How one female tradie built her business in a man’s world

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Imagine being the only woman on a crew of 20. Clare Scanlan doesn’t need to imagine. She often is that person.

Clare has run her specialty painting business Scanlan & Makers for 2 years, but she’s been working in the industry for over 10. With a fine arts background, she started work matching colours at a paint shop after finishing her painting degree and knows her way around a paintbrush. She’s mastered working with difficult finishes, unusual substrates and even old-school paint techniques like colour-matching by eye, lime washing and traditional glazing techniques.

Her unique style gets her a lot of attention from designers and architects. You may start noticing her work across Melbourne as she’s worked on projects at some pretty famous restaurants and buildings around the city. 

You’d think she fought her way to the top, but she’ll tell you that the only reason she is where she is, is because of the network she’s built over the years.

1. You’ll get further, faster.

Clare said that so much of what she used to start her own business was from her strong connections to Porter’s Paints and Dulux network, as well as the Likeminded Painters Facebook group, and other groups for artisans and women in trades. 

“When I was trying to get Scanlan & Makers off the ground, I trawled those groups for the inside word. I would run everything from complicated paint systems to really obvious business questions by my close industry friends in a massive effort to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. I distinctly remember inheriting some half-coated structural steel mid-winter and hassling anyone and everyone I knew in the business to guarantee a coating system in writing. No one wanted to touch it, but I got my warranty in the end and the finish turned out beautifully. Without my networks, there would have been a whole lot more time spent in the ‘faking it’ camp, that’s for sure.”


Clare used networks like goodwork and the Tradie Ladies to meet people that she might not interact with in her everyday life, and leveraged the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

2. You’ll have a shoulder to lean on.

Everyone has tough days/weeks/months and not every job goes to plan. Clare told us that it’s great to call other women tradies she’s met when she’s had a bad day because her friends who aren’t tradies “are great support, but sometimes they just can’t relate.” She said that often she feels better about a situation knowing that someone else has been through something similar. 

3. You can learn a thing or two.

“I learn so much from people who aren’t painters. Often as painters, we need to know how to flush a wall to the same standard as a plasterer or square up a joint like a chippie. I’ve learned a lot from mentors and other people I’ve worked with. It’s important to keep those relationships alive even after you leave a job site and it’s great when they can help you with tricky issues on the job as well.”


4. You’ll get the help you need when you need it. 

Think you can get those 200 square metres of Lime Wash finished by yourself in 2 days? You’ll need to call on the help of mates when you’re in a pinch. Clare said she has a trusted group of painters — women and men — that she can call for advice or if she needs to get a big job done fast. 

Follow Clare’s Instagram account to see her most recent work. 

Check out more of the groups that Clare told us about and connect with their members:

Likeminded Painters Facebook group

Women in Design & Construction

Tradie Ladies

Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen Facebook group 

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