FOCUS | Infl uential industry women

Tina Riley, kbbreview100 member and owner, Modern Homes, Leamington Spa

his is a subject very dear to my heart and I’m really pleased to say that, after 42-plus years of working in the KBB world, things have changed massively for women.

T My initial memories of the KBB industry are being around

eight years old and having to ‘help’ my dad [Danny MacCormack who founded Modern Homes in 1968] in the showroom in the late 1960s. I vividly remember being allowed to go with him to get supplies, as a ‘treat’. We used to travel in the van to Bill Landon & Sons in Hollywood in Birmingham to collect bathroom suites and kitchen units that Dad had sold. Two vivid memories of those trips have stuck with me. Firstly, I remember thinking that Hollywood in Birmingham was defi nitely not as exotic as it sounded and secondly, I remember being struck by the fact that – as the company name would suggest – the Bill Landon & Sons showroom and trade counter was populated by men only and that the only other female – Mrs Landon – appeared to be there only to make the tea. As I got older and more interested in joining the family business, I was asked to work in our showroom and, as I was coming into contact with very few female reps and installers, it soon became clear that the industry was pretty male-oriented. I can remember going on a dealer trip to Germany and being the only female in my cohort, out of around 20 dealers. Over the years, this has improved massively and now when

our industry gathers for trade shows, industry awards events or conferences, I would say that occasionally women can actually be in the majority – which is fabulous to see. Clients’

attitudes to female designers have changed

massively over the years, too. Many years ago, I would think nothing of being asked by male clients – and reps too to be fair – ‘is the boss in?’ This attitude has disappeared and although some female clients have always preferred to chat one-to-one with a female designer, the younger generation are perfectly happy just to have a good designer, regardless of gender. As to who makes the purchasing decision, this too has changed over time. These days, in my experience, it’s much more likely to be a completely joint decision, as couples tend to share the housework. That said, they do have very different thoughts when it comes to what they feel they need in the kitchen. Men tend to like gadgets whereas women are more interested in practicality – but they both have the fi nal say. We have a huge responsibility to encourage women to join our industry, which is still perceived as male-dominated. I can honestly say I have loved my time in the industry. I’ve loved the challenges, from running a business and learning something new every day to seeing the changes in how society now lives and the impact that has on kitchen and bathroom design. Not to sound too trite, but I love knowing that we can, and do, make a massive difference to people’s lives. I can only hope that, by encouraging the younger generation – male and female – into our industry, the already massive change that has occurred during my career will continue to evolve.

30 Helena Myers,

co-founder, The Myers Touch, Winchester

Q & A

Q: What’s been your experience as a woman in the kitchen industry? A: I have hardly ever given consideration to my gender in terms of my career. As someone who loves detail and takes great pleasure in helping others, I have generally seen my role as supportive to my husband [co-founder Keith Myers], though I know he would likely refer to my help as a ‘pillar’. There have been a few occasions when my passion for delivering the best and not compromising on how much this is worth, have left me in a vulnerable place when dealing with hard- pressing negotiators – who happen to have been men. I then learned I may have a soft heart, but I have inner resolve.

Q: How do consumers – male and female – react to female designers? A: As a young designer, I was easily intimidated by the more dominant male client. And I would imagine, as a natural response, they were rather unsure of my capabilities. Now I am older – and wiser – I have acquired many tricks to not only hold my own, but lead the way, with experience, knowledge and the art of engagement. I still

see some male customers who have little patience for younger female designers. I fi nd it sad, but it is a two-way problem. When we empower others, we will always get the best out of them.

Q: As co-founder of a kbbreview Retail & Design award-winning show room, what’s your advice to other women looking to emulate your success? A: As a business owner, go for your dream. Listen to your heart. Never stop looking for ways to grow. Stop and enjoy your achievements once in a while. Model for others how you would like others to respond to you. Be kind to yourself. As a designer, believe in yourself and your own creativity. Never stop learning. Take inspiration from all around you. Stop and catch the moments others fail to see. Be a better listener than talker. Ask for feedback and learn from it. Let failure help to take you higher.

As a young designer, I was easily intimidated by dominant male clients. Now I lead the way, with experience, knowledge and engagement

Q: What is the future of the kitchen industry when it comes to diversity? A: I love that we are all different. An individual’s uniqueness is their strength. It is great to have people of diversity within a team when you also have great leadership. My version of diversity would look like a team of strong individuals growing together in harmony to create spaces of beauty and purpose in our client’s homes.

· March 2021

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