… to say Denise Owens and Theresa Hampton’s story is unique almost feels insulting. It’s a word too often brandished to elevate the only ‘slightly-above-average’, but in this case, believe me, ‘unique’ falls short.
The duo, also known as MissPicks Locksmiths, have had an extensive career in the military, worked as bodyguards for almost two decades, became warrant officers and now, they’re locksmiths, spearheading safety, and security in their community.
Theresa: “I was born in South Africa, but my parents’ British roots led me back here almost three decades ago. It’s fair to say, I’ve led an unorthodox life – and so has Denise. I began my career in the British Army and upon my leave, I discovered a career in bodyguarding. My background and experience in the forces prepared me greatly for this, particularly when deployed as personal security for certain individuals and families. Of course, I cannot specify who I worked for, but I spent a good portion of my career protecting high-profile individuals, including royalty, business leaders, musicians, and sports personalities.”
It was during this period that Theresa met Denise in the Dubai embassy in London. With a similar background in the forces, Denise was also a bodyguard and managed to gain a position in a very sought after role in the United States.
Denise: “Back then, I always remember everybody talking about certain positions – bodyguarding, that is – working for a prominent family in the States. I managed to secure this role and spent two decades with said family. They were a wonderful family and I’d be there should they need to go anywhere dangerous, alongside armed police. I was paid all year round, just like Theresa. No matter what we were doing, no matter where we were, should our services be required, we dropped everything and travelled to them.”
When the pandemic hit, every changed. With travel restrictions, there was no longer a need for both women’s services. This allowed Theresa and Denise time, time that they both hadn’t had before. They were able to get home and no longer live out of suitcases.
Theresa: “During the pandemic, I met someone that worked for British Gas and was on the lookout for warrant offices. Both Denise and I seized the opportunity, after all, this role lent itself to our capabilities and experience. A lot of the time, we just didn’t know what we were walking in to – one property we entered was booby-trapped.”
Denise: “Even though we’ve found ourselves in some tricky situations, the skills we’ve acquired over the years enabled us to be calm under pressure, stand our ground and deescalate situations that could have gone south. But this role exposed us to locksmithing – watching the guys pick the locks was fascinating to us, and it was from here that we entered an entirely new chapter.”
No less exhilarating
Theresa: “Locksmithing, unlike our previous careers, offered all the comforts of home. We’re now able to come back in the evenings and spend time with family. But it is no less exhilarating. We were welcomed with open arms into the locksmithing community and supported endlessly by Derek Mercer, an outstanding mentor of ours.”
Denise: “One of the great things we both enjoy is the complexity of lockpicking. No two locks are the same and we both get a real buzz whenever we succeed. It’s fulfilling to be faced with a challenging lock and we’ve often spent numerous evenings picking difficult locks, it’s a great feeling when you finally crack it.”
Theresa: “However, one of the things we’ve discovered since being in the industry is how many women are grateful to see us turn up. This is by no means a slight against our male peers in the industry, but we’ve encountered far too many women that have experienced domestic violence and other traumatic events – these situations have led to them needing their locks changing. I think in these situations and for these individuals, having two women turn up provided them with a heightened sense of safety and comfort.”
The three P’s…
Denise: “I would encourage any young person to get into locksmithing. But it is never as simple as it would appear on the outside. Locksmithing requires practice, patience, and perseverance to really hone the craft. Many great and experienced locksmiths told us that learning and practicing is the key to being successful, and they’re absolutely right.”
Theresa: “Yes, definitely. And it’s important to listen to your peers and learn from others that have been doing this for decades. Look at the tools that are needed, invest wisely, and explore all the new opportunities that the industry has to offer.”
“Looking forward, we’re planning on expanding our locksmithing services by exploring the opportunities in the automotive sector. This is an ever-evolving industry and as technology continues to advance, we all must continue to adapt if we’re to continue supporting our communities.”
To learn more about Theresa and Denise, aka MissPicks Locksmiths, head to their website: www.misspickslocksmiths.co.uk/