We talk to three women about what inspired them to start their companies and the highlights and challenges along the way. In part 1 we talk to Dana Weil of Rugabub.
Dana Weil and her husband are free spirited lovers of travel, culture and the outdoors who left a life of adventure in the Kimberley living in a tent (!!) for the next adventure―a baby and their tiny apartment nestled in the sunny buzz of Bondi. However, the pandemic changed everything.
“My husband, a helicopter pilot, lost his job due to Covid-19 a week after our son was born and hasn't been able to find a job since,” she says.
“We could not believe it. I cried for days in disbelief and we moved into the smallest and most affordable apartment that we could find in Bondi. I cannot explain the pressure and stress I had as a woman who has always valued her career and knew that I can somehow find a way to help my small family survive through these crazy times. I just needed to find the right thing to do.”
They found it challenging to find a play mat without all the nasties, but still both stylish and kid-friendly, so that they didn’t need to compromise on the eco system, their space and creativity at home.
“Our family room is the main area where we all hang out and play, so we need to be very selective with the furniture and items that we pick. We found many geometric styles that just didn't look right and most play mats were lacking a kiddie play side too (not compromising goes both ways, right?).
“Many of the play mats we did find were made of PVC―chemicals that we didn't want our kid exposed to or made out of XPE/EPE that aren't as durable, shock absorbent or flexible as TPU is. We didn't want to use latex as it was too risky for allergies or rubber that gets all sticky and dirty.
“We wanted something resilient that adults can use as well. Looking towards the future (what world we want our children to live in) it was really important to us to create a mat that is biodegradable. After months of research, we finally found the material that ticked all the boxes.
“So, with an unfettered approach to detail, Rugabub was founded and finally launched on 10 December 2020,” Weil enthuses.
Rugabub play mats are unlike any other play mats currently in the market, she adds. “We are creating something that is original, maybe you can even call our play mats unexpected.
“I have always been a firm believer that if you bring something innovative and different to the market, you don’t really have any competitors. Even my supplier was hesitant and has asked me multiple times to change the designs to what already exists in the market, and after many tears and nearly giving up multiple of times, I just said no. That I am going ahead with my original designs.
“Finding a supplier that would tick all of my boxes and that would be willing to try and print our unique patterns was definitely a challenge. It was a very scary process, as you pay upfront for over a thousand play mats and the unique moulds they use to create each play mat, and one day they just arrive at your door without you ever even seeing a sample of the design. And did I mention that they are super expensive?
“So, when the supplier is begging you to change your designs to what is already existent in the market because he doesn’t believe that the machine can print in such detail, is really really scary. But I believed in it and I went through with it. Often, I will go back and read our communication and my heart still beats fast and hard.”
Weil says Rugabub is designed to be a part of your home, not an addition―rather than adding a play mat to your home (because you need one, even if the design is minimal), why not find a play mat that complements your space?
“Every day I try to create meaningful points of difference for our products and our service to parents. I believe that if your home isn’t a welcoming, nurturing environment the minute you walk through the door, maybe it is time for a change. Having kids can easily change the interiors in your home, but that doesn’t mean that you should compromise on your oasis.”