5 lessons for childcare businesses from Ella’s Kitchen

Ella was a child who inspired one of Britain’s best businesses. Founded by her dad, Paul Lindley, Ella’s Kitchen is the children’s food company started in her playroom. It now sells in 14 countries and has a turnover of more than £50m a year.  Ella’s Kitchen is a great example to anyone starting a business for children. Here are five lessons you can learn from Ella, her dad and her kitchen.

Use your experience (and the building blocks)

Before Ella’s Kitchen, Paul Lindley didn’t work in food manufacturing; he didn’t work in food at all. He worked for Nickelodeon. That experience meant he was the perfect person to start a baby food business. He knew how to excite children and he wasn’t held back by the conventional rules of the industry.

Is little knowledge your excuse for not starting a childcare business? Don’t let it be! Stop looking at what you don’t have and focus on what you do. Do you have a personality that inspires children and motivates teams? Do you want to build on your capacity to educate and teach through play? Do you want to transfer your skill sets over to running a childcare business, building a professional team and leading the way through providing excellence for your children and team? These are the qualities that matter, not how many successful businesses you’ve started.

Do something different

Once upon a time, all baby food came in tins. No one changed it, because no one thought they needed to. Then Paul and Ella decided tins were wrong. They came up with pouches for baby food, and now everyone’s using them.

You need to know what’s different about you as a child minder, different about your after school club or different about your playgroup. It’s no good offering the exact same thing as someone else. Work out your unique selling point, and make sure the parents hear about that as soon as possible.

Know what your audience want

When Paul was creating the first products for Ella’s Kitchen, he didn’t rush to branding experts or production factories. He went to Ella and her friends to ask what their favourite food on his table was. One boy grabbed his favourite and said he liked it, “because it’s the red one, like my fire engine!” Paul later called a product The Red One.

Never forget who your business is aimed at. It’s important to impress the parents, but you also need to excite the children. If you ever get the chance, ask what they want from your business.

Get your team right

Paul Lindley says his biggest mistake in business is waiting too long to bring anyone else in. He was making £2m a year, but was still a one man band. As you work towards a turnover that facilitates both the children and teams you look after, knowing when and how to bring in the right people matters.

For some help on finding, training and holding onto the right team, check out the next issue of Early Years Business magazine, all about leadership, right here.

Be emotional

Before Ella’s Kitchen, baby food was designed to be functional at best. It was never made to be emotional. Paul and Ella thought that wasn’t right, because, when you’re raising a child, you’re more emotional than ever.

Your branding needs to be fun, engaging and emotional. You need to appeal to what parents want for their children. They don’t just want someone who is professional. They want you to offer something relatable in everything from your branding to what you do with their children.

 That’s five lessons from Paul Lindley’s Ella’s Kitchen.   How often do you see his products in the hands of your children? Let us know in the comments on Twitter @EYBusiness.