A former Cornish model has swapped the catwalk for the garden path and set out to challenge stereotypes after setting up a new DIY business with a pink twist.
Laura Fox-Staeton, 27, from Falmouth, has become what’s believed to be the UK’s first-ever Barbie-styled gardener – doing all the usual odd jobs but with a brightly-coloured twist. At the start of the year she quit her job at Cornwall Council to establish the Posh Fox Garden Design and Maintenance Group and has been flooded with job offers ever since.
She said she felt inspired to give up part-time modelling and her nine-to-five job as an administrator to “take on the blokes”, after realising modelling and climbing the corporate ladder was not for her.
“I have always wanted to own my own business,” said the former St Francis Primary School and Penryn College pupil.
“I have loved gardening, pruning and planting since I was a child and my parents inspired in me the concept of ‘don’t buy something new when you can repair it’ – or better still make something that’s better than can be bought in the shops.
“In other words ‘if it’s broke then fixit’ so I am now a Miss Barbie Fix-it.”
Laura, who is based in Falmouth and Truro but covers all of Cornwall, said she wanted to become the “Barbie of the small business world”.
“Showing up dressed in pink with a pink work belt and often heels, which I replace with steel cap boots on the work site, throws a lot of people,” she said.
“For many women though having another woman they can call to fix things, build cupboards, build a deck or clean their plumbing pipes, is great.
“They feel safe and often inspired that a woman is doing what is traditionally seen as a ‘man’s job’.
“I am thrilled that as a local Cornwall girl I am doing it here in Cornwall and my clients have welcomed me with open arms. I am unique – a pink Barbie DIY babe as opposed to a big burley bloke in overalls.”
Laura Fox-Staeton from Falmouth has swapped careers in modelling and admin to become a full time odd job woman, with a Barbie twist. (Image: Alley Einstein)
“I love my Barbie pink work outfit and my silver heels often come in handy when I need to reach that little higher to fix a pipe, hang a painting or reach a branch that needs pruning.” Laura does remove the heels though for health and safety.
She added that the image was a shock to many people but said “pink rocks” and she offered a 24-hour follow-up as she is so confident in her service.
Laura also said she was donating her free time to local schools to help with garden clubs because showing young girls and boys how to build, garden and up-cycle had a special importance for her.
Encouraging other women was also a reason for setting up the business, she said, adding: “I did it for myself to have ago and to also inspire other women and girls to show them women can do anything.
“It’s not a feminist agenda but just a way of saying ‘watch out boys the Barbie of the building world is coming your way’.
“I took setting up a small business seriously and I also took advice from my long-term partner, Will, who has had a lifetime’s experience in the business world and provided me with incredible insight and advice.
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“I think many women ignore the input from their husbands, boyfriends or male partners just to prove to a point, Not me.”
Not being a soap fan, she insisted she wasn’t aware that Coronation Street character Rosie Webster, played by Helen Flanagan, has donned pink while helping out at a window-cleaning business, but thought it was great that other women could follow this lead.
She said her services included mowing, pruning, garden redesign, putting up mirrors, cleaning houses, planning and building decks, minor car repairs and fixing leaking toilets.
“I even make kids play houses, design and make beds to order, design pet houses, design kids bedrooms including painting and drawing murals, ensuring the proper use of space to maximize play room and sleeping space,” she added.
“People see me and ask if I am strong enough or shouldn’t I worry about my finger nails and I just laugh. I can out-lift, out-hammer and out-mow any bloke I know and I can do it in heels or steel cap boots.
Laura’s wanted to pursue a career in gardening since an early age and says her parents played a big part in her inspiration (Image: Alley Einstein)
“I am not breaking any glass ceilings here but I am helping other women realise that businesses traditionally run by men can be run and operated by women.
“When there is anything about you that is less common, you stand out more.
“In my case, it is being female, blonde, pink-wearing, heel-wearing, pink builder belt-wearing and a Cornish woman that all makes me more memorable.
“I think my unique approach and look makes me stand out not just in Cornwall but the UK and that makes me proud not just for myself but for other women and men – after all men can take on traditionally female dominate businesses as well. It cuts both ways.”
Laura does swap her high-heels for health and safety friendly steel toecaps and is trained to carry out all work. (Image: Alley Einstein)
Still, steroetypes can prevail and Laura often gets asked if she’s making the tea by men walking past her work sites, or iwhether she needs help using the electric drill or carrying timber.
“I politely decline,” she said. “This is my business, my job and my responsibility. I am doing this for my future, and to inspire other women and girls. It’s paying the bills so far and my partner continues to inspire me.
“I hope one day to franchise this concept across the UK – after all Barbie dreamed big and so can I.”
Source: Cornwall Live