How a Facebook post snowballed and led to TV appearances, a book deals, and now an entrepreneurial food delivery box venture.
For Jas McPhee, it all started with a simple Facebook post.
"I just thought I'd share a recipe that my family all enjoyed and that was quite cheap to make. I thought maybe a few mums would find it handy," she says.
She set up a Facebook page called ‘How To Feed A Family Of 6 For Under $20’ (which in a year has amassed 66,000 followers) where she posted photos of frugal home-cooked recipes, starting with a lamb curry.
"I just put up a recipe every night and within the first month, or the first two weeks, had 25,000 views."
Like other Facebook page owners, she's found her 'reach' has declined over time. She actually got in contact with Facebook, informing them that hers is a voluntary, non-profit page – and while there was no response, she says since then her posts' reach has gone up again. Her ever-loyal followers have also been chiming in with advice on what kinds of things to post in order to get more attention.
But Facebook was just the beginning. The attention snowballed. Requests for media interviews started flowing in. McPhee and husband Vance (they have five children) appeared on TV1'sGood Sorts, which caught the eye of Penguin NZ GM Debra Millar saw and eventually led to a book deal.
"I like to be in the background doing things," she says. "This has forced me out in to the limelight a little bit, but it's worth it if it helps just a few more families."
Now the McPhees are in early-stage talks about a concept for a TV series of their own and working to launch an affordable food box delivery service for families. A $10,000 AMP scholarship is funding the development – a scholarship that they were alerted to (naturally) by their Facebook fans – and essentially, that's propelled the venture from a voluntary one to a real business proposition.
"We get a lot of messages from people saying 'we can't get food for this price'. We thought if we could get a box together with all the cheap produce and food that we get at the prices we get and make it available nationwide that would be really helpful to people."
As many as 2000 people are keen to preorder the boxes, she says, which would cost about $150 for a week for a family of six - including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and some "sweet treats". While there are other food delivery services on the market, she says this one keeps to a strict budget so anyone from students to beneficiaries to large families can afford it.
For now, the McPhees are working on finding partners for the food box service.
"We know it's going to take some time. We want to make sure what we're giving is the best that we can give."
McPhee says the community has been at the heart of it all, and it's continuing to grow. They have fans in a dozen different countries. She's branched out into Instagram, blogging, an app and a digital magazine. Digital, print, TV ... they've got it all covered.
"It's awesome to be able to meet a need in the community," she says.
"Our goal is to have families eating good, fresh, seasonal food, all children eating breakfast and lunch, and to help those that missed out on being taught basic cooking skills to become confident to prepare great meals.
"An educated family will have the tools they can pass on to their children and break the terrible reliance on fast-food, hopefully reducing health issues that are plaguing New Zealand, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and poverty."
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