When she was a kid, Brianna Serenity watched her father build a second story to a ranch house, fascinated by all that went into the process and impressed by how her father managed to do it mostly by himself. She began accompanying him on his many DIY projects when she was ten or eleven. They built rooms together, installed drywall, wired electrical fixtures, and fitted plumbing — Brianna all the while amassing a broad repertoire of contractor skills hands-on.
With that sort of experience, it’d be reasonable to assume she pursued this career path from the outset. Instead, Brianna was a paramedic for twenty-five years, often working 24-hour shifts for far too little pay. It wasn’t until a friend approached her about water draining into their basement that Brianna’s life began to change. She quickly identified and repaired the issue with her friend’s French drain. Neighbors took notice and asked her for help with problems in their homes. Word of her expertise spread.
The work paid well compared to her paramedic income. She started out in her Ford Explorer, then retrofitted a garden trailer into a cargo trailer to hold all her materials, and then moved to a red horse trailer. It was at that time she lost her paramedic job. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as she had garnered a hundred clients and could operate full-time as an independent contractor. As the workload increased, she realized she needed to hire extra help.
Now in 2023, she’s an out and proud trans woman running Brianna’s Mobile Workshop LLC with five other employees, two of whom are her apprentices, all of them queer. Her business services the entire Allegheny County area, though most clients are within Pittsburgh.
Brianna’s business offers all sorts of contractor work. Anything broken, dysfunctional, or needs installed in a building, she and her folks can do it. They do plumbing, electrical, woodwork, remodeling, house flipping, tiling, and general construction gigs; wiring for communication technologies like cable, telephone, and internet; repair cement structures, drywalls, and box gutters; build decks, closed-in porches, and retaining walls; paint interiors & exteriors; handiwork in kitchens and bathrooms; and even landscaping. If there’s some other job that’s not listed, there’s no harm in asking if they can do it because they probably can.
Brianna’s pickup truck tows an 18 x 8-foot trailer, the titular mobile workshop. Despite the limited space, it holds all the tools and materials they need on the go and without feeling cramped or cluttered.
“The idea was to be very passive,” Brianna admits. “The organization makes such a difference.” Even a client could find what they need in the trailer. Brianna built shelves and drawers to store her surplus of supplies then labeled everything so her newer recruits could find what they needed. Nuts and bolts sit in little cubbies that can be removed and taken in the house. Large power tools like her miter saw are secured for transport but also easily accessible. Her overstock in the ceiling holds lumber, tubing, and a few ladders. For her employees, the trailer has a microwave, a refrigerator, and a coffeemaker. For clients’ pets, there’s a bin of dog treats. A security camera keeps an eye on the interior. A pride flag and a large rainbow banner stick out the back.
Brianna truly cares for the people she works for. Too many contractors take advantage of their clients — overcharging them, taking shortcuts, using cheaper materials of poorer quality, and hiding problems. Brianna, meanwhile, is the opposite, ensuring a thorough job that’ll last long and be worth the client’s money. “We don’t require a final payment until you’re satisfied,” she asserts.
The tools and materials carried in Brianna’s mobile workshop are of the highest quality she can find. She avoids weak lumber with imperfections, has a deal with Sherwin-Williams because she attests their paints are the best. Other supply stores she frequents are Allegheny Millworks in the southside, APR Supply Co. in North Hills, Beacon Supply in the West End, H.P. Starr, and Faucet Doctor — not only because they keep a prime stock, but because they support the LGBTQ+ community. “I have never felt any different than anyone else walking in,” Brianna says of shopping in these places.
One important value she practices is communication. They’re often working in the client’s homes — it’s only fair to keep them in the loop about the process. It also comforts those who had been screwed over by bad contractors before. She and her handymen take photos before, after, and during the gig to send to clients whether they’re present or not. If they uncover a problem during the job, their protocol is to stop, alert the client, and revise their plan of action going forward. If a client wants to take part in the work, they’re welcome in. Brianna also frequently livestreams projects to her Instagram, @briannas_mobile_workshop, that anyone can watch for the tips she often gives.
Most importantly, Brianna is committed wholly to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s to return the favor after the community supported her. After she had come out as a trans woman, she lost half her clientele. Yet there were many clients — people who had queer family members, gay couples — who stood by her. That moment, at such a vulnerable point in her life, touched her.
“My time is better valued if I can serve people in the queer people who support me and they want to support me,” Brianna says. “They treat me the way I want to treat them. I want my workshop to be servicing people in the queer community because I know I can create that zone for them.”
The current trailer is reaching the end of its life and Brianna is preparing to replace it with a bigger one. She also plans to get a sprinter van, a smaller vehicle one or two of her employees can drive around to do minor gigs. Among an industry inundated by a machismo culture that would reproach a queer household, Brianna’s Mobile Workshop is a safe resource for folks in the LGBTQ+ community who need help in their homes or businesses without being judged for who they are. Brianna is proud of the haven she’s created.
When Brianna isn’t in her pickup or her mobile workshop, she’s riding her motorcycle. For the past few years, she’s driven among the motorcyclists at the front of the Pittsburgh Pride march and parade, proud to represent and serve her community.
The best way to contact Brianna’s Mobile Workshop is by email at briannasmobileworkshop at gmail dot com