‘I always tell the story about when my daughter was two and I'd have coffee in a disposal cup and she'd have her drink in a sippy cup, and I thought, “would it be okay for her to drink out of a disposable cup? No way”.’ This was when life changed course for Abigail Forsyth, co-founder and Managing Director of KeepCup.
Abigail was born in Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Australia when she was three. She grew up in Melbourne and after a successful career as a solicitor established a chain of cafes across the city with her brother, Jamie. It was while working in the café business that Abigail realised things needed to change. ‘Over time, I just saw the waste that we went through as a business and the rise and rise of disposable cups, and thought this is wrong and there must be a better way’, Abigail says.
Abigail and her brother set to work with Australian design professionals to develop the world’s first barista-standard reusable coffee cup. Passionate about sustainability, Abigail recognised that people could make small changes that have big impact. ‘This is about behaviour change, and that’s still something I find really exciting’, she says. ‘You don't have to be a greenie to have a KeepCup, you just have to love your coffee and want to do a bit better. I think that's been part of our success.’
It’s been fantastic to have the support of the Australian Government to expand our business in this way.
For the past seven years, KeepCup has received Australian Government Export Market Development Grants (EMDG), which provide financial assistance for small and medium sized export-ready businesses. The scheme, administered by Austrade, has helped Abigail take her company to trade shows around the globe and to tailor marketing efforts for a range of export markets. ‘EMDG has been invaluable to us. It recognises that getting into new markets requires sustained effort over a long period of time. It’s been really fantastic to have the support of the Australian Government to expand our business in this way’, Abigail says.
Now, Abigail’s company has offices in Los Angeles and London and KeepCups are sold in over 65 countries. This brings benefits to Australia. Her company directly employs 45 people locally, and many more indirectly through manufacturing and product design. ‘We employ a lot of Australians and we manufacture here. So our design is here, our tooling is here, the branding is here, the pick and pack is here. We manufacture all our packaging locally.’
Abigail is still amazed at KeepCup’s success. ‘We really started off with our eye on just the Australian market, and that was really just about sustainability. I thought it was something I'd be able to do from home, looking after the kids when they were little, and it just took off. It suited the way Australians drink their coffee, and now we have taken it all over the world’, Abigail says. ‘I get enormous satisfaction from seeing this behaviour change.’