Ella Harland is a London based entrepreneur, who graduated with a International Business degree in 2015, before going to work for fast-growing fmcg brand Pip & Nut as one of the first few employees. Whilst working there Ella got a real taste of what it would be like to run your own business as well as an in-depth understanding of the F&B industry. Using this knowledge, combined with experience from previous roles at PwC and RedBull, Ella joined forces with her flatmate Sophie to begin building Griddle, a brand of frozen baked goods committed to making delicious products in a healthier way for both people and planet.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Absolutely! I graduated from university in 2015 and really had no idea what I wanted to do. I did a year in PWC before working out that it probably wasn’t for me, I lacked interest and wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about. The answer to this for me was food. I’ve always been a big foodie, loved cooking and obsessed with new, innovative food and drink brands. I interviewed for a few but one clearly stood out for me which was Pip & Nut who I joined near the beginning as one of the first few employees. It was an absolutely brilliant experience, I learnt a lot whilst there and it was really exciting to be a part of the brand’s growth. This was also around the time when a lot of new challenger brands were popping up, be it granolas, natural drinks, plant-based yogurts, all of which were shaking up old, stagnant categories and replacing incumbent traditionally leading brands with innovative and more healthy versions. Seeing these other brands doing this was what inspired me, no-one had touched bakery items, it was still the same old-fashioned and unhealthy products available on the market and so myself and Sophie (co-founder) set out to change this!
How did the idea come to you for the company?
My co-founder (Sophie) and I used to live together in London and cooking breakfast was a weekend ritual. We used to go for a run along the river then head back to the flat and whip up a batch of pancakes, piling them high with our favourite toppings. We loved making our pancakes using a variety of different wholegrain flours and nourishing ingredients, what really struck us though was why there was no option to have this homemade quality pre-made to enjoy during the busy week. Everything on the shelves in the supermarkets was full of refined flour, tons of sugar and despite all the preservatives, would go off before we finished the pack. So our weekend breakfast turned into a weekend project…. How do we fix this? Beginning initially with pancakes we have now branched out into waffles, aiming to really shake up the frozen baked goods category and do things differently.
How did you achieve awareness?
I’m not necessarily sure that we’ve achieved awareness yet. At least not wide-scale awareness! In our bid to do so though, I don’t think that there is one single activity, but rather a culmination of all the smaller things. From small listings in independent stores to large nationwide supermarket listings, social media activity and collaborations to founder interviews and wider scale PR, it all adds up!
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
To be honest gaining funding was one of the biggest challenges to date and it took a lot of determination and perseverance! Understandably, investors want to see traction and sales before investing their money, but being able to show traction and sales also requires a bit of funding, so it really is a chicken and egg situation! We managed to raise a £20,000 equity investment from a grocery accelerator programme when we were just at the idea stage. It was then all about making the money work hard and hustling to be able to show the next potential investors that we had a real opportunity and that we were the right people to execute the plan. We have just closed our largest round of funding to date in Jan 2022 and so this year will be all about utilizing these funds for growth!
What are the key successes?
In food and beverage achieving scale is a must. The best way to do this is generally supermarket listings which can change your business dramatically as you can suddenly go from selling in a few stores to selling in hundreds if not thousands of stores! So our key successes to date have definitely been these listings in places like Morrisons, Ocado and Sainsbury’s.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We’ve recently launched our new frozen toaster waffles, which you pop straight from frozen into the toaster for a couple of minutes, making for a delicious, convenient and healthy breakfast! The rest of the year will be about expanding distribution of these products and increasing awareness of them with events, sampling etc. You can currently find our waffles in Morrisons and Ocado (from the 14th March), but our aim is to have a presence in supermarket freezer aisles up and down the country!
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Despite the inevitable lows there are also some really great highs involved in running your own business. I think if you believe in something enough and have the motivation to do something about it, entrepreneurship and having your own business is one of the most rewarding jobs there is!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
I don’t know how qualified I am to give tips on entrepreneurial success as a whole yet, but one recurring theme that has helped me throughout and I’m sure will continue to utilizing your network. I definitely underestimated the power of this at the beginning, but since connecting with more people within the F&B world I’ve learnt just how useful it can be. People who are further ahead in the journey are often happy to share advice and help, and this is something I definitely hope to be able to pass forward one day too.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
@wearegriddle (insta and facebook and Linkedin!)
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