Chill News

#009 : Kellie Burbidge @ Eat My Lunch

In the ninth of our Overdose & Chill live Instagram interviews, our CEO – Todd Welling – chats with Kellie Burbidge, General Manager at Eat My Lunch about her journey, the challenges of scaling a business, managing change and what’s on the horizon for the enterprise.

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Eat My Lunch

The Eat My Lunch mission statement is “To ensure that no child at school goes hungry, starting with kids right here in our own backyard” and the idea was conceived in response to 28% of Kiwi kids living in poverty and thousands going to school every day without food. For every lunch bought, this Social Enterprise gives a lunch to a Kiwi kid in need.  With a good lunch in their tummies, the kids do better in so many ways, from being better focused on learning, to simply just putting a smile on their faces.

As a direct result of not kids going hungry 62% of schools saw improved attendance, 69% saw improved behaviour and 89% saw an improvement in student health & wellbeing.  June this year marked the enterprise’s 5th birthday, and they are proud to have given away over 1.5million lunches to Kiwi kids in need to date.

The Eat My Lunch team believes that clever business solutions can help solve social issues, so they created an innovative business model that intrinsically links a social objective into the heart of a for-profit business. The model is sustainable, scalable and enables Kiwis to help other Kiwis.  With the help of award-winning chef Michael Meredith, Eat My Lunch offers individuals and workplaces fresh, healthy lunches delivered across Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton and combined with that the knowledge that they are helping to make a difference locally.

The Interview

In the ninth of our Overdose & Chill live Instagram interviews, our CEO – Todd Welling – chats with Kellie Burbidge, General Manager at Eat My Lunch about her journey, the challenges of scaling a business,  managing change and what’s on the horizon for the enterprise.

Kellie Burbidge

Before joining the Eat My Lunch team, Kellie had gained a myriad of valuable management experiences across the corporate world and corporate banking.  After taking some time out to improve her work / life balance, she found this role that speaks to her social conscience, allows her to share the previous experience she had gained in supporting small enterprises and combines her passion for kids and making a difference.

Scaling

Eat My Lunch began its operations in the home of founder Lisa King in 2015, making lunches for individual orders, and has since moved to bespoke professional kitchens that are necessary to facilitate increasing corporate catering demand and to ensure the highest health and hygiene standards are continuously met.  As a Social Enterprise, it is not eligible for charity funding and therefore uses part of its profit to fund all the lunches it gives to kids in need. 

The enterprise relies heavily on volunteer labour to minimise its overheads and has maximised this by partnering with corporates that – on one gland – need catering for meetings and events and – on the other hand – to expand on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Eat My Lunch benefits greatly by hosting corporate volunteer days, where employees can give something back by helping to make school lunches. 

This creates a win/win scenario for all parties involved and means that revenue can be dedicated to the substantial compliance and governance costs that are associated with the food industry.  The original business model was determined not to be reliant on funding in order to sustain their mission and the team has found that a combination of education, providing a great product and building strong partnerships continues to attract interest in their cause.

Managing Change

Kellie admits that change has always been her friend, and although she misses the support of an Executive Assistant, she loves the autonomy that comes with her current position and the speed with which decisions can be made in comparison to the corporate world.  She is obviously passionate about her role and it is no surprise to learn that she is willing to work alongside her team to do what needs to be done, for as long as that takes, every day. 

This leadership style proved to be particularly beneficial during the first Covid-19 lockdown, when suddenly kids weren’t going to school, but still needed support, and employees working from home had no requirement for corporate catering.  Overnight, the team went from producing 1,200 lunches per day to zero!  They had no alternative product and no other source of revenue.  Kellie was worried about feeding those same kids, albeit at their individual homes, about her suppliers and about keeping her team employed.

The answer lay in public funding, via a large shareholder donation and individual donations invited via the “Give a Little” campaign.    The $240,000 raised allowed Eat My Lunch to feed over 2,000 kids at home for 6 weeks, by pivoting their processes to accommodate new logistical challenges and to meet Covid restrictions with regards to food preparation and social distancing.  Alongside this, the team was also able to introduce free, fresh, and nutritional grocery boxes that were distributed to families in need, which in turn contributed to supporting long-standing local suppliers and keeping the team in employment.  In retrospect, Kellie remembers this period as “crazy but rewarding” and she is “super proud” of her team’s ability to make it happen.

Once lockdown was over, it was obvious that many businesses were scaling back and the demand for corporate catering was somewhat reduced.  So the team has turned its focus to supporting its largest customer (Air New Zealand) and to sourcing new customers so that they can continue to achieve their goals.  Once again, they have been successful in their mission, and she is pleased to report that 60% of recent revenue has come from new customers.

The Future for Eat My Lunch

Recognising that these uncertain and challenging times may well continue for some time to come, Kellie & her team are working closely with companies to find new ways to remain relevant in their new corporate world.  Looking to Christmas, in the absence of large corporate events, they have launched “A Gift that Gives” (in partnership with Richie & Co.), which will be available for delivery nationwide.

Improving their digital presence is also a new focus for the team.  They launched their new website recently on Shopify (with the help of Overdose Digital), with the aim of increasing B2B customer engagement via both desktop and mobile.  Kellie is confident that they are now better equipped to be flexible and is looking forward to sharing the kid’s stories via a website blog, which will further increase awareness of the positive impact this amazing enterprise continues to make.

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