Shot in the arm

Suiting up
Startup looks to right-size clothing for women in the trades

Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman. That classic slogan for the Secret deodorant brand also applies to a clothing line St. John’s entrepreneur Tenai Norman has launched. Norman’s startup is called Gear Up Safety Solutions Inc. and it sells protective clothing for women working in the trades.

Norman’s business idea came from her experience working in the trades. In 2013 she became a power engineer, but noticed the clothing women had to wear on the job didn’t fit her. “It was so bulky and heavy that when you are trying to work, it’s not comfortable at all,” Norn says. “I felt it was time for women to have something to wear.”

With women making up just eight to 13 per cent of tradespeople in Canada, Norman is catering to a niche market. But she says that market is growing as more women enter the trades every year. Gear Up Safety Solutions’ clothing line features coveralls, jackets, pants, gloves, hoodies and more. Norman has no plans to open a store yet. For the time being, the clothing will be sold online.

The biggest challenge any new business faces is getting customers, and Norman’s business is no different. She will have to convince large companies that work in heavy industrial sectors and employ lots of tradespeople to use her clothing. To gain that exposure, she had a fashion show in St. John’s in May to unveil the clothing line. Norman estimates between 150-200 people were there. Will her idea catch on? Norman says it is early days in her venture, but she’s hopeful. “I’m getting calls every day and large oil and gas companies have been showing interest,” she says. “ExxonMobil came to the fashion show and so did Acklands- Grainger. So far, so good.”

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