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We are back with another Bissett on-site feature, but this time we hit the road to meet up with Brittany Farrow, the woman behind Girls Can Frame. The 23-year-old has rapidly grown her business and her social media following since she started working in the industry at age 17. With over 113k followers on TikTok, Brittany uses her platform to highlight her growing business and empower other women in the industry. In this interview, Brittany talks to us about how she got into the trades and the rewards of working in construction.
We meet Brittany at her jobsite just outside of Kitchener, ON. She is doing final inspections on some of the houses on the development she and her crew were working on. She doesn’t normally do this, she explains, but she’s helping out as things are running behind on the project.
Brittany Farrow: Because they don’t have time for it, and I was like “I’ll spend the week, I’ll do it, I’ll catch you up”. It keeps me busy and keeps my guys in work. So I’m happy to do it.
Brittany walks us through the project and what she and her crew have been working on. We chat about her last few weeks and her mindset when it comes to builds she is working on.
Brittany Farrow: I always talk to the builders at the start to understand clearly how they want things done, because it can really vary from project to project. Especially here where the building code can be different from somewhere 20 minutes down the road. It makes it clear from the beginning, and everyone is happier with the result. Especially when it comes to quality. I like higher quality because I think if this was my house, how would I want it? I want to make sure that it’s going to stay together, stay up, no problems, everything is square because that is how I want my house. Why would I give someone a house that I wouldn’t want to live in? That wouldn’t be fair.
Jane Carsky: That makes sense. Is it common for people to take shortcuts then?
Brittany Farrow: It’s not everyone, but there are a lot of framers who are like that. Who would rather throw it up and get the money. But my mindset has always been that if I take a little bit longer but produce the quality the developers are looking for, that it is better. I had that during COVID. During the peak of it, they were laying a bunch of crews off. But they had me and my crew stay because of the quality of our builds being better.
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Brittany tells us about the recent struggles she’s been having with labour shortages and finding the right people for the job. “My turnover rate has been pretty high” she explains. “Framing is a tough job, not for everyone. But the problem I’ve had is that some of the people I hire look at me and think I know nothing, despite the fact I’m their boss.”
Anthony Perrotta: So how much of a struggle is that for you when you’re trying to hire a crew?
Brittany Farrow: It’s a problem for sure. I obviously have this job for a reason, and these people are coming to me looking for work. Then the second they are hired they question my every decision. I’m not interested in it. I would rather hire a 19-year-old and train them over and over again than have to worry about someone older with more experience picking fights with me on my site.
Anthony Perrotta: How much do you think sexism plays into it? Or is it age as well?
Brittany Farrow: I think both are part of it. I was trying to hire this one guy and he was like, “Oh no, that’s probably your dad’s business and I don’t know how much you actually know about construction”. Okay great. Thanks for your application.
Brittany mentions these things don’t phase her as much anymore. “I’ve got a tough skin,” she explains. “My first job was working with a hard-core Italian who yelled at me every day. I had to get used to it”
Anthony Perrotta: How did you get into the industry?
Brittany Farrow: I didn’t actually choose it. I went to high school, and I always liked hands-on work and was thinking about becoming a doctor. I always had good grades and was really academic. Then I got a bad concussion, and it was awful. I couldn’t put a sentence together when my mom first picked me up afterwards.
Anthony Perrotta: Wow, that must have been incredibly difficult.
Brittany Farrow: It was a lot. So my recovery took a while and I slowly got back into school and classes. Because of this, my grades dropped a bit. Not a lot, I still got low 80s, but for med school you need high 90s. I lost my photographic memory. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I talked to my mom about it and she was like, “You’ve always loved hands-on work. You would hate being at a desk all day. Why don’t you try the trades?”. And I thought about it but didn’t know where to start or what I would even do. She encouraged me to talk to people, learn about what they did, see if I wanted to be an electrician or plumber. My parents were super supportive of the trades despite neither of them being from the industry themselves.
Jane Carsky: That’s really great they were so supportive. Do you think that is common?
Brittany Farrow: Not at all. The people who were the least supportive were some of the teachers. They were like “No, you’re an academic student, you need to go to university. Why would you go into the trades”. But we need engineers, and electricians, and framers. And those jobs are academic too. I use fractions every day. I used to think “Why do I need fractions” back in high school, but then you come here and its like oh that’s why. You need to be smart for this line of work. You need to be hands-on and have a brain. It’s more than just labour.
We chat more with Farrow about her experience being a female in the industry. Having worked in the trades for several years now, Farrow is trail-blazing for other young women who follow in her path. She mentions how passionate she is about bringing more awareness to other women about what it means to be in the industry as well as providing them with resources on how to get started.
Brittany Farrow: I think now with girls, even a lot of girls my age and stuff, don’t know what they want to do. The fact that we can show them this other path they might not have considered is great. I participated in a show last weekend to promote the trades to students. It was a lot of work putting it all together and I was super nervous, because I’m not that good at public speaking. It was an amazing time and I found something I wanted to pursue because of it. They want me to put together a class for women to learn some basic skills for this type of work. Even if they’re older and don’t necessarily want to do this as their career, many women still want to learn the basics. Especially for like DIY projects around the home.
Thank you so much to Brittany for taking the time to meet with us. You can more information about Brittany by visiting her Instagram or TikTok page (@girls_can_frame)
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