(Photo: Courtesy Ellen Bennett; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)

The Anatomy of a Great Apron—and a Thriving Business

Ellen Bennett is being honored by In Her Company, a campaign celebrating the power, creativity, and impact of 30 inspiring women entrepreneurs.
Oct 19, 2014· 2 MIN READ
TakePart Staff

Like so many great ideas, Hedley & Bennett’s aprons required breaking free from the status quo. Working in professional restaurant kitchens, company founder Ellen Bennett realized that the mundane look of restaurant uniforms wasn’t cutting it. Now her durable, well-constructed aprons can be found at top restaurants across the country thanks to meticulous designs that tackle whatever dirty work is thrown at them.

Hedley & Bennett
www.hedleyandbennett.com
HQ: Los Angeles
Industries: Restaurant, manufacturing
Founded: 2012
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Hedley & Bennett is an L.A.-based company that makes durable and stylish aprons for professional chefs using selvage chambrays and European linens.

TakePart: How did you come up with the idea for your business? Was there a turning point that convinced you to start your own business?

Ellen Bennett: I hated our cooking uniforms while being a line cook and felt like they could be improved.

TakePart: What excites or inspires you? What do you care about?

Bennett: What inspires me is when a chef comes to us and shares his lifelong ideas and dreams of a restaurant and we get to work together to create an extraordinary outfit and style for their restaurant out of a garment that no one even used to notice.

I get very inspired by helping people, foundations, groups, fellow ladies that are just starting their own business. There’s something so wonderful about sharing nuggets of knowledge with someone and then seeing them succeed because of it.

I really care about my team and my customers because neither are just that. They are my friends and my copilots, and they all share a similar belief to mine that there can be a better apron. That sounds silly, but if you really think about it, an apron is about as basic a tool as a knife in the kitchen. It’s almost indispensable.

TakePart: Do you see any common challenges among female business owners and entrepreneurs?

Bennett: Being that I am young, I found it a little difficult at times to deal with certain older, “wiser” men who seem to think they have a better way of doing things even when they weren’t my direct employees but were vendors, etc. Age can sometimes be an issue because people may not trust you the way they would an older person. Another common challenge is lack of confidence in what you are doing because the whole world isn’t supporting you...yet! But don’t worry, if your product is great and your service is better, those that scoff at you now will praise you later.

(Photo: Hedley & Bennett)

TakePart: What’s been the proudest moment that made you feel like your hard work was worth it?

Bennett: Two years ago, I was a line cook in a kitchen, and no one knew who I was or what the hell I was doing with my life. Two years later, I was at a cooking event, and when I walked in, I realized that 80 percent of the chefs there were wearing my aprons. Not because I had given them away but because they had bought them on their own. It was such a cherished moment for me because these chefs were from all over the country and yet they were all wearing my aprons.

TakePart: What’s one thing you wished someone had told you about your first year in business?

Bennett: Invest in a proper bookkeeper from the get-go. Don’t try and save money in that area because money is the only thing you will lose if you don’t deal with that properly.

TakePart: What’s your dream for how your business looks in five years?

Bennett: To be huge and not for the purpose of being huge but with the purpose of providing hundreds of jobs to people, to be the leader in style in kitchens around the world, to have created a niche that didn’t exist. To be a huge sponsor to all the incredible charities that exist out there, like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Chefs for Kids’ Cancer, and Share Our Strength, because with a successful business, not only can you make a living but you can also help change the world around you by doing your part.

This post is part of the series "In Her Company," created in collaboration with Eileen Fisher and designed to celebrate the power, creativity, and impact of women-owned businesses. Check out more stories at takepart.com/in-her-company.