Renée Elliott – Planet Organic, London
We talk to Renée Elliott, founder of Planet Organic, London, about the meteoric rise of the business, and her new venture…
When you founded Planet Organic in London back in 1995, did you have a vision of where it could lead to?
My mission was – and still is – to promote health in the community. I also had goals, such as to change food retailing in the UK and to bring organic and health food into the mainstream. In one way, I had a very clear vision of the business and big dreams about what it might achieve, but really it was about the journey and a continuous upward spiral.
What have been the most challenging parts of the journey, and how did you overcome them?
Starting and running your own business is a rollercoaster, and qualities like resilience and determination are key in the face of the ups and downs. I put much stock in three things. One is trusting yourself or trusting your gut (not your head, but your intuition). Two is taking care of yourself. When the stewardess says to put your oxygen mask on first, she’s not kidding. Life lesson! And three is daily meditation.
What has been your proudest moment?
Hmmm. I’ve had several awards and have been invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen (twice). These are great acknowledgments. But I think that what I am most proud of is staying true to myself: challenging convention to improve life.
What are you currently up to?
For 50 per cent of my time, I am a full-on mother to my three children. For the other 50 per cent, I’m a businesswoman. As founder of Planet Organic in London, I do many interviews, speeches, podcasts, panels and judging for new products, wellbeing, women in business, and to inspire budding entrepreneurs. I serve on the Soil Association’s Catering Mark Standards Committee, which is about more people eating better food. And I write cookbooks.
My latest venture, however, launched in 2017 with my partner Sam Wigan. Beluga Bean is a business skills and life skills academy exploring and supporting the six spheres of wellbeing – physical, occupational, psychological, economic, social and spiritual.
What’s the ethos and aims of Beluga Bean?
Beluga Bean Academy’s mission is to equip you with business skills and life skills through courses, connection and support so you can live a thoughtful, abundant and vibrant life.
To achieve your goals, create ease and find happiness, you may not have been taught what you need at school or learned everything necessary at home. Sometimes you require other learning. Do you know how to communicate well in a relationship? Have you been taught how to launch a business? Did you learn how to handle stress and overwhelm? How about navigating early motherhood without postpartum depression, but with joy?
The Academy supports you to work better and live better by offering access to connection, courses and mentors.
What is next in the pipeline for you?
I’ll launch the Beluga Bean cooking and baking for health course called Nourish in London later this year, which I’m super excited about.
How do you like to spend any free time, and what advice do you have on ensuring a work/life balance?
Free time is mainly for family and friends. Now that my kids are a bit older (youngest 10 and oldest 16), sometimes I’ll actually sit and read or do a jigsaw puzzle, which I haven’t had much time for since having kids.
For a work life balance, ask yourself what you do each day, week, month that’s fun. Fun for you? Fun for you and your kids? Fun with your husband? Something? Anything?! Do that.
What advice do you have for others wanting to set up their own business?
WRITE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN! It’s what I love doing with budding entrepreneurs. Through Beluga Bean, business and strategic planning is a whole person process. It’s 50 per cent business planning and 50 per cent personal discovery because you confront yourself on this journey in all of your littleness and all of your glory.
Do you think women face any particular challenges that men don’t?
Yes, of course they do. Not more or less, just different. That’s why Beluga Bean began as an academy for women, to support women with their particular challenges. So we run some women-only courses that handle female issues such as getting pregnant, early motherhood and juggling work with kids.
Renée Elliott, Planet Organic, London, is a guest speaker at Women’s Enterprise Day, which runs as part of Wandsworth Enterprise Month, 4-29 March
Discover more inspirational local Women in Business: