The Deliciously Ella brand has gone from a humble blog to 160 million users globally, five bestselling books, delis and a range of food in 6000 stores nationwide – here are Ella Woodward’s tips for business success
Ella Mills (nee Woodward) aka Deliciously Ella is probably one of the best known faces of the plant-based movement. Her bestselling cookbooks have been translated into scores of languages, the Deliciously Ella app went straight to #1 in Food & Drink at the UK App Store and the Delicously Ella range of foods, which began as protein balls, are now stocked in 6000 stores nationwide including Waitrose, Starbuck’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. With her new baby due in August, as 28 year old Woodward prepares for her maternity leave, Healthista caught up with her.
With our focus this month on growing a wellness brand we asked Ella what are her three biggest nuggets of business advice?
1. Have a financial strategy that makes sense
‘When you think about starting your business you often start with the product because you’re really passionate about it, so you focus on the brand and the messaging. But it’s so important to have a financial business plan or financial strategy that actually makes sense early on.
‘A lot of people go into the wellbeing space with a lot of passion but they forget about margins, or their margins don’t make sense or they then start getting into retail and it’s not sustainable to continue to produce their products.
‘You need a sustainable business model; you need cash, and your cash flow has to make sense. So make sure you tick all three areas and don’t get so wrapped up in the brand and the product that there’s no business model. Your numbers have to make sense or you can’t grow’.
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Celebrating six years since Deliciously Ella became a company. Six years since I decided to try and make this my career. Two years solo, almost four with Matt and our incredible team. Never in a million years did I think we’d be here, over twenty products in 6,000 stores, five best-selling books, an app and 2.5 million readers across our social platforms. I’ve doubted myself a million and one times, thought I wasn’t smart enough or good enough to do it and believed other people were right as they dismissed and criticised me. I’ve almost quit twice, we’ve been close to out of business a couple of times, I’ve cried on the floor of the deli, spent our wedding anniversaries in porter cabins finalising granola recipes and Christmases talking about fundraising, we’ve had countless sleepless nights worrying about just about everything and most importantly I have been honoured and humbled by the endless of support that you’ve given us throughout and have learnt more than I could have ever imagined in the process. It’s been a rollercoaster, the most rewarding journey and one that wouldn’t have happened without you. You have built our business, given us our why and reason to keep going and supported us endlessly. Thank you for everything. I can’t wait to do the next six with our daughter ❤️ P.S it was my brother that incorporated Deliciously Ella for me, he wrapped the documents up for my birthday in 2013, forever grateful for that 🙏🏼
2. Know what you don’t know
‘Acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses and know what you don’t know. No one is the best at marketing and commercials, sales and finance and operations. No one excels in every area so don’t feel like you need to.
‘It’s okay to say, ‘This is what I’m really good at, this is where I can really help us, and this is what I’m not very good at and what I don’t really like doing. And then make sure those are the people that you hire and give them autonomy to support you. Then you will grow.
‘When you’re trying to do everything and you’re struggling with one of those three key areas, that’s gonna be really, really hard. So I think acknowledging what you’re good at is important.
‘I said so early on that I am not good at the finance side of our business so I’m not going to sit in our finance meetings; it wasn’t a good use of my time.
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Just trying to grow a baby and a business 😂🤰🏻So un-glam, truly multi-tasking at its best, and a little dose of unedited Insta reality. Legs up the wall in our office’s meeting room this afternoon to ease heavy, swelling ankles from standing filming all day and getting a few mins for my inbox between a million other things. Snapped by my husband, who found this v funny. Such love and respect to all women for what our bodies can do💃💃💃
3. Know exactly what you’re getting into
‘Starting a business is incredible and I would recommend it to anyone, but it’s so intense and I think there’s such a glamorisation of entrepreneurship and girl boss and that’s a great thing, but it’s really hard.
‘Our house is mortgaged against the business, which most people’s are, it’s just reality but that doesn’t help with getting to sleep at night. And there have been a handful of times where I have thought, ‘I actually think we’re out of business next week…’ and you have to find a way around it.
‘You’re in charge of paying everyone’s bills at the end of the month you’ve got to find a way to do that. Making sure you’re going in with your eyes open and also that you know it’s the right time, because you’ve got to put it above everything else.
‘Matthew [Mills, Ella’s husband] and I for example don’t have a social life, not really, we work. But the other day someone said to me, which I loved: ‘You can’t see these things as sacrifices, they’re choices.’ And it’s so true. No one has everything, you’ve got to make your choice of what your priority is.
‘For us, the priority the last four years has been work and we have put it above and beyond everything – we even worked on Christmas Day this year. It’s just what we’ve needed to do to keep things going and growing in the way we wanted to and take advantage of the opportunities that were there.
‘I wouldn’t have it any other way but I think it’s important to know that you will miss many of your friends’ birthday parties and you will probably let friends down.
‘Ultimately, if there’s a problem at work you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to solve it, you won’t switch off, you will not have a weekend in the way that you had a weekend before.
‘You’ll never go on holiday again and just put an out-of-office on…
‘So it’s important to be realistic. Is this the right time for you to start a business now? Can you put your all into it or do you need to prioritise other things right now?
3 things getting Ella through her pregnancy
1. Plain food (and chips)
‘I was so nauseous in the first 12 weeks, I couldn’t eat anything that had flavour. Indian’s normally my favourite food and that was just a really bad idea.
‘I could only eat pasta with olive oil and salt and lemon – I was obsessed with lemon. There was one night, I went out to dinner with my father-in-law and my husband and we went to this local Italian. I ordered the Pomodoro, had two bites and thought, ‘oh my god, this is going to come right back up’.
‘So I said to the waiter, ‘I’m so sorry, this is so rude, do you have any chips? Is there any way I could have a big, large adult size portion?
‘I did a lot of that. But since week 16 it’s been much better, though even now I find myself still wanting everything pretty plain.
‘My body has started to crave vegetables again – I think I hadn’t eaten a vegetable in four months but now it really wants smoothies and fresh food, which feels good.
2. Vinyasa yoga
‘I love walking and yoga and just moving, so I found the first few weeks, when I felt really sick and couldn’t do much quite challenging. I missed that feeling in your body of just moving.
‘I’ve been really trying to keep up my yoga and I’m grateful for that, it’s been a really positive, amazing practise throughout pregnancy. I think also because there are so many changes going on it’s really lovely to have that time to like connect with yourself.
‘I’ve been taking probiotics for about four and a half years now. I worked with a nutritionist about four years ago, because after I was sick and things had got better my digestion was still absolutely terrible because I had done 18 months on antibiotics straight.
‘I used to get so bloated that often times I would look more pregnant than I do now at six months.
‘My digestion wasn’t in a great place so we worked on addressing that and she recommended I take Symprove, the probiotic, and within weeks my bloating had improved and now I rarely have any.
‘I’ve been taking it ever since including throughout the pregnancy, which has been really good because your digestion is not the best in pregnancy.
‘I’ve also taken vitamin B12 for ages as well, because of my plant-based diet and I’ve kept taking that. The only thing I’ve added in is a pregnancy multivitamin, called Methylfolate from Cytoplan which my nutritionist also recommended.
If you’ve always wanted to make money from your healthy passion, Healthista’s upcoming Health To Wealth event is your chance to learn how to grow – or even just start – your side hustle into a business.
Healthista have teamed up with luxury hotel brand Pullman Hotels & Resorts to launch a new wellness entrepreneurship-focused initiative and event – Health To Wealth – to help budding start-ups bring their businesses to life.
The live event will see Healthista readers, consumers, influencers, media and businesspeople alike, come together to share and learn.
During the event, selected early-stage health businesses and ideas will be put to the test Dragon’s Den-style before a panel of industry experts including BBC Dragon – and Healthista investor – Touker Suleyman.
When: June 13th, 2019
Where: The Shaw Theatre, Pullman London St Pancras, 100-110 Euston Road, King’s Cross, London, NW1 2AJ
Tickets: £15 from this link. Entry price includes a wellbeing goodie bag worth over £50.
On the night
Successful entrepreneurs from all areas of wellness including nutrition, fitness, and fashion will take part in a panel discussion focused on sharing their experience, tips and tricks for starting and growing a business in the wellness space.
This will be followed by a Dragon’s Den-style format, inviting up-and-coming wellness entrepreneurs to pitch for support to further the success of their own businesses.
The Health To Wealth entrepreneur’s panel includes:
Touker Suleyman, BBC Dragon, multi-millionaire behind brands including Finery, Ghost and Hawes & Curtis and Healthista investor.
Emlyn Brown, Vice-President Well-Being, Luxury and Premium Brands at Accor Hotels.
Ashley Verma, founder of London’s barre fitness studio DEFINE London.
Anna Magee, Healthista Editor and CEO and multi-award winning health journalist.
Charing the panel will be Anni Hood, co-founder and chief executive at Well Intelligence – a research, insights and market evidence platform aimed at helping wellbeing businesses grow.
Tickets to join the audience to learn from the successes and hurdles overcome by the panel of speakers are £15 per person and available to purchase from here.
Use code HEALTHISTA5 at checkout to get £5 off