‘We’re paint­ing a brighter fu­ture for women’

Prima (UK) - - Women Like You -

Fe­male dec­o­ra­tors are a small but grow­ing mi­nor­ity. Manch­ester friends Han­nah Wood, 42, and Jane Mc­geoghan, 38, are a pi­o­neer­ing suc­cess story.

HAN­NAH SAYS ‘Re­cently, I popped into a bar wear­ing my painter’s over­alls. “Still life or land­scapes?” a woman asked. “I paint houses, ac­tu­ally,” I replied. It hadn’t even oc­curred to her that I could be a dec­o­ra­tor!

It’s not the first time some­one has been shocked by my line of work. I used to be an of­fi­cer for Greater Manch­ester Po­lice, but I get more peo­ple star­ing at me in my painter’s over­alls than

I ever did in a po­lice uni­form.

Five years ago, I set up the busi­ness, Primer Don­nas, with my friend Jane. We were col­leagues on the po­lice force, but I de­cided I needed a change and re­signed. Mean­while, Jane took a year out to go trav­el­ling, and never went back to the job.

Our new ca­reer started when we helped out a friend with her dec­o­rat­ing busi­ness. We found we were both good at it, and worked so well to­gether that we de­cided to set up on our own. We’re both very prac­ti­cal – I’ve al­ways been good at fix­ing bro­ken gad­gets and wonky shelves – and be­ing in the po­lice makes you good at talk­ing to all kinds of dif­fer­ent peo­ple. We had no for­mal train­ing, but learned the trade from work­ing with oth­ers first.

Af­ter five years, no two days are the same. One day we’ll be wall­pa­per­ing some­one’s cosy house, on an­other we’ll be paint­ing a big empty of­fice build­ing. Some­times we work to­gether and some­times apart. When we are on a job to­gether, we tend to spend our days work­ing with Ra­dio 4 in the back­ground, de­bat­ing the big is­sues of the day.


I was a bit wor­ried that my mum would be dis­ap­pointed that I was leav­ing the po­lice, but she’s been great. She even comes and helps us some­times! It’s still a man’s world, and in the be­gin­ning we made our­selves go above and be­yond for peo­ple be­cause we felt we had to be bet­ter than men do­ing the same job. In fact, we still go that ex­tra mile – it’s part of the ser­vice!

Paint­ing and dec­o­rat­ing is a great job, and there’s no rea­son why a woman can’t do it just as well as a man. You can work your own hours, talk to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, en­joy be­ing cre­ative and not be tied to an of­fice. We love what we do!’

JANE SAYS ‘Dec­o­rat­ing came along at the right time. I’d come out of a long-term re­la­tion­ship, taken a ca­reer break from my job as a crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tor, and was at a bit of a cross­roads. I was ready for some­thing new and this was a wel­come leap into the un­known.

I don’t think either of us would have had the guts to take such a big step on our own. From find­ing new cus­tomers to stock­ing up at the trade shop – which is full of men – Han­nah and I were able to build up our con­fi­dence to­gether.

We know of a few women work­ing in sim­i­lar trades, but there’s hardly a crowd of us. In fact, at a re­cent net­work­ing event or­gan­ised by the char­ity Women On The Tools, I was the only one who turned up! There’s still a long way to go, as women ap­par­ently only make up around 1% of skilled work­ers in man­ual trades.

But while many of our cus­tomers are women who feel hap­pier hav­ing us around, we wouldn’t keep get­ting work if we weren’t good at what we do.’

Han­nah (left) and Jane set up Primer Don­nas five years ago

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