by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief
Sick of wondering about just how clean her grandkids lunch surfaces at school were, Evelyn devised a solution: a 100% washable, durable, cotton lunch mat designed especially for kids. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Evelyn, learn about her company and discover the passion behind her products.
eNannySource: What’s Matooga? How did you come up with the name? What does it mean?
Evelyn: Matooga doesn’t have an actual definition or meaning. Honestly, although I’m really creative when it comes to designing, I’m terrible when it comes to thinking of names. So I used DoAvenue.com‘s business naming service and they delivered a handful of names to me, of which Matooga was an instant winner! It incorporated the term “MAT” but added a whimsical, but catchy suffix. We loved the name and felt confident it reflected the professional but sometimes playful nature of the products we sell.
eNannySource: Why placemats?
Evelyn: I originally started Matooga.com at the request of my grandchildren. They, and then all of their friends, were requesting so many lunch mats, I actually had to bring in help! That’s when I knew I had a winning product. The fun mats make kids feel special, and the moms love the functionality, convenient pockets, eco-friendliness, compactness and comfort of knowing that their kids’ lunch surface will be clean. The mats are ESPECIALLY popular among young girls, who love the ceremony that surrounds the use of the mats at school… it’s like having their own little pampering session or special party every day at lunch! And the boys generally love them simply because of the cool “boy” designs we have!
eNannySource: How dirty is the average lunch surface really?
Evelyn: How dirty is the average lunch surface? It depends. Honestly, most cafeterias, daycare facilities, etc., clean their surfaces after each meal takes place, but you still never know about subsequent passing sneezes, wiped-nose-to-hand-to-table transfers, etc., that may occur during other assemblies or activities that take place at the same tables – I have grandkids… I know! Additionally, if you’ve ever seen firsthand what happens to Little Sarah’s sandwich during school lunchtime, you know that the actual food often ends up DIRECTLY ON the table! As a parent and grandparent, not knowing how or what the surface was cleaned with, I’m just not comfortable with that. The peace-of-mind, simplicity and general cleanliness that comes with having a known-to-be clean lunch mat that kids are happy to place their food on is a no-brainer to me.
Aside from cleanliness, our lunch mats are ideal for children (or adults) with food allergies, especially severe food allergies. Anyone with severe food allergies knows the extreme precautions that need to be taken to prevent exposure to the offending allergen. Our lunch mats provide an added layer of protection in such daily health critical situations. Our parents of children with food allergies LOVE our mats and typically order about a dozen so they have enough to interchange during the week.
eNannySource: Does using a washable placemat like Matooga help keep kids healthy at school?
Evelyn: Yes, Matooga lunch mats are a great tool in the fight to help keep children healthy at school! Of course, all other healthy precautions should continue to be taken in the overall effort to keep kids from getting sick, but again, knowing that the surface your child’s food is on is clean by your own standards is a great weapon. And regarding washing, our mats stand up extremely well to multiple washings, really adding to their extreme value and eliminating the worry of having to wash them too frequently. The mats my grandchildren use have endured over 50 washings and still look close to new!
eNannySource: Tell us about the material used. Is it ecofriendly?
Evelyn: All our mats are 100% cotton, exclusive of trim, making them extremely eco-friendly.
eNannySource: Is the mat food safe?
Evelyn: Absolutely! The 100% cotton we use doesn’t contain any harmful dyes or other contaminates. Cotton is the ideal surface for food as it’s durable, resistant and easy to clean.
eNannySource: Anything else you want to add?
Evelyn: One thing that’s not immediately obvious is the value of the mats. People are immediately attracted to the cute, stylish, practical or handsome styles, but one thing that everyone who uses them comments on is their durability and value. Given that the mats wash so well and still look as good as ever after many, many washings, people definitely get their money’s worth because they practically last forever!
And one last thing to mention is their versatility. The mats are used at the dinner table, at picnics, during doll (and REAL) tea parties, to wrap utensils for potlucks and any other uses that can benefit from a cute cloth! So they’re not just for lunches!
And lastly, my daughter Monta wanted me to add that her favorite part of the mats is that she can pack up the kids’ lunches the night before, tucking the utensils, treats, etc. into the folded mats and packing them up all nice and neat into their lunch bags so she doesn’t have to worry about forgetting any of those things in the morning madness the next morning.
Evelyn Spooner is a designer and owner of Matooga. In 2012, she started Matooga.com to put her designing talents to good use and to share the mats and runners her family and friends have enjoyed for years! As she approaches her first anniversary of being in business, she is still thrilled each day to be earning a living doing something that she loves so much.
Evelyn was kind enough to send me a complimentary set of Matooga lunch mats to check out with my own children. During a meal, it’s not unusual for part of my children’s meal to “rest” directly on the table, and it’s certainly not unusual for them to pick it back up and continuing eating it. Gross – and that’s at home. Now consider at school or even at a restaurant. There’s a reason they supply paper placemats, right? Knowing that my children’s lunch surface is clean makes me cringe a whole lot less when I know the likelihood of part of their meal hitting it is 99%. We’ve even used them at restaurants, where they come in super handy since you can pack the smaller sized utensils. The Matooga mats do wash well, but choose your detergent carefully. You don’t want the kids eating on a surface full of chemicals either.← Expert Insights: Behind the Nanny Diaries with Author Nicola Kraus | Expert Insights on Building a Secure Attachment with Dr. Jeanne Segal, co-creator of HelpGuide.org and author of The Language of Emotional Intelligence →