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A Q&A with our founder Laura Axelson

On family, favorite cookbooks and future plans for Dinner Belle

We sat down with Dinner Belle's founder, Laura Axelson, and asked her about the origin story of Dinner Belle, her future plans with the business, and everything in between. Read on!

Tell us the story behind Dinner Belle. Why did you decide to take a leap and start your own business?

Laura Axelson: I started my business because I saw a need for wholesome meals that were easy. So many of my friend's values were to feed their children local produce and meat and organic food, but life is just busy--so it's hard. I thought I could help fill that void.

I was also dying to scratch my creative itch. I was in a really stable and fairly well paying part time job, but I was really unhappy and had thoughts of crawling under my desk every day. Other than my family, one of the things during the week that brought me the most joy was teaching a cooking class, so I wanted to pursue it further. Plus, I had this secret love affair with cookbooks in college and in my young adult life before children. I would check a bunch out at the library, read them, try some recipes, and then come back the next week and trade them in for more. I loved experimenting with new ingredients and always tried to push myself to buy something unfamiliar every week at the grocery store.

I started working with a business coach. Once a week, we would talk on the phone and think through things. I was still scared to start a business, though. One day he asked me what I had to lose and I realized the worst thing that could happen would just be that I would go back to being an admin assistant if I failed. That gave me confidence and I launched Dinner Belle in the spring of 2016 after planning it for about a year.

Why the name Dinner Belle?

LA: My degree is in English Literature, and I love a good play on words. We landed on Dinner Belle because I have a little dinner bell in my home that my boys like to ring when dinner is ready. It was my Swedish grandmothers’, and it was made in Sweden. She used to have it up on her wall in her kitchen, and I inherited it. I think I was maybe even a cowbell before it was turned into a dinner bell. Then, adding an "e" to the end of bell hearkens our Southern roots, like Southern Belle. I'm born and raised in Nashville. Although I don't have an accent because my mom is from Chicago, I'm still a Southern belle.

Where do you draw inspiration from before creating your meals?

LA: I draw inspiration from what I see at the farmer’s market and from my family. I also alter recipes that I see in cookbooks to work for Dinner Belle. Some of my favorite cookbooks are “Simply Organic” by Jesse Ziff-Cool, “Simple, Fresh Southern” by the Matt and Ted Lee, all of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbooks (believe it or not, these are some of my favorites), Bobby Flay for grilling inspiration, and Nigella Lawson. I also love “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia” by Rebecca Wood which has great information on all the health properties of vegetables, fruits, and grains.

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Nashville?

LA: I just visited EiO and the Hive and LOVED it. I think I'll be going back for my anniversary. My all-time favorite restaurant in Nashville has stood the test of time: The Yellow Porch. It's not super trendy, but the food is very thoughtfully prepared.

What do you love most about the Middle Tennessee community?

LA: I love how friendly everyone is here. No one is really a stranger, and the food world is more accepting and supportive of one another's businesses than they are competitive.

Lastly, any goals you hope to see Dinner Belle reach in the near future?

LA: I want to start a video series with meal prep advice. Dinner Belle is not for everyone's budget, so I would like to create something that makes it easier to do Dinner Belle style meal prep with the seasons and in reusable glass packaging.

Have any questions for Laura? Email us at dinnerbellenashville@gmail.com!

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