Rebeka Morgan, 36, and Kribashini Hannon, 34, launched BuildHer Collective in September last year. A registered builder and a project manager, respectively, they had found many women wanted to renovate their own homes but didn’t know where to start, often felt overwhelmed by the decisions they were being asked to make, and couldn’t afford to hire the top designers who they love and follow.
And so, being serious go-getters, Rebeka and Kribashini decided to create a support platform of online courses, webinars and workshops (in homes they’re actually building, renovating and selling) to help women navigate the entire process.
We chatted with the Melbourne-based duo to find out more…
How did you come to pursue A career in the building industry?
Rebeka Morgan: Both Kribashini and I grew up in and around construction. Being around sites at a young age we had a very early ‘taste’ of how exciting building and the process of creation is and should be. This evolved into a passion we both pursued at university way before we met. We both share a love for the way all the different elements come together, to create beautiful spaces that people have a reaction to.
Around eight years ago, I left commercial building to pursue residential renovations and new builds, becoming a Registered Builder after my then-boss drew my attention to the fact that I would potentially struggle to find family/work/life balance if I stayed in that role, and suggested that I needed a ‘stay-at-home husband’! Kribashini still works as a development and project manager, and is involved in larger scale projects with many stakeholders.
Where did you both train and study, and how did you find this experience?
Rebeka Morgan: I’ve got a degree in Construction Management from RMIT, a Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and more recently I registered as a Domestic Builder. In my opinion being a woman in this industry is an advantage; when working through our plans and developments I am able to draw on my experiences as a mother, to incorporate lifestyle ideals and a woman’s perspective on family living.
At BuildHer Collective when we teach women about building, not only looking at the nuts and bolts of building but also covering how to incorporate their family values and ensure that they are building a house that tells a story and makes an emotional connection.
Kribashini Hannon: I studied at Victoria University of Wellington for my undergraduate and RMIT for my Masters of Project Management. I love being in the middle of the building process. What can seem a chaotic mess, of regulation, opinion, fact, legislation, expectation, design and construction all come together to create a building. Most people do not even realise how many different people and professions need to come together to create one building.
I love the building industry with all its quirks, although it can be a little amusing when trades initially don’t realise who is actually making the decisions, and their eyes unconsciously drift to the man standing next to me!
How did you meet and then get BuildHer Collective off the ground?
RM: Kribashini and I met when we both worked for a commercial building company, building schools. We have both always been passionate about building and got on like a house on fire, so much so that we took a trip together to Europe with our Irish husbands (yes, we both found ourselves Irish husbands). On said trip, over a few glasses of wine, we were discussing the countless avoidable issues that our friends and friends of friends were having with their renovations and building projects, thus the idea for BuildHer Collective was born – to help women build and renovate the right way!
It seems to us that it is predominantly women that are managing their family home renovation, and somehow we are meant to have watched a few episodes of The Block and know how to build!? We wanted to create a safe place where women could get the training and information they needed with ongoing support in a community of like-minded women.
We have been running BuildHer for almost a year now. We have developed a range of courses; Build Like a BuildHer, aimed at women who are renovating or building a new home; Kickass Kitchens for women who are just renovating their kitchens, Beautiful Bathrooms for those just wanting to uplift the bathrooms and a Masterclass – this is for women who want to change their lifestyles and begin renovating and developing for profit, just like us.
We are working with almost 100 women already through our courses, but we also communicate and provide support to our wider community, including on Instagram, where we share tips, colours, specs and more.
Why do you think it is important for Australian women to have resources like BuildHer Collective today?
RM: This is something that women have been screaming out for, for way too long. We started to hear that there wasn’t really one place to tell you the ‘how’ of renovating and building – so that’s what we did. We share both the higher-level strategy and the nitty-gritty of building. We are creating a community of women that can empower themselves through knowledge, express their creativity and handle the highs and lows that come with renovating your own home. Building is exciting and fun when it’s done the right way!
Society seems to expect everyone to be able to manage a renovation or work with a builder to build a new house without any prior experience. We find even when hiring professionals, you still need to know and drive the process yourself, as no one will care about you renovation as much as you do!
What have been some of the highs and lows of launching the Collective?
RM: Our greatest challenge is sometimes, saying what needs to be said. It can be hard to review plans that someone has put their heart and soul into, and deliver the message that the budget doesn’t reflect what’s on the documentation… It is always a big blow but the silver lining is that we have saved them from getting in too deep and we can help them workshop ways to achieve the look and feel without breaking the bank.
We love hearing about the success stories and wins from the women involved, but what we love even more is the helpfulness that the community brings – sharing tips and experiences, recommendations on contractors and designers, reviewing each other’s plans. It is so rewarding to see how much everyone has learned and to watch them help each other is the icing on the cake.
What’s next for BuildHer Collective?
RM: We have our next two projects lined up and they are due to start very soon, and we are looking forward to sharing that process with our community. I always love the start of a project, there is so much potential and it’s exciting to see which direction it will take.
BuildHer Collective will also turn one very soon (there will be cake!) and we are looking forward to helping as many women as possible build their dream homes and to get excited (instead of daunted) about actually creating the space in which they raise their families, entertain friends and share memories.
Find out more about BuildHer Collective here, or follow them on Instagram for tips and advice.