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Very Inspiring Women Series: Norma McCarty

November 28, 2018

Very Inspiring Women Series: Norma McCarty

This month’s Very Inspiring Woman is Norma McCarty, a go-getter with a crystal clear vision of why she does what she does.  As the founder and managing director of Able Spaces, a company that makes pre-fabricated homes and portable offices, her vision is “creating space for possibilities”.  Norma, who immigrated to New Zealand from France at age 14, is passionate about providing a new, affordable and quality housing solution to Kiwis.

She is an avid CrossFitter, a wife and mum of two, and as vibrant and colourful as her brand. It was such a pleasure to talk “women’s empowerment” with her.


WT: How do you describe yourself when people ask what you do for a living?

NM: I start out by saying I make Spaces for Possibilities.  Then I expand on that by saying I manufacture transportable homes and portable office spaces.  After that, I just let people ask questions if it spikes an interest, and I answer them as best as I can.


WT: What’s the proudest moment of your journey so far?

NM: Well, there are two that stand out for me.  One is more from my life journey and the other is from my business journey.

A pivotal point in my life was choosing to move to New Zealand at age 14.  I grew up in France, and my parents split when I was eight.  Dad married my step-mum, and they went to New Zealand for a holiday.  They loved it so much that they decided to move here. I remember the moment they asked me if I wanted to stay in France with my mother or come to New Zealand.  I didn’t really know anything about New Zealand and I didn’t speak a word of English, but I remember there being no doubt in my mind, I wanted to go!  This was a big turning point for me because at that point I wasn’t concentrating in school (I was focused on boys and my friends), and didn’t think I’d amount to anything.  But when I got to New Zealand, everything changed.  I worked my butt off to learn English and to do well in school.  My attitude completely changed for the better.  I often wonder what my life would look like if I’d stayed in France, because I’ve been so happy in New Zealand.

As far as my business journey, I am proud of the decision to go out on my own and really make a go of it.  Before starting Able Spaces, I didn’t have as much confidence and thought I couldn’t really succeed on my own.  I’d been doing contracting work alongside full-time employment on and off since 2007.  At one point, I was a life coach.  I also quit full-time employment to run a demolition and construction company with a business partner in Christchurch.  I did that for two and a half years, but my business partner and I fell out.  I then went back to contracting before the opportunity to purchase a business license to manufacture portable buildings came up.  I did that for two and a half years but always felt like I had someone to answer to and was held back in some way.  The licensor and I had different value systems, so I finally decided to make a go of it on my own.  My drive was to give Kiwis a genuine and affordable housing option.  This is what drove me – the idea that it’s possible to both build affordable and quality, sustainable housing in New Zealand.


WT: What women past/present most inspires you and why?

NM: This is hard because there are just so many.  I guess for me it comes down to all the women who’ve come before, and are here today, who just got shit done despite the barriers.  Like the women who were part of the suffrage movement who said, “Hey, our voices matter as much as the men’s!”, and pushed forward to be heard.

Also, it’s not just women in the media who inspire me.  There are a lot of women who we don’t hear about who break down barriers every day.  The ones who say, “Hey, I want to stay at home and raise my kids and do a great job of it” or “I want to have a career and a family and do a great job at both.”  You know, just not buying into the whole thing about what women are “supposed” to do.  You can’t win anyway, someone’s always going to criticize you for something!

The women who inspire me are the ones who just say, “Stuff that! I’m just going to do what I feel is right for me” and block out all the negative stuff.  It’s about honoring your values and what’s important to you, not what society dictates we, as women, should do. 


WT: What’s something brave you have done that in hindsight you can’t believe you did but are really glad you did?

NM: Going back to my previous answer about my proudest part of my journey, I’d have to say that deciding to move to New Zealand at age 14 was really brave, and I can’t believe I did it.  That’s such a hard age to leave friends behind and start all over, but I’m really glad I made that decision. I am very lucky to have the family that I have.

The other thing was, again, going out on my own with Able Spaces.  But there was this really scary thing that I did.  I purchased a commercial building at auction and I was one of only three females there.  I was so nervous, my heart was beating so fast, it felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. Every time someone outbid me, my hand just went up, it was like an out of body experience.  Some of the men, the other bidders, would turn around and give me these filthy looks, like “Who do you think you are bidding on a commercial building?”, and I had my husband and Colin, our head of manufacturing, with me for support, but I was doing the bidding.  It was intimidating but I was like, “This is going to be MY workshop!” Whenever I look back at how scared I was, but I did it anyway and won, I think, “Wow! That’s pretty cool!”


WT: What do you do to relax/ in your down time?

NM:  I sleep, haha.  Between my work and two young kids, there’s not a lot of down time, so I usually get to bed by 9pm, as I get up at 4:45am Monday to Friday to get to CrossFit. I’d like to read more, but I always feel like I need to be doing something. There’s the house, the lawn, playing with the kids.  I like to read when I’m on a plane or have nothing else to distract me.  The other thing I do, which isn’t really relaxing at all, but it’s totally my “me time” and I love it, is CrossFit.  It’s gives me a buzz. It’s my time to forget about work, kids, responsibilities.  It’s my time to just do whatever the workout is (to my abilities of course) alongside some amazing friends. It makes me feel fit and strong.


WT: What’s your favourite WT outfit and how does it make you feel?

NM:  I love my peach and champagne Forget Me Not dress and Sunset blazer. They make me feel beautiful, elegant and quietly confident!


Wilson Trollope is all about inspiring women to be their confident selves. Each month we are interviewing confident women to share their stories as inspiration to us all.

The founder and managing director of Able Spaces, Norma McCarty says she’s “here to shake up the industry of prefabricated homes and isn’t afraid to discuss how pre fab isn’t a dirty word!”

Prior to Able Spaces, Norma owned Portable Building Hire Wellington.  She has also been the director/owner of several other companies and was, at one time, a life coach.

Born and raised in France, Norma immigrated to New Zealand at age 14.  Although she loves life in New Zealand, she wishes the houses were as warm as they were in Europe and has made it her mission to provide a warm, affordable solution to Aotearoa.

Images supplied.


If you have an inspiring story to tell, or know of other women who do, please get in touch, we’d love to interview you.


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Body measurements of Wilson Trollope sizes*
   Size    Bust (cm) Waist (cm) Hips (cm)
6 78 65 92
8 83 70 97
10 88 75 102
12 93 80 107
14 98 85 112
16 103 90 117
18 108 95 122
*To take your measurements, please see our instructions below
Comparison of Wilson Trollope sizes with international sizes
Wilson Trollope     6          8         10       12      14  
Aus/UK 6 8 10 12 14
USA 2 4 6 8 10
EU 32 34 36 38 40
Japan 9 11 13 

There are three body measurement points that you need to know to ensure a great fit – bust, waist, and hips.

When taking your body measurements, wear the undergarments you normally wear for the most accurate results. Use a flexible tape measure, or a piece of string and ruler, and hold it around each body point so it is comfortably snug.  If the tape is cutting into your flesh, it is too tight.

To ensure an accurate measurement around your body, keep the measuring tape as level as possible from front to back. We recommend measuring yourself in front of a mirror so you can check this from a side view. If you can, get a friend to help you to ensure the most accurate measurements.

Bust: Wrap the measuring tape around your back and where the tape meets across the fullest point of your bust is your bust measurement.  

Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around your natural waist, the slimmest part of your torso, pulling the ends to the front. Where they meet is your waist measurement.

Hips: Wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your bottom – this is usually low down towards your thighs. As with your bust and waist measurements, where the tape meets is your hip measurement.

Length: To measure the length of individual garments against your body it is best to measure down the centre of your back. To do this, start the measuring tape at either the base of your neck for dresses and tops, or at your waist for skirts. Measure down your body to the measurement listed in the garment description. This will show you where the garment comes to on you. When you are measuring for length, remember to make sure you are standing completely upright – it is best to have someone help you with this. Alternatively, compare the measurement with the length of a garment you already have.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Annabelle – annabelle@wilsontrollope.com, she is here to help.