What led you to start your own business?
I started in 2012 while working as a line cook at Providence, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Los Angeles. I set out to revolutionize my own uniform but shortly realized that the whole uniform for chefs and those working in restaurants had been overlooked. So I set out to have the best American-made apron company.
ELLEN BENNETT, 28
Hedley & Bennett, designers and makers of aprons and kitchen workwear
Financials: Several million in annual revenue
Where did you get the startup money?
I grew this company organically one apron at a time. I’ve never had investors or even a loan.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Being my own cheerleader every day when there weren’t any clients or orders. Deep down I knew this was right for me, but I had to believe it before anyone else could believe it. It’s sink or swim.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
There is no such thing as being too young. I started this in my living room with nothing but an idea. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. You have to put in the hard work to make it happen. Find out if people actually need and want your product and that there aren’t 50 other companies doing the same thing. Find a way to be different but make sure it’s native to you.
How many hours a day do you put in?
I work 10 or more hours a day almost every day of the week. I have chunks of time on the weekend where I cook, which is my form of relaxing. But I don’t sit back with my feet up. I don’t actually know how to do that. I had a cold last weekend and my “time off” consisted of making food; playing with my pig, Oliver; cleaning my backyard; and reorganizing my kitchen.
Has your youth led to any awkward situations, such as when you supervise employees who are older than you?
Most of my company are all under 30. My team is a great team and age is never an issue.
Would you start another company?
I might, depends on when and where. But for now, I am extremely fulfilled at H&B.
Could you ever work for someone else?
No. I love running and owning my own company – wins, failures, and all of the above.
What do you do to unwind?
Jumping in the kitchen and cooking. That’s my kind of unwinding.
— Daina Beth Solomon
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