The Shamrock Shirts - From Top Gear to Car Gear
People often say 'follow your dreams' or 'I was born to do this' when describing the reasons to start a small business. Some are started by default, because they're the next generation in a long line of the family trade. And it's true, cars are in my blood. But the start of Shamrock Shirts wasn't exactly as inspirational as you may think.
Let me take you back to 2006. The year that the biggest selling car in the world was the Toyota Camry and here in Australia, NRMA named the Volkswagen Polo the best small car money could buy. Doesn't exactly inspire greatness, does it? Australia has always had a strong car culture, we love our V8s, have spent decades debating Ford versus Holden and have a healthy obsession with all things JDM. And we were just starting to really get interested in a little TV show from the UK called Top Gear.
I have to admit, before I met my Irish husband, I had never watched a single episode of Top Gear. And I call myself a car girl! But once introduced to this weird and wonderful show, which seemed to be based around taking the piss out of bad cars, and each other, I was hooked.
So I thought I'd be a good wifey and order hubby one of those "I Am The Stig" t-shirts I'd seen audience members wearing on the show. Of course, you couldn't get them in Australia, and Top Gear UK refused to ship anywhere other than to royal Brittania. Luckily for me, I had the shirt sent by carrier pigeon to my mother-in-law in Northern Ireland, who then sent it to me. Job done. Little did I know, this one t-shirt would start a lifetime of tees for me!
Every time he wore that shirt he was stopped in the street by people asking where he got it. Every. Single. Time. Someone even offered to buy it off his back! So we started joking about selling it. Then the joking got a little less funny and little more real.
Why not? No one else in Australia was selling them, the official merchandise partner in the UK didn't ship worldwide. How would Aussies feed their newly found Top Gear obsession without a Stig shirt? So I approached the official supplier in England, who flipped out at the mere suggestion of his shirts being sold in Australia, yelled at me over the phone, called me names and hung up on me. Chill out dude, it's just a t-shirt!
Not to be deterred, I made a few phone calls to the BBC and put forward my case. Evidently they were a little more open minded than their merch man, which I have to say is rare for the BBC. So after much negotiation, I was given the green light to be the official Australian supplier of Top Gear merchandise. Bingo!
For several years Top Gear was my main product range, and I loved every minute of it. But after a while, the quality of the merchandise started to slip and I began to think, I can do better myself. I know cars, I know what people in Australia drive and what makes them laugh. So I made the very hard decision to walk away from Top Gear and go it alone. OMG, what have I done?
I started with a handful of slogan t-shirts, taught myself how to use design software, how to print t-shirts, where to source blank stock from and how to build a website. A *very* steep learning curve that involved lots of swearing, crying and tantrums! But 12 years later, here I am with Australia's biggest range of automotive t-shirts. Who would have thought?