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Stay tray - reusable coffee cup drink trays

Written by Kate Stewart - The Founder and Managing Director of Stay tray about her transition from a busy corporate life to discovering a gap in the eco-friendly market.

Stay tray

Every morning I would wake to my alarm at 4:45 am. I was greeted by pitch darkness. I would rush to the kitchen to make school lunches. Dash to the laundry to put the washing on, make some breakfast, and have a quick shower. A few minutes to get ready, and I was out the door.

If I left by 5:30 am, my commute was an hour and a half. Any time after 5:30, it would be two hours. I would work all day and then battle the traffic home: another hour and a half minimum.

Those days were tough. I barely got to see my kids during the week. I would leave before they were awake. I was only arriving home in time to put them to bed. I was lucky if I got to read them a book each night. I loved where I lived, but the three-hour commute each day was grinding me down.

Over the years, I dreamed of giving away my day job and finding something I could do for myself. I needed something that would fulfil me and support my family at the same time.

Plenty of business ideas have popped into my head over the years—some much better than others. Sometimes an idea would hit me, and I would get super excited. Launching into investigation mode, I would discover that someone was already doing it. If only I could find something for myself.

It was a typical Tuesday morning when it hit me. I had woken at 4:45 am to my alarm. Kids lunches, washing, getting ready and rushing out the door. My commute was unusually quiet. I reached the office in just over an hour. I had put in a solid couple of hours at my desk when my work friend asked me if it was time for a coffee. We grabbed our KeepCups and walked to our regular café nearby.

Stay tray reusable trays

We were getting coffee for the whole team—six in total. I threw our empty cups in a bag, not thinking about the trip back. Six cups, four hands, doesn't work.

When our drinks were ready, the barista said to me, "Would you like a drink tray?". It hit me like a freight train. Here we were, getting coffee in our reusable cups. But we were carrying them back to the office in a single-use, disposable cardboard tray. Like many people, we would reuse the cardboard trays a couple of times. But they are not designed to last, and they bend, tear apart, and lose their shape after two or three uses.

I went home and went into research mode. I discovered there wasn't an excellent reusable option to carry drinks. I realised this was it; if I wanted to change my life, this was my opportunity. It was the best business idea I'd had. No one had already beaten me to it.

The following 12 months were a blur. I learned so much about product design, engineering, and manufacture, all whilst still working.

My Stay trays were ready to hit the market. Up until that point, it was easy to stay in my day job. I would work during the day. Stay tray would fill my nights and weekends. Once I had the first Stay trays off the line. It was time to take a leap of faith.

I left my secure corporate role of 17 years and dived headfirst into Stay tray. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time.

I made a conscious decision I didn't want to manufacture Stay tray overseas, even though it would have been half the price. I wanted to support the incredibly talented people we had right here in Australia. I wanted to make Stay tray from 100% recycled plastic. I wanted to undertake everything within a 60 km radius from my home—no more commuting.

Stay tray now has stockists in 10 countries, and we are expanding to new markets every day. I sell Stay trays online to individuals all over the world. I work from home and spend so much more time with my family. I can drop my kids off at school and take them to after school activities. Lunchtime walks on the beach are a regular occurrence. No more 4:45 am starts.

The last few years have been more work than I ever thought possible. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I encourage everyone to chase their dreams. Reach for your best life. When opportunity comes along, grab it with both hands.

But make sure you are pursuing 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. You will need to sacrifice time away from family in the early days, time away from friends. But it will all be worth it in the end. The freedom of running your own business is fabulous.

There will be a point where you must leave your old work life behind. It is so scary. I remember when I first launched Stay tray all my friends would say that it was so exciting. I wasn't feeling excited at the time. I was terrified and full of self-doubt. It's only now I can look back and appreciate what I have achieved.


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