How Ellen Marie Bennett is combining eye-catching aesthetics and functionality with her brand Hedley & Bennett
Describe Hedley & Bennett in a few words?
An apron and kitchen gear brand born out of a professional kitchen making beautiful, durable pro grade gear for the home that is used by thousands of restaurants and home cooks alike. Also, click this link to purchase “Dream First, Details Later: How To Quit Overthinking & Make It Happen!”, my latest book!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
It all started with wanting to make a better apron for the professional kitchen where an apron is as important as your knife or cutting board but it eventually turned into a direct to consumer business where we took all of our learnings from professional kitchens and created products that were not just functional but beautiful for the home cook too.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I used to cook professionally at a 2 michelin star restaurant.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think we all have an entrepreneur within us, it’s just that certain life experiences and opportunities propel us to take the leap into it fully.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
It was old school, street by street, chef by chef and working with restaurants to outfit their whole team. This acted as the best marketing because you would see our gear in your favorite spots till it eventually became a thing. If you saw our red Ampersand patch on the chest of the apron, you knew it was H&B and therefore the good stuff.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
One of the most challenging times in my business was fairly early on when I realized I couldn’t just do everything myself and I also couldn’t just make everything land and work always. Mistakes were going to be a part of the journey and I needed to start recognizing that there was no way around them but a major opportunity to learn from them.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Having donated half a million masks during covid thanks to our incredibly viral wake up and fight mask that was done by way of a buy one donate one model.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I always try and find people who are low ego, high EQ, mega problem solvers and very collaborative. You want to pressure test their ability to be honest, upfront and be comfortable with candid conversations because I believe those ingredients are essential to great team work.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We had to shift dramatically because 50% of our business relied heavily on restaurants and overnight, that business took a nose dive because of covid. We decided to take our 16,000 sq ft factory in LA and produce face masks through a buy one donate one model and thanks to that initiative, we have been able to donate half a million masks and produce 1 million of them.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Lots and lots of pro grade, well made kitchen gear that helps make the basics of the kitchen from a commodity to a beautiful necessity.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
How to adapt effectively and rapidly.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
To be laser focused and look at the value versus effort of the things you choose to be a part of, in essence, is the juice worth the squeeze. Lots of shiny stuff will come along so you need to know what to say no to.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Lots of baths and lotssss of walks.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I believe in making my work and life blend because if you love what you do enough, it’s less of a burden to do the “work” of building something and more something you are excited to think about. I also have a job that involves me working with the restaurant industry and that is ALWAYS fun.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
One of my many jobs to pay my way through school in Mexico city was announcing the Mexican lottery numbers on television during the week.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Staying hydrated, finding the right space to get into your groove, for me it’s airpods in and chill music happening while I’ve got my emails going, and lastly sleeping enough. 8 hours is my go to or else it’s hard to crank for 10 to 12 hours.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Action, hustle, movement forward no matter what.