Samantha Leonard from Forbes Smash in country New South Wales is our youngest finalist so far in Women in Smash Repair.

The 26 year old spray painter not only runs her brother’s shop but she is also an inspiration for encouraging youngsters to consider a career in this industry.Leonard describes her role as the 'office administrator' but it's a lot more involved than that. She does the quotes, paperwork, accounts, is the customer service officer and organises the advertising and promotion of the company. Leonard is also a tradesman painter as well as the workshop foreman organising herself and three employees including a first year apprentice painter (also female).

“My contribution is to ensure the work place runs smoothly,” Leonard says. “I ensure the quality of work is at a high standard and all the office work is kept up to date and run efficiently.

“My aim is always to create a friendly work environment for staff, exceptional customer service, high quality repairs and refinishing and having a reputable name. I do this by ensuring the staff are enjoying their work, allowing them to have an input on the business, continuously looking for ways to improve the business whether it be by advertising, keeping up to date with where the industry is heading and involving the business in community events.”

Leonard deal with insurance companies on a day to day basis and while she loves running the shop, she is passionate about her painting.

“On the painting side I pride myself in my work. Customer satisfaction is a major part in any business and by producing top quality work we achieve this.

“Being in a country town involving myself in the community is important to me. I try to get school students involved in the industry and hopefully getting them to look at taking up an apprenticeship. Not only have I had numerous work experience/placement students at the shop, but I also created 'Spend A Day At Forbes Smash'. This involves a small number of Forbes High School students attending the shop for half a day and learning about the trade, they love it.

“Both myself and my employees take the time to give the students a hands-on approach to both panel beating and painting. I am also a member of the Forbes Business Chamber in which I involve myself in community events such as charity dinners, work seminars and other events. I am in the process of creating a Tradies’ Charity Bowls Day to be held later in the year to get tradies from various business's together and raise money for a local charity.

Unlike most youngsters Leonard didn't breathe a huge sigh of relief after completing her apprenticeship and shut her books.

“After I completed my apprenticeship I went on to complete my Cert 4 in Training and Assessment. This was to gain knowledge on teaching. My aim is to hopefully be able to teach students on a regular basis, but also continuing to do what I do now.

“Getting young people into the trade is something I like to do – being young myself – we're the ones that are going to keep the industry going.” Leonard has an serious appetite for learning: “ I have completed the House of Kolor training course and will be attending the PPG Course for water base paint in the next couple of months along with my apprentice. I try to keep up to date with where the industry is heading and continuously improving my skills as a painter and as a business manager.”

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