Lori Mitchell is a born entrepreneur. While she was growing up, her father owned a service station, then a landscaping business.
“I thought every 12-year-old had to know how to answer the phone and take a customer order,” she says.
Until a few years ago, she was the only one in her family who didn’t own her own business. Instead, she held an executive position with a large corporation.
Then, one day in May 2002, she read an article in her local paper, the Winnipeg Free Press, about a Colorado company specializing in selling tools for women. She had a visceral reaction.
“Tomboy Tools jumped out of the newspaper and punched me in the face,” says Mitchell, 44.
She immediately e-mailed the company and its president called her the next day.
A few months later, she flew to Denver, “spent the weekend with three strangers” and came back with the Canadian rights.
In October 2003, she quit her job and spent six months getting ready to launch in Canada. She set up a website and scheduled training sessions to begin three weeks after the company’s grand opening at Home Expressions, Winnipeg’s spring home and garden show.
As president and CEO of Tomboy Tools Canada, she credits the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association, which was in charge of the show, for teaching her the ropes.
That weekend, she signed up 11 women as consultants. She now counts about 160 consultants, predominantly in the west, but gathering steam across the country.
The business operates through home-based parties, which double the benefits: Women can try out the tools in a “T”-free zone — no testosterone — with the support of friends.
Often asked what kinds of women are attracted to tools, she answers: “The female kind.”
According to a Royal Le-Page first-time homebuyers’ report in 2004, 51 per cent of homebuyers were women.
Through divorce, widowhood or by choice, women will be on their own at some point and should be prepared to hang pictures and even fix a running toilet, Mitchell says. “We teach our sons to cook so they can look after themselves as adults, so we should be passing on to our daughters proper stewardship of our homes.”