Renée Elliott founded Planet Organic in 1995, opening the UK’s first organic supermarket and offering natural, wholesome products for the masses. It was sold to PE firm for £15m in 2018. Renee now co-founded Beluga Bean, a business and life skills academy to help all to suceed in business, as well as running women-only courses for particular challenges surrounding women in business.
1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When I was starting Planet Organic, my mother Lucille told me not to be afraid of being feminine in my business. With that in mind, I wove values not only into our product standard or what we do, but also into our MO or how we are. My goal was to create a culture of respect, not only through organic agriculture for our soil, plants, animals and people, but also through business for our farmers, suppliers, team, customers and professionals.
2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given?
Hard to say it often is seen as bad advice with hindsight. One thing I’ve learned on the entrepreneurial journey, though, is not to view events as success and failure, but to consider instead that it is all learning. You do something that is a ’success’, learn and do more of that; you do something that is a ‘failure’, learn and do something different. The real failure, I think is to do something that doesn’t work and not to learn from it.
3. What would you tell your younger self?
Trust your gut. And by that, I don’t mean your head. I mean trust that intuition, inner knowing, emotional response. If something doesn’t feel right, then walk away or RUN! The bad decisions I’ve made have been when I didn’t trust my gut and intellectualised that it would be okay.
4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?
What excites me about the food industry is that although there are still dumb decisions and damaging practices, there is a continued upward spiral of awareness and positive change. In my current business, Beluga Bean, an academy for life skills and business, what excites me is the growing consciousness across our Six Spheres of wellbeing, namely physical, occupational, psychological, economic, social and spiritual in order to work better and live better.
5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
In the past, it was Anita Roddick with her daring, shining, values-led business. Today it is the inspirational start-ups I mentor and advise who are also values led, socially innovative and purposeful.