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Spotlight on Karen Fisher

Karen FisherSolace Creations is a company that specialises in double glazed windows and doors for the Canberra and surrounding areas. We have been in the industry for about six years and I started the business because we couldn’t get energy efficient windows and doors for the building company that my husband had. We started supplying for one company from Melbourne and have grown to four suppliers now. The business has just me and a personal assistant and I have subcontractors doing my installations. I source all of my products from Melbourne and I have my own showroom at Phillip ACT.

Five questions with Karen:

  1. How did you get started in the building industry?

    My former husband is a builder and I decided to leave my public service position to do his book keeping and client management. We grew the business together from a sole trade to a $3m business over six years. During this time I started Solace Creations as well and the experience in the building industry and contacts stood me in good stead to become a credible supplier in Canberra.

  2. What is a typical day?

    I tend to start my day at 5am where I can work through quotes and admin before I get the kids to school. I have five children ranging from 21 to 6. I work part-time at the showroom with two full days and school hours for the other three days so that I can still get quality time with the little ones. Before I arrive at work each day, I will have already dealt with problems and issues on my mobile while making school lunches at the same time. Once in the Showroom, I am busy talking to clients, liaising with builders, architects and suppliers. On the days I leave early, I tend to spend some of the afternoon on the computer catching up. My new PA is very efficient and I don’t need to have the phone ringing all afternoon now. This was my godsend. After I put the kids to bed, I then work on the business and do some strategic and marketing things.

  3. What lessons have you learnt?

    Women and the building industry are an interesting combination. When I first started I was often called “love” etc. Once I gained credibility, I became one of them. I still have a very good rapport with builders and architects as I am able to speak like them and I understand their work. The most important lesson is to build relationships and become part of the crowd. The other lesson I learnt was to employ people to do those jobs that are necessary mundane items that take you away from core business. The best thing I did was get a personal assistant. When I was working in the building business we employed a book keeper which helped immensely. I am no longer part of the building business now as my own business has taken off.

  4. Any tips for new business partners or starting out in business?

    Liaise with other ladies/men that work with their husbands/wives so that you are not so isolated. Go and have coffee and drill their brain on how they handle the work/life balance. Become active with HIA. I am on the ACT Membership Committee and this gave me direct contact with HIA staff and other builders

  5. Future plans for the business

    Over the next 12 months I am planning on raising awareness on energy efficient housing. The six stars we have at the moment are easily attained without double glazing. My aim is to get a shift of mindset from getting the cheapest windows and doors on the market to actually getting insulated doors and windows. Few people see that windows and doors are an opportunity to improve the insulation of their home and I am working on some blogs and information sessions for home owners. These sessions will be held at the Home Ideas Centre in Canberra in the new year.