Mother and daughter duo, Judy and Melissa Blake have not only created a business together, they’ve also seen it grow at one of the most difficult times. Sweet Pea Spoons delivers fresh baby food – with no nasties – nationwide, giving time-poor parents a break from the parenting treadmill. The subscription service allows you to select a variety of nutritionally balanced meals which are delivered weekly or fortnightly. We spoke to Judy and Melissa about their enterprise and what makes them tick.
Three words to describe yourselves.
Judy: Caring, cautious and I’m afraid to say a bit of a worrier sometimes!
Melissa: Driven, passionate and loyal
Tell us about how Sweet Pea Spoons came about.
The idea for Sweet Pea Spoons was born 23 years ago, when my mum had me. Being an advocate for high quality food with ‘no nasties’, she found it frustrating that there were no fresh, pre-prepared baby food options on the market for busy parents.
So, she was forced to take matters into her own hands by making all of my baby food from scratch. She soon realised how time consuming and tiring this was, and that parents would benefit from having fresh, nutritious and tasty baby meals delivered to their door. The only problem was, she just wasn’t sure how to turn her idea into a business.
Fast forward 23 years, I achieved a First-Class Honours in my Business degree and also developed a firm interest in nutrition. After finishing my degree, I started to think about life after university and what career I would choose, so I started looking at the baby food industry. Like Mum all those years ago, I began to realise that many parents want to feed their babies fresh, healthy meals, but the realities of a busy family life mean this can often be a struggle.
To my surprise, parents still only have two options when it comes to baby food; make it from scratch yourself which is time consuming or buy commercially produced jars/pouches which compromise on quality. So, using my new business knowledge and my passion for nutrition, I decided to join forces with my Mum and turn her 23-year-old dream in to a reality. Our aim? To create a fresh baby meal delivery service and ensure that busy parents no longer have to sacrifice tasty, homemade food for the ease of mass produced, shop bought pouches.
How do you divide roles in the business?
With my business knowledge, I take more of the ‘leader’ role in terms of running the day to day tasks of the business-like organising deliveries, ordering ingredients, managing social media accounts, conversing with customers etc, while Judy’s roles are more focused in the kitchen. She’s head of quality control and chief taster!
Mum is always the one who provides suggestions of potential new flavours to try after taking inspiration from magazines etc. I then go away to develop and test the recipes. Judy then gives feedback on the tests and suggests any improvements to the tests.
While I would say that I’m the driving force behind the business and bringing it to life, I certainly couldn’t do it without Judy.
What’s it like working with a relative?
Working with your Mum really is the best thing! I see her so much more often than I would have otherwise which is really lovely. I think you can be a lot more honest working with a family member and say exactly what you’re thinking without causing tension. Most of the time we always agree!
No one wants you to succeed more than your own mum, so I always know she will do everything she can to help make Sweet Pea Spoons work.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is getting our products to customers whilst keeping them frozen. It’s taken nearly a year of testing to figure out how to get our products to customers all across the UK whilst maintaining frozen temperatures. When we first launched in March we were only delivering to customers in Twickenham and Richmond. But now we can deliver to almost all corners of the UK!
Last book you read?
Is it awful that I can’t remember? Life is pretty hectic balancing a business, a part time job, family life and a sort of social life. So if I’m being totally honest, I never really have time for books. I listen to a LOT of podcasts, always business ones as I enjoy listening to other successful founders’ stories and taking onboard their advice.
Tell us something that people don’t know about you.
I once jumped out of a plane. I have no idea how I did it, but when I was travelling in New Zealand I decided it would be a good idea to do a skydive. My mum stayed up until 2am UK time to check it went all ok. When I watch videos back all I can think is how the H*** did I do that! I get butterflies watching it!
What would you take to a desert island?
A photograph of my puppy Cavapoochon Blue, he’s my pride and joy.
Signature dish (not baby food!)
Judy: My either my Tomato and Pancetta Risotto, super simple but delicious, or my Thai roast chicken for something a bit different. Both are always crowd pleasers.
Melissa: My Chocolate and Orange Panettone pudding! A seasonal take on the classic bread and butter pudding. I used to make this for my girls at uni and it really is the most indulgent delicious pudding (I’m a dessert person always). In summer it’s my Strawberry and Rhubarb crumble, don’t get me started I could go on…
Your proudest moment?
Receiving a first class in my degree and the Deans Award for the most outstanding student. This really was a special moment after working so hard for three years.
In terms of the business, it was being contacted by a certain big brand who I’ve always looked up to. When I look back at where we first started when we were planning the idea, it makes me realise how far we’ve come and I’m incredibly proud (and a bit shocked) of that.
What’s next on the list of things to do?
We’re looking at developing a finger foods option as many parents are now going down the BLW route so we want to cover both basis. We’re also hoping to start getting our products into some local farm shops and other retailors in 2021 which will be super exciting!