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See Jane Run ... the Company

February 15, 2007 By:
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Eden Jarrin (left) and Heidi Baker

You go, girl -- and while you're at it, why not fix the faucet?

"Be Jane" is bedazzling -- an online community of female home-improvement fans who once thought the term was only a TV series about tool guy Tim Taylor.

Timid, they're not. Now, they're serious about fixer-uppers and downloading information in areas that stereotypically were men's, including fixing the stereo on that new mega-sound system.

The ability to pick up tools is the best pickup line they go for. And in a country of 19 million single women, why shouldn't they double as "Janes of all trades?"

"Women take on so many different things now," says Heidi Baker, who has taken on one herself: She's one of the partners/ founders of the company, which is featured on MSN's "Originals"; has a brand new book out, Be Jane's Guide to Home Empowerment; and offers a Web site (www.bejane.msn.com) that gets more hits than a single woman Saturday night at a Center City bar.

In a way, it's "Ladies Night" every night at the Web site, where women learn how to make over a house and make do without the expert advice in which men were once thought to be sole masters of the domain.

Soul brothers, move over; make way for your soul sisters. The once-anonymous Jane Doe is now a Jane Does. "Did you know that two-thirds of women consider themselves DIY-ers?" asks Baker. "And that 90 percent of women recently surveyed by Lowe's say they feel comfortable using a power tool."

The low-down: Obviously, the old concept of tool time has taken a time out -- and that old expression of "a woman's work is never done"? Has to be shouted out now over the chatter of a chainsaw.

"Fallacies would fall by the wayside," relates Baker of how female home buyers now can buy into the notion that cooking is long gone as a woman's sole meal ticket to self-satisfaction.

And home work isn't the only area where women go online to "Be Jane" to be students. Women on auto-drive: Tailpipe turnaround for the new millennium? "I got frustrated going in to fix my car, and the mechanic treating me differently because I am a woman. The same with the contractor."

Baker made him an offer he couldn't refuse: Don't treat her like a fool, and she wouldn't fool him into thinking she's incompetent with a wrench.

Wrench the image, ratchet it up a notch: "It all started with those TV shows," says Baker of the series such as "Trading Spaces," in which men and women traded images and can-do items on their personal agendas.

And it all hit home for Baker, too, when "I just bought my own home, had no cash and no money to hire someone to help."

She felt as if the welcome mat had been pulled out from under her and that the walls were closing in.

"I ended up on the floor in tears," she recalled of being floored when offered friendly family advice that maybe she should "find a nice Jewish boy" to help her get her act -- and home -- together.

She is woman, hear her roar -- or was that the floor buffer?

"It took me three years," she says of the self-education that ended in a B.S. -- builder supreme. "It wasn't just about changing my home; it was about changing myself."

And now she can do just that in the built-in closet she made for herself. Men who have a problem with that? Get your mind out of the gutter; these women can fix them, too.

See Jane run ... the company. Baker has cooked up quite a career with the other company compadres: Eden Jarrin, CEO/ co-founder; Philip L. Breman, chief creative officer/co-founder; and Eric Meyer, COO.

Coo something alluring into Baker's ear? How about a sale on sandblasters? Or "great job" on her home framing. But if Baker -- once a dental hygienist bitten by the travel bug who worked in France managing an international perfume business -- likes the sweet smell of success, she still needed a spray of self-confidence at the beginning.

She may be a rave with a lathe, but the electrifying experience of wiring could prove terrifying at first. Helen Reddy Kilowatt? Socket to her was no laughing matter. "My biggest fear was from the electrical end," she remembers. "I thought I'll kill myself."

Ms. TV Unplugged? "The first time I got an electrical shock, I was shocked -- I was still alive!"

Some stereotypes, however, couldn't get zapped. After all, Jewish women with hand tools -- what's that, a manicure set?

"Getting past the stereotypes," contends Baker, was a problem for others, not her.

That's what happens when you're prettier than Farrah Fawcett, and probably better at fixing a faucet. Indeed, a woman's place is in the kitchen -- installing the trash compactor.

"What's shocking is how simple these things are to do."

She nailed her new career as soon as she discovered "how to use a hammer; I'm in heaven with my cordless nail gun."

And she's not talking a machine-gun style manicure.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Femininity/ fencing need not be on opposite sides of the gender gate.

Baker? She's got male, happily married. "My husband says it's sexy to watch a woman who can take care of herself."

And if her company's Web site ensnares males? No surprise. Smoldering soldering sensuality? After all, says the empowered "Be Jane" big wheel, "Men love women who can handle a power tool." 

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