Cara Aprile was preparing her daughter Lilly’s lunch for daycare when her bright idea first struck.
“I was putting a lot of time and effort into her lunches, often getting up at 5am to prepare things that were healthy and had lots of variety so she would be exposed to things at a young age,” the 35-year-old mum from Brisbane tells Kidspot.
“And I realised then how little support there was out there for busy parents who want to provide their children a healthy lunch but don’t how or have the time to do it.”
That was in 2014 and just a few months earlier, Cara had unexpectedly become a single mum and determined to support herself and her then two-year-old.
A clever idea to help busy school parents
Fast forward seven years, and Cara – who had since studied to become a qualified dietician – decided it was “now or never” to bring her idea to life.
She quit her job of three years as a medical liaison officer at a healthcare company and invested $30,000 of her savings to start her first-ever business.
“I was nervous because I had no idea how it would go,” she says.
“But the excitement of being out on my own and creating my own schedule really appealed to me. I knew there was nothing else like this out there, so I wanted to give it a go.”
With Lilly as her number one taste tester, Cara spent a month trialling recipes in her home kitchen as she put the backend of her business together and prepared for her launch in September last year.
Lilly’s Little Lunchbox sells two sizes of bento-style lunches, priced at $14.50 and $8.95, as well as smoothies, which are delivered on a weekly basis to homes, schools and daycare centres.
They include fruit, vegetables, proteins, grains and healthy baked treat components. All are nut-free and there are dairy, egg and gluten free combinations to choose from.
A booming business
In her first week of trade, Cara was “shocked” to learn that she’d already gained her first 16 customers.
“My first sale came through a notification on my phone while I was reading to Lilly in bed and we just both started screaming with excitement,” she fondly remembers.
“I didn’t expect it to pick up that quickly. That first customer is still with us now.”
Cara admits her first months in business were a huge learning curve, and as a result, she has since changed many of her processes.
“The packaging wasn’t right for the food, we did too many deliveries per week, so we bought a $17,000 machine that makes our food stay fresh for a whole week and we do one delivery per week,” she explains.
“We also learnt that some fruits like raspberries don’t travel as well, and some kids prefer a sandwich over a pasta dish, so we offer different things than we did at the start.”
The food delivery service worth signing up for
In the nine months since its launch, Lilly’s Little Lunchbox has now delivered an impressive 5,000 boxes stretching from Byron Bay to the Sunshine Coast.
And that’s all while Cara remains the company’s only employee, who does everything except for the deliveries, which are outsourced to a different company.
“I would do about 200 boxes a week now,” Cara, who still runs the entire business from her home, says proudly.
“It does not stop. I have to always be very organised, otherwise it doesn’t run smoothly.”
While it’s still too early to say she’s “successful” Cara is just as proud that she has become a role model in more ways than she ever imagined for her nine-year-old daughter.
“I’m showing her that by working hard, you can achieve any goals that you set for yourself.”