Deborah Tarrant
Business Journalist

Deborah Tarrant is a Sydney-based business writer who specialises in the nexus where people meet business

Deborah Tarrant
Business Journalist

Deborah Tarrant is a Sydney-based business writer who specialises in the nexus where people meet business

The need for flexibility and creativity in her life as a young mother inspired Kate Weiss to lead a wellbeing business that also gave something back to society.

For Kate Weiss, winner of the National Business Owner title at the 2014 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, the urge to start a home-based business was spurred on by an extraordinary life challenge.

Her first born, Amy, was diagnosed with Rubinstein Taybi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder at the age of five. Kate and her husband Tal knew they had to rethink every aspect of their lives.

From then on Kate, who worked in a high-powered marketing role with an international IT firm, needed flexibility to be there for Amy. For the future, she needed to build a business to sustain Amy financially throughout her life. 

Kate Weiss, Table Of Plenty

So the young mother launched Table of Plenty in 2006 from the back room of the family’s home in Surrey Hills, Melbourne. Inspired by the spice markets in the Middle East from her earlier travels, Kate created a range of tasty, healthy dukkahs, dry mixes of nuts, seeds and spices to be used in dips, on crusts or sprinkled on salads.

These were the first products that went on to land Table of Plenty contracts with two of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths. Today, with its growing export market and product range including mueslis and snacks, the business turns over a very healthy $10 million.

“I wanted to speak to mothers and families. They are the core and pillar of our society and I wanted to see decent, honest food out there that is convenient and healthy,” says Kate, who works full-time in the business now based in Melbourne’s Cheltenham, along with Tal and an administrative team of five.

Table of Plenty has grown ‘by trial and error’. As a small supplier in a fast-moving environment, it has tackled every challenge head on. “Learning on the job can be quite expensive,” remarks Kate, who leads the business vision, values and marketing, while Tal tackles the day-to-day operations. They share responsibilities for sales and finance.

As well as providing nutritional goodness in her products and creating convenience foods for busy mums, Kate wanted to lead a business that gave back to society in other ways.

Kate engages people with a disability to work on the assembly and packaging of Table of Plenty’s products. “I’m a strong believer in making sure business gives back to the community and is not just self-serving,” she says. “It’s a major motivation and part of that is making sure that people with a disability in Australia have better options available to them.”

I think being a good leader starts with you.

- Kate Weiss, Table of Plenty

The business has also given the family (Amy, 14, and Ethan, eight) some better options. A work-life balance is just one benefit, with Kate a stickler for attending all the key events in her children’s lives and making it home to meet the school bus by 4pm. “There is no after school care for kids with special needs,” she points out.

Such flexibility also extends to the staff. “Part of my leadership style involves promoting self-responsibility. I have an open door policy and I want people to tell me how to make work ‘work’ for them,” she says.

Kate drives the business with strong core values of integrity and authenticity. “When I started Table of Plenty I wanted to make sure that whatever I was doing with my life would feed me. It needed to be something I loved where I could be creative. I felt I needed that creative spark to have the energy to look after Amy, because it can be quite demanding,” she says candidly.

“I think being a good leader starts with you. Make sure you’re at your best and that includes looking after your health and wellbeing,” Kate adds. A must for her is an hour-long, early morning walk.

“At the same time, you should be able to be vulnerable when you’re not feeling at your best and be open and authentic about it.”

Kate’s leadership tips

  1. Know yourself. Leadership has to come from the inside out. The journey for me was finding out what was important and what I wanted to stand for. I then created my life around that.
  2. Skill up. I’m very much a proponent of personal development and continual learning. I have a heap of audio-books that I’ve listened to over the years, usually while I’m in the car.
  3. Give back. What I like to think I bring to business (and I think many other women do as well) is more of a holistic view of life. It’s more of a multiplicity rather than a singularity. I truly believe all businesses should be giving back to society.
  4. Value effort. I like my staff to have a sense of their input and a value in what they’re doing. Everyone needs a feeling that they are contributing.
  5. Balance work and home life. Being at home and being a parent is very different to being in business. It doesn’t marry well. The only way around it is to get help and have enough support at home.

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