Have you heard of Hedley & Bennett? If not, you’re in for a treat! This brand is changing the apron and chef gear industry for the better. Ellen Bennett (fondly called The Apron Lady) started Hedley & Bennett in 2012 when she saw that kitchen workwear was bland and generic. Now their aprons have turned into a nationwide movement. Ellen is such an inspiring entrepreneur that I couldn’t wait to share her story with you all today. So without further ado, here’s the interview:
1) For anyone who doesn’t know you already, how would you describe yourself?
I think of myself as everybody’s cheerleader, I think everyone can do more than they think they can. I have hope for everybody and want people to be the best version of themselves. I’m very community-oriented and really want to make the world a better place through my company.
2) Why did you decide to start Hedley and Bennett?
I have always loved design and food. I love looking at something and thinking of ways to make things better. I ask myself how I can make people and things better and more functional all the time. I used to work in a professional kitchen where the uniforms didn’t make us feel unified because they were such low quality. That’s where the idea began. I used to wear uniforms that had straps falling, the pockets ripping off, and the bottom fraying. I wanted to make them better so that people had a uniform that made them feel pride when they wore it.
3) When you picture a happy life, what do you see?
I’ve learned that happiness is about the journey. When I landed my first big account, I thought “this is incredible”, and then quickly moved onto “OK, now what?”. I’ve found that it’s the steps along the way that make you happy. Happiness isn’t one finite thing. Rarely is happiness about the materialistic items. Those are awesome to have and money is something you need to sustain yourself, but for me I’ve realized money doesn’t make someone happy. It’s other things: It’s seeing my staff excited in the office or rolling out health insurance for our entire team, which we’re doing next week. That’s a big deal.
Happiness is going for your goals and not standing on the sidelines. You have to jump in. There’s a ton of bad that happens along the way, but happiness is in jumping in. You have to “do” to find that happiness. Not all of it will be pleasant, but you have to feel the lows to get the highs.
No one becomes successful over night. If it’s just for money, that peak high would be very short. You want to go for something bigger. So with Hedley and Bennett, I’m on the journey to being happy because every day we’re accomplishing a goal, all while hitting 15 bumps along the way.
4) What does your typical morning consist of?
It’s a little bit varied, but if I’m in town, I get up and feed the farm animals (chickens and a pet pig). I take turns with my boyfriend on who deals with what animal each morning. Sometimes I’ll go do boxing or yoga or spinning at 7:30am before work.
Both of us work from 9am to 9pm when we’re in town. We’ll get home around 8:30 or 9:00 at night so the morning is the only calm time.
Once I leave for work, I will typically call my assistant or have a scheduled call. If I’m not on a call, I’ll listen to a podcast. My favorites are:
How I Built This
Pardon My French with Garance Doré
Seth Godin’s Startup School
The Tim Ferriss Show
Radio Cherry Bombe
Mentoring Moments (Forbes podcast)
6) When you’re having a bad day, how do you pull yourself back up?
Typically if I have a really bad day, I’ll find time to go exercise. I get through a bad day with a combination of exercise, vitamins (liquid as opposed to caps), and random extreme sports that I’ll sign up for like marathons or a 300 mile bike ride for charity. I sign up for something like this every 6 months or so that I have to train for. It teaches you that you can do more than you think you can.
7) What is your favorite mantra that continues to be relevant in your life and why?
My two favorites are “Don’t give up because you got a no. Keep persisting.” and “Wake up and fight.” We’re so lucky to be alive and have arms and legs and ears and eyes that work. Sometimes we forget that little significant detail that’s so apart of us. You have to remember the things that you do have and not just the things you don’t have.
8) If you could tell your past self something 10 years ago, what would it be?
I don’t have a lot of regrets because I’ve done most things I’ve wanted to do. I always say “leap while looking.” Jump into the pool, but look around while you’re leaping. Figure out how you’re going to land, but leap no matter what. Don’t sit out just because you don’t know what’s going to be on the other side. I’ve always taken that approach to life. I’ve gone through amazing and not-so amazing situations, but at the end of the day I’ve done great things because of this mindset.
I would say to my past self: Don’t stop. Keep leaping. Don’t slow down.
9) Do you have any tips for others who want to turn their passion into their career?
Make sure that you’re really good at whatever your passion is. If you’re not good at it, practice a ton and get good at it. Get feedback from a lot of people who would be your audience in the future. Focus groups can include the people around you every day. I also recommend doing internships at different places that’s similar to what you want to do. Learn from the best and add your special sauce to the mix.
Make sure you’re creating something special and different. Bring something different to the table instead of copying. Copying is an exhausting route. I’ve seen plenty of people try to copy ideas and they run out of ways.
I created something that didn’t exist. We created a niche and made it what it is now. You have to find something you really love and that you care about enough to push the rock up the mountain even while it’s hailing on your head.
Lastly, don’t feel like you have to be a business owner. The truth is that it’s hard to own a business. You can be an entrepreneur in someone else’s company.
Thanks so much, Ellen, for the great interview! You can find her aprons and chef gear at www.hedleyandbennett.com.
Follow her on Instagram at @ellenmariebennett.
This interview is part of Happsters Happy Questions, an ongoing series of interviews that take a peek inside the lives of inspiring women around the world.