For years, Jennifer Robertson has seen things like “Salt Life” bumper stickers on the backs of cars whose owners are beach regulars. She remembers ending up behind a truck a few years back that had a “Loggers Life” sticker on it. “I’m like, ‘Well, that’s cool. They should have a Drillers Life.’ … So I created it,” she says.
Drillers Life LLC, in production for less than a year now, makes apparel including T-shirts, hats, hoodies, jackets and sweatshirts that are drilling themed. The clothing gives drillers and their family members an opportunity to flaunt the work they do and share their specialty with the wider world. Everything is sold on the website drillerslife.com, except for the occasional tradeshows Jennifer sets up a booth at, including the South Atlantic Jubilee back in June and the National Ground Water Association’s Groundwater Week this December.
So far, so good, she says. The T-shirts are the most popular, with baseball caps coming in a close second. “We have been met with such positivity. The people that have stopped and talked to me or emailed me or messaged me on social media have been very excited. They really like what they’re seeing.”
The Drillers Life vision did not come out of thin air. Drilling holds a special place in Jennifer’s heart because it is how her family makes a living. Her husband, Joshua, is a third-generation driller who grew up accompanying his father on well drilling jobs. After graduating from college with a business degree, he came home and decided to start his own business. In 2000, he bought his first rig and went to work, founding Elon, N.C.-based Triad Drillers Inc., which is still going strong.
Jennifer met Joshua in 1999, fresh out of college. Since she’d gone to school to get a degree in horticulture, she was used to being outside like he was, but had never seen a rig before. “Pretty quick after we met, I lost my job in the greenhouse business I was working for and his employee quit. So I went to work for him,” Jennifer says.
Now that Drillers Life has been launched, Jennifer is working to spread awareness of the brand. She says the newness of the business means most people don’t know it exists. Another challenge she faces is that a number of drillers don’t use the drilling equipment she is familiar with because they don’t specialize in water wells or geothermal like Triad Drillers, or they don’t deal with the same geology. Something she is grateful for is a group of friends who work in graphic design. It means she is able to take an idea to them and they get it printed for her. Everything that goes into the drilling-themed apparel is locally sourced. Because she’s still learning about the variety of drilling tools used, Jennifer says she is open to ideas and wants to hear what drillers are looking for.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. I do a little bit of everything. My main job with Drillers Life is to design and create logos, and the designs that go on the T-shirts and the hats. We’re also doing decals for toolboxes or hardhats or the back of your car. So that’s my primary focus, is to find those universal designs that anybody in the water well industry will know what they are. It’s a little bit challenging because there are, I’m going to call them, old-school images like the old hand pumps and the covered well houses that people used to make. To put a new spin on that and create something more modern is a bit of a challenge because everybody knows what that is and they’re like, “We’ve seen that before.” To find something new, that’s where I spend a lot of my time is trying to find something that people will like.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. Typically I get up in the morning and one of the first things I do is either answer emails, make phone calls or sit down and design. I typically do most of my best design work first thing in the morning. After that I kind of have to pick up and do our other business and make phone calls or go meet customers or pick up stuff for the actual well drilling business. I spend most of my time first thing in the morning doing all the creative part of it. … We have three kids. So this summer, basically my role is answering emails, sending quotes, meeting customers, picking up permits, going to take a look at a jobsite … basically paperwork and bookwork.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. I think there are four things: patience, diligence, positivity and having some grit. If you don’t have those four things, you can’t keep moving forward. You always have to believe in yourself so that you can move forward.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. I needed an art degree and a bigger studio. (laughs) This has really been a learning curve for me because I’ve worked in retail before and I’ve worked with the public and I’ve worked with our customers in the well drilling business, but I’ve never been responsible for the concept design, production, shipping and final product destination like this business. There’s a lot more to it than just sending in a design, getting it printed and shipping it out. So there are little things I wish I’d known.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. I would have to say my computer and the Adobe program. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have that.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. To not give up. I know that sounds cliché, but when I first sent off for my trademarking, it was denied and I was like, well, I guess that’s the end of that. My husband was like, “Don’t give up on it yet. Maybe it’ll still happen.” So he’s the one who said to keep going and it came to fruition.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. The last couple years, I think the industry has picked up. Where we live and where we work, we’ve seen an exponential increase in how many people are calling and needing wells or needing repairs or wanting a well drilled. I think we’re moving into a great place right now. When you’ve got more people that need your services, people talk about you more, people are more aware of the business. That creates more excitement, especially within our industry. If you get drillers excited about their job, they are more likely to want to show that excitement in a way that they might buy a T-shirt. With that part, I think it kind of goes hand in hand. When the economy’s bad, drillers don’t spend any money because they’re waiting for the possibility of a breakdown, or they need tires or they need a new hammer. But if things are good, at least with my husband, he’s a lot more laid back.