Entrepreneur of the Year Jennifer Twigg

For Jennifer Twigg, running a business is how she gets to know people. Before settling down in North Bay, the Kirkland Lake-born owner of the wildly successful Twiggs Coffee Roasters travelled extensively, moving to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and as far as B.C. for her husband’s work in the pulp and paper industry.

As she moved, she tried her hand at various home businesses – sewing in one place, crafting handmade chocolates in another – and meeting the neighbours through her ventures.

“It was my way of getting to know a community and getting involved in a community,” said Twigg. “The best way is to start a business and be busy.”

When she found coffee, though, she stuck with it. They were in B.C. at the time, and the “Starbucks craze” was just taking off.

“We came across someone doing this onsite coffee-roasting business when we were in Vancouver and just loved the concept,” said Twigg. “I thought it would be something great that Northern Ontario didn’t have yet.”

When they moved to North Bay in 1995, she opened her own place, enthused about sharing her newfound love of freshly roasted coffee with her new community. It was hard at first, though.

“No specialty coffee had made it this far east yet, and the perception was that we were very expensive,” said Twigg. “We struggled for the first eight to 10 years, trying to educate customers into liking the coffee roasting.”

Eventually, people began seeing Starbucks pop up in Toronto, curious locals became regulars, and business started taking off.

“People started coming in, becoming regular customers, and started loving it,” said Twigg. “They got familiar with it and really liked the fresh roasted. It was definitely a long-term education process.”

In 2010, they opened a second location in North Bay, followed by a second franchise in Sturgeon Falls in 2013, and then one – their biggest yet – in Sudbury in 2017.

Despite regularly trying out new recipes and regular updates to their menu, their signature freshly roasted coffee is still at the root of it all, which Twigg enjoys at its most basic.

“I’ve always drank my coffee black. That’s just the best cup. You taste your coffee – you ruin it with cream and sugar!” laughed Twigg.

As her namesake café approaches its 25th anniversary in 2020, Twigg said she can’t quite believe how much time has passed since she first opened her doors.

“Some of my first employees, their children work for us,” said Twigg. “I’m looking in the mirror thinking, oh my goodness, it’s just the funniest thing.”

While Twigg spends much more time behind the scenes now, managing finances and franchises, she still makes sure to spend some time on the floor, greeting regulars who have been coming since day one, and meeting new customers.

“I still go in and visit all my people, and say ‘hello.’ It’s just all about the people,” said Twigg. “When I started out, I thought, ‘What could be the best business in the world besides talking to as many people as you can?’”

“I thought I was the luckiest person ever to be able to do that, and I still enjoy it.”