A Letter From Ellen // 2017

Ellen Bennett

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As this crazy whirlwind of a year winds down, I can’t help but reflect on all that’s happened. 2017 was, to say the least, a big one. In many ways, our worlds were turned upside down: some brave women forced kitchen culture to take a hard look in the mirror, a devastating fire knocked on our doorstep leaving so many neighbors struggling, and crazy floods affected so many neighbors half a country away... and that’s nothing to say of the general political craziness everyone is feeling. It’s been tumultuous and a time of change, but at Hedley & Bennett we’re linking arms and forging forward. Our spirits are HIGH and we’re ready for whatever is in store. But before we charge into 2018, I have a few thoughts to share and thank you's to say!

2017 was a big year of evolution for Hedley & Bennett, and a turning point for me as its leader. I feel as though I’m not the same doe-eyed “apron lady” I was when I founded this company on a shoestring five years ago – I’m still your fiery apron lady but dare I say, more grown up. I have a team now, an apron factory, a full-fledged manufacturing floor! My days look different as I contend with the realities of running a rapidly growing business – it’s challenging, oftentimes frightening, and incredibly rewarding all at once. The successes are so palpable I could eat them and live purely off their nutrients for days and days. But, shields down, there are also days I feel vulnerable as we make crucial decisions for our future and take careful steps forward (well, maybe less of a ‘step’ and more of a ‘skip’). It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but I’m learning this is what being a leader is all about: it’s about inspiring, motivating and leading with conviction every single damn day into the unknown.
SO, while I still have paths to clear, mountains to climb, and waves to overcome, here are three things I’ve learned as I’ve made my way through 2017:

1 - Don’t let the clouds of business override the genuine place where your passion began. In this competitive, capitalistic world we live in, it can feel fierce out there! I've never thought about us as just an apron company – I stand by our mission of bringing pride and dignity to the workplace. We are building a community for makers, dreamers, and doers. Always own your mission in this wild world and do everything you can to not lose sight of that.

 2- Sweet satisfaction comes only after some blood, sweat and tears. Those days when I was working as a line cook and rushing home to fill orders in my living room, well,  those were long days, but they were about the end game. Work hard, step out of your comfort zone, and go conquer your dream. As the wonderful Chef Evan Funke always tells me, "pressure makes diamonds."

3 - Be grateful for your people as they are your backbone! When I look around, I am filled with gratitude for the faces I see. My Hedley & Bennett squad, my friends, my family, my pig! Earlier this week at our staff holiday party, I looked around at all the faces of H&B, from all walks of life, and I was filled to the brim with fulfilment. As we ate Korean BBQ, sang karaoke, and gave out gifts, I was able to forget about the P&L’s, end of year deadlines, and if we’ll get that new system set up in time. Instead I appreciated the way our sewers were intertwined with our customer service team, that the sales girls were doing sing-alongs with marketing, and that boyfriends and wives and kids were all laughing together. And for that moment, I felt relief and exhaled... because aside from being the boss, I’m also just a girl standing in the room everyday hoping that my team, our customers, our restaurants, supporters, advocates.. that you all know how much I love and appreciate them. You are my north star.

On to 2018!