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‘They don’t get that luxury’: Designing dream dresses for children in need

Nicole Snobelen is the 2019 Spark Award winner for her work with The Abby Fund, which she created through her business Evelynn by Nicole Snobelen.
Nicole Snobelen is the 2019 Spark Award winner for her work with The Abby Fund, which she created through her business Evelynn by Nicole Snobelen. Jake Jeffrey / 980 CFPL

Nicole Snobelen had always wanted to help others, and now she’s using her passion for fashion to do just that.

Snobelen is the owner of Evelynn by Nicole Snobelen, a fashion line that specializes in women’s clothing. But it wasn’t a dress she was selling on her website that led to her receiving the Spark Award at BBB’s 22nd annual Integrity Awards at the Doubletree by Hilton Wednesday morning, it was how she uses her dresses to make a difference.

A portion of the sales of her clothing line go to a program she created, called the Abby Fund, where she makes dresses and capes for sick children in hospital.

“When I started my clothing line, I gave away some dresses to women who couldn’t afford them, and one year I decided to do it for kids who were having a tough time,” Snobelen said.

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“After going through that experience, meeting with the child, letting them actually design their own dress, and then bring it to life, I just knew I had to do that for as many kids as I possible could.”

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At the time, Snobelen says she was living “dress to dress” trying to launch her own business, while also looking for a way to help.

That’s when she went home and opened a jar, and pleaded to her friends and family to contribute any money that they could.

She’s created over 120 dream dresses since she first started doing it in 2015.

“I didn’t realize the potential that my business idea had.

“I just always knew I wanted to make an income while making an impact, and I’ve been able to incorporate that into my business.”

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She says she has battled through illness herself, which has motivated her to help other people in similar situations, especially children.

“Going through that as an adult is so different form what they are going through as a child, they are kids, they should be out playing with their friends and enjoying things, but they don’t get that luxury.”

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New book helping kids cope with hospital visits
New book helping kids cope with hospital visits

Snobelen says is continually motivated by others who strive to make a difference in the community, including the six other finalist of the Spark Award.

“I wasn’t expecting to win at all, I was thinking this is way too good of a line up and I don’t compare to any of them, they’re all doing amazing things and I’m so inspired by them,” said Snobelen.

“I’m a firm believer in collaboration over competition, and I try to practice that as much as I can.”

(L-R) winners of the BBB Integrity Awards, Evelynn by Nicole Snobelen, Turn Drug Store Ltd. (Jeffrey Robb), and Studio H Artist Group (Heather Wenman)
(L-R) winners of the BBB Integrity Awards, Evelynn by Nicole Snobelen, Turn Drug Store Ltd. (Jeffrey Robb), and Studio H Artist Group (Heather Wenman) Jake Jeffrey / 980 CFPL

Studio H Artist Group was also recognized at the BBB event Wednesday, a leader among businesses with 1-10 employees.

“Our business is built around integrity, and sustainability, and taking care of everyone, from our clients to our staff,” said Heather Wenman, chief executive officer of Studio H Artist Group.

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“Bringing my team along, and seeing the difference we are making in the community has been really rewarding. Our employees really believe in the culture here, and enjoy talking to the customers about it.”

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The company started on Albert Street in 2007, and moved to Anne Street in 2014, where they currently have a staff of nine barbers, hairdressers, esthetician and skin experts.

“We moved into a new philosophy that if we help the planet, and help our staff become a lot healthier in the workplace, then we could set ourselves apart and be an industry leader,” said Wenman.

Wenman says they have a non-gendered menu and pricing, and her team works really hard to create an open atmosphere for clients.

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Jeffrey Robb, owner of Turn Drug Store Ltd. has a similar philosophy.

“I tell my staff every day, our industry is pharmaceuticals, our business is customer service,” said Robb.

“I want people to be recognized when they come into my business, when they leave my business — it’s all about communication and finding them the right solution.”

Robb says he learned everything about running the business from his father, who ran the shop prior to him taking over.

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“I got to learn from the best, from the team my dad assembled back in the 60’s, and then I jumped on board in 1974 as a 14-year-old, and I’ve tried to pay that forward to my team that exists today.”

It’s the first time they have been up for the award. Robb says they have a dozen employee at their location on Grand Avenue.

They won the award in the category for businesses with 11 employees or more employees.