I first met Toby Barazzuol, Owner and Founder of Eclipse Awards at Tillicum Elementary school in East Vancouver. He was in grade 2 and I was in grade 1. We had a few mutual friends and played on the jungle gyms in our neighbourhood. He moved away and then I didn’t see him again until we were in high school in North Vancouver — We were reacquainted by mutual friends that attended Windsor Secondary with him.
And now he’s running a successful company that is celebrating its 23rd year in business!
M: When did you open Eclipse Awards?
T: We opened the doors for the very first time at Eclipse Awards on April 1, 1998.
M: Did you always want to own your own business?
T: Since I was a kid, I always dreamed of starting some kind of business that would help people. My parents were both teachers with no real interest in business, so I think they sometimes wondered where I came from.
M: Where are you from? If you moved to Vancouver, why did you move here?
T: I was born and raised in Vancouver! In fact, we used to live upstairs of the Stanley Park Teahouse when my parents first started their family (my grandparents ran the restaurant there for many years). At age 5, we moved to the rainforests of North Vancouver, which is where I grew up and currently live. I love it here!
M: What was your inspiration for Eclipse?
T: I used to work at a small company and my boss had a side business making crystal awards and trophies. So I learned how to design awards, and sandblast them to bring them to life, and found that I really enjoyed using my hands to make things.
But after attending dozens of award ceremonies to watch our awards being presented, I began to notice that most award recipients were overcome with happiness, often crying tears of joy upon being recognized and appreciated. It was always such a positive, powerful and uplifting experience that I decided I wanted to help bring more of that into the world.
M: What did you do prior to opening your business?
T: The small company I used to work for would build log homes and ship them to Japan. They were almost like puzzles, with each log numbered and reassembled on site overseas.
M: If you were in a different industry, did you enjoy your former career?
T: I enjoyed that earlier role because it taught me the skills to run my own business, but I wasn’t passionate about exporting log homes.
M: What did you study in university? Which university did you attend? Would you advise others to pursue a degree before opening their own business?
T: I went to Sauder Business School at UBC and majored in marketing and sociology. If you’re interested in starting your own business, a college or university degree is certainly helpful, though I wouldn’t say it’s required.
In terms of running a business, I don’t think school prepares you with practical knowledge or skills. However, it does teach you how to solve problems, communicate, and work with others, which are all important skills for running a business. You might be successful in starting a business without a degree, but I think your chances improve a lot with some education.
M; What would your advice to future owners with dreams of starting their own business be?
T: Start a business if it’s something you love and believe in, not because you think it will make you rich. You will need to draw on your passion to get you through the challenging times of the first 3-5 years. If you are passionate about your work, do the things you promise to do, and treat people well, then the money will start to flow.
But spoiler alert.. if you think that owning your own business is the path to more free time, it’s actually the opposite.
M: Do you have a philosophy in life or famous quote, you would like to share with everyone?
T: “Energy flows where your attention goes.”
“Recognize. Empower. Repeat.”
2012: Eclipse Awards is the 8th company in BC to become a Living Wage Employer.
2012/13: Eclipse Awards is recognized as BC’s Best Employer by Small Business BC
2014: Eclipse Awards is recognized as BC’s Best Green Business by Small Business BC
To learn more about Eclipse follow their Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, you can also visit their website, Eclipse Awards – Maker of Fine Awards, Plaques, and Trophies.