Businesswoman talks about her company and giving back

Whitby CEO shows girls can be more than just pretty in pink. WHITBY — Marissa McTasney, CEO of Moxie Trades, talked to members of JCI Durham at Class Act Dinner Theatre about the ups and downs of owning her business, Moxie Trades, on May 3. May 3, 2012. Nathan Mackinnon / Metroland
WHITBY — Addressing a crowd from Durham Region’s business community from behind a podium in a Betsey Johnson tutu in multiple shades of pink, Marissa McTasney may not look like a typical CEO.
But looking down a bit further, a pair of pink, ankle-high steel toe boots say everything Ms. McTasney needs to about Moxie Trades. That boot, called ‘Betsy’, is where it all started and was inspired by the women’s clothing designer who has an affinity for all things pink.

The Brooklin resident became a dragon slayer when Brett Wilson invested in her idea on CBC’s reality show Dragons’ Den. Her company makes apparel, personal protection equipment, hardware and safety shoes specifically for women with a twist as bright as Ms. McTasney’s dress: they come in pink and baby blue.

She was speaking at a Junior Chamber International Durham event at Class Act Dinner Theatre May 1 about her business, which she says has been a real rollercoaster of successes and learning experiences.

Despite setbacks, which included problems with large retailers, Ms. McTasney says she has built a brand, which is more important than just making a product.

Moxie Trades is in more than 400 stores across the country, from independent retailers like Mister Safety Shoes in Oshawa to larger retailers like Mark’s Work Wearhouse.

The entrepreneur started in sales at IBM, but says she always felt something deep inside telling her to create.

“I always knew there was something I wanted to do. I had that kind of entrepreneurial pain that you have. I’ve always had it and I didn’t know what to do with it. I still have it today. I’m sure that’s the reason I get up every day despite the day ahead of me,” said Ms. McTasney.

There were some in the audience with that same feeling, and Ms. McTasney says it’s important to decide if it’s something to act on.

“Figure out what it is. Then find out if the passion is there, because if you’re not passionate about it, it won’t work,” says Ms. McTasney.

Her passions extend beyond her business to one of her core principles: give generously. On May 5, Ms. McTasney and a group she’s rounded up did some pro-bono renovations at Nova’s Ark in Brooklin.

Nova’s Ark is a charity that provides therapy to children with special needs using interactions with exotic and farm animals.

“We’re painting and renovating all of the animal enclosures, the barns the workshop and gardens as well as gardening for (the owner) Mary-Ann Nova.

“Giving back just feels good. Can’t it be that simple?” asks Ms. McTasney with a laugh. “It’s the right thing to do, she’s certainly doing good things.