May 7, 2012

Think Pink

Tomboy Tools teaches women how to do their own repair and renovation jobs in the home.

Lori Mitchell, left, and business partner Susan Harbin. The Canadian company has more than 700 consultants.

BY ELIZABETH GODLEY

If you’re a woman who’s often wished for a handyman at your beck and call, Tomboy Tools offers a solution. Do it yourself. Even if you’ve never hoisted a hammer or tackled a tiling job, Tomboy Tools originated to help women learn basic home-repair and decorating skills, says Lori Mitchell, CEO of the Canadian branch of the company.

A homeowner herself for more than 20 years, Mitchell was working as a human resources specialist when she first learned about Tomboy Tools. Bringing the company to Canada appealed to her on personal grounds – her husband travelled a lot and was rarely available for fix-up jobs. Even when he was home, he was no “Mr. Handyman,” she says. And, as a self-described “entrepreneur at heart,” the thought of heading the Canadian branch of a company intended not only to teach women to perform basic home-repair jobs, but to empower them and connect them with other like-minded females, was attractive.

That was eight years ago, shortly after Tomboy Tools was formed in the U.S. Today, the Canadian company boasts more than 700 consultants who host “tool parties” in every province. Similar to the Tupperware model, tool parties bring together women from all walks of life with a consultant who can teach them about tools and techniques. Consultants are available in Metro Vancouver, as well as numerous other communities around B.C.

“It’s a very fun, relaxed approach,” says Mitchell, who part-times as a stand-up comedian. “We build confidence and empower women through hands-on education and quality tools . . . We foster an internal culture that supports women and teaches them to feel confident using tools and to share that knowledge with others.”

The most popular projects for women include installing closet organizers and shelves, assembling and refurbishing furniture and putting up mouldings, as well as painting, installing bathroom or kitchen tiles and converting a spare bedroom to a nursery or guest room. “These are fairly simple jobs, but they make a big impact,” says Mitchell.

“We build confidence and empower women through hands-on education and quality tools.”
Lori Mitchell, CEO Tomboy Tools Inc., Canadian branch

Tomboy Tools, Inc. was founded by three women in the U.S., all homeowners who had projects on their minds. And for various reasons, they had to find out how to perform those tasks themselves.

As Mitchell says, it can be embarrassing always to have to ask someone else, usually a man, to fix something. Often you have to wait until that man has time to help you. Or you end up paying a repair person, who may or may not fix the problem for a reasonable price. Sometimes you wait, hoping the problem will disappear.

The founders of Tomboy Tools decided they wouldn’t wait, or pay someone to do the chores. And when they began gaining the skills and confidence to tackle projects themselves, they discovered that, as they gained self-reliance and confidence with tools, their self-esteem sky-rocketed. Not only that, they made new friends.

On its website, Tomboy Tools offers a line of tools especially designed for women. “They’re all ergonomically designed,” Mitchell says, and take into account women’s upper-body strength and hand size, among other factors. Most of them are pink, at least partly, which means husbands and boyfriends are less likely to borrow them. And five per cent of the proceeds from tool sales is donated to women-friendly charities, such as breast cancer research and shelters.

Tomboy Tools Canada, a direct sales business, also offers women an opportunity to work from home, as well as the chance to gain confidence in what they do. Consultants receive training, as well as discounts on tools and other perks. The website (www.tomboytools.ca) includes how-to videos that include information about painting a room and installing tiles.

 

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