In high school I excelled in fine arts and having fun,” shares Marissa
McTasney. First she tried the Ontario College of Art and Design and when
that didn’t work out, she pursued the fun angle and backpacked in Australia. Eventually she came back to Canada, got married and worked in sales at IBM. After the birth of her second child, Marissa started to question what she wanted to become. She’d just written and illustrated a book for her children, encouraging them to find their passion and follow their dreams – then realized she was doing neither. So after seven
years in the corporate world, Marissa traded in her high heels for construction boots. “I was always handy but spent my
time ‘winging it.’” When she saw a course for women in the skilled trades, Marissa signed up, then commuted every day for five months from Whitby to Burlington. On the first day of school she received a voucher for a pair of work
boots. The women had to buy men’s boots – the only kind available. And so Marissa’s hunt for pink construction
boots began, first on a whim and then in earnest, as she realized she was on to something. I first met Marissa when we presented her with the Company of Women scholarship as part of our support of the Women in Skilled Trades program.
Unlike the other students who were embarking on a career in the skilled trades, Marissa had a kernel of an idea –
Tomboy Trades – a line of work boots, hard hats and tool belts, all designed for women. Marissa, now 32, and her
husband Taz, believed so much in the business that they re-mortgaged their house to finance the start-up.
Fast forward not even a year, and Marissa’s products are available online through Home Depot. In December,
she is launching with Zellers in 15 stores. As we exchanged emails for this article, Marissa was in China talking to
manufacturers about expanding her product line. I have a sense that one day soon I will be saying with pride that “I knew her when…” And the icing on the cake – Marissa plans to offer her own scholarship in the future. Now that’s
paying it forward.
Writer: Anne Day
Company of Women