Posts tagged #profile

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 profiled by Scottish Development International

Safetray Products is a product design company with unique products applicable to the hospitality industry.

Their main product is a stackable service tray – the Safetray - which does not topple over, thus preventing the cost, danger and embarrassment of toppled trays.

Voted Most Innovative Product, 2011 – Bunzl Lockhart
Start Up Britain Nationwide Winner, 2011
Brands of the Future Finalist 2010, International Marketing Festival

“Having used the Safetray, I can see that it decreases the risk of toppled drinks significantly. Safetray is an excellent example of innovation within the hospitality industry.” (Alex Cotterill, Director, Park Hyatt Sydney)

“It is important for us to give staff confidence and style in service. Using Safetrays throughout the venue means we can ensure our standard of service is consistent with each and every member of staff.” (Lucy Herlihy, General Manager, The Greene Room)


Posted on February 17, 2012 .

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 .