Ella Mills, Founder of Deliciously Ella

S1 Ep1: Ella Mills, Founder of Deliciously Ella Podcast Transcript

Chris: Have you ever wondered how the businesses you know and love have evolved? What inspired the founders to create them, what chances do they take, and what mistakes they make along the way?

Hi, I’m Chris, the CEO of Uncommon, a company that creates exceptional spaces for work. In each episode of Alive with Possibilities, I get to sit down with a different business leader whom I admire and discuss the journey they’ve been on.

I’m joined today by Ella Mills. Back in 2011, Ella was tackling a health problem and she turned to starting a blog under the name Deliciously Ella, creating recipes that she believed would improve her health.

Within two years, her website had 130 million hits, spurring a publishing deal, which saw her first book getting the accolade of the UK’s bestselling debut cookbook.

Over the years, she’s released another six books, opened a café, and launched food products, which can now be found in most major supermarkets.

I went to her office in Central London, and we spoke about Deliciously Ella pseudonym, her work-life balance, and the future of the food industry. But I started the chat by asking her to tell us about her journey to where she’s today.

Ella: It still takes me by surprise, the for want of breaded word journey of where Deliciously Ella and anything related to it started and where we are today.

So, it’s back in 2011 and I think it is worth prefacing that like no interest in food, no interest in business, very limited ambition or kind of self-belief of what I could achieve. Kind of nothing about what I do today makes sense really to me.

That year, I got very, very ill with what now, essentially is very similar to, or the same as the kind of slightly more extreme end of long COVID where nothing in my body worked. No one really understood why or what to do about it.

So, I was eventually diagnosed with a condition that essentially was the malfunctioning of my auto stomach nervous system.

So, processes that should happen automatically, like controlling your heart rate or your circulation, all sorts of stomach issues, chronic fatigue, brain fog, like full body pain kind of, you name it, I had it.

I was on about 25 different medications a day at my peak and would have to go into hospital for antibiotic drips and was trying everything.

And some things worked a little bit and other things didn’t work at all and other things had all sorts of side effects.

And really, I kind of moved forward about 5%, which still meant I was essentially asleep about 16, 17, 18 hours a day. I couldn’t really leave the house, certainly not by myself. And so, my kind of life prospects were obviously incredibly limited.

And I always think it’s so strange to say in 2023 that no one was talking about the link between what you ate and how you feel.

Because obviously today, every time you open up your phone, or read a newspaper, or listen to a podcast like that link is very, very, very prevalent.

It’s a very mainstreaming topic. It’s something tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions of people are interested in today.

One of the best pieces of advice I’d actually been given was by my godmother who’d also been very ill in her 20s. And she said the thing that really saved her was finding a hobby.

So, I thought, “Well, I think you’re right. Like I do need a hobby. I need something to try and focus my mind to feel like I have an element of purpose and productivity in my day, like a reason to get out of bed or try and get out of bed.”

So, I thought, “Okay, well, I’ll teach myself to go and put these ideas into action. I’ll teach myself to cook and I’ll try and enjoy it.”

Now, I thought I would only be doing it for a very short amount of time. I thought it would be like, “It’s kind of like taking antibiotics. I’ll do this, then I’ll get better and obviously I won’t continue with it because I won’t enjoy it.”

And obviously the first recipes were awful, like so gross. The photos were horrendous, like why anyone started following the blog in the first few months is beyond me.

Chris: And you remember what the first recipe was.

Ella: It was something with sweet potatoes, it was like sweet potato wedges. I mean, it was like a recipe in advertised commerce.

But the strange thing is people weren’t cooking these things. Even these really, really simple veggie recipes. Like they didn’t really exist.

You had a traditional kind of veganism where you know all sorts of brands like corn and Linda McCartney who were still in the market, but it was this kind of ethical based, not even really environmental at that point, stance on it.

And it was still ultra processed food, which is obviously what I was trying to move away from.

And then you had the kind of slightly more new age stuff coming out of California where you were like sprouting and dehydrating an almond for 36 hours before you ate it.

And it was interesting and interesting to see these conversations start, but it wasn’t very relatable or achievable. And also, for someone who didn’t even really eat almonds in the first place, this was all a little bit much.

And so, yeah, we started sharing the recipes and then it just completely snowballed from there. And I guess to give you those like key markers.

So, over the next few years, my health got a lot better. It came off all my medication and the site got, it’s about 130 million hits in those first two years. Off the back of that I launched my first app, which came back 2014.

That was my first moment where I was like, “Oh gosh, what’s happening? What have I done?” It went to number one on the iTunes app store overnight. It didn’t have any marketing, it was just my blog, my social media page.

And I thought, “Okay, there is something here.” Meanwhile, my dad had spent the last few years saying, “When’s Ella going to get a real job?”

And then I submitted a proposal to all sorts of different publishers. One took me on, and published my first book, which was in January, 2015. And that was really like the game changing moment.

Went on to become the fastest selling debut cookbook ever. Spent eight weeks number one on Amazon. Like really helped with the kickstarting of this conversation around what we eat and the impact it has.

And then I met my now husband four weeks later. He quit his job, we moved in together, we started the business together. A year later we were married. Yeah, definitely an all or nothing kind of person.

Chris: Good at making decisions.

Ella: Yes, impulsive, probably as well. But that was eight and a half years ago. So, all’s well that ends well. And we set about building the business from there.

Chris: So, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2016, ‘17. They were wanting to put me on a load of medication. That was the only option I was given.

But to me, I was sitting there going, “Well, it’s either the environment I’m in or what I’m kind of putting into my body. There must be a choice here.”

And then went all completely gluten-free. I thought that I would do something. A lot of the gluten-free things out there are awful for you.

The thing that scares me about that whole ultra processed stuff is that it’s something like 53 or 4% of our food now is classed as ultra processed.

Ella: Yeah, it’s almost 60% of daily calories in this country. And with kids, it’s even higher. I think it’s almost 70% with children, something like 67%. It’s enormous. It’s really extraordinary.

Chris: It’s super scary when you actually think of that.

Ella: It’s terrifying. And I think honestly, it’s been so interesting because look in a way for us, it’s exciting that people are talking about this now, because we’ve been talking about this since 2012, but especially since we launched our food products in 2015.

This was the whole premise, if we wanted to see can you actually scale a company and not use those ingredients? Can you not use emulsifiers? Can you not use flavourings? Can you not use preservatives?

And trying to explain that to people was really challenging initially. And it’s exciting as people like consumer consciousness is changing.

I was so shocked at your point, when you start looking at what’s in things. When I’d go to the supermarket and I turn over a packet and I was like, “What on earth is this? Like why is that in a pesto? Why is that in this?”

And it’s been such an interesting journey understanding why so many of those foods are added to products.

But also, we’ve created this kind of completely false economy as well around our food where we spend infinitely less money now as a proportion of household income on food than we ever have before.

We spend much less than the rest of Europe for example, significantly less. And we have this expectation of food costing almost nothing.

But it’s not really food. It’s entirely a kind of manufactured ingredient that is arguably largely harmful. How on earth will we get out of that quagmire? I really, really don’t know.

And it’s a very difficult conversation as well to have obviously in a time of economic challenge to be saying we don’t spend enough money on food. That’s the only way to improve our health. That’s a very difficult message to land.

Chris: I mean, I think I did it yesterday standing there in the supermarket. You go, “Do I buy the best?” I mean, in this instance I think we were looking at chicken or the standard chicken.

And in my head, I’m there going, “Oh, you just get the cheaper one.” But I think nothing of maybe buying a round of drinks with friends that cost me 10 times more and has gone like that.

And it is the psychology that goes into it that we are just not spending enough on our food.

Ella: When we launch our biggest products at Oat Bars, people say, “Well, why isn’t it exactly the same price as a Mars bar?” And I’ll say, “Well, it’s 99p, so it’s still like in that kind of relatively inexpensive bracket, but it can’t be 69p, 79p.”

Like you can’t compare something that’s made with hazelnuts and oats and something that’s made with entirely non-food ingredients.

I think it’s the consumer behaviours that will shift and this reprioritization of food and understanding the impact that it has.

But to your point, you wouldn’t think necessarily so much about buying a round of drinks, but you would be like, “Oh my gosh, that extra 50p is too much on food.” And that’s, as I said, also very conscious, it’s a particularly difficult conversation to have at the moment.

Chris: I mean, from the business side, there must be certain products that you get there and someone says, “Well, you could do this more cost effectively if you add X.”

Ella: Oh, every day. And that is really hard to begin with. It’s so much easier now because there’s such a bigger understanding. And I think we’ve proved that they do work as well in the market.

But in the early days there were so many manufacturers we couldn’t work with, they were just like, “We can’t touch this. There’s no way. It’s impossible. It is literally impossible to make it work.”

If you use the flavouring, you will get the same flavour every single time. If you rely on the flavour from basil itself as opposed to a basil flavour, it will vary.

Like of course it will vary if you make a pesto at home using the exact same recipe, the exact same quantities, it will not taste exactly the same every single time.

I genuinely think it’s going to be so interesting to watch the food industry and our supermarkets over the next few years because the consumer understanding of ultra processed food and the impact of ultra processed food is growing really rapidly and the demands are really there for the products.

And we see that in our sales. But the problem is it’s almost impossible to reverse engineer a product that’s on the shelf to take out all of those ingredients both from a flavour perspective, from a shelf-life perspective, but also from a cost perspective.

It will cost almost twice as much to make the same product. And so, how the shelf changes and how those options become available, I don’t really know how the kind of longstanding players shift to meet those needs.

It’s almost impossible to see. Like you see the claims being made like the big conglomerates, you see the cereal aisle and the claims that are made about the added vitamins in the children’s cereal that is literally like 90% sugar and that’s it.

That’s a shift that wasn’t on the packets when we were kids. It was just like getting a free plastic toy. Now, it’s like, “This is packed with vitamins,”

Well, it’s not really. It’s packed with sugar and that’s about it. There’s no fibre, there’s no protein, like there’s nothing in there that’s good for you.

You could just take a multivitamin and get the same benefits and eat something, like anything that would be more nutritious than that.

But you can’t reformulate that product to actually be not full of ultra processed foods. So, what happens, I don’t know.

Chris: In terms of the company though, you mentioned it growing. How many times do you think it’s had to really, really evolve? Because I assume it was just you then it had a big evolution that then was two of you. And then at what points do you think you’ve done this big jump?

Ella: That’s such a nice question. Other than starting the company in the first place, the first big one was after the first book came out when Deliciously Ella suddenly kind of became incredibly prominent and there was this moment of what do we do?

Had an infinite number of licensing deals on the table. Put your name on a pan, put your name on a packet of X, Y, Z.

I am very much one of those people that likes to do things my own way and I don’t really like being told what to do. So, I think I probably had that really innately in me. I just didn’t really recognize what it was.

So, I knew I didn’t want to do that. And Matthew, my husband, really hated his job, always wanted to do his own thing. And so, the more we talked about it was like “Well, let’s do it together. I can’t build Deliciously Ella on my own. I don’t really want to.”

But also, like my interest is a hundred percent in the brand, it’s in the food, it’s in the way it looks, it’s in the way it communicates. It’s in building the community. The reason, the purpose.

And his interest is in making it happen in the finances, in the supply chain and really building a business, building a team. Like he loves that and he’s so good at it.

And we felt, “Okay, but if we do this together we can scale it in a way that we can’t and we want ownership. We don’t want to be a marketing vehicle for another company essentially.”

And so, I think that was the first decision point. I do not want to be an influencer. I do not want to put my name on other things, like I want to and we want to build our own company. And he quit his job and we said no to all of them.

Which also for the first few years we were like, “Oh my gosh, are we insane? You could have made so much money instead.” That is not the case at all. And you’re grafting really, really, really, really, really hard.

And it was like, “Oh, it could’ve been an easy life but it would’ve been short-lived ultimately.” Like that doesn’t have decades of longevity in it, I don’t think.

I’d say the other point that felt really big was the decision to buy our investors. So, that was in 2021. They were coming up towards having five years in and could have sold their shares.

And we like ultimately, you only have a level of control on where they’re going. You could say they weren’t worth a huge amount because we have two boards, they have one like we have complete control of the company. They own sub 20%.

Buying sub 20% of a company where founders don’t want you in isn’t very appealing to many people but we obviously wanted to do right by them, we paid them out a good valuation of their money and we took back control of the company.

But the decision to do that and put ourselves in a lot of debt and not sell their shares, not take on a bigger investor and not use that moment. Especially when you know this was like peak valuation season. We probably could have sold the company for a lot of money.

Did decide not to do that and instead liked to go all in. And we had two tiny kids at that point. They were one and two, that felt like a massive decision.

Chris: This association of you, the person as Ella and you as Ella the brand, is it one and the same? Is it not? How does that all work?

Ella: Yeah, it’s been a really interesting evolution. On day one, it was honestly like a pseudonym essentially. Like there was no differentiation between Deliciously Ella the brand (but it wasn’t really a brand at that point, it was a blog and an Instagram et cetera) and Ella as a person.

And also, I was so lost myself as a person and in such a kind of strange place while I was ill that I think I quite enjoyed hiding behind Deliciously Ella as well.

And then there was this almost strange midpoint particularly as we started to hire really great people into the company and then they are making a lot of decisions too and they’re really representing Deliciously Ella in the world and people are buying Deliciously Ella in all sorts of supermarkets.

That was a really strange point where it’s like, “I know I’m not Deliciously Ella anymore but I’m kind of struggling to let go to an extent.”

And now, I don’t feel like Deliciously Ella at all. I feel very connected to and very protective of. I don’t see it in stores and think, “Oh, that’s me.”

So, I’m like, “It’s not. There’s over 50 people who work for the company. Like they put those products now on the shelf. I don’t do that. I am still an important part of the business, but I am not the business.”

And I think as we grew past like 10, 12 people that became clearer and clearer and now yeah, I feel like the godparent.

Chris: Give me two kinds of questions. Have you ever had any moments where you’ve been in a supermarket, do you go and see everything that’s up there?

Ella: Oh my gosh, I always go — we go and visit our products.

Chris: Amazing. And has anyone ever been sitting like they’re viewing it and like you’re kind of watching them to see what they do whether they get in the basket or not?

Ella: Oh my gosh, obsessively. Especially in the early days we’d watch people and then we’d elbow each other. Like, “They bought one, they bought one.”

Chris: Amazing. If they only knew that that was what, they were just making a choice. But at the time you’re just sitting behind, popcorn ready.

Ella: Exactly. I’m like, “You are literally making our lives.”

Chris: Oh, that’s great. What do you think’s been your most significant challenge you’re facing in your career so far and maybe with the company and how do you overcome that?

Ella: There have been so many challenges. Like it would be-

Chris: Daily.

Ella: Literally we could sit here for a week and the rest and we could go through a list of every challenge. I’m always so keen to say that because I think there is this like completely unrealistic glamorization of entrepreneurship and owning a business.

And don’t get me wrong, like I love it. It’s really fun. I do enjoy an aspect of the challenges but sometimes, and I guess this is what I’m saying is the ultimate challenge, it’s the relentlessness of the challenges that is the biggest challenge.

I think it’s the fact that you never really know where you are and I think the one thing I really, really believe in is that you cannot stand still. You can stand still for about two days and that is it. Like you are moving forwards or you are moving backwards.

And once you start moving backwards, which every company does, everyone probably does in their own career, trying to get momentum to move forward again is so extraordinarily difficult. You can’t keep doing that.

And so, I think that for me, the ultimate challenge is relentless pressure to consistently change, consistently evolve, never ever, ever rest on your laurels. As we said for like the longest you could do that would be 48 hours.

Like you’ve always, always got to be looking at what’s next. How do you get better?

Chris: Has it gotten easier or the challenges have gotten different?

Ella: I’m scared to say it just in case, but I think it has got easier because you have a bit more buffer. Ultimately, like each small knock in the early days, even customers not paying you on time or something not falling through like that can send you out of business because you just have no buffer.

And we own the company a hundred percent as well and so we don’t have any external capital. So, I think that probably exacerbates that sense of pressure because you don’t have anyone else’s money to spend.

And up until six months ago, we’ve had a personal guarantee on our house the whole time, so you do feel it. We took out 5 million pounds of debt to buy investors who owned 17% of the company.

And we took out about 5 million pounds of debt to get rid of them and then that was before interest rates went ding, ding, ding.

So, again, yeah, that adds to it. The personal guarantee on our house is gone and we’re nearly out of the debt. So, this is a good feeling. It’s definitely feeling easier.

But interestingly, a few months ago one of our customers went into administration and they owed us tens of thousands of pounds, not hundreds of thousands of pounds.

And we were okay, nothing happened, like no plans changed, like there was not even a consideration of anyone’s job.

And that was one of those moments where I was like, “Okay, like it’s not that we’re so big that it has no consequence. Like obviously that’s money we’d factored into being able to spend et cetera.”

But there is this slight easing of if one thing doesn’t go to plan, like we’re okay. Whereas in those early stages, especially if you don’t have any external money, if one thing doesn’t go to plan then you go bust.

Chris: Do you think that ownership structure of you owning it a hundred percent has kept that kind of focus and that relentless element of just watching every piece that comes in?

Ella: Yeah, I think so. So, Matthew, my husband, he’s the CEO of the company. I do all things brand and he gets the bank balance every single morning, is still the first thing that he looks at. So, yes, I think it does.

You have to be so choiceful in your decision making. Every single thing that we do has to come out of the profit of the company. So, you can’t do everything.

A competitor that’s come into one the areas that we play, and we saw this massive bay they’d done in one of the supermarkets and we can’t afford to do things like that.

And you look at their accounts on the company’s house and they lost several million pounds last year and we can’t do extraordinarily loss making activities.

And I don’t believe that’s always good business but your competitor can, and that’s really helpful for them. So, that’s quite an interesting difference.

But equally I think the time that we’re living in now, kind of post interest rate rises, the landscape has shifted kind of when 0% interest rates were in, people thought we were quite weird.

Like there’s so much capital available in the world, why wouldn’t you take it? And we’ve always felt like there’s a real skill in creating a profitable business and making those choices.

And I think being pushed to make choices is a good thing to really think things through. Like what are the repercussions of every single thought process that you have?

And we’re really lucky because we’re still in huge growth. We haven’t had to make any redundancies, we’re only hiring at the moment.

So, again, the shift in the landscape hasn’t really affected us because we’ve always run our business in this way.

Whereas we’ve got all sorts of people in our space who’ve cut their marketing budgets by 90% and have done lots of fundraisers on down rounds.

And we’ve hired quite a few people who’ve been made redundant by competitors because they are based on our external capital and being able to really spend more than is coming in.

So, I think we feel quite lucky now, in the way that we run the business because it’s, yeah, helped us keep the momentum going and it feels really exciting at the moment, but it definitely adds pressure.

Chris: How do you manage that work-life balance piece?

Ella: I don’t love the expression work-life balance only because I don’t sometimes think it’s that realistic.

And really delving deep into your career or starting a business, owning a business, like that’s very much a choice and it’s definitely a stressful choice. Like there’s no two ways around that.

But I think trying to have this slightly rigid structure of work-life balance and like I’m off now is just quite unrealistic when you own a business or you are working for a fast growing business, and lots of other jobs as well.

And I think sometimes it almost makes you feel like you are failing if those boundaries get blurred. So, that’s why I am not the biggest fan of it in my own personal life.

Ultimately, work always comes home with us. Like work is part of what we do and because we’re so kind of almost ingrained to think about work-life balance, I think initially I felt that was a bad thing.

Only to realise like I love what I do. It’s a huge part of me, it’s a huge part of mine and my husband’s relationship. Like we’ve always worked together, we love it, this is what we enjoy doing. But sad in some ways, so we’re probably quite nerdy but like that is our idea of fun.

Like we think it’s really interesting and so, it’s what we like to talk about. So, the idea of people would say, “Don’t talk about it at home.” We’re like “No, we love it.” It’s such an exciting part of our life that of course we want to talk about it when we’re at home.

You do need to switch off. Like it is really important but equally, you’ve got to be realistic about when that’s possible.

Chris: How do you celebrate the wins and probably some of the more challenging elements. Are there any little things that you do as a company and as individuals?

Ella: Not enough is the honest answer. We’re doing it more now as a company I think because we feel this, as I said this kind of almost like relentless pressure to move forwards.

Sometimes you’re like, “Okay, well, these good things happen but what about this bad thing?” And I think it is very important to reflect on where you’ve gotten to.

And certainly, like in 2015 when we made the decision to start the business together and Matthew quit his job and if someone had said … we got confirmation yesterday actually that we are going into Astra in January, which means our core range will be in all four of the big four.

We’re kind of got co-op that’s just come on as well and like we haven’t done it by any means. We’ve got millions of light years left to go.

But like if someone had said right you will have a business with over 50 people working for it with this turnover, it’ll be very profitable. You will be in all of these places.

Our oat bars are now outselling pretty much any competitor in Sainsbury’s with a hundred other products all owned by conglomerates.

Last week, they were the best selling item in the shop. And again, like one of them has just done a multimillion pound marketing campaign and we still spend about 10 pounds on marketing comparatively.

And so, if someone has said to you like that will be where you are at, that would’ve been such extraordinary success. And I’m very conscious of making sure that we recognize that, like we set out to see, is it possible to scale a natural plant-based food company?

And I think we have slightly proved to ourselves that we can, and we have. As I said, there’s still infinite distances to go and to grow and like it’s not an end product by any means.

I don’t think we’re very good at recognizing when we have achieved certain milestones that we set out to achieve because you always look at what’s next.

Chris: If Deliciously Ella wasn’t here tomorrow, what would you do?

Ella: I would take some time off if I’m good. I think I would probably stop for a few months, haven’t done that since the day this started. And just like give a hundred percent to my kids.

And then think I would just go again. I can’t imagine a world in which I’m not doing something like this.

Chris: I think it comes through super clearly that that’s exactly what you do. And I think that’s when it is kind of that truth around your purpose that is being completely aligned and you’re just going for it.

Ella: And I think it is like you have this acceptance like that is what I find fun. And growing up it’s like, “Oh, well, fun is going to the pub and going out.”

And I was like, “No, I’ve actually realised like I find my job really fun. Like I love my job. I find the challenge and the excitement of building a business really fun.”

I don’t know outside of my kids, but they’re a nursery and they’re at school now. So, even if I was with them a hundred percent still a fair amount of time in the day. I don’t know if I’d find the same sense of satisfaction outside of it.

And also, I have never worked for anybody else because I started this at uni. I’ve done it full-time since the day I finished.

And so, I don’t think there’s a world in which I could probably ever be employed because I’m so used to that autonomy that yeah, I think I would find it a bit challenging.

Chris: Do you think you’ve missed out on anything by not doing that?

Ella: Oh, I think I’ve missed out on like loads of things in life. A hundred percent. Like undoubtedly. I mean, I got really, really ill when I was 20 and then I started Deliciously Ella straight after that.

So, I spent all of my 20s working, like all of my 20s working. That is literally either I was ill or I was working.

So, it was definitely a lot of life experiences that I missed out on completely in terms of going out and bigger social circles and things like that. A hundred percent and very, very aware of that.

And I think if the business had failed, I think I would find that really difficult. You gave up a lot and you didn’t get a lot back essentially. So, I’m grateful that it hasn’t failed and it’s all felt incredibly worthwhile.

I don’t think I would advise anybody to start a company having not spent a while working in that industry beforehand. I think I had an unusual set of circumstances that worked in my favour, which is that nothing in this space really existed on the shelf.

The brand really took off before the sort of company as it exists today existed. And so, we built this amazing kind of organic marketing ability via this huge community that we built.

Matthew’s eight years older, so he’d been working in finance. So, he had a real clear background and understanding of how to build the business in a way that made sense from a numbers perspective.

And because the brand had been built and was really interesting and exciting and the space was suddenly super exciting, we were able to hire people.

The first hire we made was the head of innovation from Innocent, for example, who’s still a good friend and he worked with us for gosh, three or four years.

And we wouldn’t have been able to hire those people had we not had that outsized level of brand and brand awareness.

And our first customers within six weeks of launching, we were in Ocado, we were in Waitrose, we were in Starbucks. Like it wasn’t your kind of conventional brand building, like starting really small and growing up. We went quite big quite quickly.

So, I think that really helped us. I learned a huge amount therefore on the job. But I think if, especially if you’re a sole founder, yeah, doing that straight out of university without prior experience, I don’t think it would help you.

And I think I certainly would have benefited a hundred percent for going to work in a more established company first without a doubt.

Chris: Is there like a piece of advice that you wish you’d receive then?

Ella: That’s a great question. I think nothing is either as good or as bad as it initially seems. Like that is, I think, my number one takeaway.

You always think you get this one piece of information and you’re like, “Great, this will unlock everything and solve all our problems.” And like it doesn’t.

And equally then you have challenges that come in and almost all of them are solvable. You want something to be the easy answer. It rarely is quite as good as it sounds. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

But equally the bad stuff is rarely ever in the long run as bad as you initially think. And I think that’s something I wish I had absorbed fully in the beginning because I found riding that rollercoaster of the ups and downs really, really difficult.

Chris: I think I know the answer to this question, but from a legacy point, like what impact do you want to have on the world?

Ella: I really want to show people that there’s a different way to approach food. Like whether that’s through our recipes and that healthy veggie based food actually tastes nice and it’s easy to cook and it’s actually a viable alternative to like a traditional meat and two veg.

Or whether that’s showing the food industry like you can make these products without adding infinite numbers of ultra process ingredients to them. They don’t actually need to be there.

And yeah, if we can show people there is a different way of approaching food and that a healthier, natural, plant rich life is something that is both easy and achievable and tastes good, that is ultimate success.

Chris: So, the key question I have — we’re smiling already, but the key question I have, how many Ellas actually work at Deliciously Ella?

Ella: Yeah, believe it or not, we actually peaked at three, which I couldn’t quite believe. But we’re two Ellas now. But yeah, I think there was only kind of 35-ish of us and we had three Ellas, which feels like a-

Chris: High density.

Ella: High density. And also, I’m Ella Mills and there’s also another Ella whose surname begins with M, so I couldn’t even be Ella M anymore. I was like Ella brackets deliciously.

Chris: Amazing.

Ella: But yeah, so very unoriginal now.

Chris: I do think it’s probably that thing of you see a name, you’re like, “I can go work there.”

Ella: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Chris: Very good. So, we have our one little tradition, which is asking each guest to leave a book on their proverbial Uncommon bookshelf. I’m in your office so there is no chance that it’s my bookshelf, but what would be your book and why?

Ella: It’s called I May Be Wrong. And it’s by a Swedish monk who unfortunately passed away, might have been a couple of years ago now.

And it is just so steeped in wisdom, like he’s just so wise. It’s so easy to read. It brings you a lot of good life lessons. And there’s this fable essentially. And it ends with like maybe, maybe not.

Like maybe missing the train is a terrible thing. Like maybe it’s not because something terrible would’ve happened if you got on that train. Like maybe it’s a bad thing that’s happened and maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

And this idea that like you can’t control life, no one can control life. You do not know anything that’s going to happen past the next 10 seconds if you even know what’s going to happen in the next 10 seconds.

And we’ve all kind of learned that collectively, obviously in the last few years with war breaking out across the world, with inflation, with Brexit, with COVID obviously showing that to us in spades.

Like the last few years no one predicted. It’s been incredibly uncertain.

And I think the more, as people we embrace this reality of uncertainty and that the only certainty is uncertainty, and that’s the only guarantee any of us have in life. And maybe something’s a good thing and maybe it’s not a good thing and no one will ever really know.

I really like that way of looking at the world and anything that helps me frame the way I look and my outlook, I find that incredibly helpful.

Regardless of your religion, like it’s not converting anyone to Buddhism if that would be uncomfortable for anyone. It’s just a very wise book of the things that he learned across his life.

And if anyone’s looking for a better outlook and to enjoy their life more and just calm their brain down, 10 out of 10 recommend.

Chris: I think it probably leans really nicely into that point of what you’re making about just enjoying the ride.

Ella: Totally. And regardless of what you’re doing, like if you own your own business or not owning a business, you’re part of growing the business or not. Like whatever it is you’re doing with your life, whatever your focus is, it’s the same. Like no one knows what’s coming.

Chris: In talking with Ella, to me, three things really stand out. Firstly, she’s very comfortable in herself and with this business, she’s doing exactly what she should be doing.

Secondly, I found her relationship with the pseudonym, Deliciously Ella, fascinating. As for years, this has been her life, but she feels much more like a godparent now.

And more importantly, the pseudonym is much more of a celebration of all the people who help get the products onto the shelves and help the brand evolve. That’s a really nice way of looking at it.

And finally, as someone who suffers from Crohn’s, I’m used to being given endless advice on dietary needs. I particularly enjoyed talking with Ella about the ingredients in food and its effects.

I’m very encouraged by her mission and legacy to help people approach food differently to ensure that they have a happier, natural, healthy life.

I hope listening to this story inspires you. And if you haven’t already, follow Alive with Possibilities wherever you get your podcasts, as there are different learnings in each and every episode.