When your passion is people and renovations – a good career move is to take up a franchise which blends the two. That's what Tracy Lowe, the new franchise owner for Plumb'In Whangarei, has done, having bought the business in December. Christine Allen writes...

Of all the rooms in your house, the bathroom is perhaps the most complicated and the one you need the most advice on when looking at building or renovating.

This is something Tracy Lowe understands, having completed numerous renovations in the last 20 years.

She bought the Raumanga Plumb'In franchise last December and runs it with a little help from the family.


"Alex and Beifei [the previous owners] were our neighbours when they first moved up from Auckland. Alex wanted to retire and move on and I was in the right place at the right time, said Ms Lowe, who had been working for an accountant until that point.

"I've had what is known as a portfolio career in different industries prior to taking over Plumb'In. From motorcycle and marine spare parts, to design and building spec homes and dairy farming," she said.

Ms Lowe said she started with a passion for wanting to build homes.

"Life happened along the way together with a few renovations. I sincerely appreciate people's renovation efforts, as I am fully aware of how much time and effort goes into choosing a concept and melding that with practicality."

She said her usual week involved helping customers solve their bathroom renovation needs.

The best part of the job?

"A satisfied customer who comes back and says they love their new bathroom. I would love to create a gallery of renovated or new Plumb'In bathrooms to show off what can be achieved."

She said those seeking a career in retail bathroom ware needed a passion for renovation, colour and design and the ability to relate to people from all walks of life.

"Our Northland culture is extremely diverse, being able to communicate with all in our society is imperative."

Taking on a franchise was a little different too.

"Taking up a franchise is an involved process. It takes time and involves several advisers to understand the terminology and implications," she said, adding that franchise operators, however, benefited from having a support team for marketing and online profile, administration, buying power and "support for those tough situations that arise".

And her team on the ground are pretty important too.

"Four to five of us work in the business at varying times during the six-day week. As a family business two of my daughters work with me, and my mum helps when she's not playing golf," she joked.

She said the role also required her to get to know the product range.

"Our products cover a range from entry-level to high-end, a majority is middle of the road. We have two main suppliers Englefield and Aquatica supplemented with access to other major suppliers throughout NZ. Occasionally we get requests for special projects, which is fun to do."

She said the stores saw a lot of tradies coming through, as well DIY folks and landlords sourcing for their rental properties.