Ellen Marie Bennett is the founder and chief brand officer of Hedley & Bennett. If you’re a foodie, you’ve seen Hedley & Bennett aprons on some of the world’s best chefs. I saw one on Stanley Tucci and knew if I was going to be a serious home cook, I had to have one. Ellen shares how she created this brand 10 years ago—at the age of 24—this week on the On Brand podcast.
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About Ellen Marie Bennett
As a 24-year-old line cook, Ellen Marie Bennett couldn’t stand the kitchen staff’s poorly designed, cheaply made aprons. So when her head chef announced he was ordering a new batch, she blurted out, “Chef, I have an apron company”—even though she had no company, no business plan—just a glimmer of a design idea and a business license. Through hustle and a willingness to leap into the unknown, time and time again, she built that first order into a multi-million-dollar company called Hedley & Bennett, making aprons and kitchen gear worn by many of the world’s best chefs and home cooks everywhere.
“Your listeners have to be thinking, ‘A whole interview about aprons?!’” Ellen jokingly suggested. “This has nothing to do with aprons. This could be aprons or protein powder or whatever your product is.”
“I wanted to be the Nike of the culinary world.” Mission accomplished. And that’s no small mission! Ellen talked about wanting to create a connection with her customers and community like Nike has with theirs. That feeling when someone puts something on feels that they can do anything.
Chasing perfection vs. learning. Ellen notes that it’s dangerous to wait for perfection to launch a new product, stressing the importance of “embracing the long and winding road.”
Learning from customers. “Everything we added to our products we learned from chefs,” Ellen explained that focus groups aren’t everything. “There’s no one way to build a brand.”
How do you know when to expand the brand? Recently, Hedley & Bennett has expanded into knives, thermometers, and towels. But how did they know when to expand? “We learned that we’re not just an apron brand. We’re a culinary brand,” Ellen explained. “And one of our brand pillars is that it needs to be pro-grade.” It has to be chef-quality.
What brand has made Ellen smile recently? Ellen was moved to smiles and tears by a recent trip to Mexico to deliver holiday gifts to children through the foundation This Is About Humanity. Ellen shared more about the good work they do and how they get a majority of the money they raise into the hands of people who need it most.
As We Wrap …
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