NORTH END SPRING LTD. has the largest inventory of springs and hardware in central Canada. Some of the parts we carry include: truck and trailer ...

NORTH END SPRING LTD. offers spring service and repair, front end service, mobile axle king pin service, and on-site alignment and balancing ...

Trading Heels For Steel Toes

27 January 2014

by Christine Dubyts

The number of women-owned businesses continues to rise around the world, but our presence is hugely underrepresented in a few 'big revenue' industries, according to American Express' "State of Women-Owned Business Report, published in August 2013.*

        TRANSPORTATION & WAREHOUSING - 11% Are Owned by Women

        FINANCE & INSURANCE - 20% Are Owned by Women

        CONSTRUCTION - 7% Are Owned by Women

Are little girls' inclinations to choose dolls over trucks to blame? Have we socialized our daughters to choose the former, or are they born with the desire to play with dolls in pink dresses? Well, fortunately we have plenty of psychologists, sociologists, and other '..gists' to debate these questions ande'll leave it to them to figure out why.

In this feature we're going to tell you about three pioneering women entrepreneurs working in nontraditional businesses right here in Manitoba. We asked them pointed questions about why they traded in their heels for steel toes, what their challenges are, and what advice they had for other women looking to enter these industries. Here are their stories.



Debbie Zajaros was a bright, shiny graduate from Red River College when she started to consider her life options. In 1993 she took an interest in the family business, North End Spring Ltd., learning it from the ground up. She started off doing odd jobs then moved into the accounting role where she got a good handle on the numbers of the business.

In 2005, a single mom with two small children in tow, Debbie said 'yes' to purchasing the family business when her mom and dad were considering their succession planning options. And while her parents retired from the business, they were a rock-solid support system for Debbie, looking after her girls on sick days, picking them up from school, and being the voice of experience when situations at work required another point of view.

North End Spring Ltd. is a wholesale distributor and repair shop for suspension components for trucks and trailers. The company has a 10,000 sq. ft. facility in the heart of the trucking sector on Rte. 90 in Winnipeg. The wholesale side of the business ships parts throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut and Northwestern Ontario. The repair shop specializes in HD trucks and is able to custom fabricate for their applications, which are mostly in mining, logging, farming, and construction.

North End Spring employs an onsite blacksmith who can modify suspensions of large and unique vehicles to fit the customer's specific requirements for height and capacity.

Was it a challenge? Debbie responded, "When I look back I think I must have been crazy trying to do it all, but the chaos was worth it. Today I have a daughter at the University of Dalhousie, my youngest is in Grade 9, and I am remarried to a wonderful man who works in the same industry.

Debbie told us her most challenging decision was made on the heels of one of her biggest milestones. "Within a month of paying off the loan for the purchase of the company, my landlord told me he was going to sell the property. I had to decide if I should go back into debt and buy it or move the business. After crunching the numbers I decided to buy the building and property, taking control of our future and the sustainability of the business.

Being a woman in an industry almost entirely dominated by men has tested Debbie's perseverance. When she started, "Customers would call and ask to speak to a man. It took a while but I learned not to take it personally, and today it's not a problem because most of the men I speak to realize that I know as much if not more than they do about this business.

Debbie has strong family values and her father, Gordon Shawcross, has been her inspiration and mentor, providing her with incredible advice on a wide variety of topics both professional and personal. Being close with her daughters and vacationing with her family are cherished times and Debbie works to ensure she plans time away with them.

Debbie's advice to fempreneurs in male dominated industries? "Surround yourself with people who have strengths where you have weaknesses, and don't take it personally when men challenge your knowledge—prove them wrong instead.

* US statistics are used here as these statistics could not be found for Canada. Stats Canada does corroborate these industries as underrepresented by women in Canada.


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