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Women Leaders in Business: Family, community and hard work drive Goulais River entrepreneur

Tiana Byrnes follows Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings to guide her business endeavours
Tiana Byrnes 1

Michipicoten First Nation’s website reads: “We are Anishinaabeg who understand our responsibility to care for our Nation. Under the guidance of Creator, our ancestors, and our history, we walk with our people to mino-biimaadiziwin (the good life, the life of holistic well-being).”

As a proud member of Michipicoten First Nation, Tiana Byrnes espouses the idea of mino-biimaadiziwin by creating jobs for her community and spending time with her family outdoors. 

“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs,” said Byrnes, who lives in Goulais River, a 20-minute drive north of Sault Ste. Marie.

“My grandfather Joe and my father Paul had logging businesses (Kudlac Contracting); my brother Nick owns Pine Valley Property Development; and my cousins Kim Walls and Travis McMillan own Trio Auto Supply. I was taught to work hard for what you believe in and that you can be your own boss.” 

Byrnes started off wanting to become a nurse or a changemaker, and at age 35 she’s already done both. The theme of working hard and multitasking businesses is, and has been, a constant in her life. 

While waitressing she pursued the personal support worker program at Sault College and then continued in the nursing program to achieve her RPN.

Then, she combined working full-time as a nurse manager for a homecare company, not to mention being a full-time mother of four boys, with opening a new business.  

In 2015, Byrnes and her husband Dan opened Twin Contracting. The business was named for their twins, Jaxson and Ryder, who were born two years earlier. Her older sons, Kayden and Hunter, also work at their businesses.

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“It’s important to keep family involved, because it’s all we do, our lives revolve around it," she said.

In March of 2021, Byrnes opened Twin Equipment & Tool Rentals Ltd (TETR), as she saw a hole in the market for renting heavy equipment, which also complements her husband’s business.

TETR has a full-service shop for the maintenance and repair of equipment and tools. It also operates retail sales of the STIHL line of equipment as the exclusive dealer from Goulais River to Wawa. Byrnes proudly notes that it is a 100 per cent locally-owned Indigenous business in Goulais River. 

Combined with hard work, her secret to success is one of the Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings: honesty.

“I think honesty is the greatest asset when operating a business,” said Byrnes. “Also, compassion and patience are important while dealing with customers and employees because everyone has bad days.”

She sees her vision as honouring and respect the teachings of love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth; blending them into her businesses paired with an understanding of various cultural and social values.

Her motto, rooted in her passion and care for people is, “Work safe, Go home Safe.”

Her other driving force is the potential to provide a future for her children and local jobs to her hometown.

“I’m a positive person, and I try to enjoy every day, but of course as an entrepreneur you have to make difficult decisions, and take risks,” said Byrnes. “It’s not always enjoyable, but it is very meaningful.”

Business, to Byrnes, is not only about making money, but about creating potential jobs and working together as a community.

“We have an amazing team,” she said. Accordingly, she would like to be remembered for being a compassionate, understanding employer, and a parent who built a business for her children and future generations. She hopes they’ll want to continue to grow and expand the business.

“Work is very important, but family is more important; we make sure we don’t take on more work than we can’t handle.”

The irony isn’t lost on Byrnes given that in addition to a large family and multiple businesses, the Byrnes’ also have a hobby farm with horses and chickens, and they sell fresh eggs.

For work-life balance, they find the time to enjoy the outdoors by fishing, camping, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing, among other family activities. 

As part of the community of Goulais River, the Byrnes’ like to donate to local charities like Christmas Cheer and sponsor youth sports. 

Most recently, Byrnes was excited to be selected as one of the finalists in the 2021 Pow Wow Pitch and is honoured to engage in a joint venture with Missanabie Cree First Nation.

"I have a great deal of respect for Chief Jason Gauthier and look forward to his business mentorship and learning from his desire to guide his people towards diversification, sustainability, and independence, while maintaining focus on the Grandfather Teachings and the protection of generations to come.”

Byrnes also credits her husband Dan as a mentor and an inspiration to her. “We have always worked very well together.”

They even share a Facebook page with a quote that seems to guide their lives: “No matter how educated, talented, rich, or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.”