This dynamic duo ventured into the competitive workwear sector in 2018, throwing their hats in the ring but with their own edge—and an agenda to save people’s lives.
From the get-go, TradeMutt has made its mark through standout workwear designed to be a conversation starter—bold, colourful and memorable.
With an in-house design team, the Brisbane-based venture creates rolling collections, refreshed every two months.
Their business triumph isn’t buttoned-up to the profit and loss margins—they’ve instead measured success through the broader impact they can deliver to people in their communities—Australians, blue-collar workers and their families.
From the ground up
The foundation of the original workwear brand began in 2014 with two young tradies yarning about the what-ifs in life and a common dream to make a mark and create a business from the ground up.
“We’d been working on the tools for a few years, and we knew we wanted something different for our futures—and more exciting threads than everyone else on site was wearing,” Ed said.
“Then in 2015 Dan lost a mate to suicide and I was struggling to find the tools to support him. There was a complete void of tools to support others in the workplace. TradeMutt came about in the confusing but reflective period following what happened in 2016.”
Launched in 2018, the Queensland-based manufacturer is now trusted to outfit workers across a range of organisations including Queensland Rail, Coates Hire, Brisbane City Council, Pet Barn and Rio Tinto.
Their goal now is to achieve sustainable growth for the business, and to use the growth to create impact through social enterprises, including mental health and well-being early intervention, disability employment and circular economy initiatives.
The nexus between profits and social enterprise
Workplace stress and anxiety costs the Australian economy more than $17.4 billion each year, alongside the deaths of one person every two days.
With many Australians spending more time with team members than their friends and families, and with many blue-collar industry workers under stress, Ed and Dan knew they needed to step in and help.
“We decided to create the changes we wanted to see in the space,” Ed said.
“For more than half the people who call us, it’s the first time they’ve gotten to speak to someone who can offer them mental health support.
“We are an Australian workwear brand that aims to make tradies and workers of all kinds look and feel great at work, and in doing so, reduce the rate of male suicide in Australia.
“Our loud and vibrant shirts act as a catalyst to starting the conversation around mental health—a topic that has been hard to approach in the past for both men and women, mostly due to the way mental health has been perceived.”
According to Ed, there has been a significant shift in the conversation around mental health in the construction sector over recent years, with employers recognising the critical investment of culture and well-being in growing a health and performance-positive workforce.
“Workers who are supported, valued and happy are more loyal and productive,” Ed said.
“Investing in supporting mental health and well-being is a win-win for the employee and the employer. Businesses are well aware that they are operating in a highly competitive market in securing key team members, and if they are not offering support, employees will look somewhere else.”
This is a Conversation Starter
Ed and Dan launched This is a Conversation Starter (TIACS) in 2020.
It is a free and confidential chat, text and call-back service, providing early-intervention mental health support for Australia’s truckies, tradies, blue-collar workers and those who care about them.
In less than two years it has delivered more than 7,000 hours of free clinical support to the blue-collar community—reaching almost 12,000 people. Callers are offered between six and 10 sessions of support at no cost, with 54% of callers reaching out for mental health support for the first time.
To inform the quality and type of service offered, TIACS collects de-identified data from every call through a ROOY impact dashboard.
“Data has been invaluable in helping us make an impact with the people we are supporting,” Ed said.
“Most of our callers are between 26 and 40 years of age, and with a fairly even spread of males and females.
“Our data shows that the most prevalent issues people are reaching out for are relationships, anxiety and depression. The second most prevalent issues include isolation (FIFO fly-in fly-out workers), substance abuse and housing issues.”
Half of the profits from each TradeMutt purchase is directed towards funding the operation of TIACS. To enhance outcomes for others, TradeMutt also uses SendAble—a third-party logistics service focused on increasing long-term employment and skills for people with disabilities.
Being social is good business
Businesses are no longer considering simply the cost of corporate social responsibility—resources, finances and focus.
They are now also focused on how investing in people and communities towards supporting causes aligned with their brands is in fact good business.
For Dan and Ed, their clients are excited to support a venture that in turn supports their clients’ workforces.
“It’s a talking point for our clients—they know their people are valued and supported by us and our work with them means they are also having an impact.”
A considered selection of subcontractors and service providers provides TradeMutt with opportunities to support the greater good. TradeMutt is looking for options to build circular economy principles into the materials it sources.
“Our commitment to our community is central to our competitive edge,” Ed said.
“But it’s also so much more. We are creating a legacy that makes a positive difference to the people who wear our shirts, their families and their communities. This is what good business is all about.”