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A few years ago, Stephanie Daily brought a lasagna to a friend who was mourning the loss of his wife. She’d made lasagnas for people before for funerals and celebrations, but this one was different. Her friend’s wife was only 33 years old and had a three-year-old son. Feeling hopeless about the situation, she decided to bring her friend some comfort food.
“I took him one and I said, ‘I didn’t know what to do, so I brought you a lasagna,’” she says.
Afterward, she confided in her cousin about what had happened. Her cousin mentioned something about sending a friend a lasagna, which sparked a business idea in Daily. After some research, she founded her side hustle of making lasagnas and delivering them to people for all occasions — celebrations, condolences, the purchase of a new home. She officially launched Send A Friend Lasagna on Nov. 1, 2019, while still working full-time in social media and visual marketing.
“I just figured I would make lasagna at night, no big deal,” she says. “I was doing okay, but then the pandemic hit, and things really kind of exploded. It’s been crazy. It’s been great. I’ve been totally thrilled with the way things have turned out.”
Today, Daily has taken her side hustle full-time. All of her lasagnas are made fresh to order by her and delivered in the Central Indiana region. She offers the basic lasagna flavors year-round, such as vegetable lasagna and meat sauce and cheese lasagna but switches it up by adding a monthly special in the mix.
We reached out to Daily and learned how she started her Send A Friend Lasagna business, what her earliest memory of being in the kitchen is, and the local restaurants we should be dining at.
Maven superpower: I’m really creative and I can figure out how things can be a win-win for everybody. I find ways to be creative to help other people be successful as well as helping myself.
What does your day-to-day look like as owner of Send A Friend Lasagna?
The biggest chunk of my day is making lasagna. Delivering or supervising someone else delivering the lasagnas. Responding on social media. Shopping for products. I make time to watch cooking shows, spend time with my niece, and hang out with my husband. I’m also committed to being in a good place with myself emotionally. I go to therapy once a week to make sure I keep that commitment to myself.
Tell us about your first memory of being in the kitchen.
I’ve always been interested in food. My grandparents owned a restaurant and I remember going back into the kitchen area when I was around eight years old. Just the smells and the plating, it was a family adventure every night. My aunts and my uncles all worked there, my grandparents were there. I think that’s when I fell in love with food. I never thought I would own a restaurant or anything like that. That’s a lot of work.
Where would you like to see your business in the future?
I’m not sure. I love that it’s mine and it’ll always be mine. But, it’s me making the lasagnas. It’s me delivering them. I do have someone who helps me deliver part-time. Then I think sometimes it would be fun to have them in grocery stores like Kroger or something like that. I just can’t see myself franchising it because I think that is out of my reach. Doing them in local grocery stores would be really cool. I’ve tossed that idea around. But I like the way things are right now.
Which lasagna flavor is your favorite?
That’s like asking what child is my favorite! I love all of them. I think that my favorite is my recipe I call “Aunt Jeanne’s Lasagna.” It’s a ricotta-based sauce that has spinach, peppers, carrots, and peas in it. And it is just delicious. It’s really good. I have the standard, like the meat and cheese, a cheese sauce, a vegetable, and then a gorgonzola lasagna. Those are my standards. I’ll be introducing a new fall recipe. I can’t decide if it’s going to be pumpkin. I did pumpkin last year.
When did you know it was time to take your business into a full-time role?
I felt like things were moving in the full-time direction after my first appearance on Indy Style. I did a special offer with a code and got a lot of orders all at once. That was in July 2019, I officially started Send A Friend Lasagna on Nov. 1, 2019. I filed paperwork with the State of Indiana, found a commercial kitchen to work in, and started doing events selling pieces of lasagna at First Fridays.
What’s one of your go-to restaurants to visit in Indy?
I love Sakura. They have amazing sushi. I also love Bluebeard. I really do have a big place in my heart for Bluebeard.
Name three staple ingredients you have to have in your kitchen at all times.
Onions, garlic, salt.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Paul McCartney. I’ve seen him seven times in concert and I grew up with The Beatles. My dad and I listened to them. I love Paul McCartney and he just tells the most amazing stories when he’s doing concerts and I can’t even imagine all of the things that he could tell you about or just such a broad range of experiences. I think it would be amazing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It sounds corny, but just believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. I was one of those people that thought it was too late to do things, like, it’s too late to start this lasagna business. I’m 48, I just thought it was too late to reinvent myself. But now, I really believe that it’s never too late. If you have something that you really want to do, you can absolutely do it.
Is lasagna your favorite food?
No, I do love it but it’s not my favorite.
What’s a fall activity you’re looking forward to?
The Irvington Halloween Festival—fingers crossed we get to have it this year! Also, caramel apples—yum.
Who’s a chef that inspires you?
Gordon Ramsey, Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli. Locally, I would say Steve Oakley. One of my favorite episodes of Beat Bobby Flay was when he made a seafood corn dog and beat Bobby Flay—it was amazing.
What’s a fun fact about you?
My uncle painted a portrait of me and my younger sister, Marcia, that hung in Newfields for about three months.
How do you keep yourself motivated and driven?
The feedback that I get from customers. Knowing that my lasagna helped celebrate, comfort, or was just a special treat to themself, it’s the best thing ever.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.