Ella's 12 Learnings In 12 Years Of DE

In 2012, I wrote a blog post about sweet potato wedges with avocado cream that only my mum saw. If you’d told me then that I’d just kickstarted a company that would go on to sell 98 million food products (one a second!) and counting; that our seven cookbooks would have consistently topped the Sunday Times best-sellers charts; that we’d have our own restaurant and factory, and that we’d have a social media community of over 4 million people, I never would have believed you. 

Back then, I was desperately ill; my self-esteem was at rock bottom, and I had lacked ambition my entire life. To say the last 12 years have been a surreal, unexpected whirlwind that’s flipped my life upside down would be the understatement of my life. These years have truly surpassed my wildest expectations and I’m grateful beyond belief (and very emotional while writing this!). 

We’ve achieved a lot in a short time, and that’s thanks to our phenomenal team of brilliant, passionate colleagues and you, our supportive community who give our mission such a tangible meaning. Growing those communities is undoubtedly our biggest success and I wanted to take today to say thank you.

I also wanted to take some time to reflect on what I've learnt on this journey, and I think a lot of it goes so much beyond business, so I wanted to share my 12 main learnings with you.

1. Aim for 1% better every day.

I’m easily overwhelmed, especially now that I’m juggling both the business and two small children. The 1% premise has become my life mantra, helping me create manageable daily focuses that, over time, make a huge impact. If you get 1% closer to a goal for a year, you'll end up 37x closer 365 days later. It's like the old Chinese proverb, ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’. It’s all about a step-by-step, brick-by-brick approach.

2. There are no quick fixes.

I think most of us are prone to searching for quick fixes. We want the silver bullet that’ll instantly step-change our health, our careers, our relationships, etc. I’ve wished for these time and time again and finally accepted that there are no magic answers, so I’ve stopped looking for shortcuts. It’s made me happier and better able to handle the never-ending challenges that owning a business throws at us on a daily basis.

3. (Almost) nothing is as bad as it first seems.

My goodness we’ve seen it all, especially in the last few years – worldwide lockdowns, Brexit, cost increases, factories on fire, suppliers and customers going into administration – disasters left right and centre! I used to panic every time one of these events happen, assuming the worst. I’ve learnt that whilst it feels incredibly stressful in the moment, all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of another and focus on solutions not problems. We’re still here, we’re still standing and have built a lot of resilience along the way!

4. The only certainty in life is uncertainty.

I’ve spent too much of my life stressing about hypothetical things that may never happen. If the last 12 years have taught me anything, it’s that change is the only constant in life. You don’t know how life will unfold, so wasting time catastrophising theoretical problems is ultimately just an energy-drain. Daily meditation has helped me reframe my mindset and better embrace the unknown.

5. Failure is inevitable. Learning to fail forwards, quickly can turn your failures into successes.

No one succeeds without failing (many times) along the way. We’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes. I think the key is admitting you got something wrong quickly and failing forwards, using the slip-up as a prompt to evolve and end up in a better place. When we launched our oat bars into a big supermarket in 2017, they only lasted about six months. We were told they were being de-listed; they simply weren’t selling. We could have kept trying but instead we accepted the product wasn’t good enough, changed the recipe and the packaging, essentially starting again. It wasn’t easy but last year we sold fifteen million of them.

6. Know what you don't know.

I love the saying, ‘if knowledge is power, knowing what you don’t know is wisdom.’ From day one, we’ve focused on hiring brilliant people with the skillsets and knowledge that we lacked. Listening to those team members and learning from their experience has been critical to building the business. As the founder, however, I struggled to openly admit that I didn’t know the answer at the start.

7. Success isn't linear.

It’s been one step forwards, two (or ten!) steps backwards at times. Those moments are disheartening; once or twice we’ve wanted to give up and pack it all in. Reminding myself of the fact that success is a marathon, a long game with many twists and turns, has been very important.

8. Know your why.

You need to know why you started, why what you do matters, how does it transcend beyond you and your life? That’s what picks me up when I fall, it’s the motivation to problem solve day in day out. I believe our mission matters, I want to help people eat real food again, with more plants, more of the time. I want to change the trajectory of our collective health.

9. Have faith in yourself.

Early in my career, I had crippling imposter syndrome. I was only 21 when I started Deliciously Ella and constantly felt out of my depth. It took me almost a decade to overcome the sense of not being enough in a professional setting. The lack of self-belief held me back and said no to a host of interesting opportunities that I regret in retrospect.

10. Done is better than perfect.

No one starts at the finish line. You won’t end with what you started with. You won’t know if you don’t try though, so start today, start now, start with something and don’t be afraid to change it as you learn. We’ve evolved, pivoted, and started again many times. When we launched our first products someone told me that those products would likely be out of market a few years later. At the time I was offended, but of course he was right - only our original Cacao & Almond Energy Ball remains (and I do still love it!).

11. Embrace change.

Things will change constantly, and challenges appear from nowhere, sometimes on a daily basis. You’ve got to be ready for anything and willing to jump on a new plan at a minute’s notice. Seeing challenges as opportunities rather than nightmares is key.

12. Swap expectation for appreciation.

One of my favourite little mottos. Expect nothing, be grateful for everything. And most of all enjoy it – sometimes things are stressful because they’re exciting, so live in the opportunity not the chaos.

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