Now almost 10 years in, she has the confidence to refer to herself as managing director and is slowly leading the charge of women into the traditionally male-dominated industry.
“When I started I was definitely an outsider, I’d never worn steel cap boots and the last time I’d worn fluoro orange was as a kid in the eighties,” Price said.
“I really just fell into this as a way of trying to help my partner Michael get more work when his hours as a machine operator dried up.
“I had a marketing degree and was working in an office specialising in knowledge management and procedures and I thought I’d help Michael out by setting up a website, with some marketing material and a video.”
“But then the phone started ringing and kept ringing and soon I was working at my office job part-time and running the business as well.”
“My understanding of how to communicate well, how to document processes and how to do some basic online marketing in an industry that up until recently has been largely offline, have been the keys to our success.
“I saw a gap in the market which I could fill, so I imported our first road registered mobile trommel screening machine from Germany to recycle topsoil.
“Trommel screening is a unique way of sifting and aerating the soil and SoilCyclers is the only Australian operator doing this on site.
“Now we’ve got three machines across the eastern seaboard of Australia and have worked on major road projects such as the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing and soil remediation projects such as the Petrie Mill clean-up where we dealt with 140,000m3 of soil contaminated with plastic.
“Being a young female business owner with no connection to the industry was quite a challenge in what is a very traditional, male-dominated industry.
“There’s been some interesting conversations along the way, some still think I’m the secretary.”
Price’s advice for women wanting to get out of the office and on the tools:
- Focus on your abilities: Most technical skills can be taught but the communication, negotiation and planning skills you have from different industries are invaluable in construction. Don’t assume you can’t do the job just because you don’t currently have all the skills and experience.
- Speak up: if you’re in an office role in the industry talk to your boss about a transfer to a job site, if it’s a complete change try to get your foot in the door with a role that matches your skills or do some training and knock on doors.
- Join industry associations and network: People will be impressed by your persistence and you might just get offered an opportunity.
- Don’t be offended: There’s a lot of colourful language out on job sites and it can be a bit of a boy’s club but show you can do the job and you’ll be accepted.
“Having a female out on site definitely changes the dynamic in a good way,” Price said.
“Our admin assistant has just transferred from her desk job to be out on the tools as a trainee plant operator and my 17-year-old step daughter Mikayla is completing a school-based traineeship to get all her machinery tickets.
“Because we’re so specialised, traditional excavator operators don’t have the skills we want so we prefer to train our own operators which provides some unique opportunities for up and comers.
“The skills that I’m looking for are not traditionally found in the industry, I want good communicators and negotiators with good literacy and numeracy skills.
“And I’m just as happy to give these opportunities to women if they’re right for the role.
“Being out in site and seeing the business grow is really exciting, it’s not what I thought I’d be doing but I wouldn’t change a thing.
“We are doing something that no-one else in the industry is doing, with an end-to-end process to test, screen or sieve site soils, and ameliorate with things like compost, lime, dolomite and gypsum to create a high-quality topsoil without it having to leave the site.
“This costs less than half of the price of imported top soil but is also more effective as there is less change to the eco-system and it’s better for the environment with less trucks on the roads carting waste and soil back and forth.
“When I started I had no contacts in the industry and I still get asked if it’s my dad’s business.”