[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Tonight, we honour business excellence, and it is now my pleasure to introduce the Lifetime Achievement Award. This award category represents longevity, often spanning decades, and this year we are pleased to recognize an entrepreneur who has been contributing to local business and our community for more than fifty years.
‘ALL or NOTHING’ is an approach that more than exemplifies tonight’s award recipient both in her personal and professional life. Many will say it’s in her blood and some may say it’s in the water, but for Marie Rosko, it is both. Born in Edmonton and raised in Victoria, Marie got her start in business, at 11 years old as a dishwasher in her father’s restaurant. And while this wasn’t to be her destiny, the lessons and work ethic gleaned by watching her father held her in good stead for more than five decades, represented by a list of achievements and community service that is just as long.
With Marie attracted to business from those earliest years, it will come as no surprise that she would also be attracted to businessman Lorne Rosko, who, 61 years later, remains her true love and business partner. Having moved from Alberta together, their first foray in Sidney was a dry-cleaning business at 4th Street and Beacon back in the mid 60’s. It wasn’t long until Marie recognized what a tough go it was for small business in Sidney and she quickly decided to collaborate with others in the local community to pool resources, creating advertising campaigns to promote the town as a shopping destination. For those who may remember that early collective was called SAM – the Sidney Association of Merchants and from those humble beginnings, a trail was blazed that went on to make way for the Sidney Business Association, the Sidney Street Market and the Sidney Business Improvement Association or BIA.
When Marie and Lorne later moved that original dry-cleaning business just a few hundred yards back from the corner, it made room for them to create space for another venture and Christine Laurent Jewellery made its debut in Sidney. That business flourished under Manager Judi Millard for 28 years until the doors closed and having worked together for almost three decades, Millard says she knows Marie better than most. “Visionary, industrious, ambitious, energetic and generous” are just a few of the words Judi says describe her very dear friend. When asked what she learned from working with Marie for so long? “I Iearned not to be afraid to take on a challenge, to always put your best foot forward, and that the customer is always right. Marie had tremendous respect for her staff, which enabled us to enjoy a supportive and positive financial working environment.”
Over the years, Marie added other businesses to her busy portfolio including the Animal House pet store, a computer training company, a house cleaning service, Superior Refrigeration, Sweet Talk & Lace Lingerie and finally, Lormar Holdings, her current property management firm.
When asked why so many and so different, Marie says that she was always on the lookout for opportunity, and when she saw gaps in local products and services, she endeavoured to fill them. While we all know that hindsight is 20/20, Marie clearly had foresight; she could look ahead and see what the community lacked and what might be needed. From day one, she believed that collaboration is key to building both community and success, so while she worked at her own individual endeavours, she did so always with an eye on the bigger picture, on working with others, building connections and supporting other local business.
And while you are imagining this creative and dynamic business woman, putting in very long hours with her various ventures, imagine as well, that she had seven children at home, who like their mother, were collaborating, learning to cook at an early age, taking turns making meals for 9, and learning to be responsible and supportive.
With leadership and championing change as the cornerstones to Marie’s personal and professional life, it should come as no surprise that while still running businesses, she found herself entering the political arena, when a proposed interchange at Beacon and the highway threatened to affect the business community. Her cooperative leadership style coupled with ambition and determination was a natural fit and she served six years as Mayor after being elected in 1990. Former Sidney councillor Brenda Harfield who served with Marie and considers her a good friend, says she is far too modest. Her best description of Marie she adds, is that she is ‘indescribable’. Her list of achievements while in office rival those of her life in business including the inauguration of Sidney’s Town Crier, the development of the Field of Dreams baseball park, the creation of the first ‘Town Talk’ resident newsletter, the new RCMP building next door to the Municipal Hall, the revival of the Sister City Association, the addition of new Council Chambers, and creation of the All Buffleheads Day celebrations, which resulted in a change in the Sidney Crest to include the now famous duck.
It is said that if you want to get something done, ask someone who’s busy and Marie has proven that over the years, adding volunteering to her professional and political success. Proud of her affiliation with the Chamber of Commerce, St. Elizabeth Church and 23 years with Sidney by the Sea Rotary Club, Marie believes that “volunteering is critically important to enhancing the community.”
Art Finlayson, longtime local business owner and respected architect, considers Marie a “stalwart citizen in Sidney and he appreciates her service as a former Mayor, to the local business community, and as a Rotarian.
With so many years of service to your community, comes wisdom, and when asked what her advice might be to those starting out or expanding in local business today, Marie offers up these recommendations:
- become involved with your local business association, fellow business owners, and your community, as they can support you and you can learn from them
- give yourself time to be successful –at least one to three years – which means you probably need to sustain yourself by other means
- remember that people ARE your business and treat them the same way you want to be treated
- recognize the potential in others, and celebrate success with them along the way
- be in service to your community, either in politics or by volunteering – there are many worthwhile local organizations that need a little extra help
Although the word ‘retirement’ doesn’t seem to be part of Marie’s’ vocabulary, she along with husband Lorne do have some ideas in the works; spend more time in their home cleaning up the yard, enjoy their five grandchildren, more travel, and to complete their 4th Street and Beacon Avenue Development project which has finally overcome the environmental requirements and will begin excavation in a couple of weeks. Given Marie’s limitless energy and enthusiasm for life, there is no doubt she will do them all.
Please join me in congratulating a long time community member who truly represents the very best that Sidney has to offer – Marie Rosko.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]