October 28, 2021

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Kate Stewart Founder and Managing Director of Stay tray

Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Kate Stewart and I am the Founder and Managing Director of Stay tray (www.staytray.com.au). Stay is a reusable drink tray made from 100% recycled plastic. It is a reusable alternative to single use drink trays used at every cafe and fast-food restaurant across the world.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

In late 2018, I decided to leave my secure corporate role of 17 years to develop Stay tray . At the time I was commuting 3 hours each day to Melbourne. Logically, I was in a great job, but every day I would leave at 5:00 am before my kids were even awake.

I was in a café with a colleague, getting morning coffee for my team. We had six drinks to carry back to the office in reusable cups. The barista asked if we wanted a tray. The type used at every café and fast-food restaurant all over the world. There we were, making a conscious effort to use reusable cups, but carrying them back to the office in a single use tray. A tray that would be used once or twice at best. It would then be recycled, using energy and water in the recycling process each time. There must be a better way I thought. A reusable tray that could be used again, and again, and again. But there simply wasn’t anything out there.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I spent 12 months designing Stay tray. There were so many late nights and weekends. But it was all worth it. I wanted to make sure I could design and manufacture a great product in Australia. It would have been half the price to design and manufacture overseas. However, it was really important for me to support the incredibly talented Australian designers and manufactures.

Stay tray initially launched online, but quickly spread to cafes and gift shops. A few years on we now have trials in place with large scale fast food restaurants and are providing branded Stay tray to large scale corporate clients.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Developing a brand with meaning and purpose is by far the biggest thing I have done. Stay tray only uses 100% recycled plastic in the manufacture of all our trays. Stay tray is B Corporation Certified and Australian Made.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I have some really exciting innovations being developed at the moment that I can’t talk about just yet. But I can say, in the next 12 months we will have another couple of products that have never been seen before anywhere in the world. It’s a really exciting time for Stay tray.
I believe that every household needs a Stay tray. Every office coffee run, every fast-food run, every weekend smoothie run, should be undertaken with a Stay tray. This is our goal moving forward. There is no need to use single use drink trays anymore. Not when there is an amazing reusable alternative that can be used again, and again, and again.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Just that it is so much hard work. Just getting a product took me 12 months. Then the hard work really started. Most businesses don’t just fly out of the gates. I have leaned you really get out what you put in. There is so much you have to learn. Product design, digital marketing, social media, logistics. There is never a dull day. You really do have to be a jack of all trades when you first start out.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Shopify, Facebook, Instagram, Klavio

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The Confidence Code, Girl Code

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Go for it. But make sure that you pursue something you are passionate about. You are going to need to put in so much time and effort to make your business successful. So, make sure it’s something you are passionate about or something you love. In the early days you will need to sacrifice. Plenty of time away from family, time away from friends. But it will all be worth it in the end. The freedom of running your own business is fabulous.

Where can we go to learn more?

www.staytray.com.au