Q&A: Healthy food for families with a purpose

This week we chat to Kate Weiss, founder of Table of Plenty. When her daughter, Amy, was born prematurely with a then-undiagnosed genetic syndrome, Kate determined to carve out a career for herself that enabled her to care for Amy while nurturing her own inner-foodie and creativity. Her vision was to create food products that would suit other busy mothers and families who want to put healthy, good-quality food on the table.

ISB: What was the motivation behind you setting up Table of Plenty?

KW: We had three motivations when we started Table of Plenty.

1. We found ourselves as carers and parents to a daughter with a disability and rare genetic disorder. The medical profession told us she would never be independent and that we need to plan not only for us, but for her, even after we will be long gone. We thought that business would be the best vehicle at the time to be able to secure her future.

2. We wanted to live an integrated life. We didn’t want to have a job that separated us from our passions, value and beliefs. Table of Plenty was created to reflect our “life of plenty” wholistic life philosophy.

3. To work for something greater than ourselves. For us one of the expressions was to support people with disability and going into business was a good vehicle to do this.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?

KW: It was really tough at the beginning. We found ourselves with a disabled daughter and with no family support around us.  The stress was unbelievable at times and we had no guarantee of success. We put our house and our lives on the line.

We had never worked in the food industry and had to face all the unknowns and uncertainty and to work it out as we went along. It took us a while to work out what the game really was and how the industry worked and how we could navigate and succeed as a business, a couple and a family.

ISB: How do you ensure your products stand out in such a competitive industry as the food business?

KW: We care passionately about our customers and delivering a great product. To meet those requirements, the food we make must be of a standard I would feed to my own family and I make sure they are damn good products fulfilling all the fundamentals of the brand, like our four pillars of plenty:

Plenty of Heart: At our core is the well-being of our customers and creation of opportunity for all.  It’s our social cause that nourishes our souls.

Plenty of Nutrition: Our food is made from nutritious and natural ingredients that nourish our bodies.

Plenty of Ease: We believe good food should be accessible, affordable and convenient for all, easing the way to accessible food for everyone.

Plenty of Taste: We make food with delicious, bold flavours and ingredients, nourishing our senses.

ISB: Please tell us how you have gone about supporting people with disability through the business.

KW: We established a manufacturing line that incorporated people with a disability together with Scope back in 2006. This was the beginning of our dukkah range. Since then we have continued trying to involve people with a disability in packing our products.

We are also involved in supporting organisations that provide programs for children in the disability community such as Flying Fox and Friendship Circle where I am on the board.

ISB: What is your vision for Table of Plenty in the next couple of years?

KW: We still feel very young and there is a lot ahead of us that we can do and want to do. There is lots to be done to continue to fulfil our mission to bring healthier alternatives to the Australian people. Our philosophy is not one of cutting out whole food groups, but providing healthy, tasty and better-for-you options. We have many new products in the pipeline. We also see market opportunities in other channels and in increasing our distribution and customer base beyond Australia.

ISB: And, finally, what is the #1 piece of advice you’d share with those looking to turn a passion and/or ideal into a viable enterprise?

KW: Starting your own business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Keep your reason why close, revisit it every day and make sure it resonates with you.