STANDING at the podium she looks out into a room filled with the best women in business the Sunshine Coast has to offer. Still amazed that she’s been placed in the same category as them, this mother of three takes a deep breath as she prepares to accept the award for Young Business Woman of the Year.
Growing up riding horses on a farm in New South Wales, Rebecca Walker never imagined she’d be nominated for – let alone win – an award recognising her hard work and talents running a successful roofing business.
Up until 2014, Walker was an intensive care nurse at the Sunshine Coast Private Hospital. The transition from health care to roofing and guttering may seem peculiar, but Walker says time management is a skill she’s easily transferred between jobs. “In nursing you’re very pressed for time and prioritising. I think that’s helped definitely with working out what needed to be done in the business.”
But she doesn’t do it alone. By her side is her business partner and husband Dave. Together they share a love story that is rare in this day and age. “We were high school sweethearts. I was in year 10 and he was in year 11 when we met and we’ve been together ever since.”
Now they have three young children and Walker finds juggling work and home life difficult without feeling a little bit guilty for having it all. “Mums are hard on themselves constantly,” she says. “That’s the biggest fault of mums is that we always have guilt and feel bad no matter what we’re doing. If we’re with the kids we feel guilty that we’re not doing work, and if we’re doing work we feel guilty.”
She’s clearly doing something right because since their rebranding in 2014, Signature Roofing and Guttering has skyrocketed. What started as a small business running from the couple’s home garage, is now one that employs a team of people across the Sunshine Coast and Canberra bringing in nearly $7 million in revenue last financial year.
So what’s her key to success?
“Collaborating and working with others,” she says. “Getting a good team around you because there’s no way I could’ve done anything I’ve done without getting the expertise of others.”
Walker runs the administrative side of her business while her husband is on site. And while she considers herself the backbone of the home, she cannot accept the same title within their business. “I wouldn’t take anything away from Dave because he works so darn hard in this business,” she says. “I think I’m Dave’s support but then again he’s my support when I don’t know about things too. So I think we’re really quite equal.”
Walker believes that women’s influence on business sometimes goes unnoticed, so an event that recognises that influence and hard work is welcomed. “I think we have a great direct influence but a very strong indirect influence on business as well. So I think it’s really good that the awards have brought us up to the level of men, I guess. We are just as strong and capable and the recognition is always good to have.”
Walker’s mother Alison Roberts (who is also the office manager at Signature Roofing and Guttering) knew her daughter would be successful from a young age. “She’s always been a high achiever ever since she was a child. She likes things done the right way. Anything she does she does it well.”
The nomination and subsequent award by the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network came as no surprise to Roberts who was seated in the crowd when Walker gave her speech. “I remember saying to her when we were sitting, ‘see those trophies up there? One of those are yours’”.
But a modest 32-year-old Walker has never placed herself on a pedestal. “I never saw myself as a ‘business woman’. I just saw myself as a mum who owned a business.”
Having successfully run Signature Roofing and Guttering, opened a new location, moved house and had a baby in the past year, winning the title has allowed Walker to finally stop and reflect on her accomplishments. “It’s a great honour just to be recognised by other people in the business arena as someone who’s even worthy of a nomination, but to actually win the grand prize is pretty humbling,” she says “It was a thrill and also a really great moment to sit, stop and reflect on what we had achieved here and what I had achieved.”