You buy your lunch, you buy one for a Kiwi kid in need. It’s a simple idea that has made Eat My Lunch one of the fastest growing businesses around. SBN grabs a snack with Founder Lisa King as she prepares to speak for the upcoming Good Food Forum.
The story behind the sandwich
My partner and I used to work for big corporates, marketing high energy, unhealthy foods. But it was giving us a guilty conscience because we weren’t feeding our own children any of the foods we were marketing. At the same time there was a lot of talk about child poverty in New Zealand, yet no one was really doing anything about it. So we thought it would be a good idea to put our commercial and marketing skills to something that would be meaningful.
We wanted to create a social movement that everyone could get involved in, every day.
People these days are time poor, so healthy food comes at a cost: it’s hard to prepare food quickly in the morning if you’re a busy family. At the same time people also want to give back, so we connected the dots and came up with the idea of ‘buy one give one’ lunches.
We started Eat My Lunch in June 2015 out of our home, thinking we’d make 50 lunches a day. I was still working for a big corporate at the time, on leave, but after week two we realised it was getting well ahead of our expectations and I had to resign.
We’ve now been going nine months and have made 250,000 lunches, of which about 135,000 have gone to kids in 32 mainly decile 1 and 2 schools in Auckland.
How do you keep up with the appetite for what you do?
It was hard not having the capital behind us for a start-up. We both left our corporate jobs and used our own savings.
We initially planned to make a maximum of 200 lunches a day, but by week two we were making 400 and by week four 700. The growth was very steep and we had to add trestle tables to our lounge and kitchen.
We identified early on that we needed to move to a commercial kitchen, and limited capital was a big challenge but we’ve had lots of support. A PledgeMe campaign raised $130,000 and lots of corporates have offered us support even though we’re not a charity.
How do you tell your story?
Wrapped up in what we do are many, many messages but bringing it back to the key driver, ‘buy one give one’, is the thing that really attracts people. We keep the message really simple. Having a purpose at the heart of everything we do is really important to attract customers and supporters.
We’ve leveraged the best of a charity in terms of having a big cause, but we’re a business, so transparency and openness is really important. We opened up our house to Auckland to volunteers and have had about 900 people coming in every morning to make lunches for the kids!
Having a social mission has got everyone on board. It’s intrinsically linked to the business because the more we sell, the more good we can do. Having this purpose at the heart of our business is how we are going to grow.
What’s for dessert?
The future for us is building on our growth and momentum. Two weeks ago we launched in Hamilton and we’re in the process of setting up a small operation in Wellington.
It’s a concept that has captured New Zealanders’ hearts and imaginations and we’ve had requests from all over the country to make Eat My Lunch available. We’re also thinking about potentially extending the idea overseas since the model can apply in any big city.
Eat My Lunch won the Communicating Sustainability Award at the 2015 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.