This week we talked to Emma Chulk of LJJ Surfacing ltd, multi-tasking small business extraordinaire.
Hi Emma, thanks for talking to us today! Looking at your Twitter, it looks like you wear many hats… can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
Yes absolutely. When running any small business, it is essential to be able to multi-task, especially during the period when the business is growing.
My main role as Director of Finance, is overseeing and managing the funding and cashflow of the business. I also run our company social media account, including participation in many business groups. I like to also do motivational posts, with mental health and wellbeing, being a particularly important value here. I like to support others in the industry and encourage people to look at the industry, as a future career.
I also work on and am responsible for our company health and safety accreditations with Avetta, Constructionline and CHAS. Involving being audited and proof of our ability, as a company, to complete our profession at the highest possible standards.
I run all the company advertising, including allocating the annual budget. This involves negotiating the best deals with advertising agencies and publications. Monitoring the results of campaigns and making the relevant changes needed.
I like to be involved in as many of the business processes as possible, including recruiting new members of our team and keeping in touch with our commercial & residential clients too.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
From a young age I was always interested in doing something of my own. In 2011 I started my first business, select-a-choc.com. Which was a chocolate and cake making business. I sold the produce at local markets and fetes and events every weekend. This this certainly gave me a small taste of being totally responsible for a business, whilst doing something I really enjoyed!
During this time, my father was forced to retire early from the construction industry. Subsequently there was an opportunity for me to be able to start my own construction company, with one of my father’s work colleagues. Who had over 20 years’ experience, working with my family and in the industry in general. It was a difficult decision, as it would ultimately mean me having to close my other business, to fully invest my time and finances, into making this a successful operation.
In 2012 I started LJJ Surfacing Ltd with my business partner. This was going to be a huge step up, in responsibility for me, but I knew with a great team around us and support from my family, we could and would succeed. Eight years later, we have grown into a well-respected local family business.
What did your career path from just starting out, to running LJJ Surfacing Ltd look like?
My career started out in the aerospace industry. I was taken on as a business studies apprentice when I left school at 16. This was a two-year course, which I passed with distinctions.
From there I was immediately successful in obtaining a full-time position within British Aerospace Systems and Equipment. Running the administration for the goods inwards department. This was a very responsible role for someone to take on, under the age of 20.
However, the company felt it was something I was capable of. That faith spurred me on to have confidence and belief in myself. This role prepared me well for multi-tasking in a large organization. Whilst still having the support of senior personnel.
My grandfather and father both worked in the construction industry throughout their careers. I was always extremely interested in learning and would refuse to go to bed as a child, until I’d heard about their day at work, including the challenges they faced.
It really taught me a lot about the construction industry. At the time, I had no intention of joining them in the industry.
Little did I know what the future would hold and how useful watching them would prove to help me in my own future career.
Where do you hope your company and you will be in the future?
After a quiet period during the recent COVID-19 lockdown, we are currently marketing like crazy and working on building our business, back up to its full capacity again. We are planning a 50% growth by the end of 2021, whilst keeping the business manageable, with that personal family touch.
I’m planning on increasing the office support team, over the next few years, to not only support our growth, but to free up a little more time, for me to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Growing the business for the last few years, has taken complete dedication and commitment to the cause. Thankfully, the hard work has paid off and I hope I can be a great example, to encourage more women to consider construction as a career or business enterprise.
Do you have a female mentor figure who’s inspired you (if not, given the opportunity, would you like to be a mentor in the future?)?
In our sector, there are not too many female role models. Especially when I started out, it was extremely rare to find a female construction company owner. With the help of social media, I am now starting to connect with women from all around the world, in the industry and I hope to attend some trade shows, in the United States in the not too distant future.
I would definitely like to help or be considered as a mentor to any up and coming tradeswomen or businesswomen in the future. Particularly because this was lacking, when I started out. It would be great to make a positive change.
Is there anything you would like to say to other women who are just entering the industry?
Do not be fearful of giving it a go! If you find that you do not enjoy a role, you can always still work in the industry, in an area that may suit you better. There are so many trades to choose from, that you can qualify in multiple areas, which is always an advantage to yourself and your future employer too.
There is certainly much more acceptance than ever before, of women in the industry. Do not feel like you will be alone. Although the community is small, it is one of inclusion and support. At recent events that I have attended, I have noticed an increase in female participants and speakers too.
What does being a woman in the construction industry mean to you?
I feel it is a great privilege and responsibility to be a woman running a construction company. There are not many of us here in the UK but thankfully it is increasing. Looking at our allies in the United States however, there is much more diversity in the industry. I hope we can all look to them as an inspiration/example, to encourage more women to take senior positions and ownership of businesses here too.
Desert Island round! Three tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island?
As a long-term hip hop fan, my tracks would be by the late Tupac Shakur. A great poet and visionary of his time. The tracks would be Ghetto Gospel, Baby Don’t Cry and Me Against The World. All songs of battling against the odds and believing in yourself, no matter what.
The book I would choose to take with me is the Bible. As a devout Christian this would enable me to continue to connect with God.
My luxury would be a family photo. As my family are my most precious gift to me.
This was Emma Chulk of LJJ Surfacing ltd, interviewed for our #WiCW series – a compilation of articles from inspirational women in the Construction and Trades industries. Want to get read more? Check out our resources section. Want to get involved? Have someone to recommend? Get in contact with us on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org