Keeping her late husband’s business alive
Claire-Ann Raynor resisted when her husband Carl first taught her how to calculate the square footage of a roof.
They were running their decorative moulding business, BMT Ltd, together.
“I said you’re going to be here, why do I need to know that?” she said.
But she did learn how to do that and many other things related to the business, such as measuring for eyebrows or windowsills. The only thing she didn’t do was get on the roof.
Then in 2014, her husband of 16 years died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism.
“He had cancer, but he didn’t die from the cancer,” she said. “It all happened very suddenly.”
Suddenly she was left to deal with BMT Ltd on her own. It was a lot to take on. She was already running her own wedding destination business Rose of Sharon Bermuda, and raising their teenagers, CaVon and Christian.
But she never even considered closing BMT Ltd.
“It was his life,” she said. “Even in his last hours, we had a client that had e-mailed us around 12 at night to say we had been awarded a contract to do certain things.
“I woke Carl up and said to him, so and so says we got this contract, what do you want me to do?
“Even in the end, he was telling me put this guy on this job, and this guy. He said so and so will help you because I have asked him to be there for you guys. That was five hours before he passed away.”
Mr Raynor was in the middle of a contract when he died.
“We finished that job,” Mrs Raynor said. “The client came to the funeral. We also finished the contract that he’d gotten just before he died.”
She was in tears for those first contracts on her own.
“I wished I’d paid more attention to what he’d told me,” she said. “I could hear his voice in my head saying, ‘I told you this already’.”
But she got through and kept BMT Ltd open.
She’s most proud of work she did on the Inverurie Executive Suites shortly after Mr Raynor died.
“I was a vendor of JMS General Contracting,” she said. “It was a tough project because the building had different sized overhangs on every run. On one side the overhang was seven inches and on the other side it was 18 inches.”
She said getting the mouldings to match on an old building could be a challenge.
“Often mouldings are done to cover up imperfections on buildings that have been worked on by lots of different people over the years,” she said.
Mrs Raynor said running BMT has been a struggle at times.
For most of the last year, BMT was closed due to equipment and power supply issues. Those problems are now sorted out, and they have just reopened in a new, spacious location on the lower level of 15 Well Bottom Road, Warwick.
She has a hot fire foam cutter machine that cuts the styrofoam needed for the mouldings into the correct shape, and a staff member who handles the cement coating required.
Mrs Raynor has experienced a fair bit of sexism since taking up the reins of BMT.
“People call up and when they hear my voice, they say, ‘Can I speak to your boss’,” she said. “I say, ‘I am the boss’.”
Sometimes customers try to test her a little, but once they see that she knows her stuff, they usually give her a chance.
“I still have some very loyal customers from when my husband was alive,” she said.
Mrs Raynor studied interior design in university and taught her husband a few things as well over the years.
“I taught him how to use the computer and how to use AutoCAD,” she said. “Once I showed him the basics he would be up into the wee hours of the morning.” She’s now running two businesses at once. Her other business Rose of Sharon, is building up a presence in the Asian and Indian market.
“Most of those clients are from the East Coast of the United States,” she said.
Her biggest challenge: she’s only one person.
“Right now I am working on a large Indian wedding,” she said. “I have to be very careful and strategic about how I spend my time. Each bride deserves my full attention.”
Sometimes she gets anxious calls at 4am from brides who have just arrived in Bermuda. It’s raining, they say tearfully. Is the wedding ruined? She reassures them and they go back to bed.
“I tell them if you don’t see me worried, then you don’t need to be worried,” she said.
She handles one to two weddings a month, on average.
“Family is very important to me,” she said. “I have to make sure I spend enough time with my children and family.”
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