Dream First, Details Later with Ellen Bennett
Ellen Bennett, Chase Jarvis
Dream First, Details Later with Ellen Bennett
Ellen Bennett, Chase Jarvis
1. Dream First, Details Later with Ellen Bennett
Dream First, Details Later with Ellen Bennett1:14:45
Dream First, Details Later with Ellen Bennett
Hey everybody, what's up? It's Chase! Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis live show here in Creative Live, you know the show where I sit down with amazing humans and do everything I can to extract from their brain and share it with you and my guest today is Ellen Bennett. Now if you're in the food world, you know who Ellen is, if you are not be prepared because Ellen started working at nine years old around her house, moved to Mexico by herself at the age of 18, back to the United States and walked into the back door of a Michelin two star restaurant, got herself a job as a line cook and the rest, as they say, is history. She today runs Hedley and Bennett, which is an apparel company that specializes in premium chef aprons. Now that sounds like a small business, huge multimillion dollar business supplying chef wear for the best in the business. Nobu David chang april bloomfield, the best of the best and if you've ever wanted to start a business in an area that you love this ...
episode is for you again, her upbringing in Mexico single mother and and took all of her upbringings, mash them together and said, what do I want to be or become in this world? And did it? Uh she talks in this episode about how to maintain creativity while building a business. Um she talks to this great analogy of things are breaking all the time, right? And sometimes you have to get off of the bike in order to fix the bike. And we also of course, talk about our new book, which is I have right here dream first details later, how to quit. Over thinking and make it happen. Uh this woman is a firecracker, you're going to love her, her personality, her story is incredible. And if you ever doubted yourself, this will likely be the inspiration that will get you going. So I'm going to go out of the way and again, back to the episode here with Ellen Bennett, Ceo and founder of Hedley and Bennett. Mhm Yeah, we love you. Ellen, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome. Thanks for being here. Yeah, I'm so excited to be here. Day two of my giant book tour situation. Congratulations speaking a book. You know, we usually dance around it for a little bit, but congratulations. It's amazing out there. No, it's amazing. It's beautiful. It's well designed and obviously, um I want to talk about the meat that's in there because there's a lot of it um first of all, for those who are the unlikely few who don't know your story, I'm hoping you can orient us in time and space before you were famous. Before you had book deals and we're making aprons for the uh the most recognizable people on the planet. Um Take us back to childhood. And what were your interests? What was your childhood like an orient us in time and space totally. It was it was really a wonderful childhood even though it was an unusual one. I am half mexican and half english. So there's this awesome combo as I was little where I would run around the streets of Mexico barefoot playing football football as they like to say in Mexico football. Uh and then in L. A. I was having walkers cookies and drinking tea with my english grandfather who was a rocket scientist for Boeing. So it was very unusual and when I turned nine, roughly speaking, my parents had a very rough divorce, like world exploded type of a divorce and it was like my whole world kind of exploded again, can I say that word enough just to really drive the fucking point home? It was like, yeah, it was it was a telenovela explosion. So that went down and that really rocked my world in a way that could have been the worst thing that ever happened to me, but I kind of made it the best thing that ever happened to me. So I went from having a nice family home situation to now, it was being raised by my magical, mexican single mother by my by herself in Glendale, and it was fucking hard not gonna lie, it was very dramatic to have that shift and I really had to kind of find my way in the world and a lot of my friends had what seemed like a perfect family and I really had a lot of things uh that were just different scenarios. So I kind of felt like a little weirdo when I was little and I had big crazy hair and everybody had straight perfect hair and everybody was blond and I was this little, you know mexican lady girl that was just running around with a lot of opinions about things. And so I just kind of constantly found my own way in the world and when I was around 14, 15, my mom's a nurse, so she was working 14, 15. Crazy hour shift. Crazy yeah, crazy ass hours. I said I got to help, I gotta help, like I don't know how I'm going to help, but I'm just going to figure it out. And I had just made the decision. And so I started writing the checks for bills because I had school, I learned how to write checks so I was like, okay, I should apply class. And like literally. Yeah, and so I started doing that and then I was like, well I walk my sister to school, I'll start to figure out how to cook because I don't know how to cook. My mom doesn't know how to cook and I love cooking and just my mother was so willing to let me learn and not put any pressure on failure at all. Like it didn't even come up that I just decided I could do stuff and then I did it and she was like, cool rock on, I'm going to go to work, you do you while you're here. And, and that was kind of like my youth, it was, it was different, but it was wonderful. I want to, I want to check in on two things. One you said that you found yourself not fitting in, use your hair and you used a little bit of maybe home experience, is that like, how was that an identity for you outsider? Um or was that just a is that a convenient story now? You know, 20 years on, like, how much in your head where you then about like, oh my gosh, I don't look like my friends, I don't act like my friends, my home isn't like my friends give me a little bit more there because I think the reason I'm asking is because the people who are listening and watching right now, the reason that they are tuned into the show is because you are clearly someone who has found that thing in the world that you're supposed to do, you've tapped into that. And there are so many people in the world who have not and they've told themselves the story as we all have at one point in our lives or another. We've told ourselves stories about who we are, what we, that that we are sort of the some of our past and what I've come to believe is that, you know, we can change that. What you did yesterday isn't actually define your today. So I'm trying to understand for, for the, the audience here like that you didn't always have your shit together and eclectic is one way of upbringing. But how did you, how did that make you feel relative to headspace that say you're in now? Yeah, totally. It just made me feel like I was not like all the other Crayons in the Corolla Box and so I guess just kind of embrace it for what it is. And I also at the same time was going to Mexico and having all these fun experiences with friends who by the way had no money, had homes that didn't even have floors. And then on the flip side I had my friends in L. A. Who had a lot more money and we're kind of miserable. So while I was experiencing the fields that I was feeling, I was seeing visibly that money actually didn't have that much to do with it. Um And I wanted to just find my way and so I thought alright well let's just kind of find that way and just start doing things that you like because well you don't seem to be like anyone else anyway, so just just be you. Um And the thing that I always kind of remember was when I was young and my mom was working all day long, she gave me this liberty where I literally would. There's one time that I just, I can't even believe she let me do this. But I went to Home Depot and I bought a couple of cans of paint and I painted the living room like this beige color, painted, spun, painted her bedroom yellow and I painted the kitchen green. And she got home at like eight o'clock at night after being at the hospital all day and she was like, oh, that looks nice, OK going to bed by like it didn't even she didn't even flinch. It was just like I just painted her whole fucking house. She was totally okay with it. And she allowed me to show up as my own self and said nothing about it. So I was just like, man, this is cool. All right, well maybe out in the world I'm just a little different, But here at home I can be whatever the hell I want to be, and so I'm just going to keep doing that, and she made that environment really safe for me to be creative. So by the time I was old enough I turned 18, I decided I was going to move to Mexico City, and I really felt more comfortable in Mexico as a person, and I remember landing in Mexico and just being like, holy shit, I'm not weird, I'm just latin, I'm loud, and I've got opinions and I love color and I want to hug people and I want to say hi, and I want to bust into your house and see what you have in your refrigerator. Okay. Is that not normal? Maybe it's not, but I don't care. Have you, have you asked your, subsequently, were you able to have communication with your mom about your upbringing and say it was this intentional or you're just too busy to care? Or did you want to carve out a space for me? Because I was weird, or like, I'm thinking about the parents who are listening right now to their, you know, we're where we run programs and the programs are cultural norms and they're telling us who to be and how to program our kids. And I'm trying to uncover a little bit about what your did your mom know that she was bringing up that way? Or was it intentional? I actually just had a conversation with her about this because she said to me, you know, I really regret not having spent more time with you guys when you were little. I was trying to give you everything you could I could give you by working a lot, but I wish I could have taken you on more vacations and things like that. And, you know, I, I asked I was like I you know, were you ok with just like letting me do all these things and she said I just never assumed you would fail on it. I just didn't think twice about it. I I don't know you were, you've always been so just willing to learn things that I wanted to give you that you know space to do it and I was working. So I just let you do it. So she really didn't have some sort of structure to it. It was just, it kind of came together. Yeah. And she said to me, you know after your dad and I got divorced it was like the world had ended, but yet you were my world and I still had you so I had everything I needed and you guys were my strength in all of this. Which is just like, Oh to hear my mother have said that at 33 years old when this happened when I was nine, I mean we just had this conversation a week ago. It was yeah, it gets me, it gets me teary eyed because I was just like, wow, okay. So we were the strength that kept you going and you were the strength that made me feel like I could go out and do things and you know, my mom was raised on a tiny little ranch in the middle of Mexico where all of her sisters had to clean homes to get her through college. Like it was not an easy beginning and I love sharing that because people think you need mbas and trust funds and you need to come from a long line of money to make yourself somebody in the world and that's just not true. It really isn't well said. And to jump forward that you were in Mexico for some time and at some point you decided to come back to the U. S. And I'm curious and you're sort of your life arc, what drove you back to the U. S. And then I understand that you went to work in a kitchen when you got here. But um so first what drove you back and then when you got here, why kitchen? Was it a choice? Was it a default? Was it the first job you you thought you could get or was that, did you understand that you wanted to um that you wanted to cook because of all the childhood stuff? Right. Well I went to Mexico for two months. That was the plan and I ended up staying for four years. So from to 22. And there was a time when my mom was like Okay this is getting a little crazy, I thought you were just going to go for a little bit now you're living there and you just got your Mexican citizenship and your you know renting a house like what what are you doing? And I just really wanted to find my way in the world similar to when my parents got divorced and I was just sort of like oh my god what am I gonna do with my life? I just had to start walking forward and I feel like this was an extension of that. It was Ellen going out into the world and finding her own way and finding the thing that made me excited and I loved food and I wanted to be in food, I couldn't afford culinary school in the U. S. So it made sense go to Mexico and see if you can get into school there. And I had eight million jobs while I was there. I knew nobody. I had to like find my way in the world and there's a little, I don't know if you saw it but there's a page in my book that shows all of the jobs that I had and I think you've got to find it because people feel embarrassed sometimes about the wind e journeys that they go on to find their special place in the world. And I did a lot of weird shit to get to my place in the world. I was the lottery announcer on television in Mexico. I sold christmas trees. I was a um english tutor for kids. I was a booth babe which means like when you go to a trade show and you have a woman in a suit with like a Miss America stash across the front or sash whatever it's called. And it says, you know, like stash just a big moustache. Uh, it says like Banamex or Bancomer for banks and I would talk to people all day long about everything from bulletproof vehicles to canola oil. I mean it was eclectic and all of my friends back at home, we're going to good schools and starting to get married and buying a nice car and Ellen was in Mexico being a booth babe. Like it was crazy. But I learned a ton and I learned how to talk to people and I created what I like to reference in the book. I was building my confidence belt frankly, I was trying shit. I was living life, I was in the world, not afraid of what was going to happen to me, but simply being in it and getting smashed in the face sometimes by life. But getting back up again the next day and that gave me a shit ton of willingness to just show up and try. So, but it seems like that was embedded in you early on because of the divorce, because your mom was so trusting and hands off and had so much confidence in you that there was this underlying tone of confidence. But one of the things that I again, I just want to say congratulations on the book and for those who are listening, dream First, How to quit over thinking and make it happen. Dream first details later. By the way, it's just a beautiful, beautiful book I highly recommend. But one of the things that comes through there is you're talking about it now, like you had confidence, you had this experience, you with your parents and your childhood in Mexico and a lot of people don't have that. So in the book, you articulate how to actually build this. I would call sort of the skill of confidence by doing things by doing things that scare you. And so I'd love to get a prescription from you on this for those who weren't lucky enough to be raised by uh Uh Latina mother who was willing to let you paint the house at 14, totally. So, you know, think of it as like a savings account every time you do something that's out of your comfort zone, it can be, you know, getting an internship somewhere asking for an opportunity that you don't know if you're gonna be able to land and then you get the opportunity to somehow you land it and you, you complete what you said, you're going to do, those can be big and little moments in your life, but you're accumulating these notches in your savings account and then a bigger opportunity comes along, you're like, all right, I've shown myself that in many occasions I committed, and then I delivered, maybe I can do this one too. And so it's just putting yourself in uncomfortable scenarios like that where you're just like, I want to try and you know what, maybe I'm going to fail, but that's okay too, and I tried so many things and failed at so many of them, but then I'd have a couple of successes in between that would just fill me up with passion and I was like, oh, I like how that feels more than when I fail. So let me just try that one more time. And that kept me going to the next thing. Um, and that's really what it's about. Like I really feel that people have a misinterpretation of opportunities. They just come landing on your doorstep and everyone is waiting for their big moment. But I believe it's lots of tiny little moments where you show up for yourself and you build those own, your own opportunities, right? When I first started my company, nobody knew who the hell I was. Nobody cared about an apron to like apron. What grandma's apron? Like, what are you talking about? I had to be my own cheerleader for years before people got on the bandwagon with it. But I had a deep passion, that feeling I mentioned earlier was so alive in me when I realized that I loved doing that, that I wanted more of it. It's like I was hooked and so you just got to put yourself in enough situations until you find the thing that lights you up like a fucking light bulb and then you go after it and don't be afraid when you feel that feeling, I'm going to go fast forward for just a second for those who again are uh, I don't know we're talking about is Hedley invented? You were manufacturing company made collaborations for around aprons with made well, Vans Michelle Obama. Um, you switched, you pivoted, you've been making face masks to the pandemic. There's amazing story that's really at the core of my experience is is how I first came into you and your work. But you said two things that I want to retrace real quick. One was you failed lots of times and I'm wondering if you can share a couple of those and are these sort of personal and small failures? Are there any public ones? And how did you, did you think of them as failures along the way? And I think again, mostly trying to put ourselves in the, in the shoes of the listener right now who's saying Yeah, you know, I want to go after my stuff, but I'm terrified of failure. I can't afford it because I have a mortgage and three kids and you know whatever the list of of reasons that each of us have but share with us a couple what you thought were some of your failures along the way, totally pre pre business or post business the whole mountain. I like the pre because to me it's the setup for for the company for sure. So when I lived in Mexico and I had all these wild jobs, I had a big job that I got that was for, you know, some modeling gig that I was going to do and I was going to be on a billboard and it was a whole big deal and I called one of my booth babe jobs that I had actually booked already for that day, it was like working for a bank and I was gonna make very little money but I that was the job I had first committed to and then later I heard you're going to get this big opportunity. So I called them and I was like, I guess what, I got this incredible job, I'm so excited and I was fully freelance so any job I landed, you know, it was a big deal because you were kind of living month to month and I called the guy and he basically threatened me on the phone that he would sue me if I if I didn't show up for that bank job and that I would lose everything I had built in Mexico and that I was going to be nobody and that it was just kind of like the end of the rope in Boothbay bland and I, it was honestly the thing kind of sustaining me in so many ways. I worked four or five different booth babe jobs a week on top of going to culinary school, on top of being you know, an english tutor and all these other funny jobs I had and I was terrified of that. And I also was really committed to committing to things if I said I was gonna do it, I was gonna do it. So anyway, he threatened me, I called the other company and I said can we move the day, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, I don't know if I can do this. And in the back and forth for about 30 minutes, they called me back and they're like, we gave it to somebody else, sorry, you're moving on. And I was just like, oh my God, like this was just to put it in perspective, the amount of money I would have made in that day would have been, you know, the equivalent of like two months of work and I was trying to make it things right, and then this guy threatened me and I thought I was going to get sued and I had nobody to turn to, I was like 18 or 19 years old and suddenly I had lost that job and I kind of almost lost the other job too, And I felt like such a loser for not having the answers, for not knowing how to navigate the situation, for just not having said I'm gonna do it anyway, and that was like one of 50 things that happened all the time where you just didn't have the answer and you thought you were doing the right thing because you're trying to be honest. And then people were just screwing you over left, right and center because it's like this young girl who is from the United States, but really she's mexican, but really she's white, so it's fine and it was, it was challenging. And that same month, the landlord where I lived, we would pay him cash sometimes and it turns out he ran off with everyone's money for the entire year. So you have the entire building who was paying this guy, some people in check, some people in cash, he ran off with everyone's money and didn't pay those rents and then we all had to repay the rents that this guy didn't pay or we would get kicked out because we have no proof since we have paid in cash. So it was just like money issue after money issue in lots of different ways, some big or some small, That were giant blows when you're 19 year old living by yourself in Mexico city and I had to just persevere because I had convinced my parents that I could live alone in Mexico and I couldn't go running home to tell them I needed help. How much, how much of that was in the equation. Like do you believe if you want to take the island that you have to burn the boats? Was that, was that a huge thing for you to move to Mexico and be able to prove yourself? And presumably it sounds like your family members that you could do it, that the pressure is pressure required or is there a lightweight way too, uh, to build that muscle, you just throw yourself into the sharks? The deep end is that, is that required? It's definitely not required. I think I am a high pressure, high horsepower, high adrenaline kind of a human, but you don't have to move to Mexico to and you know, get screwed many times to build confidence. I'm just telling you some of the really shitty situations that happened along the way while I was trying to make it in Mexico, which at times felt like I was not making it. And it took me many years to really recognize and acknowledge all those cookie situations that happened to me as moments to learn because believe me, when that was happening, it was the worst feeling in the world. And so sometimes take some time to kind of think back and say, you know what that was. I'm really glad that happened to me. That shitty situation taught me so much about how to show up in the world, but that's that's a huge theme of the book to write this idea of showing up over and over and getting rid of the belief that it's going to be perfect and you've cited a couple times your latin roots like being around people that didn't have a floor I think was example use like, you know, it's just does away with this little pretty perfect world and that was I think probably the primary, my primary and favorite theme, just this willingness to build confidence over over time and through experience and speaking of experience. You then, so you decide after your mom's like, yo been four years, you you go back and my understanding is you started working at providence, is that right? That's right. And I'll tell you 11 last thing that was really important for my journey in Mexico. I've been there for four years at this point I had a pretty established world, I had a nice place to live, I was making really consistent money. I had, I had built, I've built a life And I was like hell yes, this is awesome, I did it, I built something outta nothing. I had showed up as this young cookie girl and I was really like this woman now at the end of it and I looked around at that and I thought okay, so I'm 22, is this is this it like did I make it? And I kind of just knew in my Heart of Hearts there's got to be more out there in the world and you have your culinary career now that you need to go actually pursue, this is all fun and comfortable, right? You've gotten through the uncomfortable parts but are you just gonna sit there and like not use the career? You came back to Mexico to do and so at that moment I made the tough decision of just selling all of it and moving back and really starting from Zero again. But it was the best thing ever because I recognized that it wasn't all the stuff I had accumulated in Mexico that made me, I had made me and I was going home with me and all these experiences and all these notches on my confidence that with a very different perspective on life and so I did return home to my mother's house, living on my own, from living on my own two, now living with mommy and making very little money in the U. S. But I was like I got I got to do this, this is this is the time. So you come back to you can go back to the U. S. And you decide to dive into the culinary world because that's what you've been studying. You went down to Mexico, you're going to bring it back full circle now show up at providence, you're working at providence. And this is where prior to doing much research on the this is where I thought your story began, didn't didn't understand the whole Mexico journey before the book. Um and you're working in a kitchen and something interesting happens that shapes the next chapter of your world. And so I'm wondering if you can tell it in your own words for for everyone who's listening totally. So I get back, I ask a friend, how do you work in restaurants, how does that work in the U. S. What can I do? And I was always really willing to ask a lot of questions to anybody who had answers. And she had gone to culinary school. So in my mind I'm like all right, she's she must be professional, this is great. She said you gotta go to the top restaurants in L. A. Here's a list, go between two and four p.m. And you'll get a job, I promise just walking through the back door not a big deal. And I was like oh that's easy, that's what I did in Mexico for four years, let's go. So I walked into providence and apparently you don't do that at a two michelin star restaurant. You actually have to have an email and a referral and something else. And long story short I got a job there by walking up to the chef and saying I'm mexican and I have the work ethic to prove it and I would love to have an opportunity to work here in your restaurant is incredible. And he was like, okay, fine, I'll give you a shot. And I got my little window in when I started working there and I knew nothing compared to these guys. I mean it was a fucking army of chef sergeants in there and people just knew what was up and I thought I was big time because I had gone to school in Mexico and all this stuff and man was, I really brought down to reality in there and I was making $10 an hour and I was at the bottom of the wrong in uh you know the lineup, So I would get in there, I was working my ass off, I got another job at another restaurant and I was a personal chef for a family. So now I had three jobs and one day while I was working, we were all just kind of making great food, beautiful food. I was climbing the ranks or whatever and I was just like, jesus our uniforms like really suck, why are they so bad? We kind of look shitty, we feel shitty, their paper thin, the pockets are always ripping off the straps don't work, I want to make them better. So I have one size fits all to write and they like very generic the big guys and little ladies and all the sizes and they're just like a sheet with straps on it and they're delivered from a linen service and they're made out of polyester and they're just terrible. So, that idea hit my mind and I was like, oh, but I can do chef coats and all these other things, but chef coat seemed hard and daunting and I just wanted something that people could put on and feel good immediately. And so the idea the inception had happened, it was just like, boom idea. And then a few weeks later, my other chef said to me, hey, there's a girl, she's gonna make us aprons, do you want to buy one? And it was very casual, he just kind of like, threw it out at me and it was like, someone's got my job already, what, like, what somebody else is thinking about this? Oh my God. And I, in a matter of seconds just blurted out to my chef, I have an apron company, I will make you those aprons. And it's just like, it came out of me like a, like a wave of water and he was like, what are you talking about? Your line cook in my kitchen? And I said, chef I have an apron company. I just started working on it. You don't understand like we can do this, you tell me what you need and we'll make it happen. And he has said something, he said, the girl's gonna take like five weeks to make it, it's taking too long. And I was like, I can do it in four, let's do it. And he was like, all right, Deal I need aprons make it happen. And out of nowhere I had an order and I had myself a company and that's how Hedley and Bennett was born. And no, I had no company, I had no sewers, I had no N. B. A. I had nothing but myself, wow. So there there is a theme of burn the boats because you just put yourself in there as a you know, 18 year old in Mexico then 22. And despite not recommending that to everybody, that is, it seems like it's a part of it's part of you, right? Is that the, is that a fair statement or am I putting words in your mouth to sink or swim concept? I think it's a constant reminder to myself that I'm stronger than I think I am and to never forget that. And by doing these crazy and scary things, I just don't unstrapped my mental muscles once I go there and I'm looking for something bigger and scarier and whiter and have more, having more impact. And I just, I love that feeling of seeing something in my head and imagining it and then making it come to life. I mean, wouldn't what do you think that that's like really the DNA of most entrepreneurs is the imagination to reality? That's the best part. It's so fucking exciting. Well, let's fast forward again because I'm thinking, I was on the receiving end of an interview just a few days ago and the question was asked to me about, you know, over time, how does your view on risk change? And it occurred to me that at the beginning it's like, fuck it, I'm all in sure I'm going to make these aprons five weeks. You know, it's like six minute abs. I'll give you five minute abs, I'll give, I'll be one better. So, you, you know, you're making the, you made the aprons a week, you know, a week faster than the, the other uh, purveyor had promised because you have nothing to lose total. So now let's fast forward. You know, you've got a very successful company Hedley and Bennett is now making, um, aprons for, you know, some of the collapse. You've already done that I mentioned before from Michelle Obama and Vans made well and now you've got something to lose. So over time has your, from the 18 year old you saying, fucking, I'm gonna live in Mexico to now the 34 year old, you 33 33 okay. Didn't, I didn't mean to give you an extra year there. This this interview nine, I'm like 95 95 in entrepreneur years, so don't worry. Okay, so like now, I mean, it seems like when you're 18 and you don't, you don't have much to lose, right? And now you've got a career, you've got a name, you've got staff, you've got a book, you have a career, you have what's, you know, what allows you to keep trying new things to keep pushing to keep risking. Isn't there some sort of version? And this is really this underpins the theme of another theme of the book, right? This thing about about dreaming and and that you're going to figure it out once you start taking action. But is it still the same? It is it's been an evolution and I think you're totally right, that there have been many times where I'm just like, man, I don't know if I can do that anymore in that same way of just showing up and willing it into existence. Like maybe I need to think about it a little bit more. But the thing that has let me continue to dream is I've surrounded myself with people that actually do the process part of it with me and help me think through those things. So I don't like they let me be creative, I'm the art and they're the science and that combination is so important to innovation and creativity within an organization. And when companies start to get complacent and stiff and rigid to the point that they are no longer willing to look at what's happening today, but they're stuck in. Well, this is the way things are done. You're screwed at that point. Like, it's downhill from there because there is somebody else, some other, you know, sprightly business that's going to come in and do it for you if you don't change the world changes for you. So that is a little bit of the balance that I strike now. It's not about just being impulsive and like leaping into the world and doing whatever the hell I want. Like I did in the early days, there is a point in my book where it talks about you gotta get off the bike to fix the bike and that's where the details later arrives is like okay details now, right the fuck now, and you've got to start taking care of those things. And so I have learned to balance it and to respect the art side, but also very much respect the process piece that keeps it all afloat, that keeps it rolling and going. And I think if you can balance that and and be willing to adapt to things when stuff is not working anymore and just have that humility to say, you know, that works for a long time. But now our customers just don't really care about that anymore. What are we going to do to fix that? How can we shift? That's the important part. Seems like a very natural place for me to inject the question of Uh huh. The pandemic. Obviously the food industry service industry are F and B. Hammered. So many of my friends are chefs uh and just to watch their, you know, they've been James Beard award winners and 15 restaurants and they're just hammer. And so here you are supplying clothing and chef coats and aprons for David chang in april bloomfield and Nobu and all these amazing chefs. And then basically that industry gets the lights turned out yeah, overnight overnight. And so as someone who sat at the epicenter of that and just you just answered this question about being nimble and what got you here is not going to be what gets you there? How have you, how have you managed through the, through the pandemic and talk to us about your pivot? Yeah, it was it was a pretty radical pivot. We didn't have a clear answer of what we are going to do. The shutdown in L. A. happened around April 16/17 roughly. And I remember going home and just sitting on the couch with my gigantic pet pig, Oliver, £200 of heft sat on the floor next to me and I just kind of put my feet on top of him and was just sitting there with like my hand and my head in my hand and I was just like, oh my God, like I have been working my ass off for 8.5 years now and we're going to have to go to end tomorrow and shut that factory down. We're going to have to close it down and send our team home. I'm going to have to furlough people, I'm going to have to let go of people, this is fucking crazy. And I didn't have an answer. I really didn't. I felt frozen in time the night before and then the day of the shutdown, the last day that you're allowed to go into your building and get everything out and basically send everybody back to their houses. I walked in, my team was taking computers out the back door, literally carrying their MAC computers to their cars and I'm looking at all the rows of sewing machines, the stacks of fabric, the like, just expansive space of making things around me. And I just couldn't believe that after everything I had gone through as a business owner and as an entrepreneur to get myself to this place and my team to this place, that we just had to shut it down because of something outside our control. That was so hard to process, because I had been in this place where I was just like, make it happen, just make it happen to show up and figure it out. And now you had a pandemic, a worldwide pandemic, like what do you do with that? And so I was shutting it all down and then I went on instagram for a quick minute and I was just scrolling through their kind of a oblivious to anything and I saw that christian Siriano was making had said, Governor cuomo is running out of supplies in new york, if he needs face masks will make them reach out to us. And I was like, oh my God, this guy makes like wedding dresses and fancy dresses for events, like what? He doesn't make face masks. If he's going to make face masks, we can make face masks. And it just went from the world is ending right now too. Holy crap, there's an answer. We can actually be helpful in some capacity. And I called my friend who's a doctor on facetime and I said dr bob. What do you need in a face mask? Like what? What is missing in them? How can we do? Can we make it out of fabric? What kind of straps would we need? Does it need to like shape to the nose? I just don't know how this works. And over Facetime, he showed me what he needed. I grabbed people off my sewing floor who were also packing up and I said, let's sketch this out, let's figure this out. We got to do this. And in a matter of hours we had put together our face mask design. I posted it on instagram. People went crazy. They were like, oh my God, somebody is doing something about this. And they rallied behind it and I thought, well we can't do this on my own. We are going to have to do it as a buy one, donate one model. So that night my husband and I standing in the building, we had the final design. I was the model. We carried the seamless across the building into the kitchen, laid the face mask on the floor, stuffed it with toilet paper so that it would be propped up properly and not look like a flat piece of fabric. Took photos of it on our iphone, put it on my face through on some mascara because I had been there all day and night and he was like, all right, well I guess we're doing this and we sent it off to our e commerce guy. He put it up on, on Shopify and the next morning we hit live on pre order and by monday this was saturday by monday we were selling hundreds and hundreds of masks and people were just ready for it. They were like, this girl is rallying, This company is rallying and I'm going to fucking jump on the bandwagon with her. Let's go. And we called it the Wake up and fight mask because that is exactly the feeling I had at that moment was I am waking up in fighting for dear life and I don't know where I'm gonna land or what's going to happen. But damn it, I'm gonna fucking try and my team's gonna try with me incredible. Now again, the that was again, if you look at the title here dream first details later that That seemed to me to compress everything into what was that about 12 hour period, right? You're doing that, doing the dreaming and the details how much is repetition a piece like how do you build these muscles that you're talking to? There's a handful of muscles that you know, again, taking away from the book, like this idea, we already talked about building confidence, this idea of taking advantage of opportunity. It seems like you've had to probably tried to capture the zeitgeist a couple of times and failed. But you know what, what, what is this recognition of the moment and you know, is that a mm You just were you were in market in you know, 48 hours? What advice do you give? That's not something that you were taught. Yeah, it's it's really, it's listening to your gut instincts on things when there is something happening and knowing what's right and knowing what's wrong and call that cliche, but I genuinely believe you have to have good emotional intelligence in the world to really feel what's happening around you and it could be un employees are not happy, a team member is not doing well, you know, a customer is going to leave, like whatever those things are, you have this kind of instinct, right? It's like a weight something drawing you to to do it or to fix it or to try and do something about it. And I had those feelings were pretty strong when those different moments happened and I learned to tap into them and when you show up and try things yet that instinct gets better, it's not like I was just born with it and I knew that feeling from the get go, I just kept honing my ability to feel that feel and when this time occurred, what was I going to do? Just go home and stick my head in the sand. Like I needed to try and contribute in some way, not just for myself but for our team and for our community and there is a feeling that an entrepreneur has of burden on their shoulders, that never goes away when you are responsible for other people's livelihoods and I thought about that and I felt it and it's something that never stops, doesn't matter how successful you get. Like it can all vanish in a day, just like we saw with Covid and I wanted to put up the biggest fight we could fight to try and survive for them. It wasn't for me. I was like, all right, if I die trying, like I'm gonna figure something else out, I always do, but they need this, our community needs this, people are shutting their worlds down, restaurants are closing everywhere. You can't not contribute well for some people and for some industries where you know, you have so many examples of figuring shit out, throwing a bunch of spaghetti at the wall and making something out of nothing, whether that's moving to Mexico or your career, the apron company, there's lots of obvious examples, but even within each of those, like in some cases it was your convincing your mom and in the earliest it was convincing your chef to let you make the prince instead of the other vendor. And so there's this another pattern in your life. Uh, and certainly it comes through in the book about. And this is another one of those things that this is a reason to buy the book. I mean in itself, this idea of helping people in a position of power, sometimes very, very powerful and I'll often skeptical people to take a chance on you and you've done this over and over and over. And I'm imagining there's some people listening right now that if I just could find that business partner who had the other half of the brain that I don't have, or if I could just get someone to take a chance on me to let me, you know, if I'm a director to make a movie I want to make, but haven't ever made something like that before or from a photographer, You know, it's like, how how have you? You've clearly made it a habit, you develop this muscle of convincing, powerful, skeptical people, take a chance on you. What's behind that? There's a there's a section that I I talk about in the book where I call it humble enthusiasm and it's my approach to life in a way there's a sense of humility of, like, I don't know everything, but I'm going to ask a lot of questions and I'm also excited to learn, right? So it's being excited about whatever you're doing, but also being willing to learn in that combination is really something when you jam it together and you know, you should try it. I'm sure you are that way too, but it's just when you talk about something with someone, you're telling, you want to tell them like they're your friend and you're sharing something cool and then you want to know, what do you think of that? Like do you think that's a good idea? How would you think about it? What are your thoughts on this and getting people to do that with you? Makes them collaborate and then they get excited and then they're kind of committed to what you're talking about now because they're helping you and because they're helping you, it's like they just got a little piece of it themselves. So in the early days of H and B Every chef I worked with, I would say, hey, you know, I'm still, I'm working on this company, would love to come by and show you what I'm up to and get your thoughts on it. It wasn't like, hey, I want to come buy and sell you a product. It was like, hey, I want to have a friendship with you and B. I want your opinion and if C and D become an order awesome, but if it doesn't, I am so fucking happy to just meet you and get to come over and talk about something I'm so pumped about in that really most of the time led to people buying the product. Maybe not always there in that moment, but I had multiple famous chefs that I had met in an event there, like your product is really cool and you're also very fucking excited about it and you're making something, you're also making something that I actually need. So you're solving a problem for me, right? Like every other uniform sucks. You're making japanese denim aprons out of L. A. That look good and feel good and you can customize them all right? And then they call me when they were on a commercial for Chrysler or whatever and say, hey, remember it's bobby flay and I'm like, bobby is so good to hear from you, What's up? How can I help you? And he's like, I got this commercial, I need aprons in three days. Can you help make it happen? I'm like, I'm on it. And then it's like, he'd throw me a bone, I'd help him. And then suddenly it's like the restaurant industry when you know somebody who knows somebody, you go to the restaurant, they take care of you. So I just treated heavily invented like a restaurant, but we made aprons instead of food, and it became a real community of people just doing great things and we were sharing this with each other. So that humble enthusiasm was at the bar, kind of the foundational part of how I got these famous chefs too, be excited about what I was doing and to just hear my story and contribute to it with their own two sons. So if humble enthusiasm is the key, are there any, like, are there any supplementary skills, like, just being enthusiastic and like, clearly there's a network, right, there's a, there's a set of human relationships at work, and I'm wondering if you can share you, is that something you're actively working on? Did you build that? Or you know, it's all, it's amazing to have a product that catches on, you know, you've been digging this ditch for a long time and all of a sudden the world comes to you. And, and but that doesn't happen overnight and most people who, it didn't, it didn't happen overnight. I had, it took many, many, many, many years and any time I had no customers, I was like, all right, I got to do outreach this week because there's nobody around. So I'd get my ass up and I head to a farmer's market that had to another food event. I would go out into the world and I would show up and continue to drum up business. And by the way to this day, my team still does outreach. We still send emails. We still do things too get people excited about the things that we're doing. But I I flipped to a page in the book I wanted to just highlight, Tell me which page I got mine here. Not taking feedback is not an option. I know that quote from you got it in my notes right here literally. And you want to hear some of the, like the things that kept this all going. There were there were many fuck ups in the Hedley and Bennett journey where we tried things and it was not, it did not work. But we were willing to stare those errors in the eye and here where we messed up and then go and modify the things we were doing to make it better. And because of that willingness to learn and to just shift instead of saying no, we have the answers, We know what to do. The page is. It's in the special edition After page 97. It's in that section called Listen, really listen. I love how colorful and bright and well designed the book is. That's just a side note, cool job there. Let's talk about Trust. That's another key aspect, because you have clearly delivered on your promise is in in so many different ways and you talked about that early on our conversation, like you get one shot, you deliver, you become known as a person who can actually deliver the same is true. My background as a photographer, you get hired to do the big campaign for Nike and then you deliver that and they want okay, cool, they delivered and ultimately, in so many professional circles, just being able to do what you said you were going to do ends up being a differentiator and I find that Trust is a really huge uh part of success and you talk about it in the book. In fact, I think there's a whole chapter, if I'm not mistaken dedicated to it. So just talk to us about the role of trust like there is, yep, just chapter 10 if I'm not mistaken. Yeah. For everyone watching and listening, this is the most colorful business book you'll ever see in your life. I really had to convince penguin Random House to let me go full color on this book. Good work. That's a that's a hard spell. Speaking of the convinced wealthy, powerful people. Oh my God, so one of the things with trust, this was after I had to get off the bike to fix the bike. Part of my journey, I had been a one man band for a long time, I had been my own sharpshooter and I thought I could just make everything happen by myself because I had become this independent, you know, since that night since I was nine years old. And there came a time where I realized I had to let things go in order to grow. And I couldn't actually do it all alone anymore. And I wasn't actually good at everything. There were a lot of pieces that I was not great at and maybe I was great at telling our story and getting customers and improving our product. But I didn't know everything I needed to know about finances. I didn't know everything I needed to know about setting up an E. R. P. System. How do you structure or guards? How do you make sure that your HR department is right, A lot of stuff that was missing. So I had to I had to kind of come to jesus uh literally in the book, it happens. My one of my CFO sat me down with our with another team member and she was like we need to have an honest conversation with you, you are running so hard in trying to do everything on your own, you're going to kill yourself if we don't reassess how to do this differently, you need to just adjust. And they set it in such an honest way that it really kind of hit me like a brick in the head and I realized that I had been running for many years with on fumes and without structure and trying to drag everyone along and I had to at that point I was like you're right, this is true. I started crying and uh they were like we're gonna we think we should get an executive coach and I want you to trust us on this and I want you to learn how to be a better leader and we want you to learn how to show up for your team in a way that is not just you doing everything, but it's you adapting to the needs of the company now. And that was very hard. It was very hard to just recognize that I was not being the best that I could be, and we started bringing on other people into the company that could do these jobs and that could take little bricks off of my shoulders and own a piece and every time I did that and I saw them succeed and I saw them do well, I was like, okay, maybe I can trust a little more and a little more and I just kept expanding my trust circle until I had a team of people around me that could do some of the jobs that I had been doing all these years and actually do a better job than what I was doing. And that was extraordinarily challenging going from a line cook to a Ceo and and having to go through that evolution of leadership like you're, you're really there for your team, you're not there for for yourself with the idea, it's for everyone else around you and that wake up call was really visceral. I read the, there's a piece in you on entrepreneur ah the title is I built apron brand Hedley and Bennett into a fast success and our lack of structure almost brought us to a halt. So you just shared that anecdote and how much did you feel like that was the details later? You know part of the two part promise here a dream first these details later. I think so many people like there's this desire to get everything perfect before you go out to market, there's this, you know, what is it perfect? Is the enemy of good progress? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah exactly. I was only doing progress is better than perfection. Yeah. But it's like how much do you feel that that keeps people back relatively? You've been very transparent in your experience, that's what I consider a strength is your perfection is not required, you're out there, you're going to so these things together and having their on thursday but that's not, you know everyone doesn't work like that so for those folks who are in their heads and are overthinking hinting at your subtitle here, what's the advice? What's the advice? Because that's that's deeply conditioned shit that's like family of origin like don't make any mistakes sally. Yeah. So do you have some, I mean aside from the 220 page book, give us a couple of kernels of advice, there are really incredible people out in the world that are professionals at what they do and that can show up and support you if you're willing to be helped. And I was so busy getting help with the business that I wasn't getting help with myself in a way and I needed to evolve. And the what was once my biggest strength which was just show up and figure it out, had now become our biggest weakness. And I recognized that if I didn't adapt that like everything would get lost in a way, like the company would get lost and we all have moments in our lives where those reality checks hit and you can either look them in the eye and realize that that's happening or you can ignore them, but that's on you. There's no special bullet for me to tell you this is how you resolve it. It's simply staring at the truth and being self aware enough to recognize that that is no longer serving you. And do you have the humility to recognize that what used to work doesn't work anymore and you needed to let the fuck go, just stop doing it and stop trying to be right about it, be willing to be wrong and be willing to learn. So just that that willingness to learn point I think is It's so important. It's so vital because if you're willing you can do anything, you actually can change in 220 something pages here shows my Fucked up evolution from like one place to another place that is a much better place. But I thought I was in a good place, turns out I wasn't and I needed to go through that to get to the other side in every entrepreneur goes through it, We just don't talk about it. But it's real, it's really real. And that is why I was as honest as I was in this book because it's not a pretty journey, but it's not an impossible journey either. There's so much, what's the phrase? I forget the fancy author, he said it, but in the particular lies universal and you willing to turn your career your journey inside out and show everybody that it's a messy, messy, nonlinear. Uh, two steps forward. One step back. Um, journey. That's well, first of all, thank you because there's not a lot, I hate books, I hate with Hate is a strong word, but I don't like books that say if you do perfect thing X and perfect Thing, why then you're going to get this great result, you know, Z. And it's like nothing in my life ever looked like any of those books that I read and I often have said this on the podcast before. And my favorite business books of all times is a book by the venture capitalist Ben Horowitz. It's called the Hard Thing about hard things. And the titles in that book are like How to fire your best friend, How to tell your employees, you ran out of money, you know, these are, that's the that's the real world shit. Um and I was just wondering if you could comment on on how it's the ugly, messy, hard shit that has made you in your story possible because everyone out there right now who is listening, I guarantee there's some piece of their brain that's like, yeah, but my instagram feed doesn't look like hers or my, You know, I only have one sewing machine, she has 10 or there's there's some horrible version of comparison going on out there and I'm wondering if you can underscore the point that you made in the book with a couple of other thoughts. Yeah, totally. It's first of all, comparison is the death of anything good ever. It's the fucking worst. Like I love instagram and I hate instagram. So don't ever use instagram as the metric of success because everything we put on there is awesome, but no one is showing the real shit that's happening in your life. So put that aside. Don't go in there. If you are not feeling good about life. I would say that first things first. It's simple basics. I put this book in a way that would show people that it is simple little actions that I took to get going. I mean we didn't even touch on it, but when I first started H and B, I had three jobs and I never spent more than I made on the business and I re invested every penny back into the company for several years and to watch businesses receive $50 million dollars in funding while I had $15,000 in the bank. And if you needed to buy a fax machine, you have to go make the money before you bought the damn fax machine. So Do not feel for a minute that I'm some like magical success overnight success story that just made it and well I'm not her. So what does that mean? It's like, no, I'm 33 years old and I'm still on the fucking journey. I still wake up and things still go wrong. Things are still not perfect all the time. But am I excited about what I'm doing? Yes. Am I resolving problems for people every day with my company? Yes. And that keeps me going forward. So get out there and find the thing that lights you up like a lighthouse and start finding time to work on it in little pieces, just bite sized bites, Go with a version one. You don't you think about apple? They started one computer that's very different from what they have now, but if they hadn't started, they wouldn't be where they are today. So just don't go for perfect. Just go for going. Start to stop fucking over analyzing it. Like that is the key to all of this. I built this with nothing. So can you and stop giving yourself excuses. We are in the best time in our lives to go out there and try something because the world has never been more level set than with a pandemic that happened for one entire year. Like this is your moment, do it incredible. two small themes before I let you go. Um one I'm going to go back to something you said in this conversation. I made a little note here. You said I'm a Latina, but I'm white and you articulated a view of your identity in like 15 words, but you said them really quickly and then we moved on and I'm wondering what role you feel like your identity has played in your journey. And any advice around identity for anyone who is either proud of their heritage, embarrassed of how they got to where they are, has has imposter syndrome and whether this is on the lines of ethnic or gender orientation or anything. I'm wondering if as someone who identified as having a uh different journey yourself, If you have any advice. Yeah. Well, first of all, the more different you are, the more unique you are, the better you are because the world needs more special sauce. It doesn't need another bland perspective on something that is, you know, the same as everything else. Like stop trying to be like the other, you know, crayons and the Crayola box, like be your own damn color, be the thing that you are because that is the uniqueness of you and we really are all very different and over all of these years and all these adventures I've been on. That's really the thing I've taken away the most is if I just show up in the world and continue to get better in my own self and just embrace who I am versus trying to be something different. I'm going to get out ahead much faster than trying to follow in other people's footsteps and try to figure out what they're going to do next. And how are they going to show up and how is that business gonna try and do it? And what's our competitor going to do? Like just blinders on, right, You're, you're driving your life car. So to me being mexican, being a Latina entrepreneur, It's fantastic. I love it because it makes it different because I am unique because I had a different circumstance and now other young entrepreneurs and older entrepreneurs and frankly, people in general can say, all right, well she's different and I'm different too. Maybe it's okay to be different. And what I'm saying is, fuck yes. Not only is it okay? It's awesome. Be a weirdo. Be different. That's fantastic. The world needs that amazing. Thank you for that medicine. Um, last thing we are clearly emerging from the pandemic, however faster slow, we're not going to get into the scientific arguments, but should changing people are getting vaccinated. We're never going back to the way it was. But what's on the horizon for you? I mean, you've got lots of different stuff that's happening clearly. Right. I mean, in addition to your book again, Dream first details later. Um, and in addition to Hedley and Bennett, H and B, you you know, there's so many things on the cost. But what what's going to be different for you as we emerge from this pandemic? And I'm asking this because I believe some people are going to get some ideas and hearing how a person who has navigated so much in their life is, you know, navigating this. What I'm thinking of it in terms of economic, emotional, societal, cultural, like um reshaping. I'm just curious if you could on the way out the door here help us understand your your view and what you've learned and what you're doing differently as we? Re engage with the rest of the world with the world. I think we all just survived the craziest experience of our entire lives and in a weird way, this is gonna sound crazy, but I think it's a little bit of a gift because we have never had an opportunity to get to assess our lives as deeply as we all assessed our lives last year. It was a real wake up call in so many ways and we were all running so hard and so fast in the world. There were things that just were the way that they were and for me that was the biggest thing I took away from this is you cannot just continue to do what you're doing, you have to do it differently. And it's how I show up in my own home, how I spend time, what time I go home at night, not killing myself at the office all the time, but actually being willing to work remotely at times, being willing to shut off on the weekends, being willing to enjoy the world around me and actually live life a little bit. It's a different perspective than I had pre Covid and if we can't actually appreciate the beautiful life we have and show up for like what the hell are we all doing? And so that was a real shift in my, in my universe. And I also have never been more grateful for my team. And it took me so long to go from being an independent person to a person who counts on others and who trusts others that now my team is my world and I want to do everything I can to help them be better. And I can't say that I was always with that perspective, I wanted to help all of us grow, but in in a big sort of fashion, in an idea that was a little more like glorious versus reality, and now I care deeply in my bones about the people around me being successful because I saw us all almost lose everything last year. So I I walk into the future with More humility than I entered 2,019 in 2020, and I'm just like, every day is a gift and you better show up and make something happen today, because you got another shot and you've got another opportunity and everybody should feel that right now and to say thank you world for surviving, thank you Ellen, thank you you for for still being here. We made it to the other side, kind of um, and we just got to like, kind of, it's like sort of were sort of coming out of it, but, but it's true, right? It's a gift. It's true. It's so true. Ellen Bennett, thank you so much. Founder and Ceo of Hedley and Bennett congrats on the new book. Dream first details later. Um, grateful to have you on the show. Is there any place you want to direct the audience? In addition to buying the book, we're going to get the show out pronto everybody who listens to the show knows how important it is to support authors books and as soon in their process as possible. So our community is going to get on it. But is there anyone else you would steer us aside from buying the book? Where would you point with coordinates on the internet? What you want us to go check out? I love that. The coordinates of the internet. Well, you can definitely follow us on the old instagram. When you're feeling good. When you're feeling good, only Ellen Murray Bennett. You can also follow us at Hedley and Bennett were on Tiktok because it's highly entertaining and very bizarre and cookie in there. And I love it. And obviously go to our website, check out our aprons and Kitchen Year Hedley and Bennett dot com. And you can get signed copies of the book there For everybody. I actually had a bunch of people tell me that their kids, they're like 14, 15 year old kids grab the book that was sent to them and that they're crushing it. So this is really kind of spanning all ages. Dreams are for all kinds of people. So I really, I really hope people love this and enjoy it and embrace it and get out there and dream Big well, thanks for doing something different with this book. It's beautiful and chuck full of amazing information and your story is heartwarming and inspiring as hell. And I just wanted to say personal, thank you. Are our community going to show up for you. Um I hope you have an amazing rest of the day. We good luck with the rest of the book launch. Uh and thank you so much for being on the show. Mm Yeah. Mhm. Mm. Yeah.
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