When Rachel Bates became a single mum in 2014, her first priority was to find a new job that would pay the bills and provide more flexibility to support her three sons, Lewis, Calum and Eli. After seeking the advice of neighbours and friends – many of which were tradespeople – the former estate agent settled on the idea of pursuing a new career as a painter and decorator.
Fast forward to today and Rachel is now the owner of a thriving, award-winning decorating company that has brought colour and life to her local community in Chard, Somerset. But the focus of her BATES&MiSONS business remains squarely on her family.
“I never once considered going into decorating previously,” says Rachel. “I’ve always had a love of interior design and that was the only link.
“As a single mum with three kids, it was hard finding a job that I could plan around the school hours of my children. When I spoke to friends who worked in decorating, I liked the idea of being able to earn while choosing your own work hours.
“The decision to go into decorating was purely to support my family. Even the name ‘MiSONS’ literally means ‘my sons’, with the little ‘i’ representing me back when I started the business by myself. But I also promised myself that if I was committing to this, I wanted to learn as much as I could and become the best decorator I could be.”
Rachel has made a name for herself by offering high quality painting & decorating services for clients, specialising in areas such as wallpapering and airless and HVLP spraying. Her business has become so popular that she now has jobs booked up until November this year and is already planning to take on new projects in 2023.
“I now work together with my partner and work partner, Luke, and we turn out some really nice work, which is quite skilled. When I started, I went on numerous training courses to learn as much as I could about painting and decorating. I’m now a Repair Care contractor and a Dulux Select Decorator. I’ve been on numerous Dulux Academy training days, including their digital murals, wallpapering and kitchen spraying courses, which have been hugely helpful, and we receive great support and advice through the Dulux Academy Facebook page too.”
Rachel is also passionate about giving back to her community, with her business helping to transform the lives of local residents. This included supporting the nearby Pip’s Railway Carriage Café in Lophead, which saw Rachel and Luke offering free decorating services to the business to help it recover from the effects of the pandemic. Her efforts led to her being recognised with a Dulux Select Decorators Award in the Adding Colour to People’s Lives category last year.
Rachel explains; “Pip’s is a unique, award-winning cafe and we usually work with them every year to help touch up their decorating. When they were allowed to reopen last year, everything about the business had to reconfigured for Covid. So Luke and I spent three days with the Pip’s team to train them in decorating using our tools. We also helped with the colour consulting and I went back in later to put up wallpaper for free.
“It was a lovely project – we had everyone from the chef to the manager of the business decorating by the end. We still have a sideboard outside the café that promotes the work we did, which goes to show how important it was to them and their customers. We also gained a number of jobs and a lot of good word of mouth from people hearing about the project.”
Rachel says she is proud to be a female decorator and would encourage other women to join the trade. She adds that more must be done to address the barriers that are still preventing women from considering a decorating career.
“I’ve never advertised the fact that I’m a female decorator. I want people to recognise me for being highly skilled and good at my job.
“With that said, I think it’s great that more women are choosing to come into the trade. It’s the kind of profession that can offer more flexibility if you have a family but you still need to put the work in – you can’t expect to just work three days a week if a job isn’t done.
“As a woman, I’ve experienced some challenges along the way. I’ve been on some jobs where customers would direct all questions at Luke – despite the fact that it’s my company! I also struggled to find workwear catered to women early on in my career, although this has improved in recent years.
“But at the same time, it’s a brilliant job to be in and you’re able to turn out beautiful work that you can take real pride in. I’ve also had lots of praise from people when they see me in town with my decorating whites on. If I were to retire tomorrow, those are the positive aspects I’ll always remember.”