Nestled in the surf haven of Coffs Harbour is Absolute Panel & Paint with Tammy Hayer at the helm as owner and manager.

Hayer nominated Koopmans for our Women in Smash awards and described her as "her left arm most days".

Koopmans, affectionately referred to as Nell by her team, joined Absolute as its office administrator, payroll officer and can also be found on the shop floor getting her hands dirty when needed.

Koopmans started out in retail where she ran a liquor store for 10 years.

She's also completed a stint at a thermo electrics company. Her experience is a testament to her willingness to learn new skills and delve into the deep end into her role, an attribute that makes her invaluable to the business.

"She used to call quarter panels rear guards, now the woman knows so much she may even put the odd beater to shame," says Hayer, before adding that she's also a saviour during a crisis.

"Nell managed a bulk amount of claims that followed a large hail storm in 2013 here in Coffs Harbour.

As a prominent shop in the area our workload was overflowing and hectic, to say the least. Nell is now the queen of catastrophe management and is ready to manage the next one."

Koopmans is also deeply passionate about supporting emerging talent on the shop floor.

She assisted Absolute's apprentice Darryle Laws to complete his trade certificate in panel beating. The result? Darryle won Wollongbah TAFE's Apprentice of the Year in 2015.

When it comes to the industry, Koopmans is driven by many aspects, but one in particular remains critical – the customers.
"Every day is a challenge from the parts to the people – but it's all about the people."

Hayer couldn't agree more.

"Nell just works damn hard meeting, greeting and empathising with customers, then you'll find her helping while the repairers do their job.

"Without such bright, bubbly, happy and coordinated person in Absolute's front line, I think some days it just wouldn't go well.

"It's a shame I'm not so good with words but honestly this is a woman who in her 50s is in a man's world and just loves to give anything a go."

Koopmans hasn't undergone any formal industry training, however she has completed a 'Restraint Fitters Course' that sees her manage all restraint enquiries that come through to the shop.

Aside from being a jack of all trades and managing the day-to-day operations across all aspects of the shop, Koopmans is also heavily involved in the local community.

She has forged strong relationships with the local hospital, Burnside Uniting Care and Disability Support Services among others, and service to the community doesn't end there.

"Some companies which are government run, Nell has put in place some subsidised restraint fitments so no one misses out.

"Absolute Panel & Paint also hold Restraint Information Days at market days and for family day care centres."

Speaking to a chuffed Koopmans to congratulate her on becoming a finalist for the award, she shares why it's important to recognise the role of women in smash repair.

"They're the backbone of the industry – they're the first port of call."

For Hayer and the team at Absolute Panel & Paint, that sentiment certainly rings true.

"Some staff have been known to call her Nan.

"So during any given day Nell is always the first one to work, makes sure the kitchen is ready, makes sure the phone is ready and that all forms and job cards are set for the day.

"Any of us can get to work and just get going – it's all organised thanks to Nell."

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