The editor-in-chief of Builder/Architect magazine has given me the great honour to be featured in the Women in Construction edition — an honour that to be honest, I feel is premature. I haven’t struggled with being a tradeswoman. I haven’t felt discrimination because of my gender. I haven’t been injured emotionally or physically from being on a work site. The women before me paved the way and now in only two years, I have been able to celebrate being a woman who wears work boots — mine are pink!
It has been only two years since I decided to ditch my high heels. The moment I decided to lose those shoes was a late evening in January as I was surfing the web to find that course. That course for Women in Construction. That course I read about in a local paper and cut out and placed somewhere special before I was about to give birth to my son. I showed the article to my colleague and said, “I’m going to take this course after I have my kids.” That was on one of my last days of work at my corporate job three years before the evening that changed everything.
My son was two and a half and my daughter was only eight months old. After writing a book, With Love to my kids on my philosophies of life, Dream Big, Think the Impossible and Love Passionately, I went searching. What did I really want to be when I grew up?
I wanted to be a tradeswoman.
Two kids and one book later, my second maternity leave coming to an end, and on a cold, late night, I found the article. I found the course. How could I have forgotten? I cried. This is what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Explain that to your mother and husband.
After I made the decision, I wanted to convince myself that it was going to be OK. It was OK to be a tradeswoman. It was OK to leave a great sales job at one of the best companies in the world. It was OK to come home dirty every night. It was going to be OK.
I ran a couple of focus groups to determine the viability of an all-female working crew. I searched online for hours for women’s construction organizations. I interviewed women in the trades. I spoke to men in the industry to see how they felt about it. To my amazement, they were fine with it. In fact, they embraced it and thought it was fantastic.
I decided to build a company of tradeswomen. It would be more than just me. We would have plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters and designers.
Every time I did the research, I learned that women are excited about getting their hands dirty in construction, and that people would hire us. I created a business plan.
I geared up for my course, Mom moved in to take care of my kids, we re-mortgaged so that I could take the five-month course, and my husband sold a lot of phones for his company to help financially support my new venture.
Do-It-Yourselfer no more, I began a new career as a professional tradeswoman.
On day one in training, my classmates and I ran to the local safety supply store to buy our work boots. To my sheer disappointment there were no pink work boots, and even worse, I had to buy men’s boots. Considering the research I had already done in determining my future business opportunities, I didn’t understand this dilemma. What were women wearing? Who was addressing their needs?
After conducting sufficient research, I realized there were many gaps in the industry:
- We (Canadians) were hiring from abroad to fill our employment gaps in the construction industry.
- We are not promoting the skilled trades as a viable business opportunity at any education level. It was being taught as an alternative career choice for the less brilliant in class. I want it to be a choice, not an alternative.
- Women make up half the work force, including industries where women wear work boots. These industries include forestry, manufacturing, design, retail and construction.
- The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is working to promote safe workplace practices and employers are diligently implementing them.
- Women are key decision makers in their homes, even where they live in a traditional married household.
- Women account for approximately 50% of the purchases made at large hardware retailers.
- Women make up 20% of all home buyers. This number has increased by 50% in the last eight years.
In terms of the products out there for women – they were merely sized-down men’s stuff. No one was actually catering to this quietly booming phenomenon.
Immediately, the footprint of my business changed. I created an online registry for women in the trades. I wanted to have a listing of like-minded women as a referral base. If customers wanted to hire a female electrician or refer one, they could find her by accessing the database.
I completed the course for Women in Skilled Trades and now I know how to build a house (generally speaking.) I worked for a few months on residential renovations. Before naming my company, I was greeted by a few prospective clients with a lot of surprise. Not only was I a woman quoting the work, I was also the one doing it. As a result, I decided to announce my arrival before I got to the door and named the company Tomboy Trades. I used a controversial logo. I love the logo.
The next division of my business grew too fast and not fast enough. At night, after my day job, I was working with manufacturing companies overseas to produce work boots for women. My pair was destined to be pink, but knowing that some wouldn’t be caught dead in pink, I offered four feminine colour pallettes. We were offering everything except the jeans, from work boots to hard hats.
In the past two years, Tomboy Trades Ltd. has achieved milestones and successes. Home Depot launched the line in March 2007 where we continue our partnership with the online division at www.homedepot.ca. Zellers piloted the line in sixteen stores this past winter and we are looking forward to moving into 100 stores across Canada this summer.
We are also re-branding. We want to expand globally and we can’t bring the “tomboy” name with us. So, after months of ‘tooling around’ names, I re-branded to Moxie Trades.
Moxie can be defined as the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage. The moxie mentality has audacity, backbone, bravery, determination, spunk and tenacity. I boldly embrace the word as this now defines my every move, thought and deliberate action in my business and my soul. This is what I hope my kids say their Mom has.
This is the word, I hope that all women can also use to define who they are.
Moxie Trades is now building business across the globe. We are establishing a foundation in Canada. We are slowly introducing our products in the US market through independent retailers and we have recently obtained European certification of our products.
We are expanding our collection to provide women the products they need to be safe, comfortable and stylish. Our business has moved beyond the gig of our famous Pink Work Boot: Betsy. Our goal is to provide excellent quality products with the best components. We cater specifically to the female market. It’s not an afterthought, it’s our mission.
Please visit our website, moxietrades.wpengine.com. If you are a tradeswoman, please join our online registry. If you have any specific on-site requirements or any feedback, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your input will allow me to build the business to cater specifically to our market.
I leave you now with only one question: Do you have moxie?