Ella Mills: "No one succeeds in life without making mistakes along the way"

Plus, the best-selling author and entrepreneur shares the five pieces of advice she wishes she'd known sooner.

Deliciously Ella
(Image credit: Deliciously Ella)

Entrepreneur and best-selling author Ella Mills has been a poster girl for vegan eating for the past decade. With over ten years in the industry, a casual 90 million products sold and seven cookbooks published, Mills' plant-based food company, Deliciously Ella, is now the largest of any plant-based food brand in the world, reportedly selling a product every second.

Team Marie Claire UK are all for adopting wholesome, nourishing habits that work for you and your body - which, despite what critics might say, Ella is all about. That's why we jumped at the opportunity to catch up with her as we continue our Start the Year Strong campaign this month, dedicated to making your January that bit less grey. 

But back to Ella. Earlier this January, she released her seventh book, Deliciously Ella: Healthy Made Simple. The premise is simple and provides readers with easy-to-follow tools for cooking dishes that nourish both body and mind. The book's something of a treasure trove for fast, simple vegan eating, with 75 recipes that take less than 30 minutes to make and require no more than ten ingredients. Yep - it's fair to say she's been busy.

Wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to plant-based eating or how it might benefit you? Well, aside from the obvious environmental plus points, this 2013 study found that eating more plant-based meals can be a beneficial practical solution to prevent and treat chronic diseases (of which Ella herself suffered). While there's no one size fits all when it comes to health, vegan eating, when done in a balanced and considered way, can help to increase the number of whole foods, fibre, fruit, and veg you're eating, not to mention lower your carbon footprint, too.

While we could have spoken to Ella for hours, we wanted to know what advice the health and wellbeing expert wishes she'd known earlier on in her career. Keep reading for some tips to bookmark for later.

Ella Mills: "There’s no such thing as overnight success - we've got to focus on brick-by-brick mentality."

1. Aim for 1% better each day

As Mills explains, "This has become a bit of a mantra for me. I find myself easily overwhelmed when life gets busy, especially now that I’m juggling both the business and two small children."

So, what is the one per cent premise?" Simply put, it helps me distil my goals down, creating manageable daily focuses that, over time, make a huge impact," she says. 

Think about it: If you can get one per cent better each day for one year, you'll end up 37 times better this time next year. "It's similar to the old Chinese proverb, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step," or Richard Branson’s "A big business starts small."" Bottom line: "There’s no such thing as overnight success, instead, focus on a brick-by-brick mentality," she advises.

2. Know what you don’t know. If knowledge is power, knowing what you don't know is wisdom

As Mills explains, this has been one of the hardest but most important lessons she's learnt over the course of her career. "From day one, we wanted to hire people with the skillsets and knowledge that we lacked," she explains. "Listening to those team members and learning from their experience has been critical to building the business." 

She admits it's taken her a while to reach a point where she's confident in her own capabilities, though - and stresses that this is normal. "Early on in my career, I had crippling imposter syndrome. I was very young when I started Deliciously Ella and felt out of my depth almost all the time. It’s taken me almost a decade to overcome the sense of not being enough in a professional setting."

3. Reframe your thinking. Remember that the only constant thing in life is change. Uncertainty is the only certainty.

"The best book I read last year was I May be Wrong by Björn Natthiko Lindeblad. It really cemented this lesson for me - the idea that we spend so much of our life catastrophizing, worrying about the hypothetical, and stressing about things that may or may not happen," she shares. 

Her takeaway? "If the last ten years have taught me anything, it’s that you never know what will unfold in your life, so wasting days worrying is ultimately an energy-draining exercise." 

Sharing that she's a natural worrier and also prone to anxiety and ruminating thoughts, she swears by daily meditation practice to try and reframe her thinking. "It's helped my mindset so much. I’m calmer, more present, and better able to let go of my fears, which has helped me end both personally and professionally." 

Deliciously Ella

Ella shares her wisdom with Marie Claire UK

(Image credit: Deliciously Ella)

4. Embrace failure. Fail early, fail often, fail forwards.

This one's key. "I love that as a society we’ve learnt to embrace failure," she admits to Marie Claire UK. "No one succeeds in life without making mistakes along the way - I'll admit we’ve certainly made our fair share at Deliciously Ella."

The key thing, she reckons, is parking your ego, admitting you got something wrong and then pivoting as quickly as possible. "That’s why I love the idea of failing forwards - the concept that every time we get something wrong, that mistake opens the door for us to iterate and evolve, taking the lessons we’ve learnt and turning them into something better." 

She shares the example of the Deliciously Ella oat bars, which they launched with a big supermarket in 2017. "After just a year or so they told us they were removing them as they simply weren’t selling," she admits. "We could have kept going but instead, we revisited them and completely changed the recipe and packaging, essentially starting again. It wasn’t easy, but absolutely the right thing to do." Case in point: last year they sold fifteen million of them. Not bad...

5. Learn to swap expectation for appreciation.

Last but by no means least, Mills admits that earlier in her life, she was quick to jump on things that promised to be "quick fixes" or "cure-alls". "I think we’re all prone to searching for quick fixes in life," she admits. "We want the silver bullet that’ll instantly step-change our health, our careers, our relationships, and more."

But the truth? "There are no magic answers and there’s no guarantee that things will pan out how we want them to, learning to accept that wholeheartedly has been incredibly important. I’ve found this mindset has made me happier and better able to handle the never-ending challenges that owning a business throws at you on an almost daily basis."

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.

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