by Athena Thompson
The inner west is a melting pot for women starting unique successful businesses and serendipitous moments, with fabulous local groups bringing them together. I recently met Jacqui Burton, founder of Rudie Nudie thanks to one of these groups – the Inner West Women’s Hub. Jacqui shared with me her latest designs and collaborations in her business, about how she found her tribe, and some of the other women who inspired her to start.
Jacqui’s background is fascinating, her career journey is somewhat different to most. Starting off with a sports science degree, moving into pharmaceutical sales then shifting into the world of advertising, media and events and then social media. This string of seemingly eclectic areas of work endears her to the life of an entrepreneur, gaining along the way a multitude of skills perfect to starting her own business. Jacqui started her business back in 2018, to tackle a messy problem.
It started with doing nappy-free playtime for her daughter, as recommended by the maternal health care nurse as great for the baby’s development. Nappy-free did not mean care free, as she found herself spending her time washing towels, the carpet took a few hits and leakages onto the floor. And as a mum, you really don’t have much time to yourself, and the time you have, you don’t want to spend it cleaning. Jacqui endeavoured to find a waterproof playmat. Low and behold, as she couldn’t find one, she decided to create her own, which became the Rudie Nudie Waterproof Playmats.
Inspired at the time by the successes of local women starting up like the two Kingsvilles mums, Fran and Jo, behind Franjos Kitchen, who make Lactation Biscuits for mums and Alison from Feather and Noise, an Australian online fashion brand. She watched as they started small and built their communities online, built their products and saw how their successes grew. Primed with her experience from making promotional items, and a good understanding of how to get products made, she felt that she too could do the same.
Since starting, her range and playmats like her children have grown up too. With its sizes slowly edging to become bigger and bigger, moving from a sensory/messy play, to a useful toilet training aid. To now a jumbo size, soon to be released this November, the new Flamingo-A-Go-Go is big enough for the whole family to enjoy as an outdoor picnic and beach mat. Perfect timing to be available with restrictions lifting and as summer approaches.
Jacqui has surrounded herself with uplifting women in her business, Trish Burton, a local Designer who specialises in luxe statement surface designs and Joanne Manariti a local commercial and family photographer. Trish brought to life the ‘Hola Mamacita Rudie Nudie Playmat’, with beautiful bright colours, a stunning Mexican design. It drew on Jacqui’s love of Latin culture, where she spent 6 months across South America learning Spanish and further travels through Mexico and Cuba. Trish demonstrated her skills to design a product that was a true reflection of Jaqui’s passion for the Latin culture, colour and festivity. Trish and Jacqui met in the early stages of Rudie Nudie beginnings, a serendipitous moment in Altona whilst their kids shared a swimming lesson, and it turns out a surname too.
Joanne, who photographed the playmat design for the initial product launch, met Jacqui during a business mentoring scholarship with local women’s business network group She Will Shine. It was perfect timing as Jacqui was just about ready for her first photo shoot of her products and Joanne had just kick started her photography career.
Jacqui tells me, ‘I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many talented business women in the Inner West. It feels like there is a whole new tribe of women who have decided to tread their own path by setting up their own businesses. When you look around there are some incredibly successful businesses around started by mums, and it’s wonderful to see them chasing their dreams.”
In her story, I see a sequence of fortuitous moments that I like to think only happens in the inner west of Melbourne. However, the reality is, whilst the west is whimsical, Jacqui worked to turn those moments into success and developed those relationships with care. She now works in the business full time and her Rudie Nudie playmats have sold in over 30 countries worldwide, both sold through stockists and available direct online.
Professional problem solver by day (business consultant at TechLever) and supreme question asker by night, exploring Melbourne’s west one curiosity at a time. Co-founder of the Inner West Women’s Hub, a group for women who live, work & play locally.