This week, we interviewed Paul Lindley, the Founder and CEP of organic baby and toddler food brand Ella’s Kitchen. Paul lives with his wife, son and daughter Ella in Henley with their pet cat. 

You founded Ella’s Kitchen in 2006 after you experienced problems getting your eldest daughter to eat. How important is it to make healthy foods fun, and what advice would you give to parents with fussy eaters?

To help develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime, we believe it’s important to make healthy eating fun as early as possible.  Ella’s Kitchen encourages parents to help their little ones use all of their senses when exploring new foods to help them learn to love healthy food from the word go!

Ella’s Kitchen recently launched its first ever at home cook book which is more than just another recipe book as it features fun ideas and creative activities that allow little ones to experience healthy foods outside of mealtimes, from getting creative with vegetable prints to playing at a ‘Cool Kiddie Café’ where little ones create their own tasty menu and role play at serving it.

My advice for parents with fussy little eaters is be patient and persistent; Ella’s Kitchen has recently uncovered researched into how babies experience foods and found that little ones have three times as many taste buds as adults, as well as taste buds on their tiny tongues, babies have them on their cheeks, throat and the roof of their mouths which leads to a taste intensity of up to 10 times that of an adult.  As a result sweet foods taste even sweeter to babies but the bitterness of other foods, such as Brussels sprouts, is exaggerated, often leading to little ones appearing to immediately reject their greens.  It can take about 10 separate experiences of a new taste before it’s accepted so don’t give up after the first couple of times, keep going and your little one will eat up their vegetables in no time.

What were the most challenging / nail biting moments experienced while setting up Ella’s Kitchen and what advice would you give to young parents thinking of starting up their own businesses?

First, starting a business is a real commitment, and you won’t do it, or yourself justice, if you can not dedicate 100% of the time that you decide to allocate to it, always.  Therefore, with a young family, it really is difficult and requires discipline and ideally an understanding, helpful and supportive partner.

My most nail biting moments related to the initial listing we got with the supermarkets: would we get them, would the commercial deal work, could we supply the products to the right place, at the right, time, in the right formal for the right price!  Then as we grew it was about balancing the stress of a fast growing business with the employment for the needed people, who were the right people, at the right time.

As for advice, I suggest anyone who thinks they are an entrepreneur-in-waiting – to consider whether they have these three skills:  a passion for the product, service, consumer or Customer that is all encompassing, a creativity to be able to truly think differently to everyone who has ever tried to do the think you are doing before, and a tenacity to accept that you are going to be told no many, many, many more times than you will hear “yes”.

Who does the cooking at home and what’s your favourite family recipe?

It’s always been important in our household to get Ella and Paddy involved in the cooking process as early as possible.  Two of the recipes in the new Cook Book – The Red One are my families own, including Ella’s Dad’s Sweet + Sour Prawns and Ella’s Mum’s Easy Chicken Curry. We first made the chicken curry when Ella was just three years old and she’s loved it ever since as it’s mild, sweet and creamy.

I loved making the sweet + sour prawns with Ella and her little brother Paddy when they young, as it was magical for them to watch the prawns change colour as they cooked.

What’s on top of your to-do list this week?

I write this answer from 35,000 feet en route to the US, where much of my business responsibility lies these days.

Top of my to do list are two things:- first to reflect upon, and capture the best opportunities from, the One Young World Summit I attended last week in Johannesburg.  I was a counsellor to 1,300 twenty something leaders of tomorrow, aiming to pass on my passion for building a business with profits and a purpose at its heart-  that can truly change society.  Second, is to prepare for a week with Walmart in the US, our latest customer and one who is so keen to work collaboratively to offer choice, in Ella’s Kitchen, to their guests in store, and to see how we can contribute to solving the hunger and obesity crisis that affects both the US and UK, together, depressingly, with so many other countries.

Ella is now a young teenager. Does she have plans to join the business and follow in your footsteps? 

We often talk about Ella’s Kitchen at home as it’s a big part of our family.  Both Ella and Paddy are too young to know what they want to do and be when they’re bigger – all Alison, my wife and I hope is that they find something they are passionate about and enjoy.

Where in London is your favourite place to take the family out to dinner?

We have enjoyed many a picnic in Hyde Park or St James Park, beings stimulated by all the activities, colour, sounds and energy that London offers, whilst we also love to try new things and get the kids to at least try new foods.  Sometimes they like them, sometimes they don’t – and that’s fine as long as they try them!

How do you find time to relax, and what’s your idea of a perfect weekend with the family?

We have a new puppy so we are newly into long rambling walks – where we can all talk and laugh together!  I also like to get out on my road bike when I can as I feel the freedom of two wheels to think over problems and challenges in the open, fresh air, and have some “my” time – I think that is important for everyone.  A perfect weekend would involve watching both children do their activities, having a long country walk, and then together having a family meal to which we all contribute in some small way.

Besides the wonderful Ella’s Kitchen range, what’s the one product for children/babies that you couldn’t live without?

Books – not only to key to opening up the mind , passions and the potential of kids, from the earliest age, but also the gateway to the world in forming their own  sense of the world, their imaginations, views and feelings, all un-encumbered with other people’s opinions that TV, films, computer games and social media may come with.

What’s in the pipeline for you / Ella’s Kitchen?

We have just launched our first range of tasty meals for growing toddlers aged 12 months +.  My Little BIG Meals are packed full of at least 5 different fruit + veg to fill tiny tummies with healthy foods.  The range has 6 new dishes including Chicken Curry, Chicken Paella and Veggie Moussaka with contains 7 different types of chucky veggies so toddlers can explore a wide variety of tastes and textures.

We’re also working on lots of new ideas for foods to tantalise those tiny taste buds. But that would be telling if I said anymore.  Watch this space J

How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?

A person who likes to see the difference between the possible and impossible as very small and bridgeable – whether that be in solving the real social problems of the world, or day to day in my children’s ability to find a way to overcome a new problem or challenge.