Startup Spotlight: The Dinner Daily
Startup Spotlight: The Dinner Daily
Meet Laurin Mills – CEO and Founder of The Dinner Daily, an ingredient-and-recipe meal kit service that provides cheap and personalized meal plans for you and your family!
GH: What is The Dinner Daily?
The Dinner Daily helps busy professionals and families get delicious, healthy dinners on the table quickly, and affordably‒for less than half the cost of meal kits. We create customized weekly dinner plans for our members based on their food preferences, dietary needs and what’s on sale at their grocery store. Families can save hundreds of dollars each month using our service. We have members in every state in the US and are offered as a wellness benefit at over 100 companies nationwide.
GH: What was your eureka moment: how did The Dinner Daily get started?
I was a CPA at Ernst & Young, with three active kids, and a long commute. Even though my job was demanding, the most stressful part of the day was driving home trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner. So I started the system of creating a weekly dinner plan on Sunday nights, based on the sales at Market Basket and then went to the store and got all of the ingredients. I not only solved my problem but saved hundreds of dollars each month. Word spread, people inquired and I realized how many people had the same problem so I started The Dinner Daily from my kitchen table!
GH: How did you build your team?
The Dinner Daily team has grown over the years, but I met most of our team members through the EforAll Accelerator program in Lowell. The Dinner Daily was a winner in the Winter 2015 EforAll session, and the contacts we gained there were invaluable.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
Build a great, yet easy to use product/service first, then listen to your customer and enhance the service based on feedback. We are solving a problem that people face every day, and yet we’ve managed to keep our service simple to use while adding new capabilities.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
In the early days of building the business, I had to find a low-cost resource to build our first menu production database. I knew nothing about the technology I needed, and I just wanted it done fast and for the lowest price. The system fell apart pretty quickly and the original developer (a freelancer) was nowhere to be found. It was a very painful few months that had us preparing menu and shopping lists manually. However, I learned a great deal on how to hire outside consultants, the right questions to ask, and the cheapest and fastest solution is often not the best option.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
One of the first important things we learnt was how many people view dinner as a chore, particularly at the end of a busy day. Our whole service is built on easy, quick-to-prepare, yet interesting and delicious dinners, that whole families will enjoy. We don’t use any hard-to-find ingredients. The KISS principle really works.
CEO and Founder, Laurin Mills
Sample meal of Chicken with Tomato and Cuke Salsa
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
When I first started out I received excellent guidance from some very talented business people at SCORE, which got us off to a good start. Then we participated in the EforAll Accelerator in Lowell and shortly after that we grew from a regional service to a nationwide service. I highly recommend any entrepreneur seek out both of these resources.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Accessing capital for consumer-focused startups is still very difficult in the Boston market. As much as it’s a cliche, it’s true. Also, there is a lack of networking events outside of the downtown area, so if you have headquarters in the suburbs, it’s difficult to make connections.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
Best advice: “Just start. Don’t wait for perfection”
Worst Advice: “That’s not the way it is done”
Growing an online business does not always follow traditional business practices. Trust your instincts and do what works.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
We had a great year this past year; we tripled our subscriber and revenue numbers, and signed agreements with both Peapod (we have a one-click ordering integration for grocery delivery) and were selected by Tufts Health Plan as a recommended nutritional program for their members.
GH: What does the future hold for The Dinner Daily?
We believe we can continue to grow at a rapid rate as we integrate with more online ordering/delivery systems and generate wider awareness for our service. We believe we have a superior offering to meal kits such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh at less than half the cost. We also plan to add new menu choices and begin partnering with consumer packaged goods companies and expand our Corporate Wellness offering. We may seek funding in the future to accelerate our growth–we are essentially self funded to date.
Learn more about The Dinner Daily!