Welcome to MyDomaine's Second Life podcast, a series spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief innovation officer at MyDomaine's parent company, Clique Brands, each episode will give you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on iTunes, and stay tuned. We'll be releasing new episodes on Mondays.
If anyone has mastered the art of the hustle, it's Ellen Bennett. The entrepreneurial powerhouse behind Hedley & Bennett, a Los Angeles–based chef wear and handcrafted apron company, started her own business at age 24 while working as a line cook at not one but two prestigious restaurants in L.A. "I was permanently running on adrenaline, and I loved it," she tells Hillary Kerr on episode 27 of Second Life. Now, she's outfitting top chefs around the world, including the likes of Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo.
According to Bennett, she's been hustling from a young age. She taught herself how to cook by testing out recipes she found online and in the kitchen with family before going to restaurant management school. At 18, she was walking into the back doors of kitchens throughout Mexico City, offering to work for free in order to hone her craft. "I would just show up and figure it out," she says.
When she moved back to L.A. after finishing school, her ambition and confidence led her to Providence, a fine-dining, two-Michelin-starred restaurant, and Bäco Mercat, another impressive downtown eatery. According to her, she just walked inside and asked for the opportunity to work. Bennett isn't one to take no for an answer. "I knew that if they gave me a chance, I would get a job. I just knew it in my gut of guts."
This attitude landed her positions in the kitchens of both restaurants, but she still wanted more. "I think every good business starts with a need," she explains. For Hedley & Bennett, that need was high-quality, customizable, design-forward workwear for chefs. Once she set her mind to creating an apron that had meaning and value, she did everything in her power to make it happen. With $300 and a big idea, along with a bit of persistence and grit, Bennett created her next adventure.
Her advice for others looking to take a leap? "Don't compare yourself to anyone. You have your own magical special sauce, and you have to figure out what it is."
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