From a two-year-old on the tools to a nationally-recognised designer builder, Kialla’s James Briggs has climbed the ranks and reached success.
Recently announced runner-up in the off-site construction of the year sector in the Australian Construction Awards, Mr Briggs said the achievement was a humbling experience which reminded him anything was possible.
As a toddler who would often be found with his hard-hat and hammer in hand, Mr Briggs continuously told those around him of his goal of becoming a builder.
With a business-minded drive from a young age, Mr Briggs said his determination to earn money and become financially independent led him to develop a work ethic which had him doing whatever he could in order to save up for whatever he had in mind.
Between delivering newspapers on his push bike and filling garbage bags with empty cans to trade in, Mr Briggs was willing to take on any task he could fit in outside his time at school.
‘‘We were only given $1 a week pocket money, which eventually went to $2 a week later on,’’ he said.
‘‘Then it got to my younger brothers and sisters and it went up again which I was pretty annoyed about.’’
But between his little amount of pocket money, combined with his can-collecting money, his paper route money and any other one-off jobs he could pick up, he learned what it was to work hard and reap the benefits.
‘‘I even insulated my parents’ entire house for $20.’’
At the start of his high school years, Mr Briggs convinced his mum to homeschool him and his older sister.
‘‘Mum and dad were building a house at the time, so I would get up at 6am, finish all my schooling by 10am, then go and help the builders on the house for the rest of the day.’’
Although he had always hoped to become a builder, it was at that time he became confident building would be his future, long-term career.
‘‘That was the first time I was really exposed to a building site and from there I really decided that I definitely wanted to be a builder.’’
Having returned to high school, Mr Briggs went on to do work experience with a Tatura builder in Year 9 where he was offered a building apprenticeship.
After telling the school of his plans for the year ahead, Mr Briggs’ parents were quickly called to a meeting with the school principal.
The principal sat his parents down and said: ‘‘Your son could have been a success.’’
From there, Mr Briggs was determined to show an ATAR was not essential in reaching success.
Aged 15 and working full-time, he hit the ground running.
With the help of his parents, Mr Briggs bought his first house at 16 years of age as a side project where he put his newly-developed skills to the test doing minor renovations on the home, before selling it for a $40000 profit.
Having come to the end of his apprenticeship, it was just a month later his boss went into liquidation, leading Mr Briggs to start his own business, JMB Constructions.
Since then he has worked to develop and expand his expertise to push the limits in the building industry.
Taking the possibilities to new heights each and every year, Mr Briggs’ recent pathway of constructing with shipping containers was one he believed was the way of the future.
Having researched long and hard to weigh up the benefits and opportunities in building with the containers, Mr Briggs built his first container home in Kialla.
‘‘I really wanted to push the limits of what can be done with containers to show people that we have done it, we can do it and I trust it that much that I’ve done it on my own house.’’
Building it as a way of stepping into the future, Mr Briggs was delighted to find his house was shortlisted in the Australian Construction Awards for two categories — architectural design of the year and off-site construction of the year.
Attending the national presentation in Sydney on March 14, JMB Modular Buildings, a branch of JMB Constructions, was runner-up for the off-site construction of the year category.
‘‘It can feel like you just do the same thing every day and no-one really notices, so I guess it was a good experience to go to Sydney, the SCG, to be recognised on a national level and see what other projects are happening in Australia.’’
He was thrilled to have achieved the significant milestone, but said he could not have done it without the support and expertise of his wife, Rachel.
He said while working hours were long for him and Mrs Briggs, who works alongside him carrying out the administration and accounting side of the business, her knowledge and experience had played a major role in reaching success together.
While running the business together takes up much of their time, Mr Briggs said coming home to his two children — Connor, 2, and Aria, 1 — at the end of the day was a reminder of life’s true success.
‘‘Being a father makes you realise the important things in life.’’
He said although life with little ones and operating JMB Constructions was extremely demanding, his ideal way of escaping the stresses of business was to spend time in the sky.
As a helicopter pilot and a skydiver, his hobbies allowed him to create balance within his life — making sure the demands of business did not stop him from doing the things he loved most.