According to recent research from the Women in Construction Summit, just 11 percent of jobs within the construction sector are held by women. With this in mind, we wanted to get a clearer picture of women entrepreneurship within the industry, so we spoke to Victoria Brocklesby, COO and Co-Founder at Origin, the UK’s leading manufacturer of premium doors and windows.
Since co-founding Origin in 2002, Victoria has played an integral role in growing the company, establishing it as a disruptor within the market and an industry-leader, employing over 350 people, with operations in Dubai, the US, and throughout Europe.
Here, she explains how she started out and how her career progressed to where she is today.
When I was studying Physics and Space Science at the University of Southampton, I never would’ve thought that, once graduated, I would immediately move into a role within the manufacturing industry. Like many, I thought I’d find a desk job in London. Instead, I found myself hands-on in my family business.
My father and uncle owned an indoor pool company and were regularly installing bi-fold doors into properties they were working on. They, alongside my cousin Neil, who was working for the company at the time, found it extremely difficult to find bi-fold doors of a high standard in the UK, and when they could, finding them in the correct specifications and with practical lead-times was near impossible. Identifying a gap in the market for a market-leading bi-fold door system, Neil and I launched Origin in 2002.
Working in Construction
At Origin, I have worked within almost every role, starting out as a bookkeeper and sales manager. However, I always ensured that I was hands on with the products, regardless of my job title. There were so few of us working at the company in the beginning that we all had to help out and I never shied away from anything, from helping make the doors to unloading a lorry.
This allowed me to clearly see where we could build up our operations to fuel growth and keep up with demand. One of the first things I did was establish an accounts department which was key to helping us cope with an increasing number of orders, as well as aiding cash flow so we could continue buying material to ensure we could deliver to our growing customer base. I took a similar approach with HR, recruitment, and business operations which allowed Origin to grow significantly in a short space of time.
Throughout this process, I moved from admin manager to COO. Alongside my personal journey, the company has become the UK’s biggest aluminium door and window manufacturer, and now has a turnover of over £52 million. Despite this significant growth, Origin will always maintain its family ethos and we will never let those values and standards drop.
If someone had told me what my entrepreneurship journey would be at the start of my career, I would have been very nervous to take on the challenge. Founding and growing a business can be uncomfortable at times and it certainly isn’t always a steady upwards trajectory. That said, Neil and I have consistently made decisions to protect the future of our business. One of the best decisions we made was to bring on Daniel Baker, who is now our Managing Director. This came at a crucial time for Origin. It was just after the economic crash, and we became inundated with orders which was putting strain on the business. We realised that we needed to change the direction of Origin if we were to stay ahead.
The changes we implemented allowed Origin to flourish. It was hard for me to let someone else make strategic decisions for the business, having been part of it since day one, and also having been the one responsible for many of the processes in place. However, I needed to let go so that the company could continue to grow, and so that we could continue to bring in the very best talent, all of whom had more experience and knowledge in their field than I did. This was a key lesson in my career.
I am fortunate that I can say being a woman hasn’t limited my opportunities as an entrepreneur or as a leader within the construction industry, but I’m aware that not everyone has the same story. At Origin, we have worked incredibly hard to create a diverse team, with brilliant men and women operating across all aspects of the business, from our Board of Directors through to those fabricating the doors and windows. Because of this, I’m certain this diverse school of thought gives us a competitive advantage.
When we founded Origin, I was one of the only women I knew working in construction. Despite this, I loved the buzz. I believe that anyone can excel with the right mindset, irrespective of their sex or gender. Our diverse leadership team at Origin shows how confident we are in the abilities of every member of our staff, and we will continue to drive for more women in the construction industry.
While I’m lucky to have led the career path I have so far, I take care to work with every member of staff to ensure that Origin is the best it can be – and so that my experience isn’t unique.
For more information about Origin, please visit https://origin-global.com/.