September 15, 2021
Author: Heather Lowey
I don’t often crave lasagna at 8 am on a Wednesday morning, but when I do, it’s because we’re hearing the inspiring story from Stephanie, the mastermind behind Send a Friend Lasagna. She had us laughing one minute, tearing up the next, all while sharing her journey to becoming the local Lasagna Lady.
Stephanie had what some would consider an unconventional path to her culinary dream. Shortly after giving up her aspirations of becoming the next Linda Cohn on ESPN, she began working with her mom at an insurance company. Following her parents’ advice to “make adult decisions, pay her dues, and take steps,” Stephanie realized her desire to be on the more glamorous and fun side of insurance versus filing papers and fetching coffee. After becoming a licensed insurance agent, she traveled a nine-state territory and was living the dream.
Over time though, she hit burn-out. As a single mom raising a two-year-old daughter, the travel and not even knowing what city she was waking up in each morning took its toll. Stephanie jumped at the chance when a recruiter called her from AIG to join their team with an Indiana specific territory.
It was around this time, she also met her Prince Charming, Mr. D. Having left an abusive relationship at 19 and going through a second divorce a few years later, Stephanie delighted in sharing the love and support she receives from Mr. D., her husband of 14 years.
TAKING THE LEAP
Seven days after their wedding, Stephanie was called into the office at AIG and told she was being let go.
Although she wasn’t sure what to do, Mr. D. made a calm and impactful statement to her.
“Do something you really want to do outside of insurance.”
While this was a pretty significant leap having spent almost 15 years in the insurance field, she followed his advice.
Stephanie created social media content for companies, acted as a ghost writer, tweeter, and blogger. Through this experience, she had a lot of fun, learned a ton, and got to have some really neat local experiences including Super Bowl festivities a few years ago.
Although the itch was there for something else. “I get bored easily and we’ve talked about how I feel about authority,” said through laughter.
SEND A FRIEND LASAGNA
Stephanie has always liked to cook. Her grandfather owned a restaurant and she even served as a young bartender to he and his friends.
When someone close to her suffered a loss, Stephanie did the only thing she knew to provide comfort in the situation. Make them a lasagna. “Yes, my friends joke about my funeral lasagna.”
This was no exception when her co-worker, Alex, lost his 31-year-old wife Amanda to cancer. Feeling helpless and deeply saddened by the loss, Stephanie brought Alex a lasagna for him and his young family.
In talking to a friend, Stephanie mentioned, “oh, I’m sending a friend lasagna.” And as the saying goes, the rest is history. Her friend pointed out, “this sounds like a business.”
As Stephanie chewed on this idea (see what I did there?!?), it began to build momentum in her brain, and she delighted in the idea.
Calling in favors for support of a website and logo, she was off to the races.
MOMENTUM AND SET-BACKS
Her first big break came after an appearance on Indy Style. She was told it was the most original idea they had ever heard! After giving away a code on the show, Send a Friend Lasagna was inundated with orders.
By October 31, 2019, she left her full-time role to dive into Send a Friend Lasagna full-time November 1st.
And then we all know what happened in 2020. However, Stephanie quickly realized she could still make lasagnas and went with the mantra, “stay safe, we deliver.” Business exploded overnight. She was MAKING and DELIVERING upwards of 15 lasagnas a day.
By June 2020, she hit her 500th lasagna sold and realized reaching a goal of 1000 by the end of the year was possible. Incredible.
Her two biggest setbacks though became ground beef and her own drinking.
The ground beef shortage was solved by sending her army of family and friends out to get ground beef. And some stalking of the delivery people at Gordon’s!
However, the pandemic gave her time to sit with herself and think about where she wanted to go in life. In those self-reflective moments, she realized her drinking was not only holding her back but also becoming a problem. She made the decision to stop drinking September 1st of 2020.
She joked saying, “who decides to stop drinking during a pandemic and two weeks before the anniversary of their father’s death.” But in actuality, things have come together for her in an impactful way since making this decision.
No morning after shame feelings, doing more for her business, and even feeling more confident, to name a few.
“Business is good, it’s all like a dream. We’re in a pandemic and I’m making lasagna. I’m crazy… this is insane!”
Stephanie continued to make us laugh with her frank conversation and dismay over her success in the lasagna business. Simultaneously, she shared in a vulnerable way about her missteps and life struggles. Making everyone in attendance feel there is hope even when life and personal circumstances riddle you with challenge.
“Today is the anniversary of my father’s death. I could have been drunk and in bed crying about my dad, but I’m instead here with you.”
Stephanie has also found a way to give back in addition to the comfort she brings through her business. As a domestic abuse survivor, Coburn Place holds a special place in her heart. Any new resident to Coburn Place receives a free lasagna meal on their first night. What a wonderful gesture!
Curious about how to support Stephanie and Send a Friend Lasagna?
- Like and share her Instagram page- @sendafriendlasagna
- Order for yourself or a friend- www.sendafriendlasagna.com
“The secret ingredient is LOVE.”
Thank you, Stephanie, for your vulnerability, humor, and sharing your story with the Linking Indy Women community!
Want to connect with Stephanie? Find her @sendafriendlasagna or www.sendafriendlasagna.com.