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Women CEOs leading the way in the trades

There are more women than ever starting businesses, especially those involved in trades, which is surprising considering those professions have historically been some of the most male-dominated businesses in the country.

CEO of Freshco, Mandy Rennehan, a very successful retail construction company based out of Oakville, Ont., believes that women leaders are essential to trades businesses. “A woman’s added value really shines through because we are passionate,” Rennehan says. “Women are detail-oriented and fastidious where many men aren’t.”

Millennial women are also catching on to the trend and starting their own trade businesses. CEO of Ash Street Design, Brittany Truppe, is one of those millennials. She started her business of designing and building interior speciality doors last year.  “It is a custom sliding door business. We essentially fabricate high-end interior-based wood doors in all shapes and sizes and I’ve expanded into contemporary styles and all different types of finishes,” Truppe says. “I really like the whole concept of the artisan market style. I don’t want to do cookie cutter stuff. I want it to be unique.”

These two women had to prove their worth in their respective areas time and time again. “Being a woman and being young, there were times where I definitely had to go above and beyond,” Truppe says. “Coming from finishing, there was a lot of time spent doing the tasks to prove my worth. You would get men throwing out terminology and the names of types of equipment to see if I knew what I was talking about. I felt I was being quizzed often.”

Rennehan agrees that women are tested more often to see if they are credible in their job position. “The biggest hardship is the confidence of the woman going into it. They need to make sure they know more than anybody in that space. Credibility is everything for a woman in trades. Make sure you have the passion and you are armed with the knowledge,” Rennehan says. “Many women have an irrepressible sense of accountability and if things happen, they will fix them. Women have a lot of advantages in this space, they just need to believe it.”

As a young female business owner, Truppe is taking a progressive approach to her artisan boutique and wants to keep her business relatively small, instead of aspiring to build a large corporation. She also focuses on the use of local woods and keeps costs low and affordable to give more people the opportunity to purchase one of her unique products. Though she is still in the midst of constructing her business, she also wants to dedicate part of her time towards helping women learn to build. “The biggest thing I want to focus on is having a program geared towards women to make them more comfortable working with tools, because a lot of women don’t. I envision doing it in my own shop,” Truppe says. “You would drop in for an hour or two and the women would build and I would charge for materials. I’ve networked with local artisan shops and furniture shops and they are pretty pro-women. I’ve found I have a lot of support from new-age men as well.”

Rennehan is also an avid philanthropist, highlighting the importance of women CEOs giving back to others after becoming successful in the trades sphere. She started a non-profit program through her other business, a design firm named Rennduprat, that will teach kids between the ages of 10 to 16 how to use millwright machines. The non-profit will then make Christmas ornaments through the project and ship them around the world. Rennehan also founded the Chris Rennehan Scholarship Fund, named after her brother who sadly passed away from a heart attack at age 38. The scholarship fund helps a tradesperson who is in dire financial straits by giving them the funds to go to trade school or obtain work through Freshco.

Women business owners are essential to the future of trades in Canada. Truppe and Rennehan both bring credibility, generosity, and a progressive community approach to their businesses. Though there are challenges to being a woman in the male-dominated trades’ professions, there are more and more women that are coming out as strong leaders in this type of employment.