“I think that the peer aspect is really important because as a small business owner, you feel quite alone…”
TONYA IN 100 WORDS
With a background in environmental policy and biology, Tonya Bruin spent 16 years working for Environment and Health Canada. She found that the more she progressed in her career, the less freedom and creativity she had. There was little room for new ideas, and once on the executive team, she began to feel less connected to her job than when she first joined the federal public service in her 20s. “I started thinking about starting a business about six or seven years before I actually did it,” said Tonya. “I marvelled at the model of a service industry turned on its head by someone who is creative and dialled in.”
“We’re all telling the same stories: It’s really hard to find a reliable, handy person to do stuff in your house when you need it done,” said Tonya. “I saw that there was an opportunity and that’s when I started the company.”
Tonya Bruin started the Ottawa-based handyman business, To Do – Done, on January 1, 2015. Her staff of handymen are all vetted and insured, and complete every service backed by a Workmanship Guarantee. From home maintenance and repair projects to renovations and commercial work, they do it all. Most recently, they have turned their attention to helping their clients and their homes become more energy conscious and efficient.
“I’ve always wanted a mentor, sought out mentors, even when I was with Environment and Health Canada. I have always felt like there was so much value in that one-to-one,” said Tonya, who joined TEC in 2017. “[At TEC], we have a great team that’s bonded really well,” she said. Like all TEC groups, the members are from different industries, and Tonya has found through their conversations that they all struggle with the same issues. “There’s HR, financial management, marketing and sales. There’s about seven main buckets that everyone has to master a little bit. As a CEO of a small company, you’re not paying for someone to take over all those buckets, or at least for the first couple of years you have to oversee them, and it’s helpful to hear how other people are solving those problems.”
“I think that the peer aspect is really important because as a small business owner you feel quite alone,” said Tonya. “I look forward to spending an entire day with a group of people who are going through similar stuff and can totally relate. It is definitely my favourite day of the month.”
“Every time you open up the Ottawa Citizen, you read a story about someone who is struggling and last year in particular we had major flooding,” said Tonya. “I knew that there were needs out there and at the time, I didn’t have the mechanism to do it for free.” Out of an exercise with TEC Canada speaker Gair Maxwell, Tonya was challenged to think about the work she was doing and the impact she was having through her work. That’s when Tonya decided that they would consciously put aside 1% of their revenue to help people continue to live their lives in dignity in their homes. The What If Fund helps low-income homeowners in crisis keep their homes safe by providing free services. Through the What If Fund, Tonya and her team have been able to solidify their brand, tell their story and set themselves apart from the competition.