A Kiwi mum of three is not the first person you'd expect to be running a multi-million dollar plumbing business in the UK.

But Anne Timpany, from Timaru, doesn't care much for stereotypes or societal expectations.

at 39, she runs a team of 70 plumbers, all male, working on some of the highest-profile buildings in the City of London — from the Leadenhall Street Building known as the Cheesegrater to the 'Walkie-Talkie' skyscraper.

While she has run the business for around eight years, she still faces some moments all too familiar to women in the workforce.

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"I was introduced to a new member of our team on-site a few months ago," she told the Mail Online.

"I held out my hand and he said: 'How you doing, love?'" She raises her eyebrows in amusement.

Business owner Anne Timpany challenges the stereotypes in a male-dominated business. Photo/Daily Mail.
Business owner Anne Timpany challenges the stereotypes in a male-dominated business. Photo/Daily Mail.

"To be fair, I'm not sure he knew exactly who I was, but there was a sharp intake of breath from the others nearby, who told him after I'd gone."

Did he apologise for calling the woman who paid his wages 'love'? "No, but when I saw him the next day he was very polite indeed."

The old wolf-whistling builder stereotype wouldn't last long in her office.

"Oh no, wolf-whistling doesn't happen on big commercial sites any more," she says, horrified. "Wolf-whistling would see a man thrown off site pretty quickly. Right from the start we've wanted to change the image of the industry and make it more diverse."

Timpany vision was always ambitious, but her firm, On Tap Plumbers, began modestly — over a bottle of Rioja in a restaurant in North London, where she then lived. It was 2010 and she had been made redundant from a marketing job. Her husband, Raff, a plumber, was itching to leave the firm he worked for and go out on his own.

They decided to set up a domestic plumbing business, appealing particularly to female customers, with Timpany in charge.

"It's women who choose new bathrooms and ring when the boiler breaks down, not men," she explains.

Months after that meal, however, life became more complicated when Timpany found herself pregnant with their first son, Charlie, followed, 12 months later, by Roko.

"My husband was out all day, evenings, too, running around other people's houses, while I was managing the business whenever the boys slept. It was exhausting."

The solution lay in the City, where construction was starting to boom post-recession. "I wanted Raff back here at 5pm on a Friday," says Timpany, "and that meant changing from domestic work, with its constant call-outs, to commercial instead."

Last year, she received the NatWest Everywoman Athena Award for a woman running a business trading between six and nine years. Photo/Daily Mail.
Last year, she received the NatWest Everywoman Athena Award for a woman running a business trading between six and nine years. Photo/Daily Mail.

It was a smart move: by the time Timpany had her third baby boy, Hunter, in 2014, the business was expanding swiftly — from a team of five plumbers, they've doubled in size every year since.

It took her a while to feel comfortable on those building sites, though.

"I think I suffered from impostor syndrome for a while," she says, referring to the psychological condition in which people, often women, assume others will see through their credentials.

"I stayed in the office a lot in those early days. It can feel quite intimidating, walking through a construction site where 400 tradesmen are working. But in some ways being a woman is an advantage. My husband would say, for example, that men in construction are more likely to accept an invitation from me on [professional networking site] LinkedIn than one from him."

She's sure some in the wider industry call her 'bossy', the put-down reserved for women leaders — never men.

"I grew up in New Zealand with three brothers and a dad who was an entrepreneur. I learned to be quite blunt and straightforward. People might say with some justification that I'm harder [in negotiations] than my husband."

There is no full-time nanny at home, but instead an after-school childminder for the boys, now seven, six and four, plus an equal sharing of school drop-offs and housekeeping duties with her husband.

"Women think they can't have it all — run a business and have a family — but you can if you structure it carefully.

"What you can't do is run a business and do 100 per cent of the work around the kids and the house at the same time."

Many of her plumbers are young dads, too, who sometimes need late starts for school assemblies. And that's fine with her.

"My husband does it, so why not other men?" she says.

And what about making plumbing more appealing to women? "We've had several women plumbers over the years," she says. "On the commercial side, it's not such physical work."

Last year, Timpany received the NatWest Everywoman Athena Award for a woman running a business trading between six and nine years. "I was shocked to win, but it's given me more confidence. And it's raised my profile in terms of mentoring other women.'

Back home in St Albans, Herts, she is again surrounded by boys. Will they be plumbers?

"They want to be astronauts and footballers, but I'm always saying to Raff, give them the hammer or spanner!"

Timpany also has a love for interior design.

"My house is all black and white and yellow, with a beautiful stainless steel kitchen and retro hanging bubble chairs. Everyone calls it the party house."

A construction industry boss who loves theatre, fashion and designer furniture? If anyone can change the image of plumbing, it is Anne Timpany.

- Daily Mail