There’s nothing especially glamorous or hi-tech about Trim and Proper Property Services. They provide gardening and handyman services to private and government clients such as Housing NSW.
But behind the steady buzz of lawnmowers and the fixing of leaky taps is a remarkable story about one woman’s vision and belief, and the capacity of work to empower and change people’s lives.
Many of the people employed by Trim and Proper Property Services have grown up in family and community environments blighted by entrenched and generational unemployment. In extreme cases this can involve three generations of unemployed people in a family.
When 31-year-old Larissa Robertson took the first big steps in 2009 to start Spectrum Community Focus – the parent company of Trim and Proper – she knew it was not going to be easy.
While many business experts caution against letting emotion get in the way of commercial judgement, Robertson saw a proposition in which good business could also mean good community outcomes.
“I couldn’t sit by and watch hundreds of people lose their jobs because of bad management, so I decided to take a huge gamble and save as many jobs as I could,” Robertson says, recounting her thinking behind starting the business.
“Many of the people we employ, initially have had no work experience.”
Trim and Proper Property Services is a business unit of Spectrum Community Focus Ltd, established in 2009 after founding director and chief executive Robertson bought out the failing not-for profit Spectrum Employment Services Cooperative Limited, which was in liquidation.
Robertson set out to continue the mission of SES to alleviate poverty through employment and, in doing so, also saved over 180 jobs by purchasing the assets of SES and establishing SCO Recruitment and Trim and Proper Property Services.
Robertson combined dogged resolve and business acumen to salvage the remains of the failed enterprise and put the new enterprise on a solid commercial footing. Today, Trim and Proper employs 35 full-time staff and had $1.76 million revenue last financial year.
One of the main purposes of Trim and Proper is to act an employment incubator, a place where people can develop work skills and habits to help make them more employable.
“This area of the community is greatly in need of assistance, though it is often overlooked by the wider community and other charities,” Robertson says.