Linda Ellis, aka Lunch Lady Lou, was one of our first clients, back when Dream & Do was just Tara and a junior designer, holed up on the couch in Tara’s apartment. We had the best time re-branding the Lunch Lady Lou website and comms, including a beautiful photoshoot of Lou in the kitchen working her magic. Lou has been a loyal sponsor for every Cereal Entrepreneurs event we’ve hosted (six in the past 18 months!) and so we thought we’d catch up with her to hear how the business is going since its humble beginnings in 2014.
1. We’ve been lucky to have worked alongside/partnered with you for a number of years now. Take us back to pre-Dream & Do time and how the business has progressed over the years...
In the beginning, it was me feeding my work colleagues with a dream to exit the corporate world. I eventually quit my corporate job at the start of 2014 and delivered lunches around the city, on foot, with a blue and white polka-dot trolley. I was recently approached by Volkswagen to test drive their new Caddy and ended up with my branding on a van! This totally changed my business. Now I work on corporate catering and event specific jobs, I tailor menus for my clients’ needs, and I get to drive the coolest yellow van around town.
2. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about running your own business?
Just one?! Every day there’s a lesson... or a lot of them.
1. Self-care is non-negotiable and if you’re not practising this, nothing else works.
2. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
3. You’ve been a huge partner and advocate for Cereal Entrepreneurs; tell me why you enjoy partnering and collaborating with others?
Lunch Lady Lou has a fairly small delivery area, which means some people miss out on our delicious food each day. The biggest benefit of collaborating on events is reaching new people but also giving event attendees a Lunch Lady Lou experience, when they may not be able to order from us due to their work location.
And, of course, to have the opportunity to open people’s minds that healthy food tastes delicious.
4. Where do you hope to take the business in the next three, five or ten years?
Oh, so many plans! Even after being in business for four years, I really feel like I’m just getting started. In the short term, there are some new care packages being released. Watch this space...
My husband Pete and I are building a farm - Loop Farm. We created this dream over five years ago while we were sitting on a beach in Vietnam eating pineapples. Pete has over ten years experience in Horticulture and Bushland Management, and with my holistic nutrition skills, it’s perfect. It will be kind of like a Lunch Lady Lou retreat, so we’ll host groups to stay and chill out and I’ll feed them.
Many more cooking classes are on the cards too. I had to give these a break for a while, but the fire in my belly is telling me they’re needed again.
5. What’s everyone's favourite lunch option?
Tough question… Seeing as we do a range of breakfast, lunch and raw treats, I’ll just give you some food envy right now.
Brekky - Bacon and rosemary frittata or the super delicious Berry Bircher
Lunch - Almond-Crusted Schnitzel with nutty ‘mayo’
Raw treats - Fully loaded raw Snickers bar or the Bounty bar
6. What’s your favourite lunch option?
Too hard to answer. Everything that is made, I eat too. If I’m not loving it, it’s not on the menu.
Because I’m currently cold, I’m going to say the slow baked maple tamari chicken, with house-made goat cheese ricotta and sweet potato mash.
7. What’s your advice for anyone starting their own business?
Self-care is non-negotiable. Actually, that’s probably just my lesson for life. If you’re not taking care of yourself emotionally, physically and mentally, then what have you got? Oh, and it must be fun, you must love it, because when it gets tough - and it will - you need to have a dream and a vision that you love as an anchor.
8. You have a few great ordering options available (i.e. all delivered Monday, group orders or collect); is this something you’ve always done or integrated recently? Has it made a huge impact on your orders and clients?
Yes, it’s made a huge impact and I enjoy creating these menus so much more. The model changed last year to focus on corporate catering and group lunches. This is the offering I’ve been building up over the last four years. I worked in a job that fed us the worst food in meetings, and they expected so much from us. Your employee’s health and wellbeing is a company's biggest asset. My food connects groups around the boardroom table and provides a talking point - they discuss the colours, or the ingredients, or how they’re going to re-invent what I’ve made for their family. I love that my work has this kind of impact on my clients and their guests.
9. You currently deliver to North Sydney and the CBD... do you have any plans to expand?
Yes and no! I’m not really interested in city domination at this stage but for our catering jobs, Lunch Lady Lou will go anywhere. Plus there’s always the farm, coming soon!