Oh Joy

career day / an apron maker...
16 Feb 2016

Hedley and Bennett

Hedley and Bennett

A couple years ago, I met Ellen Bennett of Hedley & Bennett after we were searching for a local maker to feature for this post. After seeing her insatiable love of life, her business mentality, and her amazing way with kids, she and I became friends in real life. She has been an incredible friend, mentor to my kids, and is one of the hardest working people I know...and she's only 28 years old. So for our newest career day, I took Ruby to visit "Auntie Ellen's" apron factory to design her own apron and learn what it's all about. Ruby even got to bring her little sister to tag along when she came back to see the final product...

Hedley and Bennett

Hedley and Bennett

What’s your background and why did you start Hedley & Bennett? / I started H&B in 2012 while working as a line cook at a 2 Michelin star restaurant in Los Angeles called Providence. I set out to revolutionize my own uniform but shortly realized that the whole uniform for chefs and those working in restaurants had been overlooked for so long. So I set out to have the best American-made apron company.

Hedley and Bennett

Hedley and Bennett

When did you know you had something good? / After a couple of apron orders, I realized how much I truly enjoyed designing these uniforms for restaurants. No one had really cared that much before. I wanted to make them look good. I soon realized that other makers needed aprons as well like florists, carpenters, artists and hairdressers. I made something that didn't only look good but feels good and lasts a long ass time.

Hedley and Bennett

No one really teaches you how exactly to run a business. How did you learn how to be an entrepreneur, be a boss and figure how the heck to run a business? / Ha! I don't think you ever stop learning how to do that. It's one of those sink or swim things. You definitely learn more every day. You have to have enough willingness to be responsible for things you don't always want to be responsible for. You are the driver in the car and have to just take the wheel and roll with it.

Hedley and Bennett

Hedley and Bennett

Two and a half years ago, we first met and shot this postYou had just moved into your second studio (that was around 700 sq. ft.) and you had 3 or 4 employees, now you’re in a 14,000 sq. ft. office/factory with 20+ employees...holy crap! Talk about growth. Did you imagine you’d grow so fast so quickly? / It's an adventure every freaking day. While you are in the midst of it you don't always realize what's happening. But I am very grateful for all the people who love and support out product and our dream and mission. It's extremely gratifying to get to come to work every day and get to build your dream. It's absolutely the hardest thing I've done so far. But life is an amazing thing I believe living it to the fullest. I can't imagine living it in any other way right now—I love a challenge and always have. I like to pack it in because life is too short to not. If you pack it in all the time and never stop you're bound to make some serious things happen!

Hedley and Bennett

You started your business when you were 25 and now you’re 28. What would you say to encourage other 20-somethings that have big dreams but are afraid they are too young to make their mark? / That it's bullshit, and there is no such thing as being too young. I started this in my living room with nothing but an idea. I had no investors and no one to say this is a good idea or not. I just went with it. A lot of times we just have to prove it. Don't expect tons of admiration just because you had an idea. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Your have to put in the hard work to make it happen. And by that I mean learn how to sell, how to talk to people about your idea, get comfortable and willing to put yourself out there and be sincere! Find out if people actually need and want your product and that there aren't like 50 other companies doing the same thing. Find a way to be different but make sure it's native to you.

Hedley and Bennett

How many hours do you work each day? Do you take off on the weekends? / I work 10 hours a day almost every day of the week. I enjoy time for my personal life and have chunks of time on the weekend where I cook which is my form of relaxing! But I don't sit back with my feet up! I don't actually know how to do that...hahaha! I had a cold this last weekend and my "time off" consisted of making food, painting, cleaning my back yard and reorganizing my kitchen. That's my kind of day off.

Hedley and Bennett

Hedley and Bennett

What is your dream for your brand? / To be a household name and to be iconic as the best functional amazing and awesomely designed workwear for makers of the world.

Hedley and Bennett

Best part about your job? / I think the best part of my job is that the happier we make the world, the better my company does. To be half way around the world in a small pottery studio and see the crafter wearing one of my aprons which has made him so happy just makes everything I do every day worth it. "If you can dream it you can do it" said Walt Disney. I believe that every day. If you dream something and then make it happen and see if come to fruition it's the most rewarding thing. I feel like everyone can do that. 

Worst part about your job? / That you can't just shut it off and leave. Your business is an extension of you. And when something goes bad at the end of the day your butt is on the line and you have to sometimes make decisions that aren't always the easiest. You sometimes have to be the bad guy and the good guy. Also that there just aren't enough hours in the day!

Hedley and Bennett

One thing that has happened in your career that you never expected? / When I set out to make aprons I never expected it to permeate through so many worlds and reach so many places. When I began it in my living room I had no idea where it would turn out and now 3 years later I'm on fire and nothing can stop me!

Hedley and Bennett

One thing that has happened in your career that you completely expected and had hoped for? / I definitely wanted to cover the world with aprons and now I outfit over 1500 restaurants and have some of my favorite people wearing my aprons like Martha Stewart, Grant Achatz, David Chang, Mario Batali, Michael Voltaggio, companies like Space X, Google, Four Seasons, Delta Airlines, and on the Kids Baking Championships on the Food Network. I wanted Hedley & Bennett to be the company that did custom designs for them and it makes our team feel great seeing another company big or small wearing our beautiful aprons and now everyone can buy our aprons online or at our factory!

Hedley and Bennett

What is your life/work motto?  I have a lot of them...

1. Wake up and fight!

2. Make it happen no matter what!

3. Don't be afraid to bulldoze your way through obstacles.

4. Don't be afraid to hug people!

I think it's pretty safe to say that Ruby had such a fun time learning and designing from our energetic and inspiring friend. Thanks so much to Ellen and her team for having us!

{Photos from Part 1/design by Casey Brodley and photos from Part 2/final apron by Bob Cho}

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