Inspirational Woman: Ella McKendrick | Founder, Nutribuddy

Ella McKendrick, Founder Nutribuddy

Ella is a 25 year old based in Manchester who quit university to set up the brand Nutribuddy which specialises in selling natural, vegan shakes.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I set up Nutribuddy after dropping-out from a Creative Writing course at University which I had only attended for one term. Throughout my education, I had always found my mind wandering and coming up with ideas, instead of focusing on my studies. It was clear that education was not for me and instead I should focus myself on something I’m truly passionate about.

Not having time to sit down and prepare a wholesome meal was an issue I was familiar with and all products on the market offering solutions filled me with despair. It didn’t seem possible to be able to pick up a product that wasn’t filled with artificial or unhealthy ingredients. There was an obvious gap in the market and I was keen to fill it.

It took a few years but finally, in January 2016, Nutribuddy was born. Nutribuddy is a health-food brand with a difference. We are passionate about delivering products made with the finest-quality, cruelty-free ingredients.

My role at Nutribuddy has changed a lot over the years. To start with, I found myself jumping from marketing to product development, from accounts to customer service. Setting up a business means that there’s no immediate team so I found myself taking on several roles. But now, after 3 years of trading, I can comfortably say that my role revolves around marketing Nutribuddy with a bit of management thrown in.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Honestly, I am not at all a planner.

I went to a school which very much wanted you to have an idea of what you wanted to do with your life and we were given countless quizzes and tests to find out which career we would be most suited to. My results ranged from being a fork-lift truck operator (something I ironically do do every so often at the Nutribuddy warehouse) to a marine biologist (even though I was awful at biology). I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do and this was just making me feel pressure to make a decision!

Something I have always believed in is doing what you are passionate about. Therefore I chose my A-level subjects based on subjects I enjoyed (rather than subjects I thought I needed to get a certain job) and finally a course at University I’d enjoy, even though there may not have been many job opportunities afterwards. I strongly believe we need to work at jobs we are passionate about and take on careers we will enjoy.

As it happened, I never completed by University course and my job now is very different to anything I could have imagined. In fact, it’s much better than I could have dreamed. I think this shows that life works in strange ways and you can never predict where you will be in a few year’s time.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Oh, there have been many, many, many challenges. Launching a business is not simple. You know what they say, if it was easy then everybody would be doing it. To start a business from scratch you need to have a lot of patience and a lot of persistence.

When I first launched Nutribuddy, I was shipping the products from my house which produced a couple of challenges.

Our house had a steep driveway and getting heavy pallets of product up it was a challenge. We came up with the idea to install a winch at the top of the drive and attach it to our pump-truck which it would then drag up the drive. One day a particularly large pallet arrived and when it was halfway up the drive, the rope around the pump-truck snapped and the heavy pallet went racing down the driveway towards the road. My partner chased it and managed to drop the pump-truck so the bottom of the pallet hit the floor and it stopped rolling. Thankfully, no one was harmed and it hadn’t quite made it to the road!

Another challenge of running an ecommerce business from home is the amount of space it takes up. There was a point when pretty much every single room in my house was filled with Nutribuddy products. My living room was piled with pre-packed boxes, the spare bedroom was a fulfilment room, the master bedroom was a storage room piled-high with product and the study was my office. I had to move my bedroom to the tiniest room in the house and essentially live out of there. It was a strange time. It’s especially weird having staff working round your house.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Building up the team we have today has been the biggest success. It has been so hard but has yielded the best rewards. There was a time when I would pack the orders, do the customer service, spend time on the accounts and do the marketing. It was exhausting and I’m not even suited to many of those tasks. Finding individuals that relish those individual tasks has been amazing. Not only has it freed up some of my time, they do so much better jobs at them than I do and it really propels the business forward. Plus, they’re great people to work with!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Not giving up and learning from your mistakes. If we look at the example of building up a good team, this took several years to achieve. I started hiring staff with no experience and unsurprisingly, errors were made. But with every failed hire, I learnt a new lesson and implemented it to the next round of recruitment, gradually getting better and better. This process has taken a long time and there have been points where I have felt like I just can’t do it but I never gave up. I am now at a point where I am very happy with the team we have built-up and am confident growing it further.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is a great thing. There’s so much to be learnt from others. My experience here is limited however. I haven’t mentored anyone and I’ve never been a mentee.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Remove stereotypes. In my opinion, this is the biggest issue holding back equality. If we could remove stereotypes from society, this would really propell equality forward.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To relax and have fun and not take school too seriously. Grades are not everything. Prioritise health and happiness.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I see every new day as a challenge. My next challenge is whatever crops up – in fact, one of our machines in our production facility is having issues so my next challenge is working on a solution for it. This is our key machine in producing Nutribuddy products so it’s imperative it’s back on its feet as soon as possible.

In terms of long-term goals, we want to continue expanding our range with more innovative, cruelty-free products. There are so many household products which are environmental disasters and we want to make environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free alternatives. We also want to get to a stage where all our packaging is either recyclable or compostable.

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