She’s a 33-year-old mum of three who is happiest “when in the kitchen”. As the co- founder of Detox Kitchen, Lily Simpson, knows a thing or two about living a balanced lifestyle.
With a passion for catering, the nutrition tycoon started her own company when she was just 24, and has now fed the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle McPherson with her guilt-free grub.
As part of our Women Who Inspire campaign, we caught up with Lily to discuss how she started out, what makes a successful entrepreneur and how she juggles work and family life.
How did you start your career, and how did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always loved working in the hospitality industry and worked in the local pub as a waitress when I was 16, worked in restaurants as a waitress or chef throughout college and university and started my own catering company when I was 24.
I didn’t really think I would go into the food business but after 4 years of working in property in central London I knew I wanted to pursue a career I was more passionate about, that’s when I decided to start catering.
After launching my catering company and establishing customers such as Bobbi Brown and Red Bull, I decided I wanted to create a company that was more health orientated - that’s when the idea for the Detox Kitchen started to come to fruition.
I worked in restaurants as a waitress or chef throughout college and university and started my own catering company when I was 24.
And what inspired you to set it up?
Whilst I was running my catering company, I was always looking for the next big idea and a friend asked me to deliver some healthy food to her as she had just had a baby and needed a boost. I made her fresh salads, stews and juice and drove them to her every day. That sparked the idea for Detox Kitchen and three months later I launched the website.
Launching a healthy meal delivery service in 2012 was really exciting, I felt we were doing something new in the market and it was around the time that the healthy food world was about to have its boom! We were at the forefront of that and it was pretty exhilarating. That said, it was also very hard work, I worked 16 hour days for 6 months straight, cooking all the food, delivering it to all our customers at 3am and processing all of the orders. But the highs always outweighed the lows, and they still do! Since then we have grown our online business, delivering over a million meals to customers throughout London, we have opened two delis in Soho and Fitzrovia, we’ve published two cookbooks and stock our salads in Selfridges and Planet Organic.
That said, it was also very hard work, I worked 16 hour days for 6 months straight, cooking all the food, delivering it to all our customers at 3am and processing all of the orders.
What gave you the confidence to set up your own company?
I’m not sure if I’ve always been entrepreneurial, but I have always been hard working. I worked full time during university and have always had to support myself financially, which gives you a very real drive to work hard and achieve. I think one of the most important traits of an entrepreneur that I possess is resilience... being able to pick yourself up and move forward in difficult times. It’s crucial when running a business and I’ve always had confidence in my ability to just keep going!
Who is your biggest female influence?
As cheesy as it sounds, it has to be my mum. She has had a difficult life but has taught me that hard work, kindness and rising above hardship and never feeling entitled to anything will always pay off.
Do you think there’s equality between women and men in the workplace?
In some businesses there definitely is equality. I think some industries are behind others but there is a definitive sense of change. I’ve definitely had my fair share of sexism in the workplace but I have always just ignored it and got the job done, it’s important to always be confident in your own ability and not be knocked by others attitude towards you, whether it’s a male or a female!
What do you think the biggest issue facing the workplace today is?
Balancing a career and a family. There is no easy solution sadly and I don’t know any mums that don’t struggle in some way. I think flexibility is key. I have just had my third baby and for my maternity leave I’m am going to be as flexible as possible, going back when I feel ready for the amount of days I feel ready for, whether that means one day, a week or full time, I will do what feels best for me and my family. Other businesses need to embrace this culture and not put all mums in the same box.
I think one of the most important traits of an entrepreneur is resilience... being able to pick yourself up and move forward in difficult times.
Do you have any beauty secrets that you swear by?
Beauty means a good night sleep, a fresh face and a real smile!
If you were on a desert island, what would be your top 3 products?
Pai skin care, Vitamin C paste and a good under eye concealer!
What is the best piece of beauty advice your mother gave you?
Don’t cut a fringe, it’s far too much maintenance!