Marissa McTasney has conquered the Dragon’s Den and survived the recession.
Her next big challenge comes next week when she sits across the boardroom table from Irving Shipbuilding Inc. executives.
The Moxie Trades founder, an Ontario company that designs work and safety gear for women, is on a mission to outfit working women coast-to-coast.
Since 2008, the company has grown from the bold beginnings of a pink work boot to more than two dozen products, including tool belts, hard hats and winter boots. Each combines safety and comfort but not at the expense of design and fashion.
As the brand has grown so too has the interest from Atlantic Canadian women working in the trades, McTasney told The Chronicle Herald Wednesday.
“We’ve noticed an increase in sales activity out east and in women from there just contacting me by email, looking for advice and just wanting my opinion,” she said. “I’ve never ventured (to Atlantic Canada) personally or professionally and given the huge ships contract in the region, it felt like the right time to come out.”
McTasney will pitch her product line to Irving representatives next week. Given the thousands of jobs the contract will eventually require and the growing number of women interested in a career as a tradesperson, McTansey remains confident the upward trajectory of her niche business will continue to climb.
Her products currently sell through Mark’s Work Wearhouse and various retailers all over North America.
“Fifty per cent of women are working and 50 per cent will need workboots at some time,” she said. “When I first got into the industry I couldn’t understand why we were all wearing men’s workboots. Not only are they different in terms of design and ergonomics but they can be a safety hazard, too.”
Six years ago, while feeling the urge to ditch the nine-to-five office routine, McTasney quit her job selling data management software for IBM to go back to school to learn the skilled trades. Inspired by U.K.-designer Debbie Travis, McTasney had ambitions to become a house painter but soon saw the gap in the market — the women in her class were wearing ill-fitting men’s work wear — and her business plan changed.
“When I started researching this it was amazing. It was what I thought and now it’s what I know,” she said. “Women had been getting injured, ….. female welders were getting their fingers cut off because their gloves were too big and they were getting snagged. Others had back issues because their shoes didn’t fit and they were wearing three pairs of socks to make them fit.”
McTasney pitched her business on the CBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2008 and partnered with oil and gas tycoon and philanthropist Brett Wilson, who offered her $600,000 in cash and shareholder loans for 50 per cent of her company in return.
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