When two little strays wandered into her life, SUSAN RUSHBROOKE never imagined that as well as becoming good companions and  housemates, they would lead her to a business project as well.

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Molly models two Matsac designs

ABOUT  a decade ago a skinny three-legged cat appeared on the back wall of my garden. She showed her face every couple of days for the next fortnight but never came close enough for a pat.

Then one day, she did!

Fast forward a decade and a bit and Stan, named after the street where she turned up before her sex was known, is well and truly a household fixture.

Stan quickly made it known that the kitchen mat was hers.

Every day she likes to be brushed on it, sits on it even though it’s always within tripping distance of the kitchen,  and fights with it. Every morning she runs to it ready for her first brush of the day.

Then,  just over a year ago, a little dog arrived. She had been living in the house next door to some elderly friends of mine, a couple in their 80s.

This little doggie, Molly the Jack Russell, appeared quite lonely, cold and sad as she sat in the front yard, shivering and alone.

The elderly couple’s persuasive negotiating skills soon had Molly moving from  outhouse to doggy penthouse. My place.

I’d never owned a dog before, so the next few weeks were a learning curve.

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Stan colour coordinates with a Parisian look

I soon noticed that she didn’t like sitting on the cold concrete when we went on our daily walk to the local coffee shop.

I started taking various things with me for her to sit on – first a car travel rug, then a doormat and then a bath mat.

All were unsuitable in one respect or another. It was a hassle to carry, didn’t dry quickly after being washed or hair stuck to it and so on.

I went hunting in petshops and online for something more suitable  but couldn’t find anything that would work for both Molly and I.

We needed a mat that was portable, washable, comfortable, great to look at, easy to use.

The light bulb moment came one night while I was eating dinner when I was staring down at the fabric placemat. It occurred to me I could use a larger version of this as a Molly mat.

I went off to bed and in one of those middle-of-the-night moments it hit me. I got up and drew a sketch of a mat that met all of the above but also had a detachable component to give it a top and bottom layer, one for Molly and one for me.

I shared the idea with a friend of mine, Catherine Dawson, who had always been keen to set up a little business venture together.

She was immediately smitten with the idea and our new venture, Molly & Stan, was born.

From my sketch I sewed a sample of what I thought the top layer would look like. Let me assure you,  I’m not a seamstress. I worked on a $50 miniature sewing machine I bought from the supermarket.

We took the sample along to a local manufacturer so that they could make a professional job of it and use an industrial machines for the base layer, which is made of foam.

I have dotted around the house, on the sofa, on the bed, in the car samples of the MatSac.

Stan and Molly lounge on them everyday.

Stan has her own mat the sits on the bed and Molly, now the most fashionable dog in town, can put on a different look with the top interchangeable new-look each day at the cafe.

Since this began, we’ve had a lot of interest from other dog owners who eye the mat enviously when we’re out.

Molly finds a young fan at the coffee shop

Molly finds a young fan at the coffee shop

We’ve also given a few samples away to get feedback and it has always been positive and invaluable in getting the last tweaks right.

Molly & Stan the business is still in start-up mode but we’re getting there.

We’ve joined Women’s Network of Australia, Business Victoria and employed a SBMS business mentor.

Each week we meet for two days to fine tune our business plan, set up our systems, and research all we need to know. Through Business Victoria we have attended a number of courses to guide us on the journey.

We now have a patent pending on the mat and a trademark on the mat name MatSac.

We chose the name because it rhymes with knapsack and has similar features which, by definition, is  “a canvas or leather bag carried strapped on the back or shoulder”.

The final prototype is now with the manufacturer as after testing of the first and second run of mats, we changed the fabric to make them more hard-wearing and so they won’t shrink or fade.

A slight modification has been made to the design and function, otherwise we think we will be ready to go into production after we inspect this batch.

Stay tuned.