“Follow your dreams, never be afraid of what people say and never doubt yourself or your abilities.”
When it comes to walking the walk, no one does it better than Helen Yost, founder of Tradettes, a plumbing service based in Brisbane. The company employs female apprentices, who are trained by both males and females within the company. Helen’s vision came about when she was attending a function and a room full of women were discussing how to market a plumbing company run by one of the women’s husbands.
“It was all very generic, nothing stood out to me except for a statement: be the yellow duck in the ocean of grey.”
All Helen could think is: why not make this presentation more feminine? Why not make that duck pink?
From there, Helen’s imagination ran wild…
And all of a sudden, this crazy idea of a pink take on plumbers, lady plumbers, came to her.
“I pitched the idea to a heap of people and although they loved it, no one was willing to say: ‘yes, that will work.’ Not being easily deterred, I persisted and eventually, we came up with this female plumbing service model,” says Helen.
When the company started trading on 26 January 2013, it was known as Plumbettes but the business’ name was soon changed to Tradettes as Helen and her team felt it had more potential. Tradettes officially launched in 2014 and now, the company has the bold goal of training 1,000 apprentices by 2024.
“We did a heap of market research and discovered there was nothing like us around and there was a demand for what we do in the industry,” says Helen.
“We’re still trying to change people’s perception of female tradies. People like to stick with what they know and feel comfortable with. We have to work really hard to gain the community’s acceptance.”
So did Helen always have this passion for plumbing?
As it turns out, she wanted to be a mechanic as a kid but was told by her guidance counsellor at school that she couldn’t because she’s a girl.
“I let people’s opinions get in my head. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I decided it was ultimately my life and I could be whatever I wanted to be. So I went into the plumbing industry and as they say, the rest is history!”
As you can imagine, Helen has encountered her fair share of pushback…
Over the years and says most people in her life at the time when she was making these decisions, didn’t agree with her choices saying, “sometimes, we have to do what we feel is right, we have to be willing to stand up for ourselves.”
It’s pretty impossible for me to chat with Helen and write about Tradettes without mentioning an incident that I feel showcases that passion and integrity always trumps anything carried out with a mean spirit.
Earlier this year, Helen and her team found themselves in a difficult situation where their business was being trolled by what Channel 10’s The Project referred to as, ‘MRA man babies.’ The trolling came in response to this blurb of text on the company’s website:
The Tradettes Plumbing team have all the relevant training and experience of a male plumbing service, combined with the communication skills, service, cleanliness, and attention to detail of a woman.
We understand that you want your home to be left in a clean and tidy state after a plumber has been. We will clean up after ourselves and treat you and your home with respect.
Let’s just say the action taken by the ‘man babies’ failed dismally, with the legends behind The Project featuring Helen on TV and the show’s presenters making sure the name Tradettes and the company’s website was mentioned multiple times throughout the short segment. Helen’s handling of the situation was faultless.
“We definitely took a bad situation and made it great! We believed in ourselves. We know what we stand for so they had no chance of getting us down.”
There’s no doubt that Helen and her team are paving the way for female tradies and proving what we know to be true: with hard work and willpower, anything is possible.