Posts tagged #alison-grieve

Greg Shultz writes about Safetray's journey

Greg Shultz wrote an article for TechRepublic about our sister product, the G-Hold, but he also talked about Safetray's journey. You can read the full article here.

"The origin

The story behind the genesis of the G-Hold is just too good to leave out, as it truly exemplifies the notion of the entrepreneurial spirit at work. A person seeing a problem, developing an innovative solution, turning it into a budding business, and then later successfully applying the core of that invention to solving a problem in a completely different industry altogether.

After witnessing a waitress spill the contents of her serving tray, Grieve came up with an idea for a new serving tray with a built-in clip on the bottom of the tray (Figure A). The clip fits snugly between your fingers and provides you with a solid hold on the tray, thus making the act of balancing a tray full of drinks that much easier. She called her new product the Safetray."

Posted on November 10, 2015 .

Safetray featured in Publican's Morning Advertiser

Safetray undertook a survey recently to find out people's attitudes to table service, and the Publican's Morning Advertiser wrote about the results.


Pub table service enjoyed by 80% of diners

More than 66% of customers would order more drinks through table service than ordering at the bar.

Read more here

Posted on April 19, 2013 .

Safetray CEO's Brazilian trade mission


CEO Alison Grieve travelled to Brazil last year with a Santander trade mission, where she explored this rapidly-growing market and met with potential customers and contacts. Santander recently featured her on their Breakthrough Programme's website here. Read the full story below.

Brazil Trade Mission: Safetray
For the inventor and manufacturer of the patented Safetray, gaining first-hand market intelligence on Brazil was invaluable.

As inventor of the patented Safetray – a tray that stays soundly and helpfully attached to the server’s hand, thanks to a retractable clip on the underside – Alison Grieve is continually looking for new markets. Having spent two years developing her product and establishing it in the US, the Middle East and Australia, Alison, who is also the company’s CEO, wanted to secure the future of her business and build on some important early gains. “We had some significant wins,” she says. “We sold a license to San Jamar, a leading US food service business, to manufacture and sell the Safetray in the US and Canada. For all other territories, we manufacture and distribute the product ourselves from the factory in Scotland. But the San Jamar license enhances credibility and provides another revenue stream.”

While South America and Brazil in particular had not featured on her early business plans, Alison still recognised the possibilities they offered. The market has similarities to the Middle East, where Safetray has made significant inroads into the hotel and hospitality sector. “We had also just gone through an exercise to establish patents in different countries, including Brazil,” she says. “We knew there were massive opportunities in South America, but had no real idea how you would go about making a first approach into a market like Brazil.”


For Alison, everything about the Breakthrough trade mission to Brazil was helpful. Networking with entrepreneurs from the other companies on the trip meant delegates could exchange notes on their experiences. “The group was completely varied,” says Alison. “A lot of the companies were more developed than ours and were at a later stage than us. That in itself was inspiring.”

“We now have a really good understanding of Brazil and what we would need to do to make it work. We have made contacts there and so we are significantly ahead.” Alison Grieve, CEO Safetray Products Ltd.

While in Brazil, the various experts she met – tax accountants, lawyers and logistics specialists – were a source of invaluable market intelligence. “You hear a lot about the potential of Brazil,” she says. “Sometimes the best learning you can have is actually not to commercialise in a country. You do have to look at the complexities and work out whether you have the resources to penetrate a market like Brazil.”

Potential buyers

Safetray attracted interest from the Marriott, where delegates were staying in Rio de Janeiro, as well as potential buyers they met in São Paulo. “It is a question of understanding how we might fulfil those orders,” says Alison. “The import taxation is just so high that it might make the product price disproportionately high. But at least we know that there is interest, and we know there are opportunities.”

Brazil itself may not be a realistic short-term prospect for Safetray, but exporting to South America is definitely part of Alison’s plan for the next three years. It could be that the company will work to establish itself in neighbouring countries and export via those.

Alison believes export success must be grounded in thorough research. “I think you have to be quite careful as a small company,” she says. “We now have a really good understanding of Brazil and what we would need to do to make it work. We have made contacts there and so we are significantly ahead. We haven’t entered any overseas market without visiting, attending trade shows and putting considerable groundwork and research into that effort. With a little entrepreneurial skill and problem solving, we should get over the hurdles.”

Posted on February 19, 2013 .

Safetray CEO to speak at Scottish International Trade Network event


Safetray CEO Alison Grieve will be speaking at the Scottish International Trade Network (SITNet) event on Thursday 24th January.

The focus of the evening's talks will be on licensing in the USA, with Alison speaking about negotiating Safetray's licensing agreement with San Jamar Chef Revival. Alison invented the Safetray after witnessing a tray laden with champagne toppling over at an important function and recognising that this was an embarrassing, costly and potentially dangerous situation. Since its invention in 2009, the Safetray has been enthusiastically welcomed by the hospitality industry around the world.

Ian Murphy, Director, Innovi Business Growth will speak about licensing as a route to international markets.

Ian has 27 years’ experience of successfully negotiating licences for IP in a number of fields including aircraft cockpit displays, genetics, musical instruments, silicon chips and power generators. Ian provides advice and support to companies who wish to explore licensing as a potential route to international markets. Ian will share some key lessons based on his experience.

Event: Licensing as a route to market - Focus on the USA
Date: Thursday 24th January 2013, 18.00-20.00 hours
Topic: HSBC, 76 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1EL

Tickets are available here

Posted on January 14, 2013 .

Safetray CEO interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland

CEO Alison Grieve was interviewed by Gillian Marles on BBC Radio Scotland's Business Scotland programme this weekend. Hear the full programme here or read the full transcript below.

Gillian Marles, voice over:  Scotland has a great history of invention. If it wasn’t for us, there wouldn’t be TV, colour photography, grass-collecting lawnmowers, marmalade, cotton reel threads, fountain pens… The list goes on. However, we didn’t invent the wheel, but a Scot did invent the pneumatic tire that goes around it. And we’re still an inventive nation, but not so good at making money from those inventions. Alison Grieve is one woman hoping to change that. She is Chief Executive and inventor of the Safetray.

Alison Grieve: I used to have an events business, and in my former years I was a waitress, so I knew the trials and tribulations of carrying trays. At one event, there was a particularly spectacular accident involving a trayload of champagne glasses toppling over just before the host of the event was about to walk in. There were champagne glasses everywhere, glass on the floor, the cost of the champagne alone was a couple of hundred pounds, and it was very embarrassing, costly and, of course, dangerous. So those three reasons helped me to invent the Safetray.

GM: But did you have it in your head that you were an inventor then?

AG: The truth is, that for quite a number of years, in fact ever since I was a child, I used to say “when I grow up I want to be an inventor”. My parents even have a tape of me saying I wanted to be an inventor when I grew up, so there was definitely a desire there. As part of my events business I used to be a consultant at a business events organisation, and saw fantastic financial services, lawyers and accountants. But I used to think that it’s quite sad that a nation that gave birth to incredibly famous engineers, world-renowned scientists and inventors who shaped the world was so focused on services, and that manufacturing had kind of been left by the wayside. I loved the thought of physically manufacturing a product that came out of a machine in Scotland and could travel the world. So there was a bigger motivation there.

GM: But having an idea, and having it in your head that you wanted to do something … there is an awfully long way before you actually get to be an inventor, and to producing something in Scotland that you then sell.

AG: There are some inventors who are quite methodical about how they invent, so they will look at a problem, they will look at, perhaps, existing patents, and they will look at developing an idea further – that’s one kind of inventor. But the other kind of inventor, or perhaps invention, is one that you simply can’t plan. You can’t plan a eureka moment, and the time when I thought about trays, and about the ridiculous way that they’re made, I leapt out of my chair when I came up with that idea. It was literally a moment of a flash, a bubble that just popped on my head, so that I didn’t really plan.

However, after that, because I had this motivation to physically manufacture a product, I knew, as soon as I saw my sketch on a bit of paper, I thought, “that is the one, that is the one”. Within a couple of weeks I’d stopped doing all events. I knew it would take all of my time and energy to devote myself to this product.

GM: Unfortunately this is radio, but describe to us what makes this different to a [normal] tray?

AG:  Although you can’t see this, the Safetray has a clip on the underside. Now you don’t notice it because it just stacks up normally like a regular bar tray, but when you pull it off a bar or a surface, it comes down and it presses against the back of your knuckles. It means that when there is a heavy weight, even an entire bottle of wine right on the edge of the tray, you use your knuckles to control the tray, to keep it horizontal, so you can confidently do single-handed service without fear of the tray becoming unbalanced and toppling over.

GM: It is amazing. So you had this idea, you had your sketch, what happened then?

AG: Well, I looked into how, when you have an idea, can you go about outsourcing things like someone to do the CAD drawings, and somebody to source the manufacturing company? I learned about how you can protect your idea with things like Non-Disclosure Agreements, and that’s what I set about doing. I found a product design consultancy, Fearsomengine in Glasgow, and rather than pay them for their services, I gave them equity in the company, because I wasn’t a cash-rich entrepreneur. I had a business that really paid for my life, but not a great deal else.

GM: Did there come a point where you would say to people that you’re an inventor? When did that happen, or has it happened? Is that what you say you are?

AG: It’s difficult when someone asks what you do, because the invention happens in a flash and then everything else is selling the product, pulling together a good team, raising money, all the other roll-your-sleeves-up hard bits. It starts to feel a bit false, saying you’re an inventor, because it seems like it’s such a long time ago. But recently, now that we’re starting to develop new products, there’s another few patents that will be coming out, and again I feel like an inventor.

GM: Just tell me about the scale of the company you’ve got now, before you go into the new products and expanding in whatever way. What is the scale?

AG: There are four operational staff and there’s a board of five. We export across five continents now, and our major markets have been America, the Middle East and Australia. It’s been a very full-on year of travelling, which sounds very glamorous but it’s quite exhausting actually! But it’s necessary and it’s very exciting to think of these Safetrays, which were just a sketch on a scrap of paper three years ago, going to countries that I’ve never even been to before, swirling around these incredible venues, from salsa venues to pizza restaurants, to high-end bars serving celebrities in LA. It’s just a very exciting thing to be part of.

GM: What pieces of advice could you give to people who are early in the journey of inventing something?

AG: My advice would be that it’s not an easy ride, and that you can’t be disheartened by that. You fill find that there are always more people who oppose you than support you when it’s a game-changing item, and so rather than take that personally, just understand that and embrace it, and understand why people react against innovation. Try to understand the psychology behind that, instead of being hurt by it. Looking back, the most painful experiences have actually been the most enhancing to me as a person. It might not feel like it at the time, but no pain, no gain.

GM,VO: Alison Grieve. We met at the BBC canteen; her office is off-limits because they’re testing new, top-secret products.

Posted on November 26, 2012 .

Safetray featured in Business Comment magazine

Safetray was featured in the August/September issue of Business Comment magazine, with CEO Alison Grieve talking about Business Gateway.


"A recent example of an Edinburgh business that has benefited from Business Gateway support is that of Safetray Ltd (, a young company producing a non-topple drinks tray that has secured deals to supply to two of America's largest food service companies and a renowned hotel with its innovative product.Sodexo USA, Compass Group USA and Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas were among the first to purchase the Safetray, a non-topple drinks tray invented by Alison Grieve, who came up witth the idea for the product after a tray of champagne worth hundreds of pounds toppled over at an event she had organised. Speaking about the major order, she said: "Securing orders with such leading names in the hospitality industry highlights how innovative the product is. The orders have also sparked interest in the product from across the globe. It's amazing to think that a product made by a small Scottish company will be used in places such as Alaska, San Francisco and New York."

John Hughes, Business Adviser, Business Gateway Edinburgh, said: "When Alison first came to us we immediately knew that her product had the potential to take the hospitality market by storm. We've supported the business through one-to-one advice, via our workshop programme and introduced Alison to other specialist agencies, all of which has helped turn her idea into a marketable product in a short period of time."

Speaking about the support offered, Alison said: "Business Gateway has supported me every step of the way - from ensuring my business plan was robust to helping me with the latest investment round. My adviser put me in touch with Scottish Enterprise, whose market research highlighted that the US was going to be the product's biggest market, with 60% of their top 100 bars providing VIP table service areas. This focused my attention on cracking North America first."

She added: "We are a classic Business Gateway story, in that we needed to develop intellectual property and it helped us secure a grant to do that; we needed to expand and so it put us in touch with the SDI; and now, with only one in 20 companies successful in an investment round, its support has helped us to secure finance. In terms of economic development, Business Gateway has done its job. We are now about to take on two new members of staff, with a further two later in 2012, and we're grateful for the help."

Posted on August 1, 2012 .

First Minister praises Alison Grieve in conference speech

CEO Alison Grieve spoke at the Business in the Parliament conference last month, and was praised by First Minister Alex Salmond in his opening speech.

Click below to watch the full video. The section where the First Minister mentions Alison begins at 46:20.

"The next generation of people to emulate is here amongst us today, and with us in the communities of Scotland. The people ... here range from Alison Grieve, whose Safetray business was established two years ago but is now exporting to Europe, North America and the Emirates, to Jim McColl who famously started as an apprentice at Weir Pumps and is now Chief Executive of Clyde Blowers, a company that employs thousands of people across the planet."

Posted on July 6, 2012 .

Safetray featured in The Scotland on Sunday

Read the full article here

Investment scheme passes £1m milestone


A UNIQUE programme designed to prepare entrepreneurs for raising cash from investors has seen small firms attract £1 million since it launched last year.

The scheme, dubbed “Road to Investment”, was conceived by business adviser John Hughes of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Howard Flint, investment manager with business angel network Linc.

It provides seven workshops over the course of one month.

Funded by the chamber and Edinburgh City Council through Business Gateway, the programme is free to entrepreneurs, except for a £150 registration fee paid to Linc to broker meetings with angel investors.

Its most successful fundraising to date saw Edinburgh-based Safetray raise £200,000 from an investor syndicate in December.

The funding, provided by early-stage investment group Equity Gap and individuals, will allow Safetray’s founder, Alison Grieve, to strengthen its patent protection and expand its markets in the Middle East and the United States.Grieve also used the cash to shift mass production of its lead product from China to the McLaren Plastics factory in Loanhead and take on four permanent staff.

Grieve, who invented the Safetray – a serving tray designed to prevent waiters and waitresses from dropping drinks – expects to have income of £1m this year and £10m in three years’ time.

As a result of the programme, Grieve has also recruited investment veteran Peter Shakeshaft as chairman and Mike Lees, the former chief executive of Tennent Caledonian Breweries, as a non-executive director to its board.

Grieve said: “The investment workshops were really useful.”

Hughes added: “We are teaching people how to negotiate with angels. It is quite a rich programme.”

Subsequent to the programme, Safetray became one of Scottish Enterprise’s 2,000-odd “account managed” firms, which are an elite group of Scottish companies with high growth potential.

The third “Road to Investment” programme will kick off on 17 May and culminate in its “day with the angels” on 13 June.

Posted on April 15, 2012 .

Safetray featured in Lloyd's Loading List

From Lloyd's Loading List, 19th March 2012
Click the image to read the full story, or follow the link below.

After just one shipment, Edinburgh-based company Safetray Products decided to stop manufacturing its trays in China. CEO Alison Grieve talks to Isabel Lesto about how this small business made a big change.

Why did you switch manufacturing from China to Scotland?
At Christmas 2010 we received our first shipment from China. The 4,000 trays that arrived in the UK were unusable: it was heartbreaking. We managed to get the stock remade to specification, but we had to fly to China to sort this out. Quality control in China is really difficult; it is so expensive because there is such a big demand for this type of service.
Besides this, lead times are longer and paying duty upfront is more difficult for cashflow.
We are now manufacturing with the family-run business McLaren Plastics here in Scotland for the same price. We can control shipments more easily from the UK, and customs procedures are much more straightforward.

How easy have you found this shift?
Transferring manufacturing to the UK has not been easy. We had to modify the [tray-making] tool for use here; unfortunately when it was on the water from China, the tool manufacturer we had chosen in Stirling went out of business and we had to find another one. The one we found is excellent but further away in Yorkshire so we have had to go backwards and forwards quite a bit.

What changes have you had to make to the supply chain?
With production shifting back to the UK we've tightened up our supply chain. We've brought in a new member of staff to manager this, and we've just selected TPC Freight Management as our new forwarder. We had four bidders. We chose them because they've been so helpful; if they can communicate well at this stage, then I know that in the future I'm not going to have some shipment sitting at a port for four days without being told about it.
The company is big enough to matter but small enough to care. They make us feel special.

What logistics tips have you learned along the way?
Regardless of who manages the supply chain we are ensuring that we know who the contact person is for each step along the chain.

In a small business, what logistics hurdles have you faced?
There are certain things I haven't understood because I've been told completely different things by different people - and when it comes to shipping, the devil's in the detail. It annoys me that there is an inability to get exact information, because exact information is necessary in export.

What is your strategy going forward?
Plan A is to manufacture in Scotland and export to the US, Europe and the UAE. We have had interest in South America and Canada. We're paying double duty right now in Canada so it's more a marketing exercise than profit-making. With South America we will probably get a distributor in Miami who will then take charge of distribution. Australasia is a market we have not pushed for but from which we have had a lot of interest, and with the strong [dollar] exchange rate this is an interesting market.

Posted on March 15, 2012 .

Safetray becomes face of Business Gateway campaign

Safetray has been selected as one of the faces of a new campaign by Business Gateway and was featured in a full page ad in The Herald newspaper. Click on the image to read the full story, or click the link below.


From The Herald, 21/02/12

Raising a glass to business growth

When Alison Grieve saw champagne worth hundreds of pounds topple over at an event she had organised, she immediately spotted a business opportunity for a non-topple drinks tray.

 Now, just over three years later, Alison's Edinburgh-based company, Safetray Products Ltd, is supplying two of America's largest food services companies and the product is being manufactured in Scotland.

Sodexo USA and Compass Group USA became early fans of the Safetray, purchasing stock at a trade show in Chicago, and the company has now secured customers in the United Arab Emirates, as well as throughout the UK and Europe.

Alison said: "It was very exiting when Patrick Robineau, Food & Beverage Director of the Four Seasons Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, described the Safetray as an 'awesome product' after showcasing samples at a product innovation event, adding that he was 'very impressed' by the invention.

"Securing orders with such leading names in the hospitality industry highlights how innovative the product is. The orders have sparked interest from across the globe, with enquiries coming in from hotel groups including Hilton and Marriot. It's amazing to think that a product made by a small Scottish company is now being used in places such as Alaska, San Fransisco and New York.

"I came up with the idea for the product in 2009 and Business Gateway Edinburgh supported me every step of the way - from ensuring my business plan was robust to helping me with the latest investment round. They helped me secure support from Scottish Development Interntational, which, along with a small overdraft from the bank, allowed me to attend the Chicago show. They also put me in touch with Scottish Enterprise, whose market research highlighted that America is the product's biggest market with 60% of its top 100 bars providing VIP table service areas."

Alison added: "We are a classic Business Gateway story, in that we needed to develop intellectual property and it helped us secure a grant to do that. We needed to expand and export and so it put us in touch with SDI, and now, its support has helped us secure investment and we are also taking on new members of staff."

To find out how Business Gateway can help your business, visit or call 0845 609 6611

Posted on February 21, 2012 .

Safetray featured by Business Gateway

Click on the link below to read the full story.

"Safetray was invented as a consequence of a spectacular accident involving a tray-load of champagne falling over at an important event, causing glass and champagne to go everywhere, which was costly, and dangerous, and embarrassing.

Because of that disaster, a wonderful thing was born, which was Safetray, a tray that doesn't topple over regardless of what is put on the surface.

Over half of our business is predicted to be in the States. We've already sold all over the USA, from Alaska to Puerto Rico, from San Fransisco to New York, and on to Canada. We've sold into the United Arab Emirates, so we've had a lot of success because it really is a global product.

I spoke to an adviser at Business Gateway at the very beginning of the process. He put us on to the high growth pipeline; access to finance was one way that they helped us. Also, in giving us tools that are absolutely essential in growing a business, such as templates for building business plans, tools for effective forecasting and additionally being a friendly and proactive support on the end of the telephone.

It's extremely important that you keep in communication with Business Gateway. Think of them as you would do any supplier, or any customer, because it is a relationship, and you've got to build that relationship. Don't expect them to do everything for you, because that's not their job. Their job is to inform you when you ask for help, so keep asking for help because it is available, and there are incredible resources there to tap into."

Posted on February 12, 2012 .

Safetray used in UK Government campaign

A campaign, launched by the UK Government and supported by Start-Up Britain, to encourage people with the twinkle of an idea in their eye to start a business decided to use Safetray as one of a select few case studies to front the project. Here's the video that was shot in London after a fairly early start for our CEO Alison Grieve. Read the full interview by clicking on the link below.

"I remember the moment when I was thinking about accidents involving trays toppling over, and when I came up with the invention of Safetray, I literally leapt out of my chair, and I knew that I had to commercialise that invention.

When I first started, I had some savings from a previous business, but I didn't have a lot of money as an entrepreneur. So, rather than pay for services, I gave away a share of equity in return for services from a product design consultancy. That really helped to boost the business at a critical early stage, and get us moving forward really quickly. Laterly I just closed an investment round, so I sold a share of equity in return for funds, and that is going to help us grow the business exponentially over the next three years.

Well now, my boss is my customer, my clients, and to a certain extent the staff that I'm taking on and the other board members. They're my bosses, and I think that's the best way to look at your own business. It's always good to be serving someone.

There's so much freedom in having your own business, and an incredible amount of pride that comes from having started something from nothing and then taking it to be a global product, and from being able to employ people, and all the wonderful feelings of satisfaction that brings.

I would say that the most important thing to remember in business is belief in what you're trying to do and never lose sight of that. If you're really determined to do something, then there's always a way. Even at times when everything seems disasterous and there are problems with production if it's a product, or major problems with customers if it's a service, everybody goes through those really dark times in business, that's just part of it, but it's to keep that belief and to keep finding solutions to problems, and you'll always find a way.

I'm already exporting Safetray, we sell to companies in America, in Canada, in United Arab Emirates, and we have plans to go all over the world because it is a truly global product. It is tricky, export, you have to be aware of a lot of different legal systems, you have to be aware of the importance of logistics, because what you don't want is for your customers to have a bad experience in whatever market you're going to commercialise.

However, the belief that export is more risky than just sticking to your own domestic market is not true, in my experience. I would say that it's been less risky for my business. The decision to split our stock and send half of it to America was perhaps the best decision I ever made for the business.

I would say to anyone thinking about export, certainly research, as you would do your own domestic market, but don't be scared. It really is possible, and there's a lot of support available in the UK, offered by the government, to help you export."

Posted on January 31, 2012 .

Safetray featured in The Times newspaper

For the full story, click on the article below or follow the link to read more.

Costly spill gave birth to topple-proof tray

A former waitress from Edinburgh is set to join the list of great Scottish inventors, writes Bob Flynn

The recent history of Great Scottish Inventions has never quite lived up to the glory days of James Watt or Alexander Graham Bell. But that may be about to change with an invention the world has long waited for: the topple-proof serving tray.

Dreamt up by a former waitress from Edinburgh, the ingenious idea is poised to become one of the success stories of the new year. Alison Grieve, a 34-year-old mother of twins and former events manager, thought up the Safetray after seeing a tray laden with full champagne glasses crash to the floor during a lavish function she was managing at an Edinburgh hotel.

"It was a big corporate event I'd organised for a delegation of international lawyers, but it started with this spectacular accident," she said. "Obviously it was very costly, but also extremely dangerous for the waiters and embarrassing for the clients. That got me thinking.

Ms Grieve began to work out how a tray could right itself at the moment of impending tilt and three months later she had her "eureka moment".

She said: "I didn't shout 'eureka' but I did leap out of my chair. I'd had ideas for inventions since I was a child, but this was like a lightbulb going off. I drew a rough sketch of a clip that engages with your fingers underneath the tray so you could hold it level no matter what it's carrying. It's based on first principle physics, load dispersal and counter movement."

The result is a company with a potential turnover of millions. Conceived, designed and manufactured in Scotland, the Safetray went into mass production at the McLaren Plastics factory in Loanhead this month for export to America, supplying the prestigious Four Seasons hotel group and two of the country's largest catering companies, Sodexo and Compass.

Initial orders run into tens of thousands and from January Ms Grieve's trays will be used in hotels, bars and restaurants from Alaska to San Fransisco. She recently made distribution deals with two UK catering contractors, and talks are underway to supply the Safetray to Park Hyatt hotels in Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

With global sales expected to exeed 200k units in the first year and forecast to quadruple over three years, Safetray Products Ltd is currently valued at £1 million.

Ms Grieve's good-humoured disposition belies a sharp business acumen and a creative mind. The Safetray, which is her first patented invention, looks like any other black waiting tray but the crucial difference is a pyramid-shaped retractable cantilever finger clip underneath that acts as an extension to the holder's palm, ensuring stability even in inexperienced hands. "When I first showed it to people, the reaction was, 'why has nobody thought of this before?'" said Ms Grieve. "It looks simple but it was very complicated to design and build."

Despite having no background in design, having studied the history of film and photography at university, she had harboured ideas for inventions from childhood, something that runs in her family. Her grandfather, Professor Sir Robert Grieve, was a visionary engineer and town planner who devised a strategy to move people quickly to air raid shelters during the Clydebank Blitz. Credited with saving many lives during the war, he later spearheaded the Clyde Valley Regional Plan and became the first chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board.

"Bob was a great influence," said Ms Grieve. "When I was a child I used to spend evenings at his knee listening to him talk as he puffed on his pipe. He loved walking and we used to go for long family walks in the hills. He wasn't interested in wealth, but public service and progress.

"He came from an era when Scotland was an incredible nation of inventors, engineers and scientists. Now we've been left high and dry by the banking crisis I was thinking, 'where are the people who are making things? Where have they gone?'"

Ms Grieve formed a partnership with Fearsomengine, a product design consultancy in Glasgow, and set up Safetray Products Ltd in January. With support from Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway, she filed the patent for the tray in March and exhibited it at trade shows in Las Vegas and Chicago. It was an immediate hit.

"The American attitude towards innovation is so refreshing," Ms Grieve said. "In Scotland we're still not sure about success, people can be begrudging and negative. In America they said: 'Wow, it makes life easier, it saves money, how many can we buy?' In Scotland I've heard people say 'aye, but it's cheating'."

Patrick Robineau, director of food & beverage at the Four Seasons, described the Safetray as "an awesome product" on his website.

"We had orders in from the biggest names in the hotel and hospitality industry," said Ms Grieve. "It was then I thought, my baby's grown up."

Keeping your spirits up

1. If the surface of a tray becomes unbalanced, a downward force is created and the tray topples.

2. The Safetray's clip acts like a lever, enabling users to react against any downward force by pressing their knuckles against the clip, creating an opposing force.

3. The clip slides back and retracts into the base to be stacked like any other tray after use.

Posted on December 24, 2011 .

Safetray featured in The Evening News newspaper

For the full story, click on the article, or see the text below.


From Edinburgh Evening News, 6/12/11

It's tray bon! Champers in safe hands

Alison's topple-free server is wow with drinks industry. By Adam Morris

It is an event that usually unites an entire pub in comical cheering whenever it occurs.

But the sound of a stack of glasses being dropped from a tray by a bar worker could soon be a thing of the past thanks to an Edinburgh inventor.

Alison Grieve, 34, from Bruntsfield, has developed a "non-topple" drinks tray - the result of once watching an expensive bottle of Champagne tumbe to its destruction at an event she organised several years ago.

The firm she has set up to sell it has now struck a deal to supply major US hotel chains, with thousands already sold.

Ms Grieve said: "I know first-hand how embarrassing and costly it can be, not just on the pocket but on a company's reputation, when trays of expensive drinks fall over. It was one of those leap-out-of-the-chair moments."

She secured help from Business Gateway Edinburgh - an organisation that aims to help people with aspirations to create their own firm - and carried out research on where to pitch her product.

She said: "I came up with the idea in 2009, and Business Gateway has supported me every step of the way, from ensuring my business plan was robust to helping me with the latest investment round.

"My adviser put me in touch with Scottish Enterprise, whose market research highlighted that America was going to be the producer's biggest market, with 60 per cent of their top 100 bars providing VIP table service, which focused my attention on cracking that first."

The invention works thanks to a fitting on the underside - similar to a lever - which allows the knuckles of the hand to automatically counter movement within the tray.

Each sells for around £16. The businesses which have bought into Safetray include the Four Seasons Hotels chain, Sodexo and Compass Group, meaning hundreds of bars will use the product.

Now Ms Grieve wants to explore other areas of the world that have a similar approach to serving drinks, such as hotels in the United Arab Emirates.

She has contacts in the area and across continental Europe and has made a success of her invention despite not having a background in design.

She added: "Now that we have made inroads in America, our next target is the UAE, where we already have distributer interest in the product. It's true what they say about invention being one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration."

Posted on December 6, 2011 .

Safetray interviewed live on BBC News 24

Not content with her interview on BBC Radio Four's PM programme earlier on today, our CEO Alison Grieve trundled on down to the TV studios to get herself on first name terms with the Shadow Business Secretary. Ooh!

Jon Sopel: There's mixed news tonight for thousands of British companies and the millions of people who work for them. New figures show that while UK banks are ahead of schedule for overall lending to business, they've fallen a billion pounds short of their target for small- and medium-sized firms under an agreement with the Treasury, called Project Merlin. Alison Grieve runs a business in Scotland called Safetray, and struggled to get her bank to lend her company money when she first approached them earlier this year. She joins us now from our studio in Edinburgh.

JS: Thanks very much for joining us. So, how is your business going?

Alison Grieve: Well, our business is going very well now. We were able to get a small overdraft from the bank, and even just a small amount did go an exceptionally long way in supporting our exports. We were able to go to a trade show in Chicago, and at that show we made substantial sales, which then allowed us to ship the machine that makes our product back from where we were manufacturing in the Far East. We set up manufacturing in the UK, which is great for the economy here.
JS: Do you thank Project Merlin for that, or is it just good relations with your local bank manager?

AG: I think that Project Merlin has gone some way to put pressure on the banks to lend to small- and medium-sized businesses; there's still a lot more that could be done. My company is one of many that's on a high-growth pipeline and I know that very few of them have managed to receive any bank funding whatsoever. Actually, our company decided to go down the angel investor route, selling a share of our company in return for funds.

JS: What more would you like to see being done now, if you could wave a magic wand?

AG: I think it's about the banks recognising the different types of start-up businesses. There are some that are very much lifestyle businesses, and could have steady growth along a long period of time. But there are others, like a Facebook, for instance, which was an exceptionally high-growth company and one of the most resounding success stories of the last 100 years, commercially-speaking. They wouldn't have received funding at an early stage, because of the way banks value early-stage companies, as opposed to the way an investment angel would.

JS: Alison Grieve, very good to talk to you, thank you for being with us on BBC News. Let's speak now to the Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, who is in our Westminster studio. A very good evening to you, thanks for being with us. I know if you could wave a magic wand, you'd change the government and you'd be in power yourself, but short of that, what do you think the government could, should be doing?

Chukka Umunna: Well, it's interesting hearing Alison speaking there, and I'm pleased that at least her business is doing well, that's fantastic news. There is a problem, though, with the way the finance sector is serving business today. I think part of the reason that we're not getting money out of the door to SME's in particular in this country, is that one of the things that's holding them back from going and approaching banks for finance is the economic outlook. Vince Cable, when he took over the department I shadow, the Business department, said that it was supposed to be the Department for Economic Growth. The simple fact is that since he took over we haven't had enough growth in our economy, because of the too-far, too-fast deficit reduction strategy that his government is imposing. That's one part of it. The other part is actually just the general culture, Alison touched on it there, of our banking system. The banks say, "We don't lend, because there's not enough demand." But at the same time we see people running small businesses using their own personal finance, credit cards or overdrafts to finance their businesses, which to me would demonstrate that there is a demand there. But there's a problem, A. with the money getting out of the door, and B. with the actual culture - does a bank have a local relationship manager, does it actually bother to get to know the business, or does it put the business on the phone to somebody in some remote location who doesn't really understand the context of the business?

JS: But Alison was also saying there that the banks had helped and it was largely thanks to Project Merlin.

CU: Well, no, she didn't say that it was largely thanks to Project Merlin.

JS: She was very supportive of it. She said it had helped.

CU: No, Jon, you're slightly misinterpreting her words there, because she said she thinks it has helped put some pressure on the banks. The point is it hasn't put enough pressure. We've got stakes in two of the largest banks, and the government needs to use its influence, through UK Financial Investments, which holds and runs our stakes in those banks, to make sure they get the money out of the door. But as I said, the other part of the equation is to get growth back into the economy, get demand back into the economy, to give companies and businesses the confidence to go out and get finance to expand. The problem is that they just don't have that confidence at the moment.

Posted on November 14, 2011 .

Diary of a Start-Up: Safetray Makes its Festival Debut

Diary of a start-up - Safetray makes its Festival debut
By Alison Grieve on Aug 27, 10 10:27 AM in Diary of a Start Up

My nails dramatically decreased in size during the month of July. I nervously nibbled as I awaited the first production units arriving from China, desperate for Safetray to play its own part in the largest arts festival in the world - a showcase in front of an international audience within my beloved hometown during Edinburgh's multiple festivals.

Leading up to the arrival I had been fed worrying snippets of information regarding the progress with the mould tool. The initial photographs were kept from me - Fearsomengine quite rightly deciding that a snapshot image of a mangled piece of plastic might be more upsetting than informative - and so it was a relief indeed to finally see (a fortnight ago) a physical embodiment of the Safetray looking actually rather handsome.

And so it was, at a stall in the glorious sunshine at Edinburgh's Foodies Festival in Holyrood Park, the very first Safetrays - hot off our production tool - were let loose on the general public; and what a reaction we received.

The most common reaction from people was the suggestion that we should go on Dragons' Den; the second was one of surprise that nobody had ever thought of it before.

A new reaction - limited to a handful of people, exclusively Scottish - was that Safetray is 'cheating'. A remnant of our Calvinist past, I imagine: if it makes our lives easier, it must be immoral. Curiously, I quite liked that perspective. Maybe it's the Calvinist Scot in me welcoming criticism.

The majority were overwhelmingly supportive and excited by the concept - especially those who were hospitality professionals. Our pre-order book was bulging by the end of the weekend, filled with trade buyers and consumers alike. With a few amendments to be made and our first substantial volume of the Safetrays only arriving in October, I was just sorry that we were not able to sell them on the spot.

An added bonus to Foodies was the amount of people who entered our competition: 'Should have used a Safetray'. The task? To be filmed recounting a tale of an accident involving a toppled tray. The prize for the most spectacular story was a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, the winner of which is to be announced when we launch our retailing website with video-embeds via YouTube.

Over thirty people told us their stories. There were stories of A-list celebrities with food in their laps; a girl so fresh from a coffee spill accident that she was still wearing the bandages; red wine over a white shirt at a restaurant opening and an accident involving a customer being set alight with a toppled tray of flaming Sambucas. Yowzers.

We chose The Famous Spiegeltent to be the first venue to use the Safetrays in situ. One of only handful of its kind left in the world, this stunningly beautiful mirrored tent seemed a fantastic launch pad for our trays. Amidst acrobats hanging from ropes, strong men flinging scantily-clad ladies, jazz chanteuses singing their delicate standards and magicians turning doves into ducks, the Safetray made its own seemingly gravity-defying debut.

Glasshouse Events, who this year manage the bars in the Spiegel Garden, also work on the Golf Open, the Six Nations Rugby and The Grand National. It's exciting to think of the all events at which the trusty Safetray might be acting as a silent partner in service in the not too distant future.

Our final involvement in what has been a fantastic Edinburgh Festival for us was as finalists in the International Marketing Festival's Brands of the Future competition which took place at the Assembly @ Assembly Hall on the Mound.

I had felt slightly guilty asking friends and family along to what I thought would be a tedious morning of dry business presentations filled with cashflow sheets and buzz words from a bunch of poker-faced suits - not exactly a typical Fringe experience. It was, however, unexpectedly entertaining.

I found myself feeling utterly humbled onstage beside some truly inspirational Scottish businesses: the brilliant language website for children, GrowStoryGrow; fabulous tea house, Loopy Lorna's; parental godsend, Labels4Kids; the super-sexy bikers dream, Dakota Motorcycles; and, ultimate winners, the stylishly ethical Blue Marmalade.

Hosted by the personable and effortlessly funny Simon Fanshawe, the panel of judges included Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of The Scotsman, and Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

It's easy to forget, when working so much of the time on my own, speaking to Fearsomengine mainly by phone, trying to fit more tasks into a day than I ever felt possible, that there are other ambitious (AKA completely stark raving bonkers) business men and women out there taking similar risks, becoming familiar with the same small hours and writing their own updated business plan and forecast for the forty billionth time.

And it's also easy to forget, in the middle of a festival famous for celebrating creative talent from all over the world, that we've got no small amount of talent and spirit right here on our very own doorstep.


Posted on August 27, 2011 .

Six things we can learn from a winner

Founder of Enterprise Nation and co-founder of StartUp Britain, Emma Jones writes about Safetray winning the Marketing 4 StartUp Britain award:

6 things we can learn from a winner

At last week’s Marketing 4 StartUp Britain Week, there was a competition for one small business to win a marketing agency for 12 months. Alison Grieve of Safetray was the worthy winner and there are six things I believe we can learn from her approach and excellent presentation.

Pitch perfect

Six companies were shortlisted by the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA) and asked to present their pitch at the finale event of Marketing 4 Start Up Britain week. The six finalists were:
Syndicate Room
Follow the flag
Armadillo Merino

They all presented very well and have great stories to tell but in the words of the MAA Chair, Ian Millner, ‘there can only be one winner’ and that winner was Alison Grieve of Safetray. The prize was well deserved and Alison’s story gives important pointers for all start ups:Gap in the market – Alison was working as an event manager when she witnessed a tray of champagne being spilled over delegates and costing venue management. Having been a waitress herself, she thought there must be a better way to hold and carry trays to avoid spillage. The idea was sparked and Alison started her journey to invent Safetray; a clever and simple invention that, as the company tagline says means you can have a tipple without topple! It’s worth watching the video here to see the tray in action.

Research, research, research – having spotted a gap in the market, Alison went on a research escapade. She researched other products, the hospitality industry and several versions of her own prototype. She continues to research her market today and is considering an expansion of the business by licensing her invention, as well as producing the end result.

Secure expertise – Alison knew she needed help to design the product and source a manufacturer so early on she elected to offer equity in the business to a company specialising in product design and development – this partnership continues to prosper.

Protect your idea – working with product specialists, Alison has secured worldwide protection for her invention in the form of patents and trademarks.

Be true to your vision – in hearing Alison present, you soon realise she is passionate about manufacturing in the UK. ‘As someone who has worked in the services industry’, Alison said, ‘I’m concerned we don’t manufacture much in the UK any more. I want to be able to manufacture the safetray here and offer jobs to people in the UK.’ As she said it, I couldn’t help believing that one day she will achieve this.

Be ambitious – This young business owner may wish for manufacturing in the UK but she also has sights set on expanding her company rapidly overseas. Indeed, this is why Alison entered the competition as she is particularly looking for help from a marketing agency to help her expand the brand and enter international markets. In a video interview, when asked where she would like to be in 12 months time, Alison responded “everywhere!”

Stay gracious – you could not fail to be impressed with what Alison has achieved and her plans for the future. Yet in her award acceptance comments she gave credit to all other competition entrants and said how much she is looking forward to working with them as these businesses grow.

It made me think you can have great aspirations for your business whilst remaining truly gracious. What a worthy competition winner.

Best wishes to Alison and to all the competition entrants. We will be closely following your stories!

Posted on July 27, 2011 .

Safetray wins Marketing 4 Start Up Britain Competition

On 8th July 2011 the final of a competition organised by the Marketing Agencies Association took place at the Hospital Club in London as part of the Start Up Britain campaign. Six finalists battled it out to win an outstanding prize - a year of free marketing support from Iris, the top agency in the UK.

Guess what happened...


Watch the summary video here.

Posted on July 25, 2011 .

Safetray featured in Campaign magazine


From Campaign, 15th July 2011

Free agency services prize goes to Safetray Products

The Marketing Agencies Association (MAA) and Start Up Britain has awarded Safetray Products the services of several advertising agencies for a year, as part of its Marketing 4 Start Up Britain Week

The competition launched last month and offered new start-ups the opportunity to use the services of Proximity, Iris, Exposure and RPM free of charge for one year.

Safetray Products impressed the panel with its simple and effective problem solving concept.

The business uses a discrete, retractable hand clips on the underside of a tray to provide stability that will allow a bottle of wine to be placed right on the edge of the surface while the tray remains completely horizontal.

The company beat over 88 entries. Clothing brand Armadillo Merino, branded pram wrist straps Buggytug and frozen cocktails Rocktails were among the six shortlisted.

Alison Grieve, founder of Safetray Products, said: "It's amazing to have this kind of support and it will truly help me with the ambitions I have for my business.

"I am hugely grateful to be given access, free of charge to the best marketing talent in the industry."

Ian Millner, chairman of the MAA and panel member, said: "The calibre of pitches we saw was outstanding, with each business idea having great potential. However, we awarded free marketing services to Safetray as we saw Alison’s idea as having huge potential to help the industry.

"She is a spirited young women whose drive and ambition has enabled her to get this far. With the help from professional marketers, I believe her business can go on to achieve great things, not just here in the UK, but across the globe."

The Government-backed Start Up Britain initiative encourages new and existing businesses to develop.

This article was first published on

Posted on June 15, 2011 .