It was a business inspired by the passion of its founder and the quest to provide a new sense of meaning and purpose in challenging times.
Kate Weiss has successfully turned her creative energies and drive into building what is now a multi-million dollar enterprise grounded on healthy living and quality food.
Her business, Table of Plenty, has 18 products including a range of mueslis, dukkahs and spices that can be found on the supermarket shelves in Woolies and Coles.
The road to success began amid trying personal times for Kate, a driven and positive woman who formerly worked for a high-powered US-based IT firm managing an Australian and New Zealand sales team.
But, at age 28, Kate’s life was turned upside down when her first daughter, Amy, was born with a rare genetic disease known as Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.
This posed new challenges, with Kate telling Dynamic Business it was initially difficult raising a child who was not developing normally.
“You don’t get that smile,” she says. “She is verbal but very limited in terms of what she can talk about… The intellectually disability is the main thing. “
Amy turns 14 next week, but still needs care from day-to-day.
However, Amy has had a major influence on Table of Plenty, with Kate partnering with not-for-profit disability services provider, Scope, to ensure her business helps and gives economic empowerment to those living with disabilities.
“They help us with the packing of our products,” Kate says. “The motivation of making money has never been enough… The vision of what we wanted was to build a business that would also support people with disabilities in terms of work.”
Several months after having Amy, Kate returned to work but quickly realised this was not a viable option.
“When Amy was born, I went back to work in IT for a brief period. But because of the nature of what she was going through and the difficulty of having a child that doesn’t respond very much… I just couldn’t give what I needed to the work or what I needed to Amy.”
“I ended up at home when I think Amy was a year old. It was quite a depressing time. I was on a career path.”
Kate said she began searching for something that could “give me a spark back” and began experimenting with spices. She was influenced by her experiences in having travelled overseas and coming into contact with a range of different cultures. Kate speaks numerous languages and is a well trained musician.
Her first big break came in 2006 when she made a phone call to Woolies.
“It was timing. I literally picked up the phone and I got through to the assistant of the buyer and said we are a small company and we have been making this beautiful dukkah in farmers’ market jars and we’d love to send you some up.”
“We sent our Dukkha up – it just flawed them.”
It was at this point when the business started to grow and the Table of Plenty brand was established. Kate’s husband left his own job to start working at the company fulltime and the business partnered with disability services provider, Scope, in Victoria. Kate also gave birth to a son, Ethan.
Kate says she has been driven by a strong sense of purpose and a desire to “go the extra mile” and ensure her products have integrity. Innovation and teamwork have also been vital.
“I think one of the key things we’ve done, and this was pre-social media, we’ve been close to our customers,” she says.
Customer feedback has helped Table of Plenty successfully diversify and branch into new product ranges. However, basic research has also helped with Kate conducting basic checks to see what is on the supermarket shelves.
“We do a lot of R&D to make sure (our products) have integrity,” she says. “We would do many, many trials. For a muesli blend I might make ten versions before I decide this is the way it’s going to be.”
“We might try ten different flavours and only going ahead with two. We have a very big pipeline of ideas and most of them never make it.”
In terms of popularity, Kate says her rice cakes and mueslis are running “neck and neck” with the ultimate goal for Table of Plenty to become a household Australian name.
“I think my overarching goal would really to be established as a brand in the minds of Australian people as a leader in health, in leading a healthy lifestyle.”
“My motivation is really to inspire people from surviving to thriving.”
Kate has also been recognised for her efforts and is one of four Telstra Women’s Business Award 2014 finalists, with the awards to be announced on October 21.
“I am proud to be part of such an alumni and to inspire other women in their own endeavours,” Kate says.