Andy served in the REME for 27 years, joining as a boy soldier aged 16, working his way up to Staff Sergeant as an Aircraft Technician on rotary wing aircraft. He was the first British Army Crew Chief to bring the Westland AH64 Apache into service.
The pressure associated with years in military service – and subsequent stressful jobs in civil aviation – resulted in Andy experiencing a period of poor mental health at the beginning of 2023. He was looking for a hobby that would help him to de-stress and started to use his engineering skills to create robot sculptures from scrap materials.
“At the same time, we were trying to find a way Andy could retire but we needed another income source,” Lotty explains. “The number of robots was growing and a few people suggested we should try to sell them. And so, We Are Bert Ltd was born.”
The company creates and sells scrap art robot sculptures (The Berts, named after Lotty’s great grandfather Herbert – who could never throw away a useful item!) and associated merchandise including art prints, t-shirts, and greetings cards. Additionally, Lotty has published her first children’s story based on The Berts – Weebert has an Adventure.
Lotty says: “I had always wanted to write, and the stories promote our ethos of ‘accept and respect difference’, kindness, and recycling. Being able to explore our creative side is wonderful – Andy loves building the robots and I love writing the stories and sharing them with children.”
It hasn’t all been plain sailing however. Andy and Lotty freely admit that a lack of knowledge in setting up the website, the online store, social media, and the financial elements, were a challenge. That said, their ‘every day is a school day’ philosophy is extremely healthy, as is their willingness to ask for support.
“Even though we have only linked up with X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) in the last few months, the supportive network has been life-changing for us,” Lotty explains. “Before joining XFE, we felt alone on our journey and that we were stumbling along in the dark. Since participating in the XFE network – and chatting with other ex-Forces people who have started or are thinking of starting their own businesses – it has broadened our perspective and given us ideas and guidance – we feel truly supported.”
Describing themselves as ‘olderpreneurs’, having started their first business at 60 years of age, Andy and Lotty urge others not to let age deter them. Instead, they advocate self-belief as well as belief in the business idea itself. They also have ambitious plans for the future, including a children’s television programme based on Weebert and The Berts, so…. stay tuned!
LinkedIn: We Are Bert Ltd