My Working Day – Ella Harland & Sophie McGregor – Founders of Griddle

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Ella Harland & Sophie McGregor, Founders of Griddle, about their working day.

What time do you wake up?

Ella: At the moment it’s 7 am. I’m lucky to live relatively close to my office so I can cycle or walk in about 20 minutes!

Sophie: I’m definitely a morning person so normally I get up around half past 6, do some yoga, check emails then go for a walk with Ludo, my little pooch. We’ve been working some late evenings recently though so my alarm has definitely slipped a little! At the weekend I lie in till about 8 am though.

What do you have for breakfast?

Ella: As the co-founder of a baked goods brand, I have to say Griddle waffles or pancakes! Ok, not every day, but at least 3 or 4 days! I like to switch it up with some yogurt, fruit, nut butter etc.

Sophie: I’m Scottish so it has to be porridge and save the waffles for pudding!

What is your mantra for your working day?

Ella: It’s not a mantra as such but I try to do the things that I least want to do that day first thing, that way you’ve accomplished something first thing in the morning and you also don’t then have to spend the rest of the day putting it off!

Sophie: Never waste energy on getting stressed – easier said than done mind!! I’ve got a lot better at prioritising and accepting this is a long-term race and not a sprint.

As a business leader, is it hard to separate your business and personal life?

Ella: Very! But I don’t necessarily mind that… as a founder, I think you have to throw your whole self in and so it’s fairly unavoidable!

Sophie: Work is life, but honestly I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love what we are building and I’m happy to spend a weekend working when it’s needed. But we try to take breaks when we can and enjoy the quieter periods knowing we can put everything into the busier months.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Ella: I would say testing market demand and validating the place for the product or service is in the market is paramount before throwing yourself fully into the business. Myself and Sophie didn’t give up our full-time jobs until we had done this and I’m so pleased we didn’t as it’s a long process from concept to actual product in the market!

Sophie: Surround yourself with like-minded people in the same field as you – don’t underestimate the value of friends when it comes to work. It’s so easy to think you have to plug it alone as an entrepreneur but you can do so much more with the right people supporting you.

Who is your business idol? Why?

Ella: I’ve always found Dame Anita Roddick from The Body Shop particularly inspiring. She was a rule-breaker, category disruptor, and pioneering in using business as a force for good with social and environmental care built into the company. This is something that we care about deeply at Griddle as well, and this year we are undergoing the B-Corp certification in order to measure our impact and be able to hold ourselves accountable.

Sophie: After reading Shoe Dog, I want to say Phil Knight. That determination and grit is inspiring, and look at the business he runs today.

What motivates you?

Ella: Griddle is on a mission to shake up the frozen bakery category which currently in the UK market is totally underserved in shops and underutilized by consumers at home. Bakery goods are one of the biggest contributors to food waste in the UK, and this is a cause that I care about deeply. By putting our products into frozen this issue is directly tackled, however, we have a long way to go in terms of making frozen the go-to for many households around the UK. For a lot of people, it still has a reputation of being lesser quality, but really this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m so passionate about the benefits of frozen (no food waste, much less plastic, quality of product, no artificial preservatives etc) and so I suppose changing people’s perception of frozen and really disrupting the category for the better is what motivates me.

Sophie: Genuinely making a positive impact is the key driver. The excitement of working on something new gets me up in the morning, every day is different. But in the long run to think that we could have a business that shapes the way food is produced and consumed in the future is the main driver. It’s such a bug bearer the way food policies are run in the UK and one day I’d like to think this could change.

How do you persevere through challenging times?

Ella: In challenging times, I definitely turn to my co-founder Sophie. I have such respect for people that found a company alone, but I don’t think I could have done that! Having someone next to you who cares about the business as much as you and going through so many shared experiences (both the highs and the lows) really helps me.

Sophie: We’ve both got a lot better at externalising the problem before getting worked up about it. Step back then break it down and tackle it step by step. We know we have each other’s back so it’s a lot less daunting than when you’re not trying to conquer big problems solo.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a female entrepreneur?

Ella: I don’t know if I would link these challenges too closely to being a female entrepreneur but one of the biggest challenges we faced at the beginning was finding a manufacturing partner who not only could produce at the highest quality but also shared our values surrounding environmental credentials, and, most importantly, was willing to work with us! As an unknown brand, without any retail listings at the time, and being in our twenties, I think a lot of companies didn’t believe in us or thought it would be too risky to work with us.

Sophie: I’d probably echo Ella on this one, initial meetings with factories as 2 young women was hard. We even got our dads to step in sometimes and moonlight as employees to get them to take us seriously!

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Ella: Don’t sweat the small things. I’m not good at this but I am trying to get better at asking myself will this issue matter in a month’s time or even a week’s time? If the answer is no then I really try to not stress about it. I think if we sweated over every small thing going wrong we would never make any progress. Things constantly go wrong in the start-up world and so it’s just a case of deciding what’s worth worrying about and trying to recognize mistakes as something that you can learn from to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

Sophie: Get on with it and don’t wait until it’s perfect. If you do, it’ll be too late.

Are you hopeful about the future of female entrepreneurship in the UK? Why?

Ella: I think one of the best ways to help and inspire future female entrepreneurs within the UK is through exposure to other successful female entrepreneurs. And with this in mind, I do have hope for the future of female entrepreneurship as there are so many female entrepreneurs crushing it at the moment both within the food and drink world (Pip Murray from Pip & Nut, Ella Mills from Deliciously Ella are two examples of many) but also in so many other industries, e.g. Patricia Bright, Krissy Cela, Grace Beverley… the list goes on!

Sophie: There definitely seems to be more funds popping up to support female-founded only companies but I’m still so sceptical about the support needed to run a business and raise a family. I think we have a lot to do to make this an attractive proposition, our goals of running successful companies shouldn’t be at the expense of having children.