The Gold Coast woman has turned a messy situation into a multimillion-dollar idea, with the pandemic seeing demand for her product go “crazy”.
Suzanne Horton’s sons loved surfing and the beach, but she was constantly dealing with sand “everywhere” in her life.
The Gold Coast mom said she used to use buckets and towels forever to try to keep the sand from going all over the place, but the mess and a patch of artificial grass have now changed her life.
She launched her idea to fight the mess called Muk Mat from her dining room table five years ago and has now turned it into a business that sells over $2 million a year.
“The mess would involve a daily vacuuming of the car and usually involves washing the kids feet and legs down, sometimes their whole bodies after surfing,” she said.
“The other problem is with wetsuits when you take them off, there’s no good way to get out without pounding it back into the ground to pull the feet out, and at the end we’d get stuck in some gravel and grass and sand to sit.’
Ms. Horton created a DIY mat made from artificial grass that her children, now 16 and 13 years old, could scrub their feet to remove the sand.
She said she was constantly stopped by people to ask where she got it, but at the time she never thought she would start running her own business.
“I have a background in health sciences and that’s what I’ve spent most of my working life on. But before our youngest started school, I decided to go unpaid for a year because my husband travels a lot for work and life got absolutely chaotic,” she explained.
“After taking that year off, which was just bliss, we realized we could scale back to one paycheck and I would be available for the kids and it was the best decision from a family point of view.
“Being completely out of business, I loved being with kids, being able to surf, going to yoga, it was fantastic, so I had no intention of starting a business at all. At that stage it was all a fairly relaxed lifestyle.”
But the “incredible” interest of others while out in public with her DIY setup led the mother to investigate if such a thing existed in Australia.
It wasn’t that the family tipped $10,000 to start Muk Mat and sold the first 500 products, described as a “grass on the ground,” in the span of three weeks.
Originally marketed as a way to keep sand, dirt and grass out of a car after surfing, it then became clear that it could also work for cleaning feet and shoes after running, footy, golf, riding and riding. camping, Mrs. Horton said.
Little did the 48-year-old know that three years later, when the pandemic struck, her business would be a lifeline for the family, as her husband’s health business for the travel industry was essentially shut down in one fell swoop.
“His world collapsed overnight, while Muk Mat did the opposite,” she explained.
“When the Covid lockdowns hit, domestic travel and car rides and caravans exploded and that’s when Muk Mat catapulted. We saw growth up to 400 or 500 percent over what we were doing, everything went crazy and we had to ramp up production significantly.”
Now the product is available in five different sizes and two colors with the charcoal gray version, a customer request for something more “neutral”.
While the caravan and camping market is now the bulk of her business, Mrs. Horton has used her mats for more unusual purposes.
“A lot of people buy them for their pets because many like to sleep on them and curl up on them — that’s an area that was unexpected,” she said.
“Occasionally we get someone to use it as a golf tee-off mat and it’s used a lot for outdoor showers for the base and it also lays flat in their boot so if you have wet shoes and towels you put it on the matte and it has not dripped or soiled the rear of the car.”
Despite now being a $2 million company, Ms. Horton said she’s continued to be a “one woman show” even though she’s finally done some outsourcing.
“I have no staff. I hired people for project-based roles after the stress that until recently involved managing customer service and wholesale inquiries, packing and shipping, and twice a day I picked up a car full of mats, brought them home and had my teenage boys rolling around and carrying thank you cards,” she said.
“So I had piles of Muk mats and after dinner I would print out shipping labels and pack for a few hours, load my car and make two trips to the post office in the morning. They were long, full of days.”
She said as a small business owner it’s a fine line between managing where the money goes.
But she took a huge win last year with her products stocked at outdoor adventure store Anaconda and plans to roll out more sizes of mats, particularly for the caravanning industry.
Originally published as Gold Coast Mom earns $2 million after messy guys inspired her to create Muk Mat. to start