Just over five years ago I sold my first pouch of baby food. It was actually the first pouch of baby food in the world - an innovation that launched the Ella’s Kitchen brand and started a revolution by creating a new category of premium baby food.
My instinct told me that babies eat with all of their senses, not just their taste buds, and if we could encourage them to engage across all five senses they would be more likely to eat and enjoy healthy food than if we relied on them simply being hungry. I also thought parents would emotionally connect to a brand that was ‘personal’, built around my own challenges in weaning my daughter - Ella. No other brands had seemed to focus on either strand before, so both were my opportunity to be relevant and different to both babies and parents.
Ella’s Kitchen has gone from strength to strength - surpassing £30m turnover last year, launching in Scandinavia and America, and finding that every second of every day someone around the world now eats an Ella’s product. The brand’s success, I understand, is down to a big dose of entrepreneurial spirit, and an unwavering commitment to being the best at understanding families’ needs.
In putting the consumer at the heart of our business, we have secured our market share, won prestigious national awards for consumer understanding and co-founded the Consumer Forum in 2010, with like-minded brands such as LoveFilm, King of Shaves and Photobox. The Forum offers networking and workshop opportunities and seeks to deepen the wider business community’s awareness of the benefits of exceptional consumer focus.
Entrepreneurial zeal came in the form of my tenacity, creativity and passion. I have revelled in acting like our core consumer – a toddler. They view the world through a narrow lens, totally focus on the task in hand, won’t take no for an answer, are unafraid of failure, and usually find a way to get what they want. Yet they are loving, honest and open – traits that are often hugely underestimated in business.
At the recent MADE Festival in Sheffield, Peter Jones inspired me with his vision of the “British Dream” - taking the American Dream to our shores. He committed to helping establish self-belief, communal support, savvy nous and a “can do” attitude deep into our national culture so that more of us feel empowered to set up new businesses, grow them substantially and thus create great British jobs, brilliant British brands and consumer driven export opportunities to empower our economy. I think the Ella’s Kitchen’s story lives the British Dream, and one of my favourite British entrepreneurs certainly summed it up, when Anita Roddick of Body Shop, said “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito.”
Paul Lindley is founder and CEO of Ella’s Kitchen. For more information, videos and advice for SMEs, visit www.freshbusinessthinking.com