Ellen Watt, founder of tractordaft.com, an online store providing funky clothes for country people, answers FW’s questions as part of Farmlife’s ‘fashion special’
Q What inspired you to start the business?
A I had been a police officer, but I didn’t want to go back to shifts after having Henry. He is now three and was and still is very much tractor daft. I have a BA in textile design and decided it would be fun to have a small business, which I could do from home using the internet in my so-called “spare” time.
Q What are the main challenges in running a fashion business in a rural area?
A There weren’t many challenges for me really with regards to working in Perthshire, Scotland. I work on my laptop from our farm outside Aberuthven and I’m able to keep in touch with clients wherever they may be. I can now answer emails straight away from an iPhone – the world is my oyster. However, having another wee boy, Angus, who is now 18 months, means I can’t devote quite as much time to the business as I might like.
Q What is unique/unusual about your business?
A The products on the website are exclusively sold online; I create bold artwork and quirky slogans in a humourous style, which I think appeal to a wide range of folk – young and old alike. No garments are printed on until the order is placed, so there is no wasted stock lying around in obscure sizes or designs. It is all about simple stylish clothing with a sense of humour that should get you noticed for the right reasons. Clients can also get in touch with me with specific design requests, which I aim to have up on the website within the day for them to take a look at.
Q Who are your customers and where are they from?
A They’re a real mixed bag from the girlfriend trying to impress her tractor driving boyfriend, gifts for funky dads, horsey girls looking for something to wear while mucking out stables or just young farmers in the making. The “Louis Mutton” bag is a real must for the fashionable girl about town.
Q What problems did you have in setting up the business?
A Setting up was pretty straightforward – I just came up with the name and bought the domain name which was easy to do. Then I just had to get the stuff seen, which was made easy through the powers of the internet, social networking such as Facebook and Twitter. This gave me a great platform for showing off what we’re about and engaging with the right audience.
Q Where is the furthest away you’ve had orders from?
A New Jersey, USA
Q What would you say to anyone wanting to set up their own fashion business from a rural location?
A Go for it.
Q Have you had any high-profile customers?
A I am working on it.
Q What has the reaction been from your friends and family?
AMy husband is always sporting the latest polo shirt (mind you, this may not be through choice – more likely it’s just what’s on the top of the clothes pile). I was an active member of the Carse of Gowrie Young Farmers where I made lots of friends who are still great for bouncing ideas about with. Everyone is enthusiastic and encouraging and constantly coming up with new ideas.
Q What’s the best thing about having a business in a rural area?
A Being able to step outside the back door of the farmhouse and enjoy the beautiful scenery whenever I want; it can’t be beaten.
Q Who is more stylish: country people or city people, and why?
A No comment!
Q What’s the biggest order you’ve had?
AGenerally I receive small orders consisting of a few garments at a time. Some of the most popular designs are “My silage brings all the cows to the yard”, “Just ploo it”, “When I grow up I want to drive a tractor”, “Hold your horses”, “Four sprung pork technique” and the ever popular “Moody cow”.
Q What kind of reactions do you get from customers?
A I love receiving thank-you emails from clients and sometimes photographs of their loved ones wearing the gear.
Q How easy is it to juggle your family/farm life with your business?
A First and foremost I am a mum and it is a full-time job. Henry and Angus are now of an age where they do play with one another quite well and they can let me have some time, but generally I work on the business when they are in their beds at night or when they go to nursery.
Q Describe your business in three words.
A Fun, Farmy, Fashion.