“Take the challenge - it's only as hard as you make it. Think of it as a job, not a gender”
Sarah Hillberg, Paint Pot Ladies
“When I was at school I wanted to be a policewoman, but at that time you had to be 5ft 4ins and I was too small. At this time in life, I had not thought of being a painter, so I went into retail management and worked in a children’s clothes shop for 19 years. I started Paint Pot Ladies in my spare time and word spread about my business. I soon had so much work that I decided to make the break and see if I could make it alone. The rest is history, as they say!
I have to thank my partner for the push and support that lead to me starting my own business. I just thought if I didn't do it now I was never going to do it so I took the plunge. Everyone was supportive and impressed that I had the confidence to take on the challenge of being my own boss. Although I was apprehensive, I was also excited about my new adventure.
Sometimes older men, in particular, are surprised when I tell them what I do, but I think it’s a generation thing. As time passes, I think it will become more as the norm. When I started 10 years ago there were very few female painters and decorators, but since then I have already seen an increase, particularly in younger generations deciding to join the trade.
For women thinking of starting a career in a business that is stereotypically seen as being male dominated, I would say to take the challenge - it’s only as hard as you make it. Think of it as a job not as a gender.
Often people say to me that they actually prefer to have a female painter and decorator. Occasionally people will try it on a bit, expecting me to do things for free, but I can’t say that I have been discriminated against.
The best thing about owning my own business is that I can choose the jobs I want to do, and fill my dairy as much or as little as I want. The hardest thing is having to turn work down due to being too busy. It can also be hard to balance work, looking after the home and having time for yourself and your family.
The advice I would give to anyone else thinking of setting up their own business is start as I did – start small and part time until you’ve established yourself, but then go for it. You can never then say: ‘what if?’.”