Renée Elliott, founder of organic supermarket Planet Organic and co-founder of life and business-skills academy Beluga Bean, shares her secrets to success with us
Could your career path benefit from going in a healthier direction? If you’ve ever dreamed about setting up your own wellbeing-based business, now could be the opportune time. The world of wellness is currently booming, but turning that aspiration from fantasy to reality is far from easy - a situation that Renée Elliott knows only too well.
Having founded Planet Organic in 1995, the first organic supermarket in the UK, and co-founded life and business-skills academy Beluga Bean , Renée has carved the type of career that most would covet. It didn’t happen overnight though. She was originally a writer for a wine magazine and her first step towards reaching her professional goals started with a career U-turn. A scary prospect, but one that Renée felt that she had to do in order to pursue something that she loved - helping promote health in the community. “I enjoyed the wine trade for a while, but after four years knew I had to make a change,” she tells us. “At Planet Organic, my focus was creating health as I believe it is the foundation for realising your dreams. But beyond health, I’ve studied and nurtured wellbeing for decades and now, I am interested in wellbeing in all of its forms: economic, intellectual, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social.”
Her second wellbeing business, Beluga Bean, which she launched with her business partner Sam Wigan, is a further extension of her aim to help people lead healthier and happier lives. “Our first course, Launch, takes women from new or existing business through to launch, re-launch or pivot,” she explains. “While its structure is the business plan, we place equal importance on the personal discovery journey. Our second course, Nest, takes women through their last trimester of pregnancy into early motherhood, creating support to avoid postpartum depression, which should never be considered the norm but is more and more common in our fragmented society.”
With businesses that have thrived from start-up to success, we caught up with Renée to find out more about her job journey and her top career advice for others looking to build their own wellness empire.
GTG: What's your advice for aspiring wellness entrepreneurs?
RE: Make sure that what you’re doing sets you on fire. Purpose gives any idea power. Then write your business plan and do your research.
GTG: How did you overcome the challenges in the early days of Planet Organic?
RE: Determination is key. My dad used to say, “Put Renée in a barn full of manure, give her a shovel and she’ll say, ‘I’m going to keep digging; there’s got to be a horse in here somewhere.’” Talent is seductive, but grit is more important.
GTG: What are the current challenges for women in setting up a wellbeing business - and managing it?
RE: I find that many women think of what they can’t do, instead of what they can. It’s also lonely starting a business. And the question of if and when to have kids is a tough one. I suggest finding a mentor with whom you resonate, surrounding yourself with supportive people and always considering the bigger picture.
GTG: Your tips for making a success of a wellbeing business?
RE: My top 5 tips would be:
1) Choose something you love;
2) Write your business plan;
3) Create support around you;
4) Take care of yourself;
5) Enjoy the journey.
GTG: How did you build your team?
RE: My strategy was to create a company rooted in integrity, making change in the community, where I could work hard and have fun. I figured that if I did that, other good people would join me. I was right.
GTG: How does social media factor into the puzzle for you?
RE: It doesn’t for me, but Planet Organic dabbles. In the Community part of Planet’s website, they blog and have guest bloggers, as well as having Facebook and Twitter.
Personally, I don’t do anything because 'everyone else is doing it' and there isn’t much I like about social media. I think Twitter is drivel and I prefer the intimacy of email compared to the publicness of Facebook.
We like in-person contact as this is important for the work we do. That said, we recognise the value in social media to spread the word and invite people to events so that we can then have a conversation. We aren't chasing ‘likes’, but we do invite people to come and participate with us in person.
GTG: What are the qualities and values you still hold true regardless of developments in tech since you started out in the 90s?
RE: Self-belief, integrity, customer service, high standards and questioning convention.
GTG: What are the most important things you’ve learned from failure?
RE: There isn’t failure: only learning. Re-think how you define success.
GTG: What are your entrepreneurial non-negotiables?
RE: Honesty and openness. Trust and respect. And most importantly, communication.
GTG: Is there anything you’d have done differently?
RE: Choose shareholders who share the same values. It’s easier.
GTG: What would be your advice for looking for opportunities and for staying one step ahead of the game?
RE: If you’re lucky enough to have a good idea come to you, act on it. It isn’t necessarily about staying ahead of the game but more about being true to your values and mission. Be aware of your competition, but don’t get distracted by it. Instead, go deep with your values and express them through your business.