MILWAUKEE — When Melissa Gaglione couldn’t find a high-visibility coat that actually fit to wear while working in the yard at the Milwaukee towing company the 39-year-old operates with her fiance, she did more than just complain about the lack of safety gear sized for women.
“I was like, gosh! What would I be doing right now if I was driving a truck? How would I find the right gear to fit me?” she said, adding that being seen is a vital component of safety, whether driving a big rig or a tow truck, or working in a truck yard or at a freight dock. In addition, she noted, it’s important that clothing fit properly to avoid the risk of loose material catching on equipment and causing an accident or injury.
“I mentioned to my fiance, ‘You know what? I should just start a clothing company and make these clothes, because I’m so frustrated!’” she said.
And that’s exactly what she did. The result was Safety4Her, a line of high-visibility leggings, safety vests and gloves designed for women sizes S to XXL.
As a busy mom with five children at home, ranging in age from 4 to 14, Gaglione said her primary goal was to create items that are both comfortable and functional.
“I thought, ‘What’s the thing I love to wear?’ Well, every woman loves yoga pants, or leggings,” she said. “So, I said to myself, ‘What if I made yoga pants that had high-vis taping and that were waterproof, that were non-see-through, that had pockets that you could put your notebook, your phone, everything in?’ Well, that was just a crazy idea!”
After doing a bit of research, Gaglione said she discovered that no one had created such a product — and she set to work, designing her first pair of leggings and having some samples made.
The first time Gaglione wore her custom-designed gear while attending a tow show in 2018, she was approached by numerous attendees who wanted to know where she found the leggings. In April of the following year, she set up Safety4Her’s first product booth at a Florida tow show.
“It was just unbelievable,” she said. “I sold out pretty much all of my inventory, and then I got picked up by East Coast Truck and Trailer Sales, which bought out the rest of my inventory.”
She spent the rest of 2019 traveling the U.S., visiting with women in the trucking and towing industries and finding out what they wanted and needed, and what bothered them about products.
“It was an amazing journey,” she said. “What almost blew me away was how much depression women had; how many women felt scared to ask for something small, or something that would fit them correctly, so they could do their job and be safe.”
Also in 2019, Safety4Her was signed as one of Amazon’s 11 value-added service providers for the trucking industry. Gaglione says she crossed paths with Ellen Voie, president of Women In Trucking (WIT), at a Chicago event designed to let trucking industry executives meet the providers.
“She was the most amazing, nicest woman ever,” said Gaglione, who is a corporate member of the organization and was named WIT’s member of the month for November 2020. “She’s helped me promote; she’s really put me in different directions of getting involved.”
Gaglione’s company and products are featured in WIT’s ambassador trailer (dubbed WITney), a mobile educational unit designed to introduce women to the career of professional truck driving.
Safety4Her, a fully trademarked company, offers high-visibility leggings — which Gaglione says are patent-pending — along with safety vests and sturdy yet flexible impact-resistant gloves. Gaglione has plans to add women’s heavy-duty work pants to the lineup in the near future.
“That got a little bit delayed because of COVID,” she explained, adding that she’d also like to expand her line to include products for men and children.
Every Safety4Her item is designed by Gaglione to ensure a snug, comfortable fit.
“By no means am I a sewer,” she said with a laugh. “I do the best I can, but my rep is highly entertained by some of my sewing.”
Gaglione said every Safety4Her product must incorporate three important qualities — fashion, safety and comfort.
“You’re working in an environment that probably is hazardous. You don’t want to worry about, ‘Am I going to get injured because my clothing doesn’t fit?’ or think, ‘I don’t
really feel good today in my clothing.’ It hinders your job,” she explained. “You want clothing that fits correctly so you can do your job and be safe.”
In addition to trucking-industry professionals, Safety4Her gear is gaining popularity with the general public.
“Tons of people buy my products for running, walking their dog, things of that nature,” she related. “They’ve told me, ‘I walk my dog in these leggings, and I love them. These are the greatest thing in life!’ Or, some women say, ‘My husband’s a tow truck driver and for his uniform he wears orange high-vis striping, so I want the leggings to wear so I can match him.’”
Since launching the Safety4Her product line, Gaglione says her already-hectic schedule has become even busier — especially since the tow-truck business is on call 24/7 —but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There’s never a boring moment!” she said. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s definitely hard work. (But) you reap the benefits, and you’ve got to roll with the punches on certain things.”
So, what’s Gaglione’s inspiration for success?
“This is going to sound totally clichéd, but I would truly have to say my fiance,” she said with a smile, noting that he is “the greatest dad ever” as well as a hard worker.
“He has built everything he has from the ground up, by himself,” she explained. “It isn’t something he inherited; he started with just a cellphone and a truck. I’ve never seen anybody that has his work ethic.”
Gaglione has her own reason for pursuing success.
“I want women to feel empowered,” she said. “I want to set a positive example not just for my own children, but all young girls, that nothing can stop you from being who you want to be.” 8
Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.