It holds coupons for the deal conscious shopper. It holds snacks for the mom shopping with her kids. It is the OnTray.

This is not our first look at Laura Hamrick, the founder of this innovative shopping tool. Lisa Di Clemente first interviewed Laura about her invention and business for us in December of 2007. As you can imagine, some things have changed since that initial interview. I recently caught up with Laura for a second look into the OnTray and to learn a little more about her product.

How has your business grown or changed since we last interviewed you in December of 2007?

Well, currently OnTray is available in over 250 stores in the US, Canada, Australia and just recently the UK! I’d say that’s probably the biggest way business has grown since we last spoke in 2007. Things continue to change and we get requests for wholesale information weekly!

What are some of the uses that your OnTray has?

My intention was for OnTray to be a snack holder for children while their parent or caregiver shops, but I have heard from people all over the world how they use OnTray. Some use OnTray to carry their coupons and shopping list and some even use OnTray to old their extra small accessories for scrapbooking. OnTray can fit on some tables and scrap bookers just snap it onto the table they’re working from. Voila!

How many colors does it come in?

OnTray comes in four colors; Going Green, True Blue, Mellow Yellow and Pretty in Pink.

Do you have any plans to possibly expand on your line of OnTray’s to include different styles or colors in the future?

I think about that often. Although OnTray is profitable now, I’m still just shy to pull the trigger on new projects. I’m enjoying having money to pay the bills. The money and time involved in creating a product and bringing it to market is a lot. I’m not sure I want to go into debt again just yet.

What goals do you hope to accomplish over the next year or two?

My goals are simple. I want to continue to grow and have OnTray available in as many retail outlets as possible and I would like to start paying me and my husband back our initial investment. Although OnTray is profitable, I still have not paid myself anything. I continue to throw the money right back into manufacturing, advertising and sales efforts.

Did you ever imagine that you would become an inventor and manage a successful business like this?

My first reaction to that question is no, but then I think back to when I was little. In my parent’s basement, I ran a small business. Of course it was only my parents and friends who would buy items from my store, but it was a store nonetheless! So yes, I think I did imagine I would one day run a small business. I never dreamed I’d be an inventor, however!

What is the best part of running your own business?

The best part for me is being home with my children. They need me and I am there. They want to go to the zoo, I can take them. I create my own schedule and for me, that is perfect!

What is the hardest?

Being home with my children! J No, it’s just difficult sometimes. If I need to get an order out ASAP, but the boys want to go to the pool NOW, that can become stressful. They’re 8, 5 & 4. I think sometimes they think I’m in on my computer talking to my best friend. They don’t understand completely how mommy runs her business.

Do you have any tips or tricks that have helped you successfully balance your business with family?

That is one area where I am still trying to figure it all out. It’s tricky. I’m one of those people that work best without a schedule. Some people might tell you that you must pick 2-3 hours a day where that’s all you work. Other people, like me, would say let the day determine when and how you work. I believe that my family and I have benefited from that philosophy. OnTray would take over my life if I’d let it. I’m a wife and mom first. I need to remember that!

Do you have any advice that you’d like to share with other women who would like to take their own inventions and create a business with it?

My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with people who know more than you. Find a mentor. Read a book about how other women have invented products and taken them to market. My favorite book is The Mom Inventor’s Handbook by Tamara Monosoff. I think I dog-eared every page of that book! You don’t even know what you don’t know yet, so surround yourself with people who “have been there done that”. People really are welling to help.

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