INTERVIEW: ELLEN BENNETT
When did your interest in the culinary arts begin? When I was a little girl. I loved cooking and always have. I thought it was an extremely interesting thing to put a bunch of things into a pot and have it come out as a dish! My parents got divorced when I was really little and my mom was working really long shifts, so I would cook for her so we would have dinner when she came home. That’s where I found the need and passion for cooking as I had a purpose and that really helped me to decide to get into the culinary arts!
I imagine your original plan wasn’t to completely revamp the entire apron market! What were your initial culinary goals?
I wanted to have a taco empire!
Did you have any hesitations in the beginning about pursuing Hedley & Bennett?
Nope. I was just like, “fuck it, let’s do it”. Sometimes people just get caught up in the thinking and not the doing so they never make something happen!
Once deciding to move forward with the idea, what was the first action step you took?
Deciding what I wanted and what I didn’t want and then just making that first apron!
Could you tell us what specific aspect of starting a business intimated you the most?
Nothing intimidated me because I didn’t know what I was up against! When you don’t see the wall you kinda just go right through it and that’s what I felt I did.
Can you think back to a specific setback or mental block you found yourself confronting in the beginning?
No! I haven’t had any setback or mental block. I have this theory that “if the front door isn’t open, climb through the window” and that’s kinda how I’ve treated this whole adventure.
What was your first ah-ha moment, when you knew all your hard work was coming together as a reality?
For me it’s a culmination of a lot of little things, just like life. You can wait for this grandiose event to occur, but really it’s all of the little expierences you have that result in everything coming together. So it was one apron at a time getting out there that culminated in Hedley & Bennett being where it is today.
For only being in business for 3 years, you sure have led your company to an impressive expansion with Hedley & Bennett aprons worn in over 2,000 restaurants in over 400 cities wordwide! What company attribute do you credit the most for this extraordinary growth?
I think it has to do with offering something that people actually need. It’s an actual necessity for people and we take serious pride in making our aprons the best they can be for our apron squad members. Also, offering crazy ass awesome service that I wish companies offered me when I bought from them. Also, being a friend to our customers and earning their trust because you genuinely care.
It’s inspiring how all of your products are made in the USA and how you even have a “Green Line” that consists of aprons made of certified recycled plastics and sustainably sourced cotton. What advice do you have for other business owners looking to be more socially conscious, but are nervous about the perceived hardships?
There are real easy ways to help the world around you without killing stuff on the way. Easy ways like recycling, getting an electric car, rain barrels, compost, using soy ink cartridges for printers are all a bunch of very easy ways to be “green” with your business and they don’t cost much.
What is one resource you just could not live without when it comes to running your business?
Google – we use Google Docs, Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail, etc. for everything! Also, the book “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh.
What advice do you have for other women (and men!) looking to pursue a bold idea?
Figure out what your idea is. Ask your potential audience what all the needs and wants are regarding your service or product instead of going out and investing a bunch of time and money in something people don’t actually need and want.
Katie Dean, of Katie Dean Jewelry, said something very interesting when discussing running one’s own business. She said, “You find out what you’re made of.”. Can you tell us about a time you surprised yourself in finding out what you were made of?
There have been times when the flood gates of hell have opened up and shit goes down and then the next day I’m still standing. It sort of makes you realize that to handle anything that goes down with some good old fashion communication and being quick to turn it around.
L.A. LADY CULTURE.
Favorite area of L.A.? Love Venice. The canals, the streets, the people, the shopping, the beach, the food and mainly the food. Great eats there!
Favorite eatery in L.A.? Love Guerilla Taco’s and Guisados in echo park. Rustic Canyon, Providence the list goes on!
Menu item we must order? Guisado’s – the sampler plate
Favorite happy hour? I don’t drink so no happy hour for me!
Favorite weekend activities in the city? Biking, running, swimming, Huntington Gardens
Audio of choice when sitting in traffic? Radiohead and Muse
Place or thing you want to do most in L.A., but haven’t yet? To see the space shuttle at the Natural History Museum!
Biggest L.A. guilty pleasure? Taco.