Laurin Mills, The Dinner Daily (Part 1)

03.14.19

Laurin, a mother of three active kids, came up with the idea for The Dinner Daily while working as a CPA at EY. At the time it was a means to end her own weeknight dinner rut. Now it’s an award winning platform, featured on Rachael Ray Every Day! We’re proud to call the Dinner Daily a Pack Health Resource Partner, and excited to dig deeper into Laurin’s story in this latest #PackChat. Per usual, we’re starting at the beginning, and this is only Part 1…

 Time to read: 6 min

 

INTERVIEWER: I think great place to start is just your story– what got you interested in food and how has that evolved?

LAURIN: You know, I always had an interest in health and I always cared about what I ate and what I fed my family. That was always really important to me. But the interest in food really came about because I was a working mother. I’m an ex-CPA, worked for a big public accounting firm in downtown Boston and had three kids out in the suburbs. That’s a demanding job, so I was working a lot.

I would on the drive home around 6’oclock start thinking, “Now, I get to deal with dinner. What I’m going to do?” It was almost always this harried, stressful ending to a long day. I really just wanted to sit down and focus on my kids, but too often I was scrambling to get something healthy on the table – or feeling guilty because I’d settled for takeout.

 

INTERVIEWER: So what brought you to meal planning?

LAURIN: Well I remember this snowy day in February, where my kids were all home from school and I realized that yet again had nothing for dinner. I couldn’t get out of the house, because there was an awful storm. I just hit this point where I said, “I’m not going to do this anymore.”

My husband and I are both CPAs so we were all too aware of how much money we spent on food because we’re disorganized. And we weren’t necessarily eating well all the time. Not to mention we were stressed out all the time. So I started coming up with a very organized dinner planning system.

At the time that was just for my own family. I was trying to accomplish two things. One, solve the problem of getting a healthy dinner on the table when we’re both busy. And two, I really wanted to rein in my out of control food bills.

So I grabbed the flyer from our local grocery store and I opened up Microsoft Excel on my computer, and I said, “We are going to eat healthy, and we’re going to base it on what’s on sale at our local grocery store, and we’re going to save money!”

 

INTERVIEWER: It was that simple?

LAURIN: I did that for four weeks and at the end of the first month, I saved $347 off my groceries. The great thing about it was that we saved a good chunk of money but at the same time, we were eating better, and we were happier. So I just woke up to how being organized around dinner and having a plan really was life-changing for me as a mom!

It took my family dinners from being something that I dreaded and rushed through to something I really looked forward to at the end of the day. Because when I walked in the door, I knew what I was making and I knew I had everything in my house.

 

INTERVIEWER: Wow! So you were still a CPA at the time.

LAURIN: I was, but I started sharing it with friends. I wasn’t thinking business at this point, I was just thinking, “I’ve solved a really, really bad problem in my family.” I was so excited, I started sending it to all my close friends who are also stressed out at the end of the day around dinner. They started sharing it with their friends, and the next thing I knew, I had people I didn’t know emailing me saying, “Can you send me that dinner menu thing you do from Market Basket,” which was our grocery store that I had based our plan around.

It was then that I had this epiphany where I said, “You know what? People need a solution to this problem and no one is really solving it. I’m going to start a business just around this.”

 

INTERVIEWER: So your friends were like your first clients.

LAURIN: Friends and coworkers, yes. My firm was always ranked in the top 100 companies for women to work for, and best family-friendly companies – because they did incredible things to make life easy for working women – but no one seemed to really understand how big of a problem that task of getting dinner on the table at the end of day really was for people. I mean, even if you don’t have children, it’s stressful. But when you have kids, it’s like a layer of guilt goes up hugely.

 

INTERVIEWER: Definitely. So what was that kind of transition to a more entrepreneurial career like? How did you take the next step?

LAURIN: It was hard for sure because I had always worked in large corporate environments and always enjoyed working with motivated people. I always really loved that part of my job.

I worked for Ernst and Young, which is a highly skilled professional services firm where everyone has a specialty, and you get very deep expertise in your area of specialty. But then when you move to an entrepreneurial space where you are doing everything from setting up your website, to figuring out how to set up a PayPal account, to creating content, to being a marketing person, it’s hard because you don’t have a help desk anymore when you have a technical problem. You don’t have coworkers to bounce ideas off of. You have to do it all yourself.

So it’s very exciting, and rewarding and creative on so many levels, but it’s also incredibly frightening and lonely. And you just have to fight through that. I think I wasn’t really prepared for that solitude and loneliness piece of going out on my own. It’s hard in the beginning. You don’t know what you’re doing. And you just have to fight through that fear every single day.

 

INTERVIEWER: Wow, yeah. I can only imagine. I’d love to hear more about your entrepreneurial journey – can you tell me a bit about how your business model has evolved?

LAURIN: Well initially we were just retail so we marketed directly to individual consumers. But I always knew when I started that there was a huge need on the corporate side for this kind of service. Because as I mentioned, I worked at a company when I started the business that won awards for their family friendliness and how much they tried to help busy families. And yet, they didn’t understand that this problem was so real for working mothers. I always knew that that was a future road that we would go down, but that market wasn’t ready yet.

It was really after two to three years of building up the business and getting us to a point that I felt like we were ready that I just started reaching out to companies that won awards or had shown dedication to their employees in terms of wellness. That was how it started. It was literally finding out who the person was and just cold calling them.

But it worked out great! The timing was right and we had accounts within our first six months – from Monster.com, Ocean Spray, Welch’s. At that point we knew we had something. We went out and presented to HR, and particularly if the person in HR that was in charge of wellness had a nutritional background, they got it right away.

 

Stay tuned for more of Laurin’s story – including her thoughts on the Corporate Wellness industry and how she personally maintains a work-life balance. In the meantime, you can learn more about The Dinner Daily at www.thedinnerdaily.com.

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