Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

INTERVIEW: What makes Kate Campbell click?

Canadian Contractor

She’s a TV renovation celebrity, skilled carpenter, role model for women, and now a DeWalt product ambassador

It takes no more than ten seconds to realize that Kate Campbell is a determined young woman with strong ambitions to succeed and to be taken seriously in the renovation industry. I met with Kate during DeWalt’s 2016 product presentation in Baltimore earlier this month to find out what makes Kate ‘click,’ and of course to talk about ‘the elephant in the room.’

Canadians know you through a number of home improvement television shows. In what show are you currently appearing?
I’m currently working on Home To Win. I’m a contractor on the show, which is pretty cool because I’m technically the only female contractor. There’s female designers, but I’m the only contractor.

You have your own contractor business, KateBuilds. Was that formed before or after your television work began?
KateBuilds was formed after a number of years in the industry. I felt I really wanted to define myself. KateBuilds personifies who I am and what I do. It answers the question ‘What do you build?’ Well, I kind of build everything! Given my experiences, my skillset has broadened. I’m a framer, I’m a fine carpenter, I do trim work. I’m a renovator, so ‘Builds’ is a very generic term. And I think that’s why I was really drawn to the trades, because as a renovator you’re always tackling something different, new challenges, you’re problem solving.

What does it mean to you personally to be a DeWalt product ambassador?
For me personally, it’s like a validation. It’s like DeWalt saw potential in me after ten years in the industry and having proved myself over and over again. As a female in the industry, you’re always kind of fighting to either fit in or to prove yourself. You’re under the microscope. So to be recognized and acknowledged by a company as amazing as DeWalt is a dream come true.

"I’d like to find a combination where I bring in the work ethic and yet also be who I am; goofy and creative."

“I’d like to find a combination where I bring in the work ethic and yet also be who I am; goofy and creative.”

Given your passion on the subject of women on the work site, does your new role give you a new platform?
It’s almost a Catch-22. One of my favourite quotes is ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. This is an industry where women only comprise about 7% of the skilled trades market. In order to encourage other women to get into the field you have to put yourself out there. I feel it’s extremely important that DeWalt is acknowledging that females are equal in the industry, but at the same time I don’t want to make it an issue where it’s like ‘I’m only here because I’m a girl.’ There’s almost a reverse stigma you can put on yourself. I don’t want to over-think it. It’s important that I am a girl, but at the same time I don’t want it to be about being a girl.

So what about these TV shows?  Professionals in the trade are often critical of both the content and attitude of some shows. Do you understand their concerns?
I do. There’s almost an unreal expectation when it comes to TV shows, because of either editing or what the producer chooses to put in. Sometimes the viewer doesn’t see the actual situation or the money behind the scenes that’s put into the project. And unfortunately I don’t think the contractor has a lot of influence in terms of the editing of the show. The big disconnect for the viewer is on the financial side. A lot of the shows don’t talk about budget. Homeowners will see a massive renovation and a beautiful reveal but rarely the numbers. It’s not really reality TV.

While the shows raise awareness and interest in home renovations, they often paint the renovation industry with a broad unfavourable brush.
I talk about that at home shows. I always mention, politely, that sometimes shows make contractors the bad guy and the homeowners the victims. But from my observations over the years, a lot of the time the homeowners get themselves into that situation by maybe going for the lowest quote, or adding things to the renovation that they can’t pay for, or they have unreal expectations of real costs versus make-believe costs. So they either get frustrated or don’t pay or they’re difficult to work with. I feel really sensitive to that.

A TV celebrity and product ambassador like Damon Bennett has credibility with our readers because he can look across the table eye-to-eye and legitimately say ‘I am a contractor just like you’. Others can’t do that.
You learn by people you are surrounded by. For my first five years in the trades I was supervised by Damon. He’s got a great ethic, he is very loyal, and he knows his stuff. I’ve always appreciated that about him. Now I’m working with Paul LaFrance, and he’s off the wall, very creative, really out here. I like that about Paul because he’s all about embracing who you are. I’d like to find a combination of the two of them, where I bring in the work ethic and how things should be done, yet also be who I am; goofy and creative. I want to be a hybrid!

This interview has been edited and condensed from the original conversation

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1 Comment » for INTERVIEW: What makes Kate Campbell click?
  1. Gary Jones says:

    Kate is not only extremely qualified as a contractor she also has a wonderfully bubbly personality and the camera loves her. When she was part of Paul’s deck building show I often thought what a fun person she must be to work with on the crew. She’s certainly a role model for women in the trades but she also never takes herself too seriously.

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