Hillary Graves is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Little Dish, the first and only brand to launch a range fresh, natural food for toddlers and young children made with 100% natural ingredients and no added salt or sugar. Replicating what parents make at home in their own kitchen, Little Dish recipes are created with a paediatric dietician, and every dish is taste tested by kids.
Little Dish has been recognised with numerous prestigious awards including the Marketing Society’s ‘Best New Brand’ for SME and a short list for the IGD Outstanding Small Business. This year the company was voted by Glamour magazine as one of the top 50 places to work in the UK and also won the Bronze Practical Parenting Award for its meals range.
Hillary is married to Dean and they have two children; Monty who will soon be turning 3 and Ridley who is 7 months. Hillary is originally from the States and her area of expertise is start-up businesses and marketing to women. Before Little Dish she was Managing Director of iVillage UK; a women’s website, and before that, she was Vice-President of Marketing at iVillage.com; the no. 1 website for women in the US. She moved to the UK in 2000 and when she met Dean she decided to stay in London…
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always wanted to run my own business, and in 2004 I met my business partner John Stapleton, who was on the founding team of the New Covent Garden Soup Company. We’re both passionate about healthy food for kids and wanted to provide a truly healthy alternative to home cooking that parents could feel good about feeding their children. As a result, Little Dish was born in April 2006 offering busy mums something that hadn’t been available before – a fresh, nutritionally balanced meal that allowed them to feel a little less guilty when they didn’t have time to cook.
What has been your biggest challenge?
As a start-up we have faced many challenges in different aspects of the business, but two of the most significant have been finding the right suppliers and getting listings in the major multiples. My background is in marketing so I’ve focused on sales and marketing. John used to work at New Covent Garden Soup so he’s been in charge of the operational side of business, drawing on his wide experience of working with fresh food with no additives or preservatives. Our clear roles have helped the rest of the team work really well together to overcome our challenges, as have our investors who wholeheartedly support the brand and want to see it grow and reach as many kids as possible.
What have you learnt about yourself since you became a business owner?
It’s definitely challenging and a lot of hard work. As a working mother of 2 young children, you have to be extremely organised (and have a sense of humour as nothing ever goes exactly to plan!) I work 4 days a week and am also fortunate enough to be able to work from home some days, so that I can spend time with my two little ones. The key is getting a good team in place; whatever you do or make, your business is all about its people and we’re really lucky to have a brilliant team helping us fulfill our vision of feeding fresh, healthy food to as many kids as possible.
What has been the best thing about being your own boss?
Being able to develop and launch the only fresh range of children’s meals with no added salt or sugar! The 11th April 2006 was the first day of trading for Little Dish; our meals launched on Ocado and sold out in hours. The range continued to sell out every day for a week despite increased orders. The buyer said ‘he never expected to sell so many so quickly’. Achieving distribution in the major multiples including Tesco and Waitrose has driven huge growth for the business. The fact that Little Dish is feeding 50,000 children a week and supporting a healthy lifestyle is incredibly rewarding.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring ‘mumpreneur’ what would it be?
If you have a good idea you can always realise it. Stay focused and make sure you have a good support system around you through family, friends and co-workers.
Little Dish is available to but in Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado.com. For more details visit www.littledish.co.uk