Forget the men’s shed, Leisa has your measure

By Kimberley Price

Few things in this world are more blokey than the shed. Whether it's on a work site or in a backyard, the shed is, by and large, secret bloke's business. And then along came Leisa Evans and it was a whole new ballgame for the blokes — and her — writes KIMBERLEY PRICE

LEISA EVANS IS not just a one-woman dynamo; she may well be the only woman in her industry.

And admitted none of that was how she saw her life unfolding.

As owner and manager of REM Sheds and Garages in Rochester and servicing the Echuca-Moama and wider community as a distributer of Fair Dinkum sheds, Leisa's life is hectic.

On top of this, she's also a wife, mother to three boys and has played an integral role in junior footy at Rochester and in the Goulburn league.

But she's definitely the woman holding the reins and she wouldn't have it any other way.

She's paved her own way in the industry and has managed to learn the tricks of the trade to build a successful and reliable business.

“It is a very male oriented industry and work place; but it doesn't faze me as I've got three boys of my own — so my world is already male dominated,” she said.

“Between the two businesses we have all male employees except for one girl who is the office manager for Paul Evans Welding and she does a few jobs for me.

“Most of my customers are male but I have had some fantastic female customers too.

“All the customers I have worked with have been welcoming and supportive and terrific to deal with.

“I've had great customers and I even received surprise flowers after one particular job.”

Leisa transformed her life to work alongside her husband Paul as co-owners of REM Sheds and Garages and Paul Evans Welding. While Paul looks after the general engineering side, the shed and garage side is all Leisa's.

“Paul wanted to expand the general engineering business and looked into having a little shed franchise,” she said.

“We already fabricated hay, machinery and farm sheds but we could see a need for good quality Australian-made residential sheds and carports — and an alternative option for farm sheds.

“Eventually this opportunity came up and we took it.”

What was supposed to be an additional sideline to the current business, turned out to be a whole new business in its own right.

When Paul Evans Welding opened 15 years ago, Leisa worked fulltime in the office. After spending eight years in each other's pockets — living, working, eating, sleeping, playing, and raising three boys together — Leisa decided it was time she went back to teaching, a career she'd always loved.

“I loved teaching,” she said.

“I cut my days back in the office and worked after hours for the business so if I needed to I could go back to teaching.

“I was working as a casual relief teacher across almost every discipline and eventually was working most days at Rochester Secondary College.

“But when we began REM Sheds and Garages I realised how demanding it was going to be — and not the side project we'd originally thought.

“I had no real choice but to jump on board and make it work.”

Leisa is a very determined woman.

She crosses all the “T's” and dots all the “I's” to ensure every job is perfect for her loyal customers.

From the outset she was clearly into the head-on approach for any challenge although insists in the early days of her business she was far from the woman she is today.

Suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar environment and an industry difficult to comprehend, her life was turned upside-down.

“It was very full on in the beginning,” she agreed.

“In the beginning I was so far out of my depth and thought if I made a mistake I might hurt someone.

“You may as well have told me to perform brain surgery after two days of training.

“It wasn't a feeling I was used to at all.

“I only had two days of training in Sydney to learn the software. Paul came with me and took two pages of notes and I took 15.

“I was so stressed as I thought I was going to do something wrong.

“On more than one occasion I thought I just couldn't do this — I was so far out of my comfort zone it was ridiculous.

“It would take me eight hours to do one quote, because I would overanalyse it so much. I was very anal.”

There simply were not enough hours in the day for Leisa. She would be working up to 16 hours a day, juggling her role as a mother by running the boys to where they needed to be and maintained her community involvements by being secretary of the Rochester Junior Football Club and treasurer of Goulburn Campaspe Junior Football League.

“It was still so important to fit in family time though because if you can't enjoy things with your family — what is the point?” she said.

“Even my boys could feel my stress and they would tell me to go for a run — exercise and sport were my saviours.”

Over time, Leisa learnt to manage the fear the new business brought to her and became much more efficient and relaxed — and even started to welcome the new challenges of her role.

“I don't like to take the easy option if it's not the best option,” she said.

“I want every job to be high quality both in functionality and aesthetically. If I'm not happy with it I can't expect the customer to be happy.

“I'd encourage everyone to try things outside their comfort zone and explore new things no matter how daunting it may seem.

“Or if you are chucked in at the deep end like I was — embrace it and give it your best.

“You never know where you will end up.

“Most likely somewhere where you never thought you would be.”