Mumpreneur Hillary Graves, mum of two & co-founder of Little Dish, shares insights into her success


Q: Firstly, tell us about Little Dish?

We make fresh, healthy food toddlers and young children (aged 12 months plus). We use 100% natural ingredients and never add salt or sugar…we try to replicate what mums make at home in their own kitchens.


Our mission is to help children be healthier and to make mums life easier too. As a mother myself, we don’t put anything on the shelf that I wouldn’t feed to my own kids.


We have a wide range of chilled prepared meals available in supermarkets nationwide and we regularly update recipes and add new varieties. There’s something in our range for even the fussiest eater. And if your child doesn’t like the dish you’ve bought, let us know and we’ll send you vouchers to try another dish from the range.


Q: How did the idea for Little Dish come about?

I was working in New York and came over to London for a 2-year assignment … I met my husband and have been here ever since.


I’ve always loved food and been interested in health and when I became pregnant with my first child, I started to think more about the ready-made food on offer for children.


The Baby food market was well catered for but there wasn’t anything out there for toddlers aged 1-5. Yes these toddlers can eat what you eat, but feeding your toddler is not always that simple.


I wanted to offer mums the opportunity to buy food from a supermarket that was just like homemade, using only ingredients in your own cupboard.


I shared my vision with John Stapleton who was on the founding team of New Covent Garden Soup. John became my business partner – he’s a food scientist, so we had a good place to start and Little Dish was ‘born’ in 2006, alongside my first born son, Monty.


Q: Did you have experience in running your own business?  How did you start?

I had worked for a start-up business in New York and then came to London to open the UK office and hire a local team. I really enjoy the early phases of creating something from a blank piece of paper.


I began the process by talking to mums and finding out what was most important when it came to feeding their children. We designed Little Dish recipes around that consumer research and sold it into supermarkets using that consumer insight. It was a long process- we first started talking about the concept of Little Dish in early 2005. We developed the range later that year and finally got listed in 20 Waitrose stores in April 2006. It took us a few years to prove the concept but Little Dish is listed in 200 Waitrose stores, and 800 Tesco stores. We’ll be available in Asda and Morrison’s later this year.


Q: What’s your advice for fellow ‘mumpreneurs’?

  1. Getting your support network established is crucial – you can’t do everything by yourself so you need to have people you trust who can help with childcare when needed.
  2. Build flexibility into your business from the beginning. Spending 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday in the office is very challenging with a family. It’s your own business, so set a precedent – it’s the effectiveness of work that counts, not necessarily time spent at the office. You might end up working late at night when everyone’s in bed, but that’s the sacrifice we make for family time.
  3. Make sure your business, works for you and your family. I live close to the office and the boys’ nursery and school is just around the corner so I can drop them off before I come in each morning.
  4. When you come up with your idea or product, there has to be a genuine consumer need for it or significant point of differentiation.


Q: What do you think has been the key to Little Dish’s success?

Hard work … and a bit of luck! You need to be passionate about what you do, willing to work hard and put in the hours.


But importantly, Little Dish was and still is truly unique to the market and genuinely makes mums’ lives easier when they need healthy, convenient food for their children.


Q: Where are Little Dish products made?

We have a large kitchen in Doncaster. Everything is hand-prepared, which is quite amazing in such volumes. We’ll keep doing things this way because it’s important our recipes are prepared in as similar way as possible to the way you would prepare something at home.


Q: What makes Little Dish different?

We created a category that didn’t exist previously. Because our recipes are fresh and therefore have a short shelf life, it was important from the very beginning to drive enough awareness to get mums to go to the chilled aisle to find our products. This was where our ideas for community marketing came in – if your product is good enough, mums will recommend it to their friends and that is the best marketing you can ask for.


Q: Tell us about the process for producing & testing your products?

My two boys, Monty and Ridley, are the chief tasters – it’s important to have honest feedback on your products. Any Little Dish recipes we put on the shelf have been widely tested and we rely on feedback from real mums. We have 6 Little Dish Brand Ambassadors around the UK, who help run our testing programme.


Q: What are your plans for the future?

We recently launched a range of new fresh filled pasta, which sits alongside our meals in the chilled aisle.


We also have a great partnership with LEGOLAND – when you buy a Little Dish meal or fresh pasta, your child gets a free ticket to LEGOLAND Windsor Resort or LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Manchester.


Q: What’s it like to work at Little Dish?

It is hard work and long hours but for the most part we can work flexibly around our children’s schedules which is a huge help.


Q: How can Mums get more involved with what you do?

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a Little Dish brand ambassador or hosting local tastings, email



Do check out the Little Dish website – – there are recipes, feeding tips, fun for the children and Little Dish also run some brilliant competitions.


The range comprises of Fish Pie, Chicken & Butternut Squash Pie, Chicken Risotto, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Beef Lasagne, Cottage Pie, Mild Chicken Korma, Pasta with Cheese, Peas & Broccoli Trees and Pasta Bolognese.  Little Dish meals are priced at 2 for £4.


You can buy Little Dish Meals at Tesco, Waitrose, Waitrose Deliver, and in select Center Parcs and Nisa stores. In Ireland you can find us in Superquinn and Dunnes Stores. Our pasta is available in Waitrose and Ocado in the UK and from Dunnes Stores in Ireland. You can also buy online –

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