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Hi-Vis on Mental Health: The TradeMutt Story | #035

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

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Ed is a qualified carpenter, holds a diploma of Business (Agriculture), is the Co founder of TradeMutt Pty Ltd, founding Director of the “This is a Conversation Starter” Foundation Ltd and Co founder and Director of The Lad Collective Pty ltd. Working for a local residential builder in Brisbane, Ed met his now business partner, Daniel Allen, and together they started TradeMutt Pty Ltd. Since then Ed has co founded the TIACS Foundation and is also Director of another start up, The Lad Collective.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Ed Ross, Co-founder of TradeMutt, the home of funky workwear with an important message. After working on cattle stations and doing a Ag diploma, Ed found himself in Brisbane working as a Carpenter. He and another tradie mate got delivered some devastating news, which inspired them to change what workwear looks like and make a real impact on mental health in the construction industry and beyond.  

So TradeMutt was born. In this conversation, we dive into how they set up their eCommerce business from the start to incorporate social impact, how they got burned by marketing agencies and why these tradies have gone into fashion – including modelling speedos. It’s a look.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a handyman or you’re running thirty tradies or you’re working at BHP, everyone needs help

 Ed Ross

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How did the idea for TradeMutt come about?
  • What activity has moved the needle for TradeMutt most online?
  • What advice would you give to others who are looking to go out and start their own business?


A life-changing event two tradies experienced kickstarted the TradeMutt brand 

“We’re always brainstorming different business ideas on the tools like, here in Brizzy and summer, obviously it gets pretty warm and, yeah, you’re often thinking of things that you’d rather be doing and, you know, than building a frame on a 45 degree day in the middle of the sun. We’re always spitballing different ideas. And, one of those ideas was that there was probably a really large gap in the workwear industry and that there was sort of no variety or people being able to buy anything different than just your standard sort of khaki or hi-vis yellow and orange with a pretty plain sort of colour scheme. 

So we started to investigate that and then, tragically at the end of 2015, Dan lost one of his best mates to suicide. And that was sort of our first direct connection to someone that had taken their life.  And it sort of opened our eyes up to, you know, people are actually doing this and just how big an issue it actually was.  So the more we investigated it, the more we realized.  I had never been educated around mental health and mental wellbeing. Neither had Dan, we both from private school education, it just sort of beggars belief that this wasn’t front of mind and one thing led to another, we met some people, found out what social enterprise was and profit for purpose.  

So we already had the art, we already had the funky workwear. But then Dan’s like, I think we can do something really positive with this rather than just being a business.”

Starting conversations around mental health is what TradeMutt is all about and the stories speak for themselves

“There was a guy that sort of stuck in my memory. A guy down in Tamworth. He had lost his wife to cancer a long time ago and they had a young family and their young son, they sort of never discussed it, you know, the father and the son and then one day his son walked through the front door wearing one of our shirts and the old man’s like, mate, what the f**k is this thing?  And the old man was telling me the story and he’s like yeah, me son sat me down and we spoke for about 45 minutes to an hour and just cried it out about how we’d never spoken about it. 

And then there was a guy, not long ago at all, that reached out through the TIACS foundation. He was on his way out.  Yeah, he’d got all his affairs in order and that night was going to be his last night. And his dad was wearing a TradeMutt shirt at the breakfast table and started a conversation. He reached out and we got him, yeah, got him. It  is incredible. 

I don’t think we really realize the impact they’re making at a community based level because it’s sort of like we are in the bubble and we’re seeing it every day, but the amount of people that it is actually helping just through a funky work shirt and some branding that we’re saying that we’re there for everyone.  It really is resonating on a lot of different levels.”

Early on in TradeMutt’s eCommerce journey, they made some mistakes and Ed doesn’t mince his words when talking about his experience working with some media agencies

“Ah mate, f**k, we’ve burned some money with agencies, yeah, like a lot of money, a lot of money for when we didn’t have much. I’m so glad it happened when it did, because it would have been catastrophic if that happened now. I mean that, it really annoys me. You know, not to go off on a tangent here, but the marketing agency space, they really prey on people that do not have a clue with what’s going on.  

And that was us. I mean, we had no idea. They sell you the world on what they can do. And the ones we were working with just never delivered. And you sort of get stuck in a false hope because you’ve invested so much money to a certain point that you’re sort of like at the casino, where you’re like, well, if I tip in again, then hopefully it’ll bounce back. Like they’re saying it’s going to happen, it’s going to kick back, but mate, it never does.”

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