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Embarassing trips to the porta-potty spark clothing line by Sudbury woman.
Alicia Woods’ eureka small business idea came via the call of nature. She was a mile underground touring a Sudbury nickel mine 15 years ago in a bulky, oversized pair of men’s coveralls as part of job shadowing for her future sales position for a mining equipment manufacturer.
“I thought, ‘Uh-oh, what if I have to use the washroom?’ It was all men down there and all they had was a porta-potty, and I had all this gear on,” she recalls.
As her career in the industry grew, Woods found herself on numerous trips to mine sites across North America, but she discovered not even the smallest gear fit her petite frame.
About four years ago, she was in a potash mine in Saskatchewan and because it was so warm and dusty, she drank several bottles of water, resulting into an embarrassing trip to the loo that took far longer than the men because she had to remove the full safety outfit.
“That was it,” says the mother of two.
Covergalls was born soon after, when she found a seamstress to put together a sample design of women’s coveralls, with wrist snaps, adjustable Velcro at the waist and two-way zippers to fit various sizes — and of course a secret trap door for when nature calls.
Though women make up only 17 per cent of the staff in the Canadian mining sector today, or 46,000 people, her market research told her those who work hands-on as miners, geologists and engineers tend to buy several pairs of coveralls at a time a few times a year.
“No two women are alike, so why should they have to wear clothing at work that doesn’t fit any of them, and is made for men?” asks Woods.
The Sudbury native found a local manufacturer and the business took off. She pitched it to CBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2014 to help her grow her burgeoning clothing line, which has since expanded to include women’s safety gloves and a even a men’s line known as Coverguys — since, after all, mining men come in different shapes and sizes and prefer easier access for trips to the facilities, too.
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