With seven children between them (all of “varying sizes, appetites and degrees of fussiness”), Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood know a thing or two about “pleasing a tricky crowd” — as they say. Wanting to bring their love of homemade food to others, the pair joined forces in 2007 to create what is now The Dinner Ladies, a meal delivery service that takes all the hardwork out of weekly meals (no more planning, shopping, preparing and cooking).
With an emphasis on quality and flavour, The Dinner Ladies create meals for all kinds of families and tastes, delivering home-cooked dinners straight from their kitchen to yours. Below, Sophie and Katherine share some behind-the-scenes of the business.
“We’d both always been mad home cooks but it wasn’t till a friend said that she’d pay us if we brought her dinner that it occurred to us we could make money out of our hobby! She was semi-joking but very stressed about returning to work with two small children and wondering how she’d manage her life. We figured that she couldn’t be the only time-poor person who cared about feeding herself and her family with great, home-made food, so we bought two camp stoves and cooking pots and away we went!!”“We could not believe it when we heard that a very prominent hospitality family (who shall be nameless) used the Dinner Ladies for their family Christmas dinner – and that it was a complete triumph! Knowing that they had endless choice and pretty limitless funds, and yet still chose to eat our food on such a special day made us very proud of what we’d achieved.”“To be honest, there’s nothing we know now that we wished we’d known then – every mistake that we corrected, every laborious process that we later found a shortcut for, every piece of technology or equipment that was later superceded, all were incredibly informative learning stages along the way. We could have maybe arrived where we are more quickly but without the depth of understanding of our business and customers we gained because of that longer journey.”“Because women can be their own least vocal advocates. We tend to enter the business arena more quietly and often downplay our achievements – we should seek each other out and loudly celebrate those achievements, so that we’re all more visible to the next rung of budding entrepreneurs.”“Make sure you have a great product that people want or need and that you truly look after your customer and give those two things 100 percent, always. Never take your eye off them. The rest will come in time but if you’ve got an awesome product and customer service, you’ve already got a good business.”