A lot has changed in two years for business owner Mila Arena.
Her vegan delivery service V On Wheels went from a hobby delivering pre-cooked meals to friends on her bicycle, to an award-winning business.
More recently, she has begun hiring staff to meet demand.
Business picked up after last October when the 36-year-old won the Innovator of the Year award at the 2018 Young Read Woudberg LinkT Awards.
Two years ago, veganism wasn’t as popular as it is now. In fact, Arena claims to be the first vegan-only meal service in the country.
“When I first started, not many people knew what veganism was,” she said. “I’d hear a lot of people ask ‘what is vegan?’ and ‘are you really going to deliver it to my house?'”
A graphic designer by trade, Arena had no intention of starting a business, but making meals for her friends to generate extra cash soon took off.
“My friends were recommending meals to their friends and then to their neighbours and then it started getting bigger.
“I was selling 10 meals per week and I had one freezer, delivering myself, delivering one meal a day by bicycle. I would take one meal one day all the way to Papamoa East and then come back home. The next to day all the way to Te Puna.”
Now she sells hundreds of meals a week, and she’s outgrown her home kitchen. She moved to a commercial space, hired a chef to help her cook and a courier to deliver the meals.
Still she gets a thrill from every order.
“Somebody likes what I’m making and they don’t know me. It was an amazing feeling even though it was a lot of work.”
Originally from Argentina, Arena has lived in New Zealand for seven years. And although she’s not a qualified chef, she loves everything about cooking.
“In Argentina or South America, we love food. Everything is really tasty and homemade and we dedicate time to make the meals. Normally it’s a social thing and you share.”
She now plans to take her plant-based meal deliveries nationwide.