IN this week’s SME Focus we hear from a woman who harnessed her creativity to develop an innovative accessory for mobile devices and an aid for waiters.


Alison Grieve.



What is your business called?


Where is it based?

Edinburgh but most of our work is international.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We design and manufacture ergonomic handholds for iPads, tablets and any other handheld devices. We also produce Safetrays, a more mature product range, which are non-toppling trays for the foodservice industry.

To whom does it sell?

We sell the G-Holds to a real mixture of tablet users. Our biggest customer is the Home Shopping Network in the USA, but we're now on the Scottish Government Framework for schools across Scotland. We also sell to global banks, healthcare services and thousands of other users who need their tablets in everyday life and work. Our celebrity users include Suzi Perry.

What is its turnover?

We have forecast £400,000 this year and we're on track to be ahead of that target.

How many employees?

Four full time staff currently but with another seven 'piece work' assemblers.

When was it formed?

I started with Safetray in 2010.

Why did you take the plunge?

I always wanted to be an inventor and, after a few years working in service-based industries, I wanted to do something product-based, with tools, manufacturing and patents.

While running an event for an international group of lawyers I witnessed a spectacular accident involving a tray laden with champagne glasses toppling over. That's what sparked the idea for Safetray.

I made very basic cardboard prototypes and drew sketches on paper and an old version of Microsoft Paint. I gave equity to product designers to create computer aided design models and the first prototypes. Once we'd conducted focus groups and shown the prototypes to the hospitality industry at a forum, we were confident enough to order the mould tool for producing our initial batch. After achieving sales in both the UK and the US, we raised our first investment round at the end of 2011. The product gained significant momentum internationally and we agreed a major licensing deal for North America, in addition to distribution across twenty countries.

We'd always intended to broaden the use of our handholding technology across other markets so, when tablet sales surged in 2012, I developed the G-Hold, a rotating, slide-flat, ergonomic, universal handhold. Launching G-Hold was been the best decision we ever made.

I handmade the first G-Hold prototypes with layer upon layer of thin sheets of plastic, cut to shape with a pair of scissors and glued together. It was these prototypes that we took to our first booth at the CES (trade) show in Vegas in 2014 and we used them to shoot our video for a Kickstarter campaign. Once we were happy with the design, we had a few versions 3D printed before having a tool made. We've now sold almost three times the volume of G-Holds than Safetrays, proving that the decision to focus on mobile technology was the right call to make.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I ran an events business.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

G-Hold was funded with a mixture of Kickstarter backers and some follow-on investment from our existing investors. There are fantastic research and development grants available for tech companies which we tapped into and we also used revenue that came through from sales and licensing of Safetray. Winning a Scottish Edge award was a great boost, too. We're now self-financing on G-Hold sales alone.

What was your biggest break?

There have been a few this year, but getting onto HSN has been fantastic for many reasons. Now we're producing 10,000 G-Holds per month to supply demand from there and our other customers.

What was your worst moment?

2013 was the year that made me superstitious, it was so tough! But making the right decisions, having supportive friends and family, and a great right-hand woman in the team really helped me to pull through it all.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

There is no ceiling on ambition in your own business. I also love the work we do internationally and the extraordinary people I've had the privilege of meeting. Last but not least is the satisfaction of creating jobs.

What do you least enjoy?

It can be a lonely place, being responsible for all the tough decisions. It's vital to have good mentors to bounce off or it can become overwhelming.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

Our mission has always been to change the way the world holds things. We pleased with what we have achieved in foodservice and mobile technology, and we're excited about what we have planned next.

What are your five top priorities?


Ensuring the right people are in the right jobs at the right time.

Retaining the top quality control of our UK manufacturing.

Becoming the number one tablet accessory in education.

Building the value of our patents through protection and sales.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

I'm meeting with the Deputy First Minister to discuss an idea I have for an import/export project for twelve year olds. We have organisations in California who would like to get involved. Creating a culture of international entrepreneurship is something I believe could and should begin at school.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

I learned to be grateful for what I have when things go wrong, and grateful for what I have when things go right. I also learned that the greatest advantage in business is to be underestimated.

I always get a lot out of meeting business people who have achieved significant success.

I felt honoured to have had the opportunity to meet the dragons when I appeared on the Dragons Den television show recently. You're in the Den for over two hours so there's a lot which has to be cut for the final airing. Many of the comments I felt were best and most useful didn't make it onto the show but the overall result has been a fantastic boost to our online sales and exposure to many people we would not have otherwise reached. I've also been so touched by the many messages of support following the show.

How do you relax?

I love anytime I spend just hanging out with my twin boys and my partner Denny. A good walk up a Munro is also fantastic to clear the mind. And music is the very best of medicines for the soul.