How to win awards by Paul Lindley of Ella's Kitchen

It's great to see entrepreneurs getting celebrated and few people deserve recognition more than Lindley. Ella's Kitchen is a fantastic brand that really shows the power of an innovative, disruptive business to challenge a market dominated by huge names.

Lindley told us about awards and how baby food business Ella's Kitchen has achieved the challenger brand dream of stealing a sizeable market share from the established brand names around it.

What does Ella's Kitchen do right to win awards so consistently?

We are so consumer focused! As a challenger brand in a marketplace full of big guys, we have to understand what the consumer wants. Our ability to act quickly and produce the next generation of baby food is what's recognisable. We are a trusted, modern, emotional and personal brand.

Did awards feature in Ella's Kitchen first business plan?

As a 7th birthday present, I took the team through my original business plan. I had ten things I wanted to achieve. One of those was win awards within a year. Six months in, Ella's Kitchen had won start up awards when it was just me with a laptop and a telephone.

Awards add credibility to your business but it's also such good news and a pat on the back. Winning is a great chance to stand back, when you're normally running so fast, and recognise what you've achieved together. It's a time to take some pride in what we've done.

Do award wins have a lasting effect on a business?

Awards make you think about your business. You do an application form and you have to write down how your business will develop. The interviews can be really tough and by going through that process you prove that you know your stuff.

The accumulation of entering awards will leave you able to talk about the things the judges are after. I think it's really important to focus on what the judges want rather than talking about what you love about your business.

What is your advice to entrepreneurs who want to win awards?

There are a lot of awards for start ups. Starting up can be such a hard, lonely thing and but winning is such an immediate reward for the hard work you put in. The Smarta 100 is fantastic for recognising new businesses. It gives you something you can celebrate during what can be a lonely journey.

Why do you think you were named Director of the Year?

It was all about leadership, so I had to have a fantastic team that can deliver my overall plan for the company. That's a lot easier when I've got a team who will give everything and are passionate.

We have our book of "this is what we believe in and this is how we operate". When it comes to making decisions, we can rely on our five values and reference them every time. With values, you have a route map of how to behave and that applies to leadership.

How long did Ella's Kitchen exist for before hitting the shelves?

I had given up my job and gave myself two years to get to market. If I didn't do that, I would have dusted off the CV and got back to earning some money. We came up with the pouch, which the majority of our products are in. We are very proud that we were the first people to do that.

Ella's Kitchen and the pouch showed that if you have an insight and act on it, small companies can become medium sized companies, win awards and take market share from the big guys. Here we are seven years later with a 20% market share in the UK and in 16 markets around the world.

Did you worry about new competition starting up in that time with a similar idea?

No. I trademarked my brand and I was confident enough to believe in what I was doing and that we would get there. You can do market research but can't really do anything about it. There had been next to no innovation in 30 years but another challenger launched at the same time as us.

If they raise awareness of our category, that's a good thing. It made me work harder to differentiate our brand. I really think openness and honesty is an undervalued presence in business. If you are closed off and secretive, that will show in your brand, so be open.

What's next for Ella's Kitchen?

We have an aim to sell 1bn products by 2017. So far we are on 300m. That means we have to sell 700m in four years. It's a big target but we're on track.


Lindley is now in contention to be named as the national Director of the Year, but will have to wait until October to find out if he's been successful. Either way, Ella's Kitchen successes in awards and in their market show the power of an innovative idea alongside top class branding.

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