Author: Courtney Latter
I board my flight and take my seat next to a well-dressed gentleman. He asks how my day is going and what is in the small, thin bag I am carrying. I tell him that it is a custom metal sign I made for a friend. He quickly responds, "Wow, you make metal art. That is very cool!" I explain that I occasionally do such things and that I actually own an off-road custom fabrication shop. The amazement on his face mirrors most people's when I tell them what I do for a living. As I wait for his calculated response, I can almost guarantee I know what it is going to be. He replies, "How the heck did you get into that?" and I prepare to reply in the same way that I always do. I joined my college's off-road club, the Poly Goat's, and shortly thereafter, sold my horse and bought a 94 Toyota pickup on 37s. As our flight arrives and we are leaving the plane, he leans over and says, "Good luck with your sign business young lady," as if what I had just told him I did for a living was just a dream.
Several years ago, I took my Toyota on the Rubicon trail with my boyfriend as my passenger. About a mile into the trail, a group of guys came up to him and said, "It is SO cool that you are letting her drive your rig." Being the amazing and supportive man that he is, he quickly responded with "No way, it's hers!" Another mile into the trail, and my power steering pump failed. Being the stubborn redhead that I am, I refused to accept any help from my boyfriend and wheeled the entire trail in a long bed pickup with no power steering. My arms were sore for a week, and I almost broke my thumbs several times, but the satisfaction of proving those guys wrong seemed to make it worth it.
I took what those guys said to heart for many years. I felt as if I had to prove myself and defend my actions, because they were so often overlooked. Two years ago, I sold my Toyota and built a Jeep Cherokee on 37s with one ton axles. It was after spending many countless nights building my XJ that I realized I wasn't doing it to prove anyone wrong. I was doing it because I loved to. I thrived on pushing myself to learn new skills or improve the ones I already had. The thrill and sense of accomplishment of wheeling The Hammer's in the rig I built can't be compared to anything else.
I founded Trail Tested MFG with my boyfriend so that I could have a job that I loved showing up to. There is no "Monday" in our business because to me, every day is a weekend. As I am writing this, I am realizing how lucky I truly am. The business has given me so much joy, strengthened my relationship with my boyfriend, and connected me with some amazing women that inspire me daily. We are currently transitioning to manufacturing only and have some very exciting new products coming out, including our lightweight and budget friendly off-road trailer!
I hope that other women read this and recognize the accomplishments they have made, in whatever aspect of life that may be. I also encourage you to recognize other women's accomplishments because they might not have someone in the background encouraging their endeavors. I am very lucky to have an amazingly supportive boyfriend who never hesitates to support me, so I would also like to thank all of the amazing men out there who share their passions without hesitation!
Author: Courtney Latter