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September 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 9




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Safe, Fun Travel Drives Star Kids

Snack & Play Travel Tray Simplifies Commuting with Kids


“If I had done a business plan, I would have asked for more funds.” Alyson Probst, Star Kids Products
After a bumpy start, Alyson Probst and Starr Products LLC dba Star Kids Products of Denver is paving the road to success, one pothole at a time. Star Kids’ Snack & Play Travel Tray sales for 2007 were about $175,000, she told TDmonthly Magazine. And this year, they’re projected to more than double, hitting $400,000.

TIRED MOM IMAGINES EASIER TRIPS

Alyson had the idea for the Snack & Play Travel Tray when she was pregnant with her second child. Tired of the acrobatics of reaching around to the back seat to calm her 2-1/2-year-old son or pulling the vehicle over to pick up his toys or food, she went in search of the product she had in mind: a portable activity tray.

All she could find was a hard plastic tray. Worried about the safety of the device, she began asking questions at her local children’s retailer, The Right Start. That’s when the design for her tray began to take form.

She only shared the idea with relatives and a couple of friends. “I was keeping it close until I could file for a patent,” Alyson told TDmonthly.

FIRST DESIGN AND FUNDING FALL SHORT


Alyson asked friends and family to invest, and tapped into her savings and used credit cards to develop the prototype and start the company. Unfortunately, she still didn’t raise enough money.

“If I had done a business plan, I would have asked for more funds; hence the reason I am in a lot of debt — the costs of starting up the business and manufacturing overseas,” she said.

Later, Alyson obtained additional funding when she won a $7,000 first prize in the 2006 Whirlpool Brand Mother of Invention Grant.

“I heard about the Whirlpool contest on a Thursday and the deadline was Sunday. So I submitted everything online and was thrilled when I won.”

The Travel Tray has also won other awards, including an iParenting Media Award.

The original Snack & Play Travel Tray was launched in 2003 after more than a year in development, but Alyson decided to pull that version after high return rates. She ended up scrapping the inventory and materials and putting aside the idea for a while.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

It wasn’t until early 2005, after going through a divorce and losing her father, who had been a “big believer in [her] idea,” that she went back to the drawing board with her prototype company, Denver-based Colorado Contract Cut & Sew.

With some additional advice from friends and drawing on her own experience, a 2” rim was added, and the tray itself was curved to fit around the child. The Travel Tray relaunched in December 2005. Now, Alyson said, “the return rates are almost nonexistent.”

ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

“[The Travel Tray] works with many different venues — car seats, strollers, booster seats, etc.,” she said. “It is safe, yet the kids can do anything on it.” The tray surface is sturdy enough for playing with toys, coloring or holding snacks, yet its foam core is collapsible and safe during sudden stops or impacts. It was recently crash tested by a federally recognized lab with “no concerns noted.”

Alyson hopes to build on her success and grow her business. She has some ideas for new products and is open to co-marketing other new items or investing in other ideas.

See the Snack & Play Travel Tray below:






Snack & Play Travel Tray is made of soft, durable, 100-percent nylon. It buckles around the child and fits most car and booster seats. Snack & Play Travel Tray has two side pockets for storage and easy reach, plus a 2" wall to stop toys, food and other items from falling off the tray. It has won a number of awards, including iParenting Media and NAPPA awards.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18272      (added 4/7/2008)
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Sheri JobeWriter's Bio: Sheri Jobe has been a journalist for more than 15 years. As a freelancer, she splits her time mostly between the Midwest and New England. She has been published in business journals and regional newspapers. She also writes fiction. Read more articles by this author

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