Who the heck is this Brandy person anyways?
As I was reflecting on who Brandy, the Builder is, I realized that I am and have been many things. Both in traditional and non-traditional roles. On the traditional side; I am a daughter to my parents, I am a mom to my kids, I am a wife to my husband, I am friend to my peeps.
At my core, I am fun-loving & hard-working person, fiercely in search of the unique & unusual as well as a serial renovator.
I was born December 31, 1973. If you prescribe to astrological musings, I am a Capricorn and the common traits associated with that sign are a fairly accurate for me. Over the years I’ve noticed I embody many of them. I’m in good company, too as Ben Franklin, Marilyn Monroe, Isaac Newton, and the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, are also Capricorns.
Or if you prescribe to birth order trait theories, they too seem to find manifestation in my personality. I am the firstborn of six children and that has GOT to have some influence!
On the non-traditional side, I am a bit of a Flashdance story in reverse….. bunhead to a blue collar trucker mouthed tradeswoman….
I was a dancer – not one with a pole but with pointe shoes. My love and passion for ballet brought me out to Vancouver at the tender age of 17. A newly minted grade 12 grad naïvely setting out to pursue a dream – and full credit goes to my folks who sanctioned that pursuit and supported me from Edmonton – even when they found out I had learned to ride a motorbike and got myself some wheels.
As is often the case, the dream and reality are two very different things. The practical side of me decided that the life of a starving artist was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life and after a stint slinging coffee, found myself on a tour of the various trade shops at BCIT in my search for a marketable skill.
Picture this: A young 19 yr old, 120 lb girl strolling around campus wearing a black motorcycle jacket carrying a helmet on her arm, attempting to be cool while chatting with the instructors in the pipefitting shop and the heavy duty mechanic shop. I am not sure what they thought, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that some of the tools weighed more than I did. Clearly, those were not the trades for me. The last shop I visited was the joinery shop. The second I walked in, I knew this was the one, the trade for me. There must have been sunlight shining through windows into that dust-filled shop.
It was time for the bunhead to trade in the pointe shoes for steel-toed boots and a hard hat.
I enrolled into the entry level seven month program. I was one of two women. Socially, the odds were in my favour. In fact, I met my husband, Paul Keller, on the first day. The sunlight was definitely shining through those windows. I figure there is magic dust in that shop, but Paul would probably just say that he knew a good thing when he saw it and acted fast!
I completed my Joinery ticket while working in three different shops, two of which I was the first and only girl on the shop floor. The last of which, I was the only female who was part of the project management team. During that time period, I learned a ton about navigating a male dominated field.
Top three things I learned:
- Credibility is earned – in every shop/position I held, I won over even the most “old school” guy – it doesn’t really matter if you have a certificate on the wall, skill is respected
- I can’t actually be “one of the boys” because – well I’m not one. I can’t lift as much or drink as much for that matter!
- I learned to stand up for myself, to take with a grain of salt the looks and bullying from the guys in those shops and the surprised looks and comments I received when I explained what I did for a living.
Even now, it is unusual for a woman to be in the trades, let alone a General Contractor. I still get many surprised looks and people backpedaling to be politically correct. Most days, I don’t think about it in terms of gender, I am just doing something I love.
Towards the end of that project management position, Paul and I started our own bespoke woodworking company called Wood Be Art. As our clients requested more services from us, we added kitchen design early on and then general contracting/project management aspects as well. We have been a word of mouth business for over 15 years and are located in New Westminster BC. We have performed work all over the lower mainland.
In a nutshell, I am the Boss Lady on our projects and CEO of my Domestic Domain