Ellie Coulter has been chosen to represent the Women in Roofing for the Business Excellence Award in Recognition and appreciation of her contribution to roofing.  


Her contribution is enhanced by the fact that very few women operate in the area of Mastic Asphalt, and certainly not when Ellie took over the business



Ellie Coulter came from the Italian tradition for asphalting - it’s in the family blood with her grandfather, father, brother and sons all being asphalters.


Sussex Asphalte was formed by Ellie’s father in November 1948 and has been continuously trading for nearly 70 years.


Ellie took her first steps in the asphalting trade as a teenager doing time sheets and typing up quotes. She increasingly found herself doing a variety of jobs for the company, initially on a part time basis alongside her Convent schooling and full time work.


In 1961 Ellie’s father passed away and as she puts it she was “thrown in at the deep end” having to learn all aspects of running the business while her brother Sid was on the tools.


Ellie had to learn quickly about measurements, design, estimating, and contracting, but she also got her hands dirty, regularly going to sites to deliver and collect materials at the end of the working day in the office.


Ellie said that in the early days some of her learning was a bit trial and error, but she found the support and advice of the Mastic Asphalt Council invaluable. In turn Sussex Asphalte has been an enthusiastic supporter of MAC.

Although she was a woman in what many would see as a male dominated trade and era, Ellie never found it a disadvantage -  anyone who worked with Ellie knows she could hold her own in the asphalting trade.


She got on with the hard work of running the business, developing great working relationships with customers and contractors, and building an excellent reputation.


In terms of running a family business, Ellie enjoyed support from her family, with everyone getting stuck in, sharing a real passion for the business and the asphalt trade. In some ways running the business and raising a family merged.


Ellie commented


“the business was family and the family was business which often meant the family working all hours to the support the business and each other. You lived and breathed a family business 24/7 - it was your life”.


Ellie’s husband Phil joined the company in 1969, and in the same way Ellie and Sid helped their father during their school holidays, so her children Julian and Matthew followed suit.


Naturally Ellie’s long career in the asphalt trade saw many changes. She saw the improvements in health and safety and the care of the workforce as being the most significant.


Of course, technology had changed a lot as well - Ellie recalled having a two-ton mixer that looked like Stephenson’s Rocket. It took four hours to charge using wood and coke and was often looked after by a night man who would keep it going over night, getting occasional sleep under the mixer (see accompanying picture).



To Ellie the key to being a successful roofing business is simple, there were four priorities that more important than anything else:


  • ensuring high quality work;
  • taking care of and investing in your workforce;
  • looking after your customers; and
  • having good relationships with your suppliers.



The commitment to high quality work has been the hallmark of Sussex Asphalte over the years. When it comes to maintaining standards when laying asphalt Ellie recalled a motto of her father that she adopted through her working life


“You’ve got to believe it’s right.

If you don't believe it’s right, don't do it.”


Ellie and the business consistently demonstrated their commitment to the trade by investing heavily in the learning and development of their workforce and supporting scores of staff through training and mastic asphalt apprenticeships.



Looking back on her career Ellie had much to be proud of and her personal highlights reflected her business priorities:


She took great delight in the number of satisfied customers the company worked with over the years.


Seeing her children Julian and Matthew become top quality asphalt tradesmen and taking over and growing the Sussex Asphalte business was a great source of personal pride to her.


Seeing the company secure contracts on some of the country’s most important monuments is another highlight, especially the work on St Paul’s Cathedral, which she described as a “crowning glory”.





Ellie could look back on her own hard work with a great deal of pride, including building a successful business that continues to flourish today, while maintaining the traditions of the Asphalt trade, and in 2017 she received the MAC’s lifetime achievement award.


Women in Roofing greatly respect the achievements of Ellie Coulter and the legacy she has left, which goes forward to support the Ellie Coulter Women in Roofing Excellence in Business Award