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Ella’s Kitchen founder: The taste of success

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen and social campaigner, talks about the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship.

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Award-winning entrepreneur Paul Lindley OBE started Ella’s Kitchen – the UK's largest baby food business – in 2006. He named the brand after his daughter, and was with the company until 2018, when he stepped away to devote more time to social campaigning.

We caught up with him to find out what his experiences have taught him so far. As well as divulging the secrets of his success, he spoke about his passion for encouraging other people to explore their entrepreneurial ambitions.

 

What was most important to you when developing the Ella’s Kitchen brand?

My approach was to look at it as I look at everything in life – from a people point of view. Trust in a baby food brand is absolutely paramount. You've got to trust that functionally it will deliver the nutrition your baby needs. But emotionally, you've got to trust that the company is producing it for the best interests of your child.

Don’t look at it, or be seen, as a CEO of a corporation looking to make money for your shareholders. Instead, look at it as a parent – not only will you make more money for your shareholders, you’ll also gain the trust of your consumers.

 

Did you meet any challenges along the way?

Everything's challenging when you start any business, but especially going against multinationals that are in every country, have loads of products and have been around for years.

As soon as I saw that families were trusting us, that there was a functional need for what we were doing and it was beginning to take off, we got the confidence to invest to really grow fast. We doubled our turnover for each of the first seven years to more than $100 million and gained the trust of families around the world.

I’m so proud that we took those first steps when everyone said we shouldn’t do it.

“If you're interested in the legacy of your business and your personal life, I think you need to surround yourself with people who can advise you, not for their purpose, but for your purpose.”
Paul Lindley, Founder, Ella’s Kitchen

What have you been up to since you stepped away from Ella’s Kitchen?

I wanted to use entrepreneurship in other areas of life so that we could begin to have a society that uses entrepreneurial thinking when looking at public policy, education, charities and social enterprise.

I've invested in social enterprises and I founded and chair a human rights organisation. I also work for the Mayor of London as the chair of London’s Child Obesity Taskforce.

The second area I’ve spent a lot of time on is trying to ingrain the idea that businesses are a force for good in our society and that they need to act responsibly and sustainably.

Capitalism needs to reform urgently for the needs of 21st century society and young people. I’ve been working on ideas and actions to push this to happen, including with the Certified B Corporation movement [a certification given to businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability] and with politicians, to try to shift ideas around the role of businesses.

 

What work have you done to help other entrepreneurs?

I started a competition called just IMAGINE if… to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and make them a reality.

We work with a world-leading UK university each year and the prize is £100,000 worth of research and business school advice. It’s open to anyone who has a business idea that tackles at least one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

 

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about selling their business?

Make sure that you focus on what you're good at, and you get trusted advisers that can help you with the things you don't know. The future is always uncertain. But when you’re selling a business, you don't know whether it's going to go through.

Selling a business is hugely emotional, especially one named after your daughter. I had to be really comfortable that I was selling for the right reasons to the right people at the right time. First and foremost, my advice is: trust your gut.

If you're interested in the legacy of your business and your personal life, I think you need to surround yourself with people who can advise you, not for their purpose, but for your purpose. When I think about the legacy of Ella’s Kitchen, the thing I'm most proud about is that it was built on a culture that is going to thrive because it's based on values.


Coutts Entrepreneurs Month

In a sign of our commitment to support the UK’s leading entrepreneurs, we dedicate each October to helping them share knowledge and experiences though our Coutts Entrepreneurs Month.

 

You’ll find news of events, interviews, articles and more on our entrepreneurs’ hub. 

You can read the first report on our 2020 Coutts Entrepreneur Survey here

THE 'EXPECT BETTER' PODCAST SERIES

 

The ‘Expect Better’ podcast series looks at the thrills-and-spills of life and the meaning of wealth. From the West End maestro with a passion for philanthropy, to the gender equality campaigner who invests for her cause, this exciting 6-part series brings together some of Coutts’ most fascinating clients and industry contacts. Perhaps you’re intrigued to find out the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?

Find out more here
 

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