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Women Retool One Aspect of Home Repair

April 19, 2002|From Washington Post

Two years ago, a clutch of professional women in Denver was invited to a home party where upscale kitchenware was being sold.

As they were leaving together, they grumbled that the last thing they needed was another copper pan or veggie steamer. "What we really need," Sue Wilson recalls saying, "are parties where we can buy great tools."

Today, Wilson and four pals are principals in an online company that sells hammers, screwdrivers, pruners and garden gloves designed especially for women, along with providing do-it-yourself advice, links to product sources and chat rooms where customers can network about unplugging drains and regluing chairs.

"We were all doing the repairs in our own houses, but the tools we were finding at retail didn't work for us," said Wilson, the chief executive of Tomboy Tools.

"Hardware stores think that in order to appeal to women, you just take a tool made for a man and make it pink," she said. "But we knew exactly what was needed: professional-grade hand tools that were lightweight but effective, durable, easy to store, designed to fit a woman's smaller hand and, above all, not pink."

Sales of home-improvement products are at an all-time high--$187.6 billion last year, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute--and women are a major part of that surge. "The idea wasn't just to put a tool in your hand," said Wilson. "Tool kits were a major component, but educating consumers was equally important. We say, 'Here it is,' tell you how to use it, and show you the steps to completing a project."

After searching the international market for products and designing the Web site, including links to home repair sites, Tomboy Tools was launched in February 2000.

Eleven months later, Tomboy went online and has been expanding since.

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