“TradeMutt is a social enterprise workwear brand built for tradies by tradies is creating a community and transforming the way that blue-collar workers across Australia talk about mental health.”
This is a phrase that I have said and typed on countless occasions while working at TradeMutt over the last year, but, having never met my now bosses Ed Ross and Dan Allen when they were tradies, I was curious to hear their thoughts on why the tagline “built for tradies, by tradies” has become so crucial to the brand and a real touchpoint for the TradeMutt community.
I was also interested in whether they thought that trading in their toolboxes for techstacks had any impact on their relationship and connection with the blue-collar identity and how they intend to make sure that they and as an extension TradeMutt as a brand does not lose touch with the community that they have built.
“My identity has changed in a way I guess, my day-to-day, the way I work and the way my day is structured.” says Ed when I ask about how connected he feels to the tradie heritage of the brand, before adding that “Most of my mates are tradies or from rural backgrounds and being from regional Australia, I have always felt a big connection to being working class and I don’t think that will ever go away.”
Not unsurprisingly, Dan mirrored this train of thought, going as far to say “once a tradie is always a tradie, it's part of my DNA.”
As we continue talking, I get the impression that both men don't just feel connected to their blue collar roots because of the friends they still have in the community or because it was how they defined themselves for many years, it goes much deeper than that. They both credit much of their success in business to their background in the trades industry, citing their work ethic, ability to solve problems and make decisions quickly as skills that were honed on the tools but that have also helped them immensely in running an ecommerce business.
However, the feeling of seeing a job progress from the ground up on site everyday is what they both miss the most about being tradies.
“The appetite for seeing a job get done was always an itch that was scratched when I was on the tools and you don’t get the exact same sense of accomplishment on a daily basis behind a computer but we do get that sense of accomplishment more broadly.” says Dan.
So, not only has their background helped in a practical sense, but leaning into their blue-collar roots has also been one of the major reasons that they have been able to build and gain the trust of the community that they have.
When I bring this up, both Dan and Ed agree that it is this relatability and unwillingness to become another corporate advocacy brand that is what sets TradeMutt apart.
Ed explains to me that “If people can trust Dan and I then they can trust what we are doing,” and that TradeMutt is not a money-making exercise and that it’s more mission and community driven than anything else. He also expresses that if any other workwear brand had tried to do the same thing, that it wouldn’t have worked because there wouldn’t have been the real life industry experience backing it up.
“We aren’t just another corporate selling workwear to make easy money,” adds Dan.
Furthermore, the boys have also used their experience on residential worksites to inspire the design and development of new products, such as the camel-toe sock. “The camel toe sock for us was solving a simple problem that we had every single day on the worksite, it was just a solution to a problem that we had, that we knew about ,” says Dan.
But, as they get further away from the day-to-day problems that impact tradies everyday on site, it is important that they stay connected to their customer through forums such as their private facebook group for customers, the Mutt Hutt, but also that they continue to keep actual tradies involved in the fitting and modelling of the garments.
The idea behind using tradies as models, was initially a cost saving measure but over time has become key to the integrity and ethos of the business.
Dan explains to me that, “If we don’t use real tradies in our photoshoots, we instantly lose that connectedness that we have to the industry and aside from anything else it is awesome to see tradies get an opportunity to model and get to be a part of it.”
“Having tradies involved in our marketing and branding is an absolute no-brainer because they are always very quick to tell us if something is good or not.” adds Ed.
Finally, when it comes to the issues that TradeMutt speaks to their audience about via their editorial platform, The Mutt Hub, I ask how they intend to make sure that their team is speaking to their audience of tradies, truckies and blue-collar workers.
“Tradespeople are bloody smart people and the idea of talking down to or creating simpler articles or content for them, well there is just no point because they are interested in the same stuff,” says Ed.
While Dan adds that, “We are just tradies who are starting a conversation about mental health, as tradies, it doesn’t mean we need to do things in a certain way because of who we are and where we’ve come from about a subject that everyone probably needs to talk more about hence the appeal to industries much wider than blue-collar.”
But, has their journey with TradeMutt and TIACS has taught them anything about the blue-collar community and the issues that they face?
I am surprised when both men say that the types of issues that they see the community facing are what they expected when they started the movement but what they didn’t expect was the sheer volume of people who were going through the same thing.
Dan tells me that since starting TradeMutt and more recently, free mental health support service, TIACS that he has “become more aware of all of the issues that I was facing myself as a tradie, that I didn’t realise everyone at the time was also facing.”
Finally, when I bring up the question of making sure that the tradie heritage of the brand stays front of mind, the boys are adamant that they will continue to listen to their community and stay in touch with the issues that they are facing by continuing to go out to jobsites and interacting via via social media.