If you haven’t heard of Kirsty’s, you probably will soon. Kirsty Henshaw was a single mom from Preston, Lanchashire, who launched her brand of healthy ready meals in 2012.
Worth £4 million today, Kirsty’s is the UK’s fastest-growing branded ready meal business. But beyond the success of the business is the surprise that Kirsty was able to make a go of it. She left school at 15 and has been raising her son, Jacob, all on her own.
She was inspired to start her business as a result of Jacob’s food allergies. As she recalled,
“It all started when he was nine months old,’ recalls Kirsty. ‘I had been eating a peanut butter sandwich and, when I cuddled him a few minutes later, Jacob came out in a rash. The doctor confirmed that he was allergic to nuts. Tests showed that he cannot tolerate dairy, either. I was desperate to find healthy things that he could enjoy eating, so I started experimenting.”
She started out by making home-made ice cream. The neighbors were soon asking for some and she started to make it commercially. Her parents owned a health food store which helped her with the business sense and the ingredients.
Appearing on BBC’s Dragons’ Den in July 2010, Kirsty was able to walk away with an investment of £65,000 in Kirsty’s for a 30 per cent stake of her business. She was actually the youngest person to ever get backing on the show. With this support, she started to sell her ice cream in supermarkets, and expanded into read meals for adults in 2012
As Kirsty said,
“There was a real gap in the market for people like me who want to eat healthy ready meals. After a lot of experimenting I came up with a range of seven chilled dishes, including Chicken Tikka Masala, Cottage Pie and Lasagne. Each meal is gluten and dairy-free and is under 400 calories. We do not take anything out; we just put the right ingredients in.”
Sales have grown 75 per cent in the past 12 months.