As parents, we’ve all had those times when a light bulb goes on over our heads and we think of an amazing baby product that “someone needs to invent.”
For Ruggish founder Liza Savary, the moment came when she was shopping for a play mat that would be safe, durable and comfortable and also look nice with the rest of her home decor. Instead of waiting for “someone” to design her dream play mat, she decided to do it herself, and Ruggish was born.
After four years, the Ruggish family has now grown to include the Perch Pillow, a versatile nursing pillow that converts into a stylish floor cushion. We asked Liza, now the mom of two boys as well as two unique baby products, to talk about what it takes to turn a flash of inspiration into a real-life item for sale.
As a new mom, you went looking for a safe, comfortable and rugged play surface that would also look nice in her home. You quickly realized that your dream product didn’t exist, and that’s where the idea for Ruggish was born. How did you go from “I wish this product existed” to launching a baby gear brand?
Growing up, I was always joining my parents at flea markets and garage sales. I loved the process and think it really sparked my entrepreneurial spirit. I would often think, "Someone should invent this product… hmm, maybe I'll do it!" (I'll admit, before Ruggish, all of the other ideas were pretty terrible.)
What did you do when you realized your play rug idea was something you wanted to pursue? What challenges have you encountered?
Every product started somewhere! Like myself, most founders don’t have a formal background in product development or manufacturing… we figure it out along the way! I read so many case studies, watched Shark Tank, and listened to any product development podcast I could find. After procrastinating and wasting a lot of time, I finally set a date and worked backwards, breaking it down into small, manageable goals.
The hardest part for me has been to find the right manufacturer, and once I do, the process can take much longer than expected. I've learned to overestimate my timeline and have patience.
This month, you introduced the Perch convertible nursing pillow. What was the development process like the second time around? How did you know Ruggish was ready to add a new product?
The Perch pillow has been on my mind for a few years. (I'm always wondering “what’s next.” It drives my husband crazy!) I remember lying in bed one night, thinking about new products and how we could update an essential baby shower gift to increase longevity and make it more aesthetically pleasing. I started to think about the nursing pillow I used and what an eyesore it was, and how I couldn't wait to pass it along to someone else… “What if,” I thought, “there was a stylish nursing pillow that you could between sessions and even continue to use after weaning?"
Knowing that this idea could give a useful product a much longer life, it really felt like a natural fit with our product line, and I was excited! I explored the design and started to research manufacturing. I knew I wanted to work locally and use organic materials.
As soon as I settled on a production partner, life got… well, let’s just say it got busy! I had endometriosis surgery, the holidays came and went, we introduced our play runners, and I realized I couldn’t keep developing this new product as my highest priority. It was important to me to keep it moving forward, and with an established business to run, I knew it was time to bring in some help. I worked with a design consultant and set some deadlines to ensure Perch continued to make progress. There were definitely some unforeseen hurdles — like a global pandemic! — and the production process ended up taking a full year.
Even though this one took a bit longer than planned, I love the development phase. It is so fun to watch your idea go from a dream to a reality. My boys are long past their baby days now, but this product is still useful and looks great in our baby-free home! Hooray!
What is it like to manage a new business and a young family at the same time? How do you juggle all your responsibilities?
When we launched Ruggish, I was still working full-time as a designer, balancing a new baby gear brand and a new-to-me product launch process on the side. I also had a baby and a toddler at home (very handy to have in-house testers and models!). That was all very different this time around.
I thrive on routine so I really like for my work week to look the same. My boys are 5 and 7 and have been in school for three hours a day since November. It’s a good age for a pandemic (if that’s even a thing). I’ve been able to count on them to give me space to get any work done if I need to, and I'm proud to say they have been helping with their laundry and tidying up their bedroom (and making a mess everywhere else). All the same, I live for those three hours when they are at school. I do not schedule anything else during that time so I can be as productive as possible.
I try to get in a workout first thing in the morning, while the boys are having breakfast with my husband. If I actually start the day getting showered and dressed, it's a huge win! I like to finish up household duties in the morning while they are home, since I know I can be productive and still feel present if I'm helping with their work while loading the dishwasher, etc. Also, meal planning and Amazon Fresh have given me back at least an extra hour of my week.
Do your children share your entrepreneurial spirit?
I hope so!! I started this business with them in mind, so I've always tried to show them all of the details along the way. They always appear to be interested and have started asking more questions, but they have yet to share any big ideas of their own. I've summarized every episode of How I Built This, and I've been dragging them to flea markets since they can remember. Our hope is to expose them and guide them to pursue what makes them happy!
What advice do you have for moms who have a great idea for a product or business?
- Be open-minded and remember that it really is possible for your dream to become a reality!
- Work backwards with deadlines and always have a to-do list.
- Write it all down, it's so rewarding to look back on how far you've come!
- Surround yourself with inspiration (hello, Guy Raz and Shark Tank!) and connect with like-minded Moms to build your tribe!
- And feel free to reach out to me at Liza@Ruggishco.com if you need a little push, I love connecting with other entrepreneurs!