Setting up an international business was child’s play for former Whitburn Comprehensive School pupil Dean Brown.
Dean, 46, and wife Hilary Graves are the brains behind Little Dish, a range of fresh chilled meals for infants.
It was 10 years ago, when the couple were expecting their first child, Monty, that they became concerned about the quality and nutritional content of the food available for young children.
They decided to set up a business to cater for what they believed was a gap in the market.
“We wanted to start something up that was suitable for the nutritional and developmental needs of very young children,” said Dean.
The pair raised seed money from friends and family to establish Little Dish, which initially launched into just a handful of supermarkets.
Dean BrownWe wanted to start something up that was suitable for the nutritional and developmental needs of very young children.
Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength and Dean and Hilary have just confirmed a £17million financial investment to fund further UK growth and expansion to the US.
Next year is gearing up to be a big one for Little Dish.
The firm will launch its first UK advertising campaign, as well as expanding its range of meals.
And the firm is set to launch in the US market, becoming the first company to offer chilled toddler meals.
These days Dean divides his time between the couple’s London home they share with Monty and eight-year-old Ridley, and the US, where he is busy launching the brand.
But he still finds time to make it home to South Tyneside, where parents Ann and Alan have lived in the same house for 50 years.
Indeed, he credits Ann for the particular success of Little Dish in the area.
“We are available in the Asda stores in South Shields and Boldon – in fact, Boldon is our must successful store in the country and that’s down to mum, who is regularly handing out leaflets there,” he said.
“She is quite an evangelist for the business.”
Dean is keen to raise awareness of the range, which he feels suffers because it is not stocked with the traditional baby foods.
“We think we have a great product, but awareness of the brand is low because it is a fresh product,” he said.
“It is kept with the adult ready meals rather than all the other baby food.”