In this amazing episode, Kristina speaks with the truly inspirational Ella Mills – founder and brand director of Deliciously Ella – the leading plant-based food company, and health and lifestyle brand helping people all over the world to make healthy changes to their eating habits.
Ella's story is the perfect example of how we can take control of our lives and let our passions and values guide us in creating a life we love – our Dream Life.
Her first book Deliciously Ella was the fastest selling debut cookbook in the UK and is now translated into over 20 languages. And her brand-new podcast, Deliciously Ella is now also taking the world by storm.
Together with her husband Matt Mills, Ella has grown her passion from a personal recipe blog – which she began in 2012 – to the world leading lifestyle brand it is today.
In this episode you will discover…
- How a serious illness and very low point in Ella’s life led her to take control and really steer her life in a more positive direction
- How this shift in focus led to her discovering a whole new passion and purpose in life, eventually leading to her living her dream life with her husband, Matt
- How being honest with yourself about what you want to do, what you’re truly passionate about and really want out of life, can help you to work towards your own dream life.
- The importance of community and how sharing her experience and journey with others led to truly positive outcomes, both for Ella and others
- How important it is to find a way to bring a ‘glass half full’ attitude to any situation, and the importance of finding the positive in any situation, even when faced with the toughest of challenges.
- How focusing on your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who can support and help you can open up a world of endless possibilities.
- How you can create a life you love and follow your dreams if you stay strong and true to your beliefs, letting your values guide you in all you that you do.
Struck down in her 20s with a debilitating illness that left her in hospital for four months, Ella sank into what she refers to as ‘an incredibly unhappy place,’ taking lots of medication that wasn’t working, before realising that she needed to help herself as much as she could.
After deciding to take things into her own hands, she went in search of a healthier way of life, eventually creating a personal blog to document her new plant-based lifestyle journey. While the blog was initially a way for her to fill her time, Ella soon developed a true passion for what she was doing and began to share her blog with friends and families.
Before long she had built an audience and her blog has now had over 130 million hits! Through sharing her journey, Ella – together with her husband Matt – has been able to grow her community and following beyond anything she had ever imagined.
Ella now inspires millions to make positive, healthy changes to the way they eat through her social media channels, best-selling books, the Deliciously Ella app, blog, podcast as well healthy products stocked in around 6,000 stores across the UK. One of the most inspiring elements of Ella’s story is her ability to always find the silver lining, no matter how dark the cloud, or how tough the situation may be. Empowered by taking control of her life and following a true passion, Ella discovered that being honest with yourself is one of the most important things you can do in order to take charge and begin creating a life you love.
“You are going to find her story so inspiring … with deep insights into turning positives into negatives, living life guided by your values, the power of following your passion and very interestingly, how sharing your journey with others can have the most unexpected benefits.” Kristina Karlsson
- Deliciously Ella Website, Recipes and Blog https://deliciouslyella.com/
- Deliciously Ella Podcast https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/deliciously-ella-the-podcast/id1428704212?
- Deliciously Ella The Plant-Based Cookbook https://deliciouslyella.com/product/deliciously-ella-the-plant-based-cookbook/
- Any Human Heart, William Boyd http://www.williamboyd.co.uk/any-human-heart
- Your Dream Life Starts Here, Kristina Karlsson
- Dream Life Journal
- 101 Dreams Audio Guide
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A FULL TRANSCRIPT OF KRISTINA KARLSSON’S CONVERSATION WITH ELLA MILLS.
Kristina: 00:04 What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail, if you had all the money all the time, all the knowledge, all the resources that you needed? What would you do with your life if you simply knew that anything was possible for you? My name is Kristina Karlsson, founder of global Swedish design and stationery brand kikki.K and author of the book Your Dream Life Starts Here. And I love exploring these sorts of questions to inspire people to dream.
Kristina: 00:35 Before I started kikki.K I had a dream that I could bring Swedish design to the world to create beautiful products that bring sparks of joy into the everyday lives of millions. Now that I have achieved that dream, I want to help you dream big. I want to create a global movement to inspire 101 million dreamers to transform their lives and transform the world in return. Each episode I’ll be talking to some of the world’s most inspiring people, exploring the powerful impact that dreaming has had on their lives. We’ll be diving deep into the power of dreaming with real insights and ideas that you can use immediately to build a dream life of your own whatever that means for you.
I am so excited about this episode of Our Dream Life podcast where I get to share the wonderful conversation I had with the amazing Ella Mills. Ella is the inspirational founder and brand director of Deliciously Ella, the leading plant based food company and health and lifestyle brand helping people all over the world to make healthy changes to their eating habits. Together with her husband, Matt Mills, Ella has grown her passion from a personal recipe blog, which she began in 2012 to the world leading lifestyle brand it is today.
Kristina: 02:08 Struck down in her 20s with a debilitating illness that left her in hospital for four months Ella sank into what she refers to as an incredibly unhappy place, taking lots of medication that wasn’t working before realizing that she needed to help herself as much as she could. So she took things into her own hands and went in search for a healthier way of life, and now inspires millions to do the same through her social media channels, bestselling books, the Deliciously Ella app and blog, as well as healthy products stocked in about 6000 stores across the UK.
Kristina: 02:46 Her first book, Deliciously Ella, was the fastest selling debut cookbook in the UK, and is now translated into over 20 languages. You are going to find her story so inspiring with deep insight into living life guided by your values, the power of following your passion, and very interestingly how sharing your journey with others can have the most unexpected benefits. I can’t wait for you to hear Ella’s story. So let’s get started.
Well, hello and welcome Ella to Our Dream Life podcast. I’m so excited to have you. Firstly, congratulations on your new book, I love it, which I believe launched at number one on Amazon in the UK. Is that correct?
Ella: 03:28 It did. Thank you.
Kristina: 03:30 Super exciting. Your story is so unique and inspiring and I cannot wait to explore it in detail with you, but first I’d like to think back to your childhood. What were your dreams for the future when you were a child?
Ella: 03:43 Do you know what honestly? I didn’t really kind of specifically have any … I never found something that really … a creative fire, a creative passion. I really, really did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I never had that kind of big hobby or big dream or something that I felt like I wanted to spend my whole life working towards.
Kristina: 04:06 Okay. That’s interesting. So you are the picture of health and positivity today, but I know that your Deliciously Ella journey began when you were in a very different place. Can we wind back the clock back to the age of 20, hospitalized and feeling really unhappy? I would love you to tell us the story of how you came to be in hospital, how you were feeling, and how that all led to what we know as the much loved Deliciously Ella story now.
Ella: 04:33 As I said I didn’t really know especially what I wanted to do with my life. I hadn’t found that sense of passion and purpose yet. I was studying history of art in university which I really enjoyed. It was really, really interesting, but at the end of my second year, kind of out of nowhere I got very unwell with the condition that affected my autonomic nervous system, and it affected lots and lots of parts of my body. It was characterised by an inability to control my heart rate properly and my blood pressure, but it also caused lots of side effects including lots of infections. I was on antibiotics straight for two and a half years. I was on antibiotic drips and everything. I had chronic fatigue. I had very, very bad digestive issues and the list kind of goes on and on.
Ella: 05:18 I spent four months in and out of hospital and I was then prescribed a whole host of different medications including steroids, and I’m 20 years old and people are talking about putting me on beta blockers and it’s just not where you think you’re going to get to in your life. Anyways, and so for the following year I kind of did as I was told and took everything. But it didn’t really work, especially and after about a year I hit a real rock bottom and I just couldn’t see what was going to be next for me. I don’t know. I was in a very, very dark place, I very depressed and I was very isolated. My self-esteem was just at the rock bottom, and I hated being around other people. It made me feel so much worse.
Ella: 06:07 And I realized what was my life going to be. It was a really miserable existence, and I was making it more miserable for myself by cutting myself off. I just didn’t have kind of confidence to be around people anywhere, and I realized that I needed to change something and I needed to look at elements in which I could help myself, at least more than I had been. So I started researching and I suddenly started to become interested in nutrition and lifestyle changes in wellbeing in general. I was really interested in that concept, and the more I started to understand our body and kind of how it worked the more it became so clear that yeah, you do need to eat your vegetables. They have all these vitamins or these minerals that we really, really need for our bodies.
Ella: 06:53 And so I decided that I would teach myself to cook and I would make healthy eating fun and I would put vegetables in the middle of my play and I would transition to a kind of plant-based diet, and have the vegetables at the core of what I was doing. And through that Delicious Ella the other was born.
Kristina: 07:10 Wow! Such an inspiring story. But from overcoming the big health challenges that had you in hospital for four months at the age of 20 and feeling really unhappy, to turning that into the most amazing success story by following and sharing your passion for healthy eating in the process you have quite literally inspired millions of people around the world by doing that. Do you feel that you’re living your dream life now?
Ella: 07:33 Yeah. It’s such an interesting question that because I think yes. I mean, I get to work with my husband and we get to build a company together, which I love. I get to do something that I love every day. I get to do something that’s focused on community and people, and the support of our community is just kind of overwhelming. And I’m so appreciative of it.
Ella: 07:56 But I think sometimes I get too caught up in … And I’m sure you can completely relate to this. You can get too caught up in the stress of starting a business and then taking a startup and scaling it and the cashflow worries and the ‘are we going bust tomorrow concerns‘ and I think you have to be at one with that that, and I think it’s a brilliant question you asked because it’s really important. I never ever thought in my wildest dreams I’d be where I am today. So yeah, 100% in that sense you are living the dream life, and it’s so important I think, it’s a good reminder to kind of appreciate that rather than notice the things that are not quite as they need to be.
Kristina: 08:42 Yeah. Absolutely. I can so relate to that. And one thing that I find really helpful is feeling gratitude every single day in terms of really appreciate where you are today, because I guess also for us entrepreneurs we are always looking at the big dreams. And it’s really scary in so many ways when you’re really out of your comfort zone and you’re not really knowing if you’re going to make it or not. And I think that never stops as long as you are dreaming big.
Kristina: 09:10 So Ella, when you were 20 and really suffering with your illness and you felt alienated from your friends, struggling to get your head around what was happening, taking a lot of medication, which obviously didn’t do much for you, you actually had a major breakthrough and you realized that you needed to help yourself as much as you could. What led to that breakthrough? Did you decide … What made you jump into that driver’s seat and take control? Did anyone inspire that or did you arrive at that yourself?
Ella: 09:40 I’m actually quite a big believer in that I think you’ve got to get that yourself to make a big change. I think it has to be driven from within. And I know people that kind of tried to help me across that year and I just wasn’t ready, ready for I don’t know. And I think I realized how much I’d hit rock bottom, and my parents would say, “No, I think you’re depressed.” “I’m not depressed.” And I realized actually I’m really, really not in a good place, and I realized how unhappy I was making people around me and my poor mum who’s so incredible, such a supportive person. But it was really difficult for her I think to see her child in that place.
Ella: 10:26 Anyway, so it was really a realization within myself that I was never going to have any sense of that kind of dream life if I continued along this vein, and I would live at home forever. I love my mum, but I didn’t want to live at home forever. As much as I didn’t have that kind of fire and that big passion as to what my career was going to be I still wanted to have a career, and I wasn’t going to be able to work. It wasn’t well enough to get on the tube, go on the bus on my own. And I felt kind of useless, and it was realizing that, that is not how I wanted to live my life and really recognizing that that’s where I was because it took me a long time to fully accept it because I didn’t want it to be the case.
Kristina: 11:10 I imagine it must have felt so empowering for you to take control of yourself when many people would have accepted that they would just leave it up to the doctor.
So Arianna Huffington talks about moments like that as, “You are in control of the clicker, and change the channel if you want.” What advice have you got for our listeners on how they can jump into the driver’s seat in their own lives or take control of the clicker and change the channel when faced with big challenges that feel outside of their control?
Ella: 11:38 Yeah. So brilliant question. And as you said it really was empowering. I found it really, really empowering, that sense of felling like you are, yeah, in control in some sense again. But yeah, I don’t know. It’s such an interesting question because I think probably we’re going all to be quite different in the way we’re dealing with different challenges in our lives. But I think being totally honest with yourself is the moment in which things can change… really, really straight up with yourself about where you are and where do you want it to be. And if you are there and you want to be 10 miles ahead of where you are something is going to have to change or you’re not going to get there.
Ella: 12:19 And so I think the moment in which you can truly lift the veil and really be fully honest with yourself, I think that is when you can make that kind of … you can change the channel because you’ve got to be fully aware of where you are at that present time. And that is, I think for me, what changed when I was able to start making changes, because I said, “Look, I really am ill. This really isn’t changing. This medicine really isn’t magic. It isn’t making me better. I don’t have any friends. I am depressed.”
Ella: 12:53 I’d stay all day watching the Kardashians. I don’t want to do that forever. I do want to have a job. ” Okay. Well, if this is the list of things, if I keep sitting here and keep watching the Kardashians what’s going to be different tomorrow?” But up until that point I’d always said, “The medicine will work tomorrow. The medicine will work tomorrow. My doctor needs to get me another medicine,” things like that. Do you see what I mean? Or, “I can’t do it. I’m not well enough to do it.” Yeah. And it was when I was just completely honest with myself that I was able to kind of completely see it as it was, and that therefore I needed to change something.
Kristina: 13:33 Yeah. I think something you’ve done amazingly well is to turn the negatives of your health challenges into positives, starting by sharing your healthy food journey online. I’m so passionate myself about the benefits of sharing, as in sharing knowledge and experiences with others. My experience is that sharing often brings unintended positive consequences, which it certainly has in your journey. How important was this concept of sharing, sharing your story and progress to you eventually building Deliciously Ella into an amazing business you built today?
Ella: 14:08 Well, it’s such a brilliant question. I think it’s got a lot of answers. So on a personal level it was really powerful because I looked at it like what you were just saying, I needed to be really honest with myself in order to change something. And up until that point, as I said, I’d kind of cut myself off from people. I was so ashamed of being what I thought … I was useless and different and weird. Therefore, I wouldn’t talk about it.
Ella: 14:35 Lots of people who’d been my friends they were like literally, “Where is Ella? What happened to her?” And I didn’t want to talk about that. I didn’t want to explain it. When I published my blog and shadowed people for the first time it was the first time that lots of people were like, “Oh, I’m so sorry you’ve been through that.” And I thought, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t be so embarrassed.” And then I got messages from people saying, “Oh, well, I have been through something similar,” and suddenly this sense of connection again. And that is so powerful.
Ella: 15:05 And what I’ve then seen as Deliciously Ella has it’s grown, on I guess a professional level, how much people connect with people and we all go through such similar challenges during our lives and we don’t talk about them. So we think that we’re alone in them and it makes the weight so much heavier.
Ella: 15:23 And my mother-in-law passed away a couple of months ago from brain cancer and she was an amazing woman, absolutely phenomenal. And she realized that it was unfortunately a terminal cancer and she realized how little research there was within the cancer space, and she became really, really passionate and gave this amazing, she was a politician, and gave this amazing speech in the House of Lords in the house of parliament in the UK and created this amazing momentum and rallying behind this initiative for change within elements of the cancer space. And it was just so powerful to see as she started sharing her story and we started talking about it a little bit on Deliciously Ella because I work with my husband. He’s our CEO [inaudible 00:16:05] so directly related to our company as a family business. And how many people said, “Thank you for talking about it. I felt really alone. My mom, my dad, my sister, my brother, my friend…..”
Ella: 16:17 And I know for Matt that was actually a really powerful thing to say, “Okay. You’re not on you’re own in this. Other people have been through this and they’ve lived through it and they’ve managed to put one foot in front of the other even when they thought the couldn’t. And they’re here today and they’re still standing and they’re happy.” And that was so inspiring.
Ella: 16:35 And I remember kind of becoming increasingly really a massive believer in that sense of sharing stories because, yes, you may not have had the illness I have, yes, you may know I’ve done X, Y, or Z and vice versa. But you will have had human experiences that completely relate. And the more we share about that, the more community that we have. And I think that’s one of the things that’s missing in our lives that makes us feel lonely and alienated at times. And those aren’t emotions that I think kind of get the best of us ever.
Kristina: 17:09 Absolutely. Talking about turning negatives into positive, my experience feels fairly aligned with yours. There’s always a silver lining around the darkest cloud, and that no matter what you can always find silver linings in any problem. And you obviously have had that in your story and your mother-in-law as well. Can you share your thoughts on what your experience has taught you about finding positives even in tough situations and how can our listeners put that into practice when they’re faced in many challenges that come along with chasing dreams?
Ella: 17:39 Totally. I mean, I think what I realized is that there’s no such thing as perfect I life, and you’ve got to kind of find the tools which can be different for everyone, but you’ve got to find the tools to allow you to kind of ride the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, and not kind of get too swept up in them because you never know what’s coming tomorrow.
Ella: 18:00 And in that sense as well, finding a way in which you could continue to bring a glass half full attitude to the table, I think is so powerful because even when stuff feels so negative, there’s always positives, there are. And there is no situation basically where there isn’t at least one genuine positive. And I think as human beings our tendency, and I know it was mine in the past, is to err on the side of the negative and it’s so much easier, but there is always a positive and as soon as you are able to put that at the forefront, happier you’ll be.
Ella: 18:44 And I think for anyone starting a business, leading a business, leading a team of people, I think that makes such a big difference and leadership as well, because you’re going to have so many challenges and hurdles come up than you never expected to face probably, and that weren’t the hurdles you were thinking you were going to have, and you’re not prepared for them and it can really throw you off guard. But, you’ve got to be the person that inspires your team through them. You’ve got to be the person that finds the solution, the person that knocks down that wall, and so you find the attitude that helps you do that, I think makes the worlds of difference.
Kristina: 19:24 Yeah, absolutely. I believe that it’s always, every situation has 50% positive and 50% negative-
Ella: 19:32 Exactly, that’s true.
Kristina: 19:34 … So it’s a really good way of looking at it, it helped me a lot.
Ella: 19:38 Yeah, I completely agree with you. I really do, and I think it’s just 50% either way. You can see it either way, but your life will be so different if you choose one over the other.
Kristina: 19:49 I’d love to take you back now to the summer of 2015. You and your now husband, Matthew started to talk a lot about what you could do together. I understand you were guided back then, by a shared desire to create a socially and environmentally responsible company that you both hoped could start to change the conversation and perception around natural food. When I read about that point in your life, I thought to myself, Ah, maybe that’s when the dream really started. Was that right, or did you both feel like you were in a point in your lives where you’re consciously taking time out to imagine your future, starting to dream big and starting about your journey together? I’m really curious how that process worked.
Ella: 20:32 Yeah, I was a much more nervous person than Matt and I was much more thinking about stuff in a more small scale, and I was nervous to put myself out there and really take that leap and he is such a kind of big thinker, big believer, just brilliant attitude in that sense and when we decided to work together, it was so clear there was a really exciting opportunity which I just realized that, which was also my first book would come out and it would become the fastest selling debut cook book ever in the UK and it massively exploded and there was loads of press and media and things around what we’re doing now. Social following had grown massively, and we were at over half a million at that point.
Ella: 21:17 Anyway and so, it was so clear that the opportunity was now and we wanted to run with it and it was Matt that really, really helped push me to think big, to imagine what we could do, all the possibilities, and have the confidence to really go after them and he always says, and it’s so true. Like the worst that happens is someone says no, and I would always be quite nervous and it was really empowering, working together in order to see something bigger. I know I really needed that support, that encouragement, that kind of hand-holding in some senses in order to start to see that and believe that, because I just, as I said when I was sick, my self esteem was so low. My view of myself was not a positive one, I just didn’t have the belief in myself that I could do what he thought I could do.
Kristina: 22:15 Sounds like a really great partnership.
Ella: 22:18 Yeah, I know.
Kristina: 22:18 And for our listeners, what advice would you give to someone struggling to find their strengths, own self belief? Because that’s one thing that I often hear that a lot of people are really struggling with, their self confidence and that’s often stopping them dreaming big or, or creating their dream life. So what would you advise our listeners, how to deal with that?
Ella: 22:38 Well, it’s a great question. I mean, one of the things that I think can make a really big difference is again, coming back to that kind of concept of an honest conversation with yourself. No one is good at everything, right? So it’s not possible. But what are you really good at? Where are your strengths? Is it the vision? Is it the operations? Is it the sales? Is it communications? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Where do your skills lie? And I think as you start to really focus in on what am I good at? What do I love? What makes me so excited? You can start to say, okay, and do you know, one of the things that I think knocked my self esteem, when I try to do that, because I’m not very good at that, I don’t really like it, it kind of takes away the passion.
Ella: 23:23 Okay, the first person I’m going to hire is going to be the person that knows that job, I start to see it like that because otherwise I think we can be quite down on ourselves and also think we’re failing. But, when you’re starting a business, you’re trying to do 72 different jobs, at least half of which you’re not qualified for and it’s okay to take the pressure of yourself and recognize that no one expects you to be the most brilliant marketeer and the best accountant.
Kristina: 23:53 Yep. It’s so true. I’m laughing because bookkeeping was my absolutely, you know, the weakness and I hated it and that was the first person I hired was to do the books because it was just not my strength and I didn’t enjoy it and I was wasting my energy on things that weren’t my strength, so that’s really good advice, so thank you.
Ella: 24:13 Recognizing that it might pull you down a bit sometimes as well, because you saw, I’m not good at this.
Kristina: 24:18 Yep. Absolutely. I have to ask you, just the other day, I was fascinated by an Insta post of yours. I love following you on Insta by the way. I always get so inspired and I always get inspired by to cook on my own even when I don’t feel like it. I always get inspired, so thank you for inspiring those of us who wants to cook better at home. But on your post you mentioned that there was a moment last year when you actually had a thought of stopping Deliciously Ella, because of the negativity and confusions around eating well and I just loved reading that post because it felt so clear that you had consciously decided to just let go of the negativity of others and to build the inner strength to not mind about what other people think. And I felt so happy for you and then obviously I was very delighted with the support you received on Insta for your honesty in that post. But I’d love you to talk us through that and share what you feel other people could learn from that experience.
Ella: 25:17 Yeah. I think it was a really interesting moment to me and I think what I realized at that point is, not everyone is going to like you and they’re not all going to like what you do. And that’s absolutely okay, what I really felt myself was that there are three different … I’m sorry, there are two different types of criticism, right? And first of all, there’s criticism that’s not so quite criticism and that taps into the idea that you’re not going to make everyone happy, right? That that’s the case in everything in life. And so if it’s people just making comments saying, tagging their friends saying, oh my gosh, doesn’t she have the most annoying voice you ever heard? Or like, oh, don’t you think she looks quite fat today? Or stuff like that. You just have to say to you, whatever. Okay, bye.
Ella: 26:07 Or people writing things about your brand and you’re like, that’s not what we say or what we do. And you just have to kind of accept it for what it is because that’s what people have chosen to believe. But you then have constructive criticism and it’s really important I think to be able to differentiate the two, because constructive criticism, even if not told in a way you’d love it, it’s still really, really beneficial to your business and to you, I think as a person in all the ways that you can learn and you can grow because there’s always space for all of us to evolve. So I think understanding how I could differentiate the two, was a really important step. And then the other thing for me that was really important was coming back to that sense of purpose again. Having a really deep sense of why you do what you do, allows you to weather anything really.
Ella: 26:56 Because for me, barely a quarter of the UK eat their five a day, their five portions of fruit/veg a day. You know it’s not meant to be seven a day or a 10 a day, well, if barely a quarter of people eat it to begin with. We’re a long way off all of us eating our 10 a day, so we need to change that and I believe that’s going to be changed by making vegetables a little bit cooler, sharing lots of recipes, sharing lots of ideas, really upping the conversation around it. And, I’m very passionate about the environmental side of vegetarianism and it became so clear to me that, yes, some people are not going to like it, because not everyone likes the status quo big challenge, but I really believe these issues are really important and so I want to make a change in the world, and so it’s okay for some people not to like me along the way.
Ella: 27:44 Because to me, the why matters more than that and that was really the turning point for me and that will always be kind of my biggest tips. Anybody who’s got a big dream, who wants to start something, is really where you know why you’re doing it more than money, because that’s what I think takes you through the difficult moments and there’s no business in the world that doesn’t have difficult moments.
Kristina: 28:10 Yeah, absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. In my new book, I share with readers that I find great inspiration from dreams and experiences from others. Who would you say inspires you?
Ella: 28:21 So many people, but first and foremost, our community. Honestly, that’s like my number one source of inspiration every day because I just love … They’re so interactive, they’re always sharing what they like, what they’re maintaining, and again, coming back to the sense of why that has had a positive impact in them and whenever I hear that, all I want to do is share more.
Kristina: 28:42 That’s a great one. Then, do you have any mentors and if so, how did those relationships come about?
Ella: 28:47 I don’t really. But I think that’s a lot because I started building this with Matt, and we’re so intertwined as partners with each other, that we’ve been real supports to each other. I’ve found people so supportive and so helpful and so generous with their time, but I’ve never fully developed that one on one sense of a mentor before.
Kristina: 29:15 Yep. Okay. That’s great. Great to have Matt as your closest mentor. Very handy.
Ella: 29:24 Yeah, he’s very useful.
Kristina: 29:25 You list ‘natural, simple and honest’ as your values and it’s clear that you’re driven by these values in everything you do. I’m such a big believer that being guided by your values is hugely important to developing a life that you love and I encourage people in my book to let their dreams be guided by what they truly value. How did you come to realize these were your key values and what’s the process that you went through to realize what they were?
Ella: 29:50 Do you know, they’ve really been around since day one to be honest with you, I just didn’t realize they was the values until it was time to put pen on paper as we started to really build the business side of things, to be honest with you. Yeah. I think that’s what I wanted to change to be what I was eating, and so as Deliciously Ella started from such a personal standpoint. What we did was be as very reflective of that.
Kristina: 30:16 And do you use those values in everyday decision making or personal or business? Or have you got any examples how you used your values to make decisions?
Ella: 30:29 Yeah, absolutely. I think having a set of values for us, for example, like natural is really important. I want all the ingredients we use, to be really, really simple and so we don’t use any additives, we don’t use any stabilizers, we don’t use any preservatives. So as we’re going down the product development route, that sense of naturalness is absolutely 100% essential. We work our corners and if it’s not possible we won’t do it. And that allows our brand to have consistency in everything that we do.
Ella: 31:04 So I completely agree with you on that. Having that kind of guideline, it’s really important and especially as you start to scale up and the team starts to grow, I think that really also is so important because, to begin with everyone’s so tightly together, right? You’re sitting around one table and there’s four of you, there’s five of you, you don’t really need to have those values written down in the same way because they’re so innate in how you talk as a founder and how you lead something as a founder, but as it starts to grow and you don’t start to kind of all sit at a table together because there’s too many people for one table and you’re maybe not around as much and you’re not in every meeting with everyone. I think you’re going to need to have these really clear guiding principles that everybody can understand.
Kristina: 31:50 Yeah, absolutely. It makes complete sense. You were touching before about purpose and you appear to be highly purpose driven and to be authentically doing what you love and something you see as truly meaningful. How do you describe what your purpose in life is, and how did you hit on that as your purpose?
Ella: 32:12 To be honest, I think the purpose for me as I’ve already talked about earlier is making vegetables cool, it’s making them more exciting, it’s making them more delicious. It’s trying to get people to start eating the things we know we need to eat for our health and our well being and in the western world that’s becoming increasingly important. And so yeah, that was my purpose from day one.
Kristina: 32:37 Absolutely. In my book, I challenge readers to explore the idea: Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make a living or spend a large part of your life following your purpose and doing what you really love? You are such a great example of someone who has done that. What advice can you share with our listeners about how they can make that happen for themselves too?
Ella: 32:57 If you’re going to start business, it’s so exciting and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. But it is, all consuming. It’s a 24/7 thing and so you need to love it. And so first and foremost understand, what are you so passionate about that you want whole world to maybe know what it is and tap into it? What is it that you would be happy to put above it all in your life for a period of time. And I think once you can identify something that fits that brIef, that’s when I think it’s time to jump and head first in and completely follow your passion. And that would be my biggest piece of advice. I think if you don’t know what that is today, that’s fine, it comes to everybody at different times. Shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself for it.
Ella: 33:49 And I think just trying to soak up as much as you can, from as many people as you can be exposed to, as many different areas of an industry that you’re interested in or a topic you’re interested in, that’s the way to do it. And I think I started Deliciously Ella very, very young and it’s got its benefits to that, but I wasn’t as experienced as I would have loved to be and I think that there’s so much to be said for going to get real life experience in an industry in which you want to start something as well as a lot of glamorization about entrepreneurship, which is brilliant because we need more entrepreneurs, we need more businesses. I think is the lifeblood of an economy and it’s a powerful, powerful, powerful thing.
Ella: 34:36 That being said, I think it’s harder than I definitely realized and speaking to lots of my friends in similar positions, I think people would say the same. There’s so much in having as much experience as you can. So I don’t think you should feel you have to rush into it tomorrow while you’re still not 100% sure of what it is. It’s okay to take your time.
Kristina: 34:58 Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. My number one, when people ask me that question is always passion. What is your passions? And also learning from someone who’s done it before. There’s always someone who’s done something similar or even if it’s not in the same industry, you know, starting a business can be taught in so many different ways. Obviously not in the same industry. So very good advice. So thank you for sharing that.
Kristina: 35:22 A big crazy dream of mine is to inspire 101 million people around the world to write down three carefully considered dreams on paper and start chasing them. It’s a big dream of mine.
Ella: 35:32 I love that.
Kristina: 35:34 Thank you. It struck me a couple of years ago, how few people actually take out time to dream. A lot of people I come across set goals. When often setting goals, they often look at what is possible in the next 12 months or so, but I found that if you are really dreaming, you can make such a positive impact and at the end really change your life. What three dreams would you write down if you knew anything was possible, if you couldn’t possibly fail to achieve any of them? If you’re happy to share.
Ella: 36:06 Brilliant, brilliant question. I think for me, first and foremost, it would be trying to completely take down all preconceptions that eating well and taking care of ourselves is a negative thing. I think the world would be a much better place if we all had so much energy, clarity in our thought, and felt brilliant. That would be number one. I think the second thing would be to really be able to create a company that does things differently, that puts community first, that’s led by community and that shows how possible it is to really be socially responsible on a big scale. I think that’s a big dream of mine. The plant-based movement is so powerful, and it’s really important for our climate. I’m very passionate about that.
Ella: 37:02 I think the third thing would be to be able to really create a family business that we can have forever and ever that is successful enough to sustain us forever, and that we can keep running the rest of our life and hand over to our children. I would absolutely love that.
Kristina: 37:20 What amazing three dreams. I love that you’re sharing them with us. Perhaps some of our listeners are able to help to make your dreams come true. I’m such a believer in sharing in dreams and then seeing them happen around you while people are helping, so thank you for sharing. I love your big dreaming.
Ella: 37:38 Thank you. Thanks for encouraging me to do it.
Kristina: 37:43 I love it. I often get asked by people how I can live a balanced life, and it seems to be – I don’t know if it’s the right word, but – epidemic that people feel that they’re living out of balance. What would you say to people who ask you about that, how to live a balanced life?
Ella: 37:58 I think there’s a couple of things there. I think first of all, balance is so different to everyone, and it’s going to be different every day, every week, every month, every year for the rest of our lives. I think we have to be okay with that first and foremost.
Ella: 38:12 Then I think the other thing is that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Balance can mean so many different things to so many different people. I know people talk a lot about the work-life balance, and when we were starting Deliciously Ella, it was something people ask me all the time. Honestly, we had the opportunity of a lifetime with our business right now. That’s my focus. I’m going to put that first. I’m going to make that choice. I’m not going to see it as a sacrifice. I’m going to see it as a choice. To lots of people’s eyes, that’s not balance, but on a big view of my life, I think that is balance because I’m putting in the time to hopefully create a life of my dreams in the future.
Ella: 38:59 I think we can put so much pressure on any moment, “If I had work-life balance today, if I had balance in the way I eat today.” It’s not about today or this moment. It’s about your life. I think you can ease the pressure off a little bit in that sense, and just allow yourself to be a bit more intuitive with what you want to be doing, what you need to be doing at any given time and any part of your life.
Kristina: 39:23 Yep. I couldn’t agree more. I canI so relate to being out of balance when you start a business, but for me that wasn’t out of balance either because I just loved what I was doing. I could spend 24/7 doing what I loved, which was all part of the business. Then, of course, I had children and that changed then. It’s all very different in different stages of life.
Ella: 39:47 Exactly.
Kristina: 39:49 I know that social media, and in particular, Instagram has put a huge role in your success. Can you share with us a couple of key lessons or key wisdom you learned around the journey of building such a large and engaged following on social media.
Ella: 40:02 Honestly, I think authenticity and community are the two cornerstones to social media. I really, really do. I didn’t really realize that when I started, but in retrospect it was amazing because I started sharing just my own journey and people could relate to that. There was a sense of personal in there that people really appreciated. Because I wasn’t very well and I didn’t have much to do with my time, I was always at home. I was so appreciative of people connecting with what I was doing that I was replying to everyone the whole time. That started to create this sense of dialogue. It’s what led to the sense of community.
Ella: 40:41 I’ve learned so much from our audience, and I think and I hope our audience feel genuinely connected to me and my team and Deliciously Ella as a whole rather than feeling it’s transactional. I think that’s so powerful.
Kristina: 40:55 You’ve done such a good job on it, too. I love what you’re sharing. That’s great.
Kristina: 41:00 If you could give our listeners just three tips for living a healthier lifestyle, what would that be?
Ella: 41:05 I think first and foremost, just living by the idea that for anything to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable. Make sure … You know, guacamole is a vegetable. It doesn’t all have to be greens. If you want to make some little changes, do changes that you like that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life rather than saying, “I’m never going to do this again. I’m never going to do that again,” and then two weeks later saying, “Oh, I am going to do it,” and then feeling that you’re failing. You’re not failing. You’ve just set an impossible target. Think about small, slow, steady, sustainable, enjoyable, enjoyable being the fundamental word there. That’s number one.
Ella: 41:47 I think number two, focus on positives, not negatives. Coming back to that whole idea of glass half full. What can you add in that’s going to make you feel better? Is that just prioritizing trying to get some sleep so you get seven hours sleep a night and you feel way more energized? Is that prioritizing trying to get a little bit of exercise in? Is that prioritizing trying to get an extra portion of fruit or veggies every meal? Start to think about what you’re adding in, not what you’re taking away. Positives, not negatives.
Ella: 42:19 Then I think for the third thing, start to experiment more. I think we can all feel that we’ve got to do what somebody says we’ve got to do because that’s what the recipe is, or that’s what they’re saying. Be inspired, and be creative with it. Take what works for you and run with it. Try a recipe. “Oh, love it,” if it was spicer or hotter or creamier or blah, blah, blah, and just add your twist on it. I think that’s what really heightens the enjoyability.
Kristina: 42:48 Yep. Love that. I have to ask you, if you had one recipe in your books, what would you do mainly? We all have a few dishes that we kind of do all the time. What’s your number one?
Ella: 43:01 I think first and foremost, I love our bean chili. It’s so easy. It’s actually our most popular recipe ever, and I think it’s because it’s just such an easy meal. It’s just sauteed garlic and onion and celery, and then you saute dried thyme and rosemary and tomato puree, and then you add mixed beans, tin tomatoes, splash of maple, salt, pepper, and of course simmer that. It’s really thick and warming. I serve that either with corn bread which is beans and coriander and sweet corn, polenta, chili, or just with some brown rice and some coconut yogurt, crushed coriander, and it’s so easy. It literally takes two minutes. All you need to do is literally chop onion, garlic, celery, and then you just pop a little in the pan and it cooks itself.
Ella: 43:50 I make a lot of things like that because you know how it is. When you’re busy you’re always short on time, so that’s perfect. I can put it onto simmer and go and sort my laundry out or tidy up or do my emails, or check in with my husband, maybe do a little bit of meditation.
Kristina: 44:08 I love that. I have to say, having visited kikki.K in London, I was a very frequent visitor going on my way home to your deli. I’ve loved that and I’ve always chose those kind of dishes. Thank you for sharing that recipe. I’m sure our listeners will be excited to cook that hopefully.
Kristina: 44:28 You’ve got a blog, app, website, best-selling books, millions of followers, delicious and healthy food products, a beautiful deli in London, and you recently became a qualified yoga teacher, which is so, so amazing. But I’m sure our listeners would love to know what’s next for Ella as a person?
Ella: 44:47 Who knows that answer. You know you talk about dreaming big. If you told me a couple of months after starting Deliciously Ella where you could be five, six years later, not a chance would I have said here today. Really makes me think when you say what’s next in the big view, I just can’t even imagine. I hope we continue to grow and grow and grow and grow and grow, but it feels like the sky’s the limit. We’re really working on our food products, and then lots and lots of really exciting new developments. We’re bringing to stores, which is brilliant. We’re working on some really cool stuff with our app, and we’ve just got a podcast, which is really exciting. Those are all stuff in the works. It just feels like we keep on aiming for the stars, really.
Kristina: 45:41 That’s so exciting. We can’t wait to follow you. Let me finish up by asking you a few very quick questions that I know our listeners would love to hear you answer. Do you have any particular morning routine to set you up for a productive day?
Ella: 45:55 Yeah, I do yoga every morning and I find it magic, real magic. It makes me feel so good and it creates such positive head space and really helps cement a feeling of physical space, which is really critical space. It’s been a really powerful thing. I used to be a bit nervous about taking the hours. I need to do this, I need to do that. I realize in giving that, creating that space, it gives me way more time because I’m so much more efficient and open and calm, which is incredible.
Kristina: 46:27 Yeah, absolutely. Yoga is just magical that way. Do you do it at home or do you it in a class, or do you combine a little bit?
Ella: 46:35 It depends on the day, kind of what’s first. I love to go to a class, but you know, it’s not always useful depending on what’s happening that day.
Kristina: 46:42 Yeah. Do you have any other particular rituals to help you live your dream life?
Ella: 46:47 That’s kind of my number one non-negotiable to be completely honest with you. I think other than that, it’s just trying to, as you said earlier, just have gratitude for everything. There are days where I find myself running around all over the shops thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m so stressed.” I stop and I think, “No, how cool is this? You’re doing this and you’re doing that. You’re getting to talk to this person. How cool is that?” Just trying to always chalk this up and always continue to reframe that thinking.
Kristina: 47:20 Absolutely. One thing that I say almost every day is, “Lucky us.” How lucky are we to be living in this time that anything is possible and that you really can, we were born in countries where we have the freedom to do what we love? That’s one thing that I keep saying every morning. Lucky us.
Ella: 47:43 I completely agree. It’s so important to remind yourself of that.
Kristina: 47:46 Yeah. Absolutely. Have you got a favorite kikki.K product and if you do what is it?
Ella: 47:51 Of course, everything you guys make is so beautiful. I love to have a gorgeous notepad with me, and of course you guys make those aplenty. At all times, always have ideas, and I always have “Oh, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.” By I think just having something with me to kind of journal, kind of to do lists, kind of life planner, organiser, thinker, space creator, but just somewhere which I can write down all throughout the day, thoughts, things I want to focus on, things I want to do, reminders, notes to myself. I love that. I love to go back through it, it’s always inspiring.
Kristina: 48:28 Thank you so much. I love that you’re using a notebook, because I think that’s when you’re capturing a lot of ideas that otherwise get away from you. You can’t keep everything in your head. So thank you for sharing.
Kristina: 48:42 What’s your favorite book and why?
Ella: 48:45 My favourite book I’ve ever read is called Any Human Heart by William Boyd. It’s just a brilliant story. It’s fictional, but it doesn’t feel like it’s fictional. It’s the most brilliant, brilliant read. Really recommend it. It kind of takes you through all of life’s ups and downs, swings and roundabouts, with such warmth and candour. It just shows you that that’s what life’s about, and you’ve got to take it for what it is. It’s a beautifully written book. I love the message of that.
Kristina: 49:19 Fantastic. I love any book tips. I haven’t heard of that one, so thank you so much for sharing. Just one last question for you. If you could go back to your younger self, say when you were in your late teens, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
Ella: 49:36 Honestly, everything will work itself out. Don’t get too caught up in stuff because no matter how bad something seems, having seen some pretty difficult stuff, you will always will find a way to put one foot in front of the other. You always will. You can spend so long worrying about things. They’ll happen in a split second. Before you know it, you will have got past them. It’s not worth ruining other things by worrying about something that you don’t even know how it’s going to play out. It is going to play out.
Kristina: 50:10 Such good advice. I’m sure a lot of us will take that on. It’s a brilliant advice. Thank you so much for sharing. Ella, thank you so much for your time. I just loved our chat. It’s been such an inspiring conversation. I cannot wait to continue to follow your amazing journey and see what you’re doing, and have no doubts that your dream and life will be such an inspiring one. I’m very grateful to have had you on our podcast, so thank you so much.
Ella: 50:42 Thank you. Thank you for inspiring those sorts of things that are a little bigger, because I think we all need that push sometimes.
Kristina: 50:48 Wow. What an amazing story, and what an inspiring person Ella is. I hope you found her story as empowering as I did. One of the most powerful lessons I took from Ella’s story is that we can all take control of our lives, and that our passions and values guide us in creating a life we love, our dream life. The way she overcame such a difficult time in her life by taking control of her own path really inspired me. I am such a strong believer in getting into the driver’s seat of your own life. This is something I really focused on in my book, Your Dream Life Starts Here. It’s well worth reading and exploring for yourself to help you create your dream life, whatever that means to you.
Kristina: 51:31 I really hope this episode has left you feeling super inspired and excited to find your passions and start building your own dream life. If you haven’t got a copy yet, I encourage you to get a hold of my book and the dream life journal that I have created to go with it, which is a great starting point if you want guidance on your journey of uncovering and chasing your dreams. Another great place to start is to check out my 101 dreams audio guide at kikki-k.com/dreamlife. This is a really powerful and free step by step exercise to help you on your dreaming journey. I’ve led thousands of people around the world through this exercise, and I think you’ll find it incredibly inspiring. If you love this episode and found it useful, please help us spread this inspiring message to even more people by posting about it on social media with the hash tag, #101milliondreamers.
Kristina: 52:27 You can also leave us a review to help us inspire even more people I would love your support with my big crazy dream to inspire 101 million people to write down three dreams on paper and go and chase them. Until next time, thanks for listening. Dream big.
Please note: this is a full transcript of Kristina Karlsson’s conversation with Ella Mills.