I receive hundreds of email each day, many of them press releases and many which I simply “delete”. However, sometimes one comes through which really piques my interest. One such one was about the results of the 2017 AusMumpreneur Awards and the winner of the Women’s business School Award, Rachel Golding, from Dinner on the Table.
This is not only a business, but a great philanthropic venture, so I took time out to interview Rachel. You can read about her here. She has also kindly supplied us with a recipe (which can be found in my newsletter) for her most popular dish, chicken and Leek Pie, which I have tested first. It’s fabulous; lots of generous chicken and leek filling and really crisp home-made pastry.
I love language and words and while I’m a stickler for correct grammar and spelling, do enjoy clever new words. One such word is “mumpreneur””. I also love what it describes – enterprising Mums who create their own businesses around the constraints of family life, which are often unique. Home-based businesses are one of the fastest growing business sectors in Australia, and mothers of young children are up to three times more likely to be self-employed than other working women, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Go girls!
Rachel Golding from Dinner on the Table
I recently met one such Mumpreneur and a very successful one at that, Rachel Golding from Dinner on the Table. Founded in 2014, Dinner on the Table aims to provide customers with something they are lacking in their daily lives; time. By providing ready-made dinners to clients, the small business helps to remove the stress from everyday life and helps to put dinner on the table. She has just won the Women’s Business School Award at the 2017 AusMumpreneur Awards in Sydney. Rachel calls herself a “recovering academic”, a former postdoctoral fellow, researching family and disability.
How did it all begin?
Rachel always loved cooking and around three years ago a friend asked if she would cook some meals for her. Rachel was then working one day a week at Uni, as she had three children under four and the youngest was “quite little”. She somehow found the time to do it but then decided to approach two other friends to see if they were interested. Out of that initial email to three people, two were interested and so she began cooking her chicken and leek pie which is still most popular on her menu (she shared the recipe for my newsletter this week. You can sign up for this and weekly updates). She emailed the same three people the next week and then more friends she thought might be interested. Beginning very small, as the weeks went on, she started telling more of her friends and then other people came to her via word-of-mouth and she started receiving emails from people she didn’t know. To begin with she made meals ready to be finished off e.g. the pie was ready to go in the oven to finish off the pastry and so giving off lovely home-cooked smells in her friend’s house. Then she started playing around with how you could get an almost finished meal to someone e.g. you can’t be getting a casserole dish back. So she started vacuum sealing, preparing at home and delivering.
As she began to cook for more than just friends, Rachel got nervous about food safety and contacted her local Council to see if she could get her home kitchen approved. It was quickly apparent that this was too hard and she was lying awake at night worrying about it. So in June 2014 she found a commercial kitchen in Ultimo and rented a bench by the hour. This is when she learned she needed to get a Food Safety Supervisor Certificate and insurances in place. This was a relief and she gave up her Uni work. She worked there for three months, putting her baby in daycare one day a week and her supportive husband collected the kids every afternoon – finishing work early but logging on later at night for his job.
On her first day in the kitchen she was there for 13 hours and was so anxious she felt sick, feeling she may have bitten off more than she could chew. From shopping in the supermarket, as business grew she went to at Flemington Markets but then it got harder to fit everything in the trolley and her car especially with packing up the kids too. She needed storage and so moved on to a production kitchen in Pendle Hill which had been set up by a chef for his own meal business. He had extra capacity so she rented from him one a day a week and had access to a huge space and enormous coolroom. The chef started working for her as a contractor part-time and helped her sort out some systems and processes and find suppliers. However ultimately he moved to the country and decided not to keep kitchen. When he let go his commercial kitchen, she had to find somewhere else and her Dad suggested bowling clubs, so she contacted Castle Hill and was able to rent their kitchen one day a week.
Around this time, Rachel decided it would be better to deal with a farmer direct. From her Baulkham Hills home she researched and found one whom she rang to ask if he would supply her direct as he already supplied Flemington Markets. He has been supplying her ever since and picks up what he doesn’t have for her at Flemington and then delivers.
The bigger picture – giving back
However, Rachel said “I like cooking good food for families but my real interest is in family well-being”. She believes that, as well as making a huge difference in any customer’s daily life, that together, they can transform the way society cares for women made vulnerable by disability. These women are doing the juggle too, often with fewer resources and greater pressures. Knowing that tonight’s dinner is done surely takes some of the pressure off. So she began gifting meals to families living with disabilities from the outset, when she was in Ultimo. She believes that the difference between families who are challenged which go to wall and those which do well can be provided by having good food home delivered. So Dinner on the Table was established as a social enterprise from the outset. In June 2014 Rachel got an accountant friend to become CFO who was also interested in the idea of a business that could impact peoples lives. Captivated by the idea of supporting vulnerable people she works with her in exchange for dinners. They are still very much in start-up phase.
Now Rachel has three others who work with her in the kitchen for varying days but in total there are nine kitchen days and an average of 200 meals per week. The deal for a gifted meal family is lovely. They are told, here’s unique food, order as much as you need to feed your family twice, every week. They are given a code which Rachel doesn’t monitor as she wants the service to work same way as it does for those who pay. So far Dinner on the Table has gifted 900 dinners which is 3000 adult portions or more if you take into account children’s portions. Wonderfully, no-one abuses the system. Rachel believes it is imperative that such families should to be able to choose for themselves and not just get meals which are less popular and no-one else wants and, like everyone else, they are delivered.
The benefits and the community
So far Rachel has only anecdotal evidence and gut feel about how such help impacts: one person puts in a thank you note every week. She has developed some partnerships with local disability services and also a work experience plan whereby three people with intellectual disability work alongside her staff for three hours each week with a support worker. So they are doing meaningful work. Dinner on the Table is also partnering with a special school with difficulties which has a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden. They collect compostable waste from Dinner on the Table and in exchange give herbs they’ve grown in the garden. More senior students come in to collect the buckets, giving them an out-of-school experience.
Where to next?
Rachel is in discussion with the local council. She wants to set up a community based commercial kitchen where people can come and pick up dinners. This could be as simple as shipping containers surrounded by a garden. She wants government to buy into it as it could be one of the cheapest interventions ever in terms of family well-being. It is not expensive to feed people compared to respite dollars, whereby a family could receive at $100 per hour whereas two family dinners cost $70 and will save them a greater amount of time. Rachel doesn’t know of this happening anywhere else. Though work is done with migrants, refugees and even a bakery in a maximum security prison in the UK, there is no similar work around disability. Her vision is to expand and run five days a week. Similarly she would like to expand the work experience programme. Community gardens are also important for people with disability and this could develop an income stream to further assist. Her dream is for a block of land coming from government, a project which could be replicated around Australia.
Congratulations Rachel – little wonder she won this award which recognises Rachel as an outstanding Women’s Business School student who has achieved phenomenal results in all aspects of business. As a firm believer in the hospitality of the table, I admire the way she has spread it in such an inclusive and dignified way.
More information visit Dinner on the Table