Eat My Lunch: Food for thought
November 15, 2018
Words: Marie Knowles/
Photos: Tom Powell
Social entrepreneur Lisa King is on a mission to help kids in need. Her lunch-delivery business is based on the buy one, give one concept, where for every lunch someone buys, she gives a lunch to a child at one of the 83 schools in New Zealand signed up to the program. On the third birthday of Eat My Lunch, we caught up with her to find out how far she’s come, and how others can follow in her footsteps to make meaningful change.
I borrowed it from TOMS shoes. For every pair of shoes someone buys, they donate a pair to kids in developing countries. I thought that was such an easy and simple idea. We eat lunch every day and we spend a lot of money buying lunch, so why not buy a lunch that also benefits someone else. Once I came up with the idea and named it Eat My Lunch, it all happened pretty quickly. Seven months later we launched the business.It’s more than just having an idea, right? It’s making it happen.
Yeah, in the past I’ve had other ideas, but the reality of life can get in the way, and the fears of, what if it doesn’t work, and losing income. One of my favorite quotes is, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” There were times at the start when I thought, “It’s not going to work, it’s going to be too hard.” You just need to take that leap of faith. It takes courage and bravery to step away from what you know, from what you’re comfortable with, to do something that’s completely unknown. But that’s also the exciting part. You never know what’s going to happen.
“The first day, we were making 50 lunches for kids. In the third week it was up to 400 a day. By our 12th week we’d hit our three-year forecast. I was blown away by the momentum that it got.”
We started in my home kitchen with just a handful of people, and one car to pick up the fruit and vegetables and then do all the deliveries. The first day, we were making 50 lunches (50 for customers and giving away 50 to kids) and had one school. In the second week it jumped to 200 kids when we brought on more schools. In the third week it was up to 400 a day. By our 12th week we’d hit our three-year forecast. I was blown away by the momentum that it got. That was just in my home. Now we’re in a proper commercial kitchen, with a kitchen down in Wellington too, and we’re giving away 2,750 lunches a day. We have 45 people working for us now, and a fleet of couriers for the deliveries. Managing that many people is a challenge. But even though we’ve grown so quickly, the core of who we are has always stayed the same. Starting with that clear purpose has always kept us on track.What is that purpose?
We want to make sure that no child in New Zealand goes to school hungry. Food is not a privilege. Every child should have access to healthy, nutritious food every day. We estimate that thousands go to school in New Zealand every day without food. As a Mum, as a human being, I just find that appalling and unacceptable. We’re part way there in terms of solving the problem. But we still have a long way to go.
“I’m always thinking, 'How do we generate more lunches for these kids and how do we reach the kids outside the areas we’re currently in?' I really want to shake things up.”
“It takes courage and bravery to step away from what you know, from what you’re comfortable with, to do something that’s completely unknown. But that’s also the exciting part. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Courage. Believing in yourself and going ahead and doing it even when other people tell you it’s not going to work. Resilience. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, like any business. And purpose. Having this greater sense of purpose beyond making money is the core strength I draw on. It’s hard work making thousands of lunches a day and managing a big team and the growth and all the challenges of running a business. But there is no way that I’m going to let 2,500 kids down.In the testing times, how do you stay motivated and positive?
Having a really good purpose and reason for doing what we do gets me out of bed every day. This is the hardest job I have ever had – and I’ve worked for some big corporates, done some big hours – having to get up every morning at 4 o’clock, run a business and face all the challenges as founder and owner. But I’ve never woken up thinking, I don’t want to do this. Because there is that higher purpose and mission. We’re now helping kids in 83 schools every day now. We get amazing feedback from the kids and the teachers - I haven’t got that level of fulfilment and satisfaction from any other job.
One of the values around Eat My Lunch is being innovative and different, so we’re always thinking, “What is next, how do we disrupt the market?” There’s expansion plans, everyone has asked us to go to the South Island. That seems like a great logical next step. I’m always thinking, “How do we generate more lunches for these kids and how do we reach the kids outside the areas we’re currently in?” I really want to shake things up.Lastly, what is one piece of advice that you could impart?
Have the courage to give things a go. Actions speak louder than words and that’s one of the core values at Eat My Lunch. We didn’t want to sit around talking about an issue. We actually got out there and did something about it. Take action - that’s the only way you can actually make a change.