A young entrepreneur has built a successful food business with hundreds of customers out of a single photo she posted on social media just 18 months ago.

Prep & Deliver, based in Houghton-le-Spring, was founded by 26-year-old April Brignall after a picture she uploaded to Facebook had unexpected consequences.

Having started a healthy eating regime after the birth of her daughter, she uploaded an image of six culinary creations on Facebook – and was inundated by friends asking her to cook for them. 

Previously April had honed her cooking skills while working in the French Alps and later running a restaurant kitchen on the Greek island of Karpathos aged just 21.

Cooking for a few friends turned into delivering meals to 50 customers, then 100, as operations moved from April’s kitchen to a commercial unit in Houghton Business Park.

The company officially launched in January last year and now employs five people, has around 700 customers and a capacity to produce 3,000 meals per week. Prep & Deliver also won Small Business of the Year 2018 in the recent One Sunderland Awards.

Its main product is The Monday to Friday Plan, consisting of 10 healthy meals (two for each day) and three healthy snacks per day. Customers receive their orders fresh and chilled on a Sunday and Wednesday, to be heated up if required or put in the fridge.

The company’s growth has been supported by Sunderland City Council’s business investment team.

Demand for the plan has soared since the company launched, particularly among working professionals and time-starved parents eager to fit healthy eating into their busy lives.

April says: “Consumers are more aware than ever about the importance of good food choices but preparing fresh, healthy meals can be time consuming and difficult to squeeze into ever-busier lives. Buying healthy food at supermarkets can also be quite expensive, especially for one or two people who often have to either buy overpriced small portions of items like salad or bigger portions that they might end up throwing away.

“With all the other tempting things on offer in supermarkets, it’s also hard to stay healthy and within a budget when shopping for an evening meal. Our service means there is no wasted money – or time shopping, cooking and cleaning up afterwards.  Sunderland City Council has been really supportive and helpful from the outset.”

Prep & Deliver, which has customers across the North East, will this year launch a new service delivering to businesses in the region. In the longer term, it aims to roll the model out into other towns and cities and develop its web presence.

Councillor Henry Trueman, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Prep & Deliver is an enterprising start-up success story which is creating jobs while helping the North East to eat more healthily. Innovative ideas such as April’s can bring new business to our city, and we look forward to supporting it further as it continues to progress in the future.”

For more information Prep & Deliver visit www.prepanddeliver.co.uk.  For information about business investment in Sunderland visit makeitsunderland.com.

Further media information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246.