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Indigenous Leaders: North Bay entrepreneur brings a fresh take to coffee

Finely tuned business instincts have led Jennifer Twigg to retail success

As a successful award-winning entrepreneur, Jennifer Twigg, founder and owner of Twiggs Coffee Roasters, says her best advice for women entrepreneurs is to understand the financial and human resources end of the business first.

“I was extremely lucky that my mother was a bookkeeper,” she shared. “For women, there is a huge catch basin where your work doesn't end when you get home. There are dishes, vacuuming and, even if you hire someone, still stuff to do.”

Twigg has been recognized for her business acumen over the past 27 years with a Northern Ontario Business Award in 2008 for First Nations Business Award of Excellence and again in 2021 as Entrepreneur of the Year award.

(The Northern Ontario Business Awards is an initiative of Northern Ontario Business.)

Today Twiggs Coffee Roasters is a family-run business with six family members involved in the store operation, franchising and a new distribution centre in the works.

The flagship store opened in 1995 on Fraser Street in North Bay after Twigg and her husband Doug Twigg relocated to North Bay. Jennifer Twigg is a citizen of Nipissing First Nation.

Twigg’s husband spent his career as a manager for paper mills in Canada and the United States and travelled frequently.

“We returned to North Bay after travelling and living in British Columbia where coffee roasting was popular,” said Twigg.

At the time, offering a selection of quality organic beans that are roasted fresh in-house each day was new for Northern Ontario. It took a few years to get the business going, but once it did, it’s grown steadily.

At one time Twigg considered selling the business until her adult sons objected and offered to take over the store.

“My son Matthew and his wife Laura wanted to take over the store. I trained with them for a year just to get it going,” she said.

Eventually her third son, Adam Twigg, decided he wanted to join the family business and took over the store with his wife, Megan. They opened a second North Bay location in 2010 and the Sturgeon Falls location in 2013.

They didn’t stop there. They opened a store in Sudbury in 2017 and Canadore College in 2020 which her eldest son, Brad Twigg, took over, and opened the Parry Sound store in 2020 as well.

“My boys all decided to get involved in the business and they had the vision to grow it and do even more,” Twigg said.

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Her kids grew up around their parents testing out businesses and many of their friends, and future spouses, worked in the store. Both Matthew and Adam met their spouses while working in the store.

The Twiggs were heartbroken when they lost their eldest son, Brad, suddenly in 2021. His daughter, Brier Twigg, has taken over the Canadore College store. 

Jennifer Twigg no longer works in the operations side of the business but is focused on growing a new distribution centre.

“Our plan is to roast big batches for distribution in grocery stores,” she shared.

Adam and Matthew Twigg travelled to Turkey before COVID rocked the globe to purchase a 30-kilogram giant roaster.

“The Canadore College store was our biggest concern. When school closed, we were closed. We were not open for 10 months,” Twigg said. “We need breathing space after opening and closing, but once we get back on our feet we will focus on the distribution centre.”

Twigg admits that the pandemic was challenging but at the same time provided valuable insight into the possibilities for their business.

“We realized the potential real estate inside the store,” she explained. “We don’t need all those tables and can transform that space into a market where we sell our own products.”

They plan to make their own bagels, biscotti, granola and source other products such as sweet mustard, smoked salmon and cream cheeses.

They have been working and developing new ideas over the past year including an Indigenous coffee brand.

“Once we announce, pretty sure everyone will know!” Twigg said.

Her husband has now retired and is helping more in getting the distribution centre established. “My husband has given me 100 per cent support, always,” she said.

A major factor in Twiggs Coffee Roasters’ success and long-term viability.