When Morgan Dawson began her career in the construction industry while a junior in college, she quickly realized one important fact:
The standard, protective workwear that was available was geared for men and was oversized for her.
Enduring frustrating searches for steel toe boots was topped off by an exasperating hunt for work pants. Her search hit a dead end with a depressing outcome: I have to wear little boy pants?!
How could she have proper personal protective equipment and still maintain professionalism – while piecing together a wardrobe off the men’s rack and from the little boy’s department?
Woman’s creativity, determination and feminine energy combined to create Dawson Workwear- workwear created for women by women.
Tailored to the feminine figure, Morgan’s designs are functional and flattering (and if I might add…fabulous!). Her company’s slogan says it all: empowering women to feel comfortable and confident on the jobsite.
If the Pants Don’t Fit, Just Ask a Woman Entrepreneur
Morgan received her BA in Construction Management from Kent State University in 2020.
She ventured to Washington DC, spending two years working as a field engineer for a general contractor. Currently she works in a Birmingham, Alabama real estate development firm as a Lead Field Engineer. Some days find her in the office, while other days she’s out in the field.
Finding suitable personal protective equipment presented a problem early on in her career.
She bought jeans on Amazon and then tried to order steel toed boots – but only the men’s options were available in Prime delivery. They didn’t arrive on time.
She ended up at the Boot Barn and bought the only pair of boots in her size. Luckily, they did the trick. She worked part time in the construction industry while in school, going full time after graduation.
Time after time, she just didn’t have the proper PPE or workwear, especially in her size. She couldn’t create a professional look or a safe work situation with the oversized clothing and tools needed to do her job properly.
She drew the line when she thought she was going to have to buy little boys pants to make it work.
Construction Industry + Fashion Industry = PPE for Women
At home with her family, the idea for Dawson Workwear was born.
Deciding to start with pants, she launched her business in December 2021. Classic work pants in taupe and olive were the first to be released, followed by a release of navy and a flame-resistant design as well.
Women have provided great feedback. Morgan uses their feedback to guide her designs going forward. Creating inclusive lines is a priority for her.
Morgan was fortunate enough to have attended college with a fashion program – where she met her best friend, Hannah. The two teamed up and her friend provided her with everything she needed to get her through the initial production process. She credits Hannah with giving Dawson Workwear the boost it needed to get started.
Determination and Patience: Lessons in Entrepreneurial Success
Now 24, Morgan says if anyone had told her at 22 that she would be designing women’s PPE, she would have shaken her head.
It was her role models along the way that bolstered her confidence.
Morgan’s dad is a mason by trade, who specializes in historical masonry. He’s been a great help to her, along with her mom. Both have been supportive all the way.
She admits having many mentors and continues to grow that list each day. Her current employer Orchestra Partners loves her passion, and they have been supportive of her pursuits and passions from the beginning.
What traits has Morgan employed in her new business?
- time management
- setting boundaries
She admits those are just a few of the skills it has taken to become successful – since she has a demanding full-time job, too.
And what about challenges along the way?
Morgan admits her greatest challenge is mostly herself. She runs through the what if’s… “What if I don’t make it?” “What if something goes wrong?”
“You have to have the mindset that you are going to be willing to come back and try harder,” Morgan explained. “There are so many new things I need to learn: production, design and creation.”
“It all requires me to be patient with myself. I’m uneasy all the time. My brain is going non-stop with ideas and what I need to be doing. I’m getting really comfortable with being uneasy. I feel like that uneasy feeling is telling me that I’m headed in the right direction.”
Morgan admits she wants to move fast. But she realizes it doesn’t always work in every situation and she needs to pump the brakes and slow down. “Everything can’t go fast,” she said, and confesses these are good lessons she needs to learn in everyday life and in her current role, too.
The Bright, Inclusive Future of Dawson Workwear
Morgan plans on launching new designs in spring that are body type inclusive.
Her goal is 3 new designs this year; in 5 years she hopes Dawson Workwear will be her full-time job. She also wants to advocate for women in construction.
Her spring release includes a new design of pants that is brand new to the industry – a twist on some of the designs she loves outside of work that she is adapting for the construction workplace. And based on high demand, women’s winter clothing will be coming out next year.
“One day at a time,” she admitted. “Looking too far ahead can be overwhelming. One problem at a time and you’ll slowly get through it.”
Her goal is simple: she wants women to feel comfortable on the jobsite, to feel professional and gain the respect they deserve.
“It can be intimidating,” explained Morgan. “It’s hard for women to gain respect right after college.
At first the guys wouldn’t trust what I would say, but I pushed hard. It was necessary to gain the respect and then I kept pushing forward and moving ahead. Once the field respects you, they have your back. Men and women will all look out for each other once that respect has been gained.”
Morgan hopes there will be more acceptance for young people and women in leadership roles in the construction industry. She wants to see more accommodations for moms in such a demanding industry.
Words of advice to fellow entrepreneurs?
“Take the leap of faith. The worst thing that can happen could be losing a little bit of money, but it’s worth trying to see and you never know where you will end up.
If you’re young, you have your whole life to make up for it.”
Her goal is to see Dawson Workwear for all applications of construction, outdoor activities, and to include maternity. She wants to continue doing things she’s passionate about and wants to help people.
For fun, Morgan loves to hang out with her dog, Nina, read thrillers as an escape, and enjoys good food and wine.
Morgan is a shining example of a WIP – she knows she needs to stay focused as she makes sure her vision is heard and translated through her clothing lines and continues to do things to be more inclusive of women.
Check out the Dawson Workwear website @ Dawsonworkwearforher.com.
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