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Phase II of life: Handing over of the toolbelt

May 1, 2017

As I enter the new phase of my life I am looking back at all the good and bad my career in construction has afforded me. There were multiple lessons, many of them painful, that I learned in the past 13 years as a business owner and handywoman. I wish I could say it was easier than I had thought it would be, but I would be lying to you and to myself. Many nights I was awake worrying about my customers, my future, my finances, my ex-partner and that business fiasco: I could go on and on.  And then there were the nights that I didn’t sleep because I was so ramped up about an upcoming class (I taught women home repairs) or a job I had lined up and couldn’t wait to start or finish (to see the results of my labor/love). And then there were the nights I was awake because of just plain excitement about my business and how it was thriving. I remember clearly when I changed the name of my company and took on the name that had been my persona for the first 10 years of business: ToolBox TomGirl.


ToolBox TomGirl became my alter ego. I wore pink work boots, shirts with a logo (pink work boot with tools), wore pink cowboy boots to any networking event I attended, I carried the tools of the trade around in my truck, and talked shop every chance I got. I was hooked and my passion I wore proudly. I am not a pink person but I needed something to keep my feminine in a man’s world (oh, and I always had a good manicure). I read everything I could get my hands on about maintenance, home repairs, and women in construction.  My favorite magazines were (and still are) Qualified Remodeler, Handyman, and anything with a DIY content. I joined other women in organizations that matter to the construction industry and I taught women how to do home repairs at the college, senior centers, private homes, and businesses. I gave speeches on being a woman in construction and about being a business owner and what it took to stay the course. I suffered through men who would not shake my hand at networking events, women who asked me where my husband was (insinuating I could not do this by myself), men and women who questioned my integrity and most of all I lost my heart when a good friend told me to stop playing and “get a real job.”


But you know what? I loved it anyway! I would not trade one minute of what I have been through, good and bad, for another career. I had worked in a professional environment for over 25 years and knew I had found the real me when I started my first business and continued to become ToolBox TomGirl, both the person and the business.


Now, you must be wondering why I am telling you all this. Here you go. I am officially handing over my pink toolbelt to my now assistant, Danielle Hall. Danielle started as my student at the college, interned with me for a year, and then became my right hand (and left hand on occasion). When I told Danielle that I needed to move on to other things (all personal for me, nothing to do with business) she asked if she could take over the Maryland branch and I open a branch in Michigan where I am now living with the love of my life. Of course, my answer was yes. I also handed over my teaching work at the college to a colleague who is also a woman in construction.  So, this brings me to where I am now.


I have officially decided to be semi-retired. My Maryland office will become Danielle’s and I will work for her in the facility maintenance field as needed in Michigan (we have retail stores that are county-wide and I can work with them outside of Maryland). At this stage in my life I am no longer interested in building a whole new company. I am having fun meeting new friends and building a personal network instead of a business network.


I do sometimes feel a loss for my teaching and learning new skills in construction. But, I am also relieved to be able to spend time with my new man, my new home, and my new life!  I know that I am moving into the second phase of being myself. This came a lot sooner than I had expected: as our parents tell us so often “time goes faster the older you get.” I am living and breathing that truth right now. Scary stuff, but so nice to look back and see the legacy I created. My passion gave a lot of women the confidence and drive to move forward themselves both in home repairs, and in building a business. I gave a lot to charity, mentored construction students, and stayed true to myself by doing things with passion, integrity and hard work.


I truly feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to both discover my passion and live it. I gave my all and I feel now is the best time to move on.


I will continue to share my passion in my writing. I look forward to being someone that women will still turn to for guidance but at a slower and more peaceful pace. It is time to hand the toolbelt over to the younger generation and simply be here as a mentor and friend.


Thank you for all your support and love over the years.


If you are in Michigan and want to spend some time together, look me up. If you are out there someplace else, hook up with me on Facebook or LinkedIn. And, of course, if you need facility maintenance help in your business or retails shop – call me!

I will never let go of my dream to “put a hammer in the hand of every woman and teach her how to use it.”

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