How Suzanne Horton Left the Corporate World and Built a Seven-Figure E-Commerce Brand

How Suzanne Horton Left Corporate and Built a Seven-Figure E-commerce Business

Today, muk mat is a successful e-commerce brand that’s expanded into international retail sales, but it started with a simple product Suzanne Horton created for her family. In this interview, Suzanne shares her incredible story.

You’ll notice that Suzanne and her team have continually improved the product and expanded the line. Suzanne emphasizes the need to focus on the customer’s problem first, and the product second.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Suzanne left her corporate career to spend more time with her family
  • She worked long hours early on with the business but appreciated the flexibility
  • She created the first muk mat for her family, and it generated interest from others
  • Suzanne landed major media coverage by pitching her brand story to journalists
  • This lean business is run by a small, remote team


Business Name: muk mat
Website URL:
Founder: Suzanne Horton
Business Location: Gold Coast QLD
Year Started: 2017
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 2 contractors

How much revenue does the business generate?

Annual turnover of $3 million

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I grew up on the Gold Coast of Australia, where my parents ran their own business. Their hard work and dedication undoubtedly shaped my values and work ethic. Witnessing their success and early retirement taught me valuable lessons in hard work, financial responsibility, and community building.

With a Bachelor of Health Science, I’ve spent most of my career in the Pharmaceutical Industry, learning the ropes of sales, business, and team management. It was a perfect blend of science and commerce.

After the birth of our second son, I chose to leave my corporate job to focus on my family. Being able to be present for my children was a blissful decision. During this time, I noticed their growing love for surfing and outdoor activities, which inspired the idea for muk mat.

Suzanne Horton and her family
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Horton

How does your business make money?

Muk mats are sold online in Australia and New Zealand.  They’re also sold in retail outlets and have over 100 stockists throughout Australia and NZ, including our largest customer, Anaconda. 

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

My business was inspired by a simple desire for comfort amidst our active family lifestyle. With our love for outdoor activities like surfing, hiking, and camping, the inevitable messiness of life began to grate on me. Whether at home, in the van, tent, or car, the constant presence of grit underfoot became a daily frustration.

After struggling with various ineffective solutions like towels and doormats, I decided to find a better way. This led me to develop a DIY prototype using an off-cut piece of astroturf, which we began taking with us on our outdoor excursions. The positive feedback and interest from others highlighted a widespread need for such a product. 

Recognising the potential, I refined the concept into what is now known as muk mat—a practical solution addressing a common problem for outdoor enthusiasts across Australia.

muk mat in use outside a van
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Horton

How and when did you launch muk mat?

The business was launched after a thorough process of product research and field testing. We identified the need for a high-quality turf solution that not only effectively removed dirt and grit but also provided a comfortable underfoot experience and was durable enough to withstand Australia’s tough conditions.

After sourcing the best turf available, we assembled a skilled manufacturing team here on the Gold Coast. Their commitment to quality and precision has been outstanding from the outset.

Officially, the business went live online in August 2017, strategically timed for Father’s Day. Concurrently, we had a notable presence at local markets to coincide with the launch. Initially, we started with a stock of 500 muk mats, which sold out almost immediately. This rapid response validated the significant demand for an effective mat solution, exceeding our expectations.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

To start the business we invested $10,000 of our own money.  I was extremely lucky to have friends who assisted with building our website, product and lifestyle photography, and designing our logo.  This enabled me to set up these assets very economically.  The start up money was mainly used for purchasing stock and marketing materials.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

Prior to launch I had set up social media accounts for muk mat to start generating interest and a following.  I had also gifted muk mat to a number of friends and associates who had a keen interest in the outdoors to ensure we had some reviews on the website and this group could share the launch of muk mat to their audiences.  

When it came time to launch, I already had about 500 followers who were interested in giving muk mat a try.

Suzanne Horton with a surfboard
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Horton

Tell us about your first year with muk mat.

I learnt so much about running an ecommerce business in the first year. However, six years on, I continue to learn and evolve daily. The challenges, opportunities, and goal posts are continually moving.

As many founders can attest to, in the beginning, you wear all the hats.  My time was spent creating content for our social media accounts, running facebook ads, packing and shipping orders, customer service, and recruiting and working with other ambassadors and brand partnerships.  I also attended a lot of Caravan and camping, surfing and surf life saving expos.  I was working about 50 hours a week.  However, I had flexibility… so if the surf was perfect, I would surf and make up for it after dinner and on weekends.  I didn’t mind that at all.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

A key strategy I have always used is to focus on the problem to be solved first – then, the product and actions are a result of this.  

The first problem I identified was there was not an effective mat on the market to clean gritty feet and shoes before getting back in your caravan, tent, car, and house.  

The next problem was customers wanted muk mats to fit their caravan steps – so we solved that.  

Then, customers wanted to buy muk mat in stores – so we expanded into distribution wholesale.  

The next problem was that customers wanted a choice of colours, so we launched our GREY range.  

Grey muk mat outside a home
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Horton

Now, the problem we’re solving is to offer our customers a new, improved turf that can withstand high foot traffic, has anti-bacterial production, a cooling factor, and non-slip backing.

Customers continue to drive our innovation and continuous improvement.

In the early days of my business journey, one of my mentors suggested I read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” and it really struck a chord with me. It made me realise the power of word-of-mouth marketing. I knew I had to get our mats to the right people who could spread the word effectively.

Our ambassadors have been incredibly valuable to us. In the caravan and camping community, people rely on each other’s advice and experiences. Having authentic feedback from our ambassadors means potential customers can hear from real travelers like themselves. It’s like getting advice from a friend before making a decision.

With some coaching, I learnt how to effectively use PR to grow the business.  I approached so many journalists and media outlets with my brand story, and in the first two years, muk mat appeared on the TODAY SHOW as one of the “hottest new camping essentials”.  We are also featured in the Weekend Australian, SUNRISE, and What’s Up Downunder.  This exposure ensured trust and credibility in the brand was established early on.

Tell us about your team.

From the outset, I recognised the importance of seeking assistance and outsourcing tasks where I lacked expertise. For instance, I entrusted the entire production process of our muk mats to a reputable Gold Coast company with specialised experience in the industry.

As our business progressed, I forged a partnership with a local digital marketing agency to handle our social media advertising and marketing efforts, leveraging their expertise to enhance our online presence and reach.

During the caravan and camping industries surge during COVID, I reached a point of overwhelm and made a pivotal decision to shift my pick-and-pack operations to a third-party logistics provider (3PL). It was a total game-changer for me.

Shortly after, I brought on board a finance manager and a social media/communications manager as contractors. I’ve built a lean business model with minimal overhead costs — no fancy office spaces here. Online conferencing is such a great way to connect and collaborate regularly.  This setup allows my team to work remotely, giving us the flexibility to be there for our families. 

One thing I’m particularly proud of is the evolution of our female-founded business, now led by three women. It’s a significant achievement, especially in an industry predominantly dominated by men.

What are your future plans for the business?

With the recent introduction of another colour muk mat to the range – indications show this will also be a winner for homes. Our goal here is to branch into a new category of stockists. Bunnings, Temple&Webster, and Mitre are on our radar…. A stylish doormat that actually works!  We even have the girls at Three Birds Renovations in sight.

As muk mat continues to service the fast-growing industry, we’re setting our sights beyond Australia. Germany has the highest number of RVs in the world, and this presents a huge opportunity to offer Europeans the little bit of luxury muk mat will give to their camping experience that we Aussies have enjoyed over the last six years.  We have partnered with another Australian company and will be launching muk mat in Europe just in time for their summer camping season.  

In addition to Europe we have a lot of interest from distributors in Canada to take our Australian lifestyle brand to North America.

Suzanne in an RV
Photo courtesy of Suzanne HortonPhoto courtesy of Suzanne Horton

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

When the CEO of Anaconda emailed me to tell me he had bought a muk mat after hearing so much hype about it and wanted to see if I would be interested in stocking it in Anaconda stores around the country.  

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

Customer focus. Understanding your customers is absolutely crucial for success in business. It’s about knowing their everyday needs and consistently exceeding their expectations, starting from the moment they first hear about your brand to every purchase they make thereafter. Equally important is actively listening to their feedback to continually improve and refine your offerings.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Never underestimate the power of prioritising your health. It might seem like a small thing, but taking just an hour to exercise outdoors can work wonders for your energy levels and mental clarity. Trust me, it’s a game-changer for productivity.

What is your favorite quote?

“Jump in the water, you always feel better!”

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?



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