Michelle Toner is passionate about elevating Indigenous entrepreneurs in Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo. She is currently the Executive Director of the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association, where she works alongside some of Canada’s top business leaders and emerging entrepreneurs. Michelle applies her partnership building know-how to increase the competitiveness and participation of Indigenous businesses across all sectors and industries.
Her desire to help entrepreneurs win in business can be traced back to her formative years growing up in a family of business owners. Michelle experienced early on that an entrepreneur’s greatest strength was their ability to bring together the right resources and the right people, who apply their individual strengths for the greater good of the whole business. Today, Michelle applies these same principals to her work with NAABA’s members, her team, and the Board of Directors.
Prior to joining NAABA, Michelle held various executive leadership roles in her decade long tenure at Keyano College including, Manager of Advancement, and Manager of both Guest Services and Marketing and Events within the Sport & Wellness Department. Under her leadership, Keyano College enhanced critical stakeholder relationships, improving revenue generation working in collaboration with government, oil sands operators and contractors, small, medium, and large businesses.
In 2016, Michelle was appointed to the role of General Manager of the 2018 Wood Buffalo Alberta Winter Games. Michelle and her team directed the strategic planning and execution of the nationally webcasted multi-sporting event, which took place in ten different venues across four communities. The Games attracted more than 2,400 athletes, coaches, and officials, and generated more than 1.7 million in corporate sponsorship revenue and $5.4 million in economic impact for the region.
Michelle’s background in sport management allows her to draw important parallels between the sports field and the world of business. Entrepreneurs compete for business, just like athletes compete for championships. Both approach their work in similar ways by, investing in training applying strategic methods, and persevering when faced with obstacles. Michelle holds a Graduate Degree in Human Kinetics, Sport Management from the University of Windsor, Ontario and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is also a certified PROSI change management practitioner.
Michelle is currently a Program Director for the Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program, an affiliate of the Venture Mentoring Services program through MIT. She also serves as Board Director of the 2022 Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games. Michelle also serves on the Wood Buffalo Economic Recovery Taskforce, appointed to identify programs and support to assist business recovery from the COVI-19 pandemic and the 2020 floods. Michelle was a proud member of Team Alberta’s mission staff at the 2019 Western Canada Games in Swift Current Saskatchewan. Her accomplishments in the collegiate sport world include Chairing the 2016 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship and Co-Chairing the 2009 CCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship.
Originally from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Michelle, has called Fort McMurray home for the past 15 years. She, along with her husband and two children, ages 8 and 10 are actively involved in the community. From cheering on our local sports teams, partaking in cultural events, and taking in the ski slopes, Michelle and her family fully take in the wonderful activities the community has to offer.
TAMMIE TUCCAROMembership & Finance Coordinator
Tammie Tuccaro is a proud member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation who was born in Fort McMurray and raised in Fort Chipewyan. She has lived in the Wood Buffalo region for over 30 years, and uses her skills in finance and network-building in her work as the Membership & Finance Coordinator. She is also the Co-Chairperson for the Regional Aboriginal Recognition Awards (RARA), which is near and dear to her heart as she was the recipient of two awards in the past.
“I am passionate about my job at NAABA. I started my career about 20 years ago, looking up to my role model, my Uncle Dave, seeing all the success he was achieving made me so proud and made me think that whatever I put my mind to I could achieve,” she said. “I take pride in my work as it reflects who I am. I have two college diplomas but am also self taught in many areas and am eager to always learn new things.”
Family always comes first for Tammie. “I am extremely grateful that I was offered a chance to work remotely when I left Fort McMurray to move to Fort Chip to be able to take care of my grandmother. It means the world to me to be able to do two things that I love from home,”
“Success to me is believing in yourself and working through the tough times even when you feel like quitting and still giving it your all to achieve your end result,” she said.
LISA GARDHAMMembership Experience Advisor
Lisa Gardham is the newest member of the NAABA team, bringing with her over 15 years of event management, customer service and business management experience with her in her role as Member Experience Advisor.
Originally from Victoria, BC, Lisa has lived in Alberta for 14 years and in the Wood Buffalo region for 8 years along with her husband and son.
With a diploma in Hospitality and Restaurant Management from Camosun College and a degree in Commerce focusing on Entrepreneurship from Royal Roads University, Lisa has worked for many prestigious organizations including Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Relaix & Chateau Hotel Group before moving to Fort McMurray where she worked at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre at Keyano College for 7 years. During this time Lisa continued her commitment to learning and developing her career and took a number of professional development and diploma courses, including obtaining her certificate in Occupational Health and Safety from BCIT and Project Management from Cornell University.
“This role is a perfect combination of my past roles and allows me to focus on the experience of our members and making sure that being part of NAABA is a positive and rewarding experience for businesses and individuals. I’m looking forward to raising the profile of NAABA through the success of our partners and highlighting some of the incredible organizations that we support.”