took shape. He even managed to keep the secret from me that the ring was ready, allowing Jon to truly surprise me while brushing my teeth (the irony of that is not lost on me). But then there is the ring itself…I have not stopped looking at it, 100 different ways, since I got it. George knew exactly what I wanted, even if I couldn't put it into words, and I actually received something more beautiful and special and unique than I could have even imagined.

Despite my chosen career path into fitness, I am plagued with “issues” including a herniated disc and what Monique would call “stress induced” neck pain (me, stressed?!?). For years I have been seeing Monique to deal with my “issues”, and I can honestly say that she has, repeatedly, helped me to move when I was all but immobile. Being beside the studio, I refer everyone to her and tell them to use my name (I don't know if that carries any weight but I do know that everyone gets seen almost immediately and feels 100s of times better after their visit with her).

Norma and her talented staff straddle both the personal and business lists. On the advice of one of my staff, Norma and I connected via Facebook and without ever meeting her, I asked her if she would donate some cupcakes for a charity event at the studio. Without hesitation she said yes and they were incredible. A few cake pops later, I asked Norma to create a Ferrari cake as a surprise for Jon for our wedding. I had no idea what it was going to look like and when I picked it up, I had tears in my eyes at how beautiful and detailed the cake was. Only later did I experience how amazing it tasted. Cake Boss move over - Norma has you beat!

Sheena, a former staff member, new mom to the cutest kid on the planet, and awesome entrepreneur, is a co-founder of this amazing company which now finds itself in stores such as Pete’s Frootique - talk about hitting it big. With good reason, their bars are delicious, clients crave them after a workout (quite a number of them have standing orders with MWL now) and having Sheena personally deliver bars to the studio - well, you get it. Sheena has also donated items to fundraisers I’ve held and well, anyone who helps me raise money for causes that are important to me, gets an even bigger high-five.

When you think of local businesses, business leaders, and philanthropists, of course Aerobics First and Luke MacDonald are the first to enter your mind. Whether you are going into A1 for your third set of Mizunos (despite all of Luke’s help with the shoes, I still ran backwards at the halfway point in my one and only marathon), or you’re asking Luke to help out with a charity event, Luke and his partners are the real deal. I was fortunate enough to work with Luke on some of the first Sparks Fly initiatives, and because of his dedication and drive, that organization has completely taken off, making national headlines and changing the lives of countless children. During one of the last fundraising events we did together, I jokingly told Luke that he deserved the Order of Nova Scotia. He does. Meet him and you’ll know why.

9) Before I finish with the last local business, I want to dedicate number 9 to a few that I think you should visit, because of their customer service, their product and their willingness to help out other local businesses such as Cyclone (I am cheating here trying to get in a few more).

I know I have to keep this short but I can’t begin to say enough about Linda and her team - again, on a personal and business level. How Vernon has tamed my hair over the last few years is nothing short of remarkable and it is no wonder that almost everyone who goes to Cyclone, now sees Vernon. You think Halifax is small, sit in Vernon’s chair!

Linda is a truly inspiring business leader in our community and wholeheartedly deserved recognition as one of this year’s Business Persons of the Year. She owns a beautiful spa, with every luxury you could want, without it feeling stuffy or pretentious. In fact, it is the opposite - with every service I have ever received (and remember, I just got married, so there were quite a few), I felt relaxed, comfortable and genuinely welcomed.

Every request that I have made of Linda to help out with fundraising has meet with not only approval but support and encouragement. Linda and her team have supported our Bare All for the Barre campaign with excitement and a desire to help. As a community, we are so fortunate to have a wonderful and caring community partner like Spirit Spa with Linda at the helm.

So there you have it - my votes for some of the best local businesses in HRM.

As a side-note, you can easily see some of the economic hardships that face small, local businesses, when you travel throughout the downtown core. I won't get into the politics of it all (although I do have plenty to say) except to say that in order for places like Cyclone to survive and thrive, we need to keep our business local. As a small business owner, there is not a day that goes by when I am not grateful for the people that walk in my door. In turn, I have a willingness and desire to give back to those people by making my business the best place it can be.