Hillary Graves is the Founder and CEO of Little Dish, makers of fresh, healthy food for children. She lives in Notting Hill with her husband, Dean, and two sons, Monty, 6, and Ridley, 4.
What is your family’s morning routine?
Chaotic! During school time, we’re up around 7am and the children get dressed before breakfast, which for some reason in our household seems to work better than getting dressed after breakfast.
We are lucky enough to be able to walk to school, which is a really lovely way to start the day. That’s when we leave the chaos behind and usually have a nice chat about what’s happening at school that day, practicing for the spelling test or on the other spectrum, lots of discussion about various Chima Lego characters and their powers.
What is your office environment like?
We have an open plan office with lots of windows and light. There are 10 people on the team, all of whom are good at what they do and fun to work with. There’s a lot going on right now so the days can be hectic. Very often I’ll realise it’s 3pm and I haven’t had lunch.
Do you have such a thing as a typical day?
Most days I drop the children at school at 9am and then from there I usually have a full day of meetings or various commitments. Generally I finish around 6pm, but if there is something happening at school or an afternoon event I need to attend with the children then I can juggle my diary to make that work. I’m almost always home for bedtime and stories.
Did you always want to do what you do now, for a job?
I always wanted to start my own company. I worked at several start-up companies early in my career and loved that kind of environment compared to the more corporate settings I worked in. And I love food and cooking, so making healthy children’s food is something I really enjoy.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that we have a social agenda, as well as a commercial one. There is a terrible children’s nutrition crisis going on and we are trying to make a positive impact on that – giving more mums access to healthy, convenient meals for their young children.
Are there any downsides to your job?
I guess the one downside is juggling the school holidays because when your children are out of school. I find it can be difficult to work full-time. I take some holiday while they are out of school and when I have to work and I try to do shorter days.
How do you come up with creative, original ideas?
I’m not sure I have any specific process for this! I’m not a great sleeper so often I wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. There are usually a million things on my mind and this can be when I do my best thinking.
How do you juggle family life with work life?
It really is a juggling act. I’m sure every working mother feels that way. Running my own business means I’m lucky to have some flexibility. I still work long hours but I can manage my schedule around my family when possible. When I’m at home with my kids, I try to shut off all electronic devices so there are no distractions (sometimes easier said than done) and then get back online after they are in bed. I also try to exercise once or twice a week. It’s not always possible, but when I can pull that off I always feel more sane and able to cope with it all.
What do you do outside of work, with your family?
I have two boys, aged four and six, so we spend a lot of time outdoors, even when the weather isn’t great. I think anyone with boys would agree that you have to get them out of the house and try to run them ragged. On weekends they play football and tennis or ride their bikes & scooters in the park. If we have to be inside, it’s usually Lego, trains, anything with wheels. We also do a lot of cooking which both of the boys love. Especially when baking is involved!
What is coming up, work-wise, for you and your business?
We’ve spent most of this year recruiting some new people to join the team. We are really excited about the quality and calibre of people at Little Dish right now. I’m a real believer that with the right team you can do anything. Our focus at the moment is to tell as many mums as possible about Little Dish and that there’s a great weekly solution when you want to feed your kids proper, healthy food but don’t have time to cook from scratch. We’re also developing more recipes which is always fun.
Would you want your children to follow in your footsteps?
My wish for them is that they do something they genuinely enjoy. They are our ‘Chief Tasters’ at Little Dish, so they spend a lot of time in the office at various tastings and sampling recipes at home. They love food as much as I do, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up doing something in the food or restaurant industry.
If you had superhero skills, what would be your dream job?
I think I’d like to do the job I do now, but with the ability to fly. That would certainly make it easier to juggle the school run and get to work on time.
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