It’s not every day that you slay a dragon.

To subdue the fire-breather, Marissa McTasney needed a great idea, determination, and the intestinal fortitude to pitch her idea to a panel of billionaires on CBC’s hit show, Dragons’ Den, and then walk away when the offer didn’t feel right.

On her episode, Marissa, armed with the advice of Jim Treliving of Boston Pizza, had the incredible moxie to turn down the deal she was presented, and leave empty handed.

However, in true cliffhanger style, it wasn’t curtains just yet. After McTasney’s pitch, another Dragon contacted her to close the deal. “I ended up inking an agreement with Dragon and billionaire W. Brett Wilson” she smiles.

According to Mr. Wilson, he had a good feeling about Marissa’s moxie. “I was interested in what she was capable of doing”.

Pink work boots

The idea to launch her own line of female-oriented work-wear came to McTasney during her own search for safety equipment.

“I wanted to paint houses like Debbie Travis, and wear pink work-boots to look like the girly-girl I am,” said McTasney. “But no stores carried any pink boots or any female work wear at all.”

After being forced to buy boots and equipment designed for male bodies, she recognized an opportunity in the work-wear market and took action. “Wearing ill-fitting men’s boots was compromising the safety of women on the work site,” said McTasney. After market research confirmed demand sustainability for female-oriented work gear, she designed her own safety boot specifically created to support women’s feet.

That first pink work boot promptly grew into Moxie Trades, the only company in the world that designs work boots and safety gear specifically made for women.

Who buys the boots?

According to McTasney, the percentage of women represented in the skilled trades hasn’t changed in the past ten years. “When I started this business it was around two per cent,” she mentioned. “That number really hasn’t changed.”

The majority of Moxie Trades customers are do-it-yourself (DIY) women and women working on the floor in the manufacturing sector. “Larger retail outlets are also looking at stricter safety footwear guidelines,” said McTasney. “The great thing is these employers fund employee safety footwear every year.”

Keeping up with sales

Success came quickly for Moxie Trades, outfitting women all over North America. “I started my business with Home Depot online, then we were in Zellers and Walmart,” said McTasney. “One of our biggest issues was running out of inventory.”

Purchase order financing was keeping the company afloat but the expense was keeping it from growing. Moving to a distribution model with a company in the footwear industry was the solution to the inventory problem. “It was the best thing I ever did,” stated McTasney.

Moxie Trades has expanded their online female safety footwear business and is starting to receive consistent orders from Europe, Australia, and beyond.

Giving back

March 27th marks the tenth anniversary of the day the first Pink work boot was sold and Moxie Trades will be launching a National Day of Moxie to celebrate women in the workforce.

Additionally, after President Trump beat out Hillary Clinton in the recent U.S. elections, McTasney took on the huge task of coordinating and sponsoring the Canadian contingent of The Women’s March on Washington as a way to express the frustration she felt after Trump’s victory.

Moxie Trades doesn’t use traditional advertising but has utilized social media to its full marketing potential to spread the word about their work boots for women. Being active with women’s events and speaking for women in non-traditional roles has enabled McTasney to connect with thousands of people and help build a supportive network for women in the workforce.

“It’s not about the work boots; it’s about the women who wear them” said McTasney. “On my worst days when I’ve wanted to quit, inevitably I get one of those emails from women telling me how important her work boots are to her. And it’s not about how the boots kept them safe, it’s about how they feel wearing them.”

Capitalizing on an injection of moxie from a recent retreat in New York, McTasney has begun plans for a NGO in Geneva and a Canadian non-profit, as well as continued involvement in the global and Canadian initiatives of the Women’s March.

Get more export insights from Marissa McTasney here.