Most of you will have met Ashlea before on this blog when she shared her Favourite Space last year. Ashlea is yet another tradie wife, who has made a very successful independent career, joining her husband in their business. Ashlea, has or does face all the same challenges I have, for me it’s great to know I or rather we, are not alone.
I hope you enjoy Ashlea’s story as much as I did.
My Trade Story with Ashlea Kerr
Sitting down to write and reflect on my trade story, I realise my interest in homes, design and construction started many years ago when I was a young girl.
As a child I can recall waking up early on the weekend and deciding to change my bedroom layout. I would drag my furniture from one wall to the other, move pictures around on the wall and proudly show my Mum my mornings achievement. Mum I think was impressed in my strength in moving furniture on my own, but also with my interest in what I realise now was optimising floor space in my bedroom’s layout!
Fast forward a few years and I can recall the day I checked the mail box and found a BoysTown promotional letter addressed to my Mum, with the words ‘Winner’ written over the front of the envelope. I was convinced that we had in fact won the million-dollar mansion and studied the glossy brochure with delight. It was then I decided that being an architect was my calling at the age of eleven and I sat captivated by the floorplan and design of the home. I can recall then drying to draw my own dream home, that would look like the BoysTown one. Funnily enough years later when I met my now Husband, he said that his Uncle’s Sunshine Coast construction company was the designer and builder of the BoysTown homes back then – small world! What I also didn’t know, was that one day I would work for BoysTown and I will share that part of the story soon!
When I was thirteen my family built our own home in Byron Bay. We had secured a slice of land and it backed onto a reserve, so along with the input of an Architect, my Mum designed a home that would embrace the slope of the block and surrounding nature. It was a dream come true, I would sit with Mum, helping her draw the plans, giving my advice on the things we needed – an outdoor Balinese inspired bathroom and attic which unfortunately didn’t make the list! The build came together well and a beautiful cladded split level home with high ceilings and lots of natural light was built. A truly beautiful home and at this point my love for interiors, design and decorating flourished.
Fast forward to the end of high school and a career in Business was what I aspired to do. I loved the thought of dressing in a suit, being a powerful business woman who made important decisions. I went to university, studied a Bachelor of Business Administration, specialising in Human Resources. A Human Resource Manager was what I wanted to be and I studied hard for three years to get my degree. I went on to secure a fulltime role as an Office Manager in a local holiday resort near my home town of Byron Bay. I loved working with people, problem solving business issues and managing the team members.
When the Brisbane floods in 2011 took place, my career and life took a very different turn. My sister’s home in the Brisbane suburb of Graceville was badly affected, with the water levels reaching her roofline and resulting in her losing her home and possessions to the waters of the Brisbane river and once they subsided, thick layers of pungent mud. I made the decision to move to Brisbane to advance my career and also to sharehouse with my sister and her Husband to help them get back on their feet and make a fresh start whilst they waited for their Insurance claim to come through.
It was then, that I started working in BoysTown at their corporate head office in a Human Resources position. I loved the corporate world and working in a team. I learnt some invaluable skills and worked alongside some talented professionals. During this time my Husband had established a roofing business and was working longer hours and we would at night work together on the office side of running a construction business – the invoices, material orders and tax. We were both working long days and this lack of worklife balance was taking a toll on us. After two years of living in Brisbane my Husband and I missed the coastal lifestyle that we had always known and instead of moving back to Byron Bay, bought our first home on the southern Gold Coast.
It was a bold and brave move. I quit my job right after we had been approved for our first mortgage and we relocated the newly started roofing business my Husband had started to build in Brisbane to the Gold Coast. For a better work life balance, we set up a home office and I took on the role of Office Manager full time for my husband’s business. At this time there was my Husband and two full time employees. In that first year I was finding my feet, learning the lingo that comes with roofing and construction and also getting stuck into implementing some processes that I had picked up from my roles in the corporate business world.
With me being in the office full time, we were able to grow and expand the business. My Husband moved off the tools and was able to spend time networking and following up on new quotes and projects. We began undertaking work for Strata Managers, Real Estates and our now core business – Insurance repairs. Over the space of four years we have grown from a three-man team to now employing 12+ trades, as well as a full time Operations Manager.
Over the last four years, I made the Office Manager role my own and now my days are filled with tasks such as: general office administration, responding to customer enquiries, scheduling jobs and organising materials, liaising with suppliers, accounts, payroll, tax compliance, marketing, social media management and website management. My days are full, my to do lists long and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being my own boss, working in a husband and wife team and knowing that we are building a family business that will one day allow for flexibility when we have a family is rewarding.
My husband spends his time now quoting, attending site meetings and helping me in the office a day or two each week. We have an Operations Manager who supervises and ensures the smooth running on our job sites and then we have our hard working team of qualified tradesmen. In my role, I see myself as an equal business partner and decision maker in the business alongside my Husband as Company Director. We work together to make joint business decisions and ensure the smooth running of the business. I enjoy my role and the opportunities it has brought with it. I feel like my previous corporate roles gave me the skills and experience for our own business – it is incredible how skills from one industry can translate to another.
I am proud of the skills and knowledge I have learnt in this role and enjoy when I am able to prove this to Builders and professionals who have been in this industry a long time. Proving that women in the construction industry is now more of a norm and breaking down stereotypes!
When I am not working for our business, you will find me blogging about homes, interiors and sharing life + style inspiration. This for me, is an opportunity to do something that I love and connect with so many lovely likeminded house enthusiasts! I often joke that it lets me connect with my feminine side too, after talking about metal, screws and bossing around tradies all day. A quick scroll through Instagram and admiring beautiful feeds or posting a blog post soon satisfies my fix and then I am back to work!
Thanks for having me Nicole and to all the lovely The Builder’s Wife readers – thank you for taking the time to read a little more about me and my story!
Are you involved in the construction industry? Would you like to share your story?