Co-Founder, Dinner Ladies
Sophie Gilliatt and her co-founder Katherine Westwood got together at the school gate in 2007 and came up with the idea of preparing dinner for time-poor friends and family members so that they would always have good homemade food in their fridges and freezers.
In the beginning they would shop on a Monday, cook on a Tuesday and then one of them would do the delivery run while the other fed and bathed their collective 7 children.
Today they are no longer cooking in the shed and have a team of about 70 cooking every dish as if they were cooking for their own families with the best possible ingredients and no added rubbish for customers across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Roles in life and work:
I am the co-founder and co-owner of the Dinner Ladies. Broadly speaking, I have responsibility within the business for the areas of food and communications and Katherine runs operations and finance, though there are lots of areas where we cross over. At home, I’m parent to two young adults (22 and 19), a teenager (13) and a whippet (6!)!
What are you juggling right now in your life?
My life is a constant juggle at the moment. My ex-husband and I are very amicably separated and, rather than move the children around, we take it in turns to be in the family home with the kids every second week and every other week we’re in a separate flat close by. It definitely takes some organisation packing up and moving every Sunday and working out what you’ll need for the week ahead. As well as running the business and home, I try to fit in time with my elderly mother, my friends, my sisters. It is all equally important.
How do you manage your time effectively?
I have become pretty good at not taking on too much and not saying yes to everything. Also, whatever it is I am committed to, whether personal or professional, I am realistic rather than optimistic about the time and steps it will take to get there and then working backwards from the end point. I am also getting better at taking a breath and pausing, rather than rushing from one activity to the next. It might seem like a waste of time, but it recharges you and helps you focus on priorities – sometimes things demanding your attention really aren’t that urgent but you need to take a step back to recognise that.
How do you separate work and personal time?
As a business owner, you are never completely switched off from your business. The Dinner Ladies is a real reflection of Katherine and me, so our work selves are identical to our home selves. That being said, we’re now at a great stage of the business’s life where we have much cleverer people than us to handle various aspects of it. I used to be the out of hours contact for phone calls and emails – I am happy to say that I’m not anymore. But the buck still stops with us when something goes wrong.
What does your support network look like?
Workwise, Katherine and I have always been each other’s best support. We are very different but there is a lot of mutual respect and admiration and usually if one of us is down for whatever reason, the other one will pick us up.
I am very lucky to have three sisters who I’m very close to and a group of about 10 best friends I’ve known since I was five – I know that they have my back whatever happens.
What kind of conversations do you have with your inner voice?
My inner voice has got louder over the years. It is the one that tells me I would really rather go and do a workout than have a glass of wine and that I’ll feel much happier on Monday if I’ve written my weekly newsletter on Sunday. It is a pain in the neck, that inner voice, but it’s usually right.
What have you learnt about yourself as you have grown your business?
To back myself. It takes a long time to do that. You always think someone else has some secret knowledge or qualification that gives them the right to make themselves heard. It’s not true. We all have a lot of wisdom developed on the job – and also in life – and our instincts are often right.
In your line of work, what is important when considering your choice of work outfit?
I’m a pretty basic black, white and denim girl year round, with some colour in summer. We used to be in food spattered chef’s pants and boots but thankfully can dress up a bit more now. It’s good for morale. It’s been so great that sneakers have been on trend for so long – we need to be able to run around the site, into the kitchen and cool rooms, so non-slip, covered shoes are essential!
Do you have any time saving tips for the One P community?
Remembering to pull your Dinner Ladies out of the freezer and stick it in the fridge the night before (of course!), exercising while seeing friends or family (so going for a surf, a walk or to the gym together), getting kids to help in the kitchen so you catch up on their day and the jobs get done more quickly. Oh, and making sure you have a good dry shampoo – we all need it sometimes!
Dinner Ladies take away the stress of thinking about, shopping for, preparing and cooking dinner by delivering it to your door so that you can enjoy great, homemade food every day.