When I was younger, I dreamt of being an architect. In high school, I liked the idea of painting and decorating, and I ended up doing an apprenticeship: one month at college, one month on-site for three years, and then I became fully qualified.
I sub-contracted to companies, as it’s easier for other people to find you the work, but I always wanted to be my own boss. Now I have my own business with one employee. I do all the quoting, take on projects big and small, and do everything from industrial work to fine painting and wallpapering. I go around and make things look fabulous.
We start at seven most mornings with a cuppa – as you can’t work without being hydrated – and then we discuss what we want to achieve by the end of the day, but we will stay until we’re happy.
It makes me really proud, running my own business and seeing the shock on people’s faces when five-foot-two me knocks on their door. When I get a phone call from someone saying a customer has recommended me, that makes it all worth it.
People think construction is a six-foot-tall bald man who can pick up some slabs. But I can sling a twenty-kilogram bag of plaster over my shoulder, and I get respect for that. Things have changed over the years: women are more accepted on a building site and really respected in the construction industry now. Every single construction job you can think of, there’s a woman doing it. There’ll be someone who looks like they’ve fallen out of a magazine and she will walk up a crane.
And there are so many avenues you can go down. If you’re not happy being on the tools, work your way up to be a manager. Personally, I will still be the one who goes out and paints even if I have fifty people on my team. I’m not that good with a shovel, but I’m brilliant with a fringe brush. We all have our forte.
Don’t get me wrong – it can be challenging. But there is information everywhere, and there’s always someone to ask. The internet is a valuable tool and so are builders’ merchants. I learnt from the most amazing people – I have about fifty million uncles – and I don’t think you’d get that community in an office.
Funded through the investment of the CITB levy.