Our featured entrepreneur this week is Natalie Zukowski, founder of Rugup Beach Co., which is behind the Rugii, the first wearable hooded towel set (consisting of a short and hooded shirt) designed for active people who desire a seamless transition from water to play. Natalie conceived the idea for the product from her experiences as a mother of three, one of whom has a disability. Ultimately, he gave her the inspiration to bring the idea into life and fill a gap in the market for a functional towel set.
ISB: What inspired you to build your business behind a hooded towel set?
NZ: Life is busy, especially for a mum with a medically complex and disabled child. Trips to the beach don’t come easy to us anymore and my two older kids wanted to play in the playground or ride their bikes after a swim. I felt like there was a gap in the market for a more functional hooded towel and outfit in one. I needed something that they could discretely change in and off they go to explore in comfort and style.
ISB: What makes your Rugli towel set stand out from the competition?
NZ: The Rugii is truly the most wearable towel – it features an oversized hooded towel top you can dry and discretely change in public but what sets the Rugii apart is the matching shorts with sand-free pockets. This gives kids the freedom to play in the playground, ride their bikes or be more comfortable post-swim. It’s a towel and outfit in one and its stylish design means no one will know they are wearing a towel.
ISB: How do you achieve balance being an entrepreneur and a mother of three young boys, one of whom has special needs?
NZ: I’ve had to hire help. Ethan cannot go to preschool yet due to seizures so we have carers come in home. I work when the carers are here. I’ve had to schedule those hours as if I’m not working from home, so the laundry can wait, dishes etc. and I do those in the after-work hours. Working from home can be tough as you see all the things that need to be done. I also work in the evenings some days and wake up early. I need the flexibility to be there for Ethan, even if it’s doing an IG post while cuddling him on the lounge.
ISB: How important is inclusivity as a value that your business upholds?
NZ: I want Ethan and other neurodiverse children included in my socials and website as he is the reason I started this business. Also celebrating diversity and bringing more awareness around it will help others to accept disability and not be so afraid of it. Often fears and discomfort about interacting with people with disability is based on lack of knowledge and uncertainties. The more we normalise our differences the better it is for everyone. We also donate to Accessible Beaches Australia a charity that helps make all beaches in Australia accessible for all abilities with ramps, sand matting and beach Wheelchairs.
ISB: What is your vision for Rugup Beach Co. for the next couple of years?
NZ: I’d like to capture more of the Australian market and tell more people that this game-changing outfit will save them time and money! I’m from Canada and think this would be an amazing product for lake country. So hoping to expand into the North American market as well. I’ve also been asked for adult sizes and will hopefully get some matching your mini outfits in the near future.
ISB: What would be the one advice you can share with someone who dreams of starting their own business?
NZ: Take the leap. Invest in some courses, find your business bestie to pull you out of those dark days – as there will be many. But I also strongly believe you need to have a great product that you believe in. Every time I pack a Rugii order I look at the product and am so proud.