YORKTON - Kenn Propp was presented the Business Leader of the Year Award at the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce Celebrate Success Business Awards.
Propp “is the president of Harvest Meats. He has worked for the company since he was 12, but being a family business, he didn’t receive his first pay cheque until he was 16,” read Donna Brothwell from the award citation at the Wednesday awards dinner.
It was an award Propp told those at the ceremony he was surprised by.
“I must admit I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say,” said Propp, adding he initially asked for a day to think over whether he would let his name stand for the award.
After some thought he said yes, in large part because of the difficulties his staff have faced through COVID, being a high risk environment given the close proximity of staff.
“We had to change almost everything we did. Our employees had to change everything they did. We had to adjust quickly,” he related.
And, with that in mind Propp said he saw the award as being for the broader staff.
“Our employees are the real heroes ... I accept this on behalf of our employees,” he said.
Later Propp would tell Yorkton This Week that much of his success is rooted in his early years when he “worked on the floor shoulder-to-shoulder,” with the core staff. He said that gave him an early understanding of the importance of workers.
“They (staff) are the industry ... They made this company what it is,” he said, adding he sees the award he received as more of a nod to the team at Harvest Meats than an individual accolade.
Certainly something has worked at Harvest Meats as Propp noted, “When I started we had 12 employees,” and today the number is 330.
The citation fills in some of the background on Propp’s 50-year career.
“After completing his university education in 1974, Kenn returned home to help his parents with the business, which was known as Midwest Packers at the time,” read Brothwell. “The more he worked, the more responsibility he assumed. In 1979, he purchased the outstanding shares in Midwest Packers and changed the name of the company to Harvest Meats. Under Kenn’s leadership, the company has grown to employ over 300 people and is a player in international markets. Every food item carrying the Harvest Brand is manufactured in Yorkton.
“Kenn has enjoyed his long tenure with the business. He says life is too short not to enjoy the work you do everyday. The company values its employees and believes it’s important to support the staff by sponsoring their events and activities. In turn, this has led to sponsorship of over 200 events per year in the community.”
When asked what advice he would offer a young entrepreneur, Propp told Yorkton This Week one of the keys is to make sure you like what you are doing.
“You really have to enjoy what you’re doing,” he said, adding not every job fits every person, so if you aren’t enjoying it, try something else.
“Enjoy what you do. It isn’t work if you enjoy it.”
Propp, with his decades in business has insights into what it takes to be successful, and he has been willing to share those.
“Kenn has served his industry as a founding member of the Sask Meat Industry Safety Association and a Designate to the Food Processors of Canada Association,” read Brothwell.
Propp said later it has proven to be a very successful process internally within the company to share ideas.
“It helps solve problems very quickly,” he said, adding someone has often faced a similar problem and already found a workable solution.
Propp has also served his community as a Director of Yorkton SnoRiders, council member of his church, Director of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce and a member of Toastmasters International, noted the citation. “Kenn was a founding member of the Yorkton Economic Development Commission that helped establish the importance of economic development to the city. It was the work of this commission that ensured the Painted Hand Casino located in Yorkton. Kenn also served as Chair of the Yorkton Community Bond Corporation.”
Propp looks back on the work to secure the casino for Yorkton as being an important effort, noting had Yorkton said no, it would have been built in Melville.
“There was a lot of resistance, racial prejudices, but we just navigated through it,” he said.