London Recap: Changemaker Chat with Deliciously Ella

A Changemaker Chat with Deliciously Ella

A self-proclaimed ‘Haribo and Ben & Jerry’s’ lover, Ella Mills would never have guessed she’d be leading a massively popular food blog and be the head of a retail empire a few years ago. After being diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, Ella embarked on a journey to overhaul her lifestyle and diet in an attempt to better manage her disease. With her mental and physical health at an all-time low, Ella began to read about diet and nutrition and started experimenting with recipes. A blog, app, deli and four cookbooks later – Deliciously Ella was born!

During our March Changemaker Chat, Ella candidly discussed the challenges she has faced growing her business and how she maintains confidence and stays true to herself in a competitive industry.

From a Blog to the Bestseller’s List
To some extent, Ella’s success has been unintentional – self-admittedly, she struggled with basic cooking and was a complete stranger to the idea of kale and quinoa when she started out. On the advice of a friend, Ella decided to write about her food journey as a blog. The blog spread like wildfire. Deliciously Ella saw over 100,000 hits in the first six months with people tuning in from all over the world, which racked up to over 100 million a few years later.

The turning point for Ella came when she was asked to write her own cookbook. Her food journey had begun as a personal search for healthy, delicious recipes – when her book sold out before it even hit the shelves, she realised just how large the Deliciously Ella community had grown.

Shortly thereafter, Deliciously Ella was officially incorporated (the greatest birthday present from her brother), and Ella worked up the confidence to launch an app, which much to her delight and amazement soared to the top of the charts overnight. It was clear that what had started as a fun hobby had the potential to be a tangible, legitimate business!   The app and limited co came before the cookbook – turned into a company in 2013 and app was early 2014, the book came after the success of the app in 2015.

The Biggest Moments Happen When You Least Expect It 
Ella calls 2016 one of the highlight years for Deliciously Ella. On a whim, Ella’s husband and business partner, Matt, reached out to Starbucks about featuring Deliciously Ella’s new energy balls. Matt’s LinkedIn sleuthing paid off, and Starbuck’s UK MD replied within 30 minutes.

Fast-forward a couple of days, Ella and Matt were leaping up and down in an elevator at Starbucks HQ after successfully closing a massive order. The enormity of their accomplishment hit Ella, as she realised her dream was quickly becoming a reality. She also realized they now had to get their manufacturer to produce enough stock to get products onto shelves within the next 3 weeks! “It was finally happening – it feels like I’ve been doing this forever, but every week I learn so much more.”  

You Know What You Do Best
While Ella relished in Deliciously Ella’s incredible success, she was also hit with the practical challenges of getting a business off the ground. Suddenly, instead of writing blog posts and trying out new recipes in the kitchen, Ella’s day was taken up with surveying spreadsheets, calling suppliers, and later meeting with the board.

As the team filled out with experienced, qualified people, Ella also worried about finding her place in the company. She did not want to be a mere ‘talking head’, and finance and marketing meetings with the industry big shots they’d hired left Ella feeling unsure of herself.

After a branding exercise went awry, Ella reminded herself that despite her lack of business experience, she understood Deliciously Ella the best and was the one most in tune with the community. Refocusing the project gave Ella the confidence to find her voice and to provide the young company with a stable identify and mission.

Four Pieces of Advice From Somone Who Loves Giving It
After an engaging round of Q&A, Ella concluded by sharing her top four pieces of advice, applicable to anyone starting a business or simply trying to navigate professional life.
  1. People are everything. Teamwork is the most important thing if you’re starting a business, because no one is good at everything. Surround yourself with the best people who will support you and help keep you on course.
  2. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Let people do what they are good at – including yourself. You achieve success by empowering others and making your team feel engaged and valued.
  3. Optimism is key. Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution. Worrying simply wastes time, both real and emotional. Keeping your eye trained on the end goal helps you more quickly bounce back from setbacks and disappointments.
  4. “No one can have everything.” If you try to do everything at once, your work and your quality of life will suffer. Prioritise what truly requires your attention and take the time you need for yourself to stay focused, sane, and committed!