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smooth operator: organic food pioneer renÉe elliott on kick-starting the juice generation

Take time to look after yourself so that you can be a powerful force in the world,” says Renée Elliott with her typical southern American drawl, capturing the sentiments of today’s wellness movement perfectly despite having launched her business over twenty years ago.

Renée launched Planet Organic in Westbourne Grove in 1995 before expanding into six more branches around the capital. Speaking on Sunday night’s Capital Conversation, the pioneer of organic food told Michael Hayman, “we were ahead of our time, it was 1994 and people thought we were trying to open a health food store – getting the concept across was difficult, and getting investment was difficult too.”

The company’s strong foundations give Renée the confidence that it would thrive with or without her at the helm. “I have worked hard to embed values in the company, so that it continues to be values-led and commercially driven.” She revealed that she would follow in the footsteps of John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, and sell to Amazon, if she was confident that the buyer would stay on mission and continue to encourage healthy living.

While her interest in healthy eating spurred her to create Planet Organic, it’s her dedication to mindfulness that led her to the launch of Beluga Bean, a mentoring academy for women. She describes it as wrapping “health and wellbeing into an academy which is about life and business skills.”

It’s a natural fit for Renée, who prides herself on challenging conventional wisdom: “I think a lot of what you learn at school isn’t useful. You also need to learn how to really live a full, exciting and exuberant life – you can end up with a PhD but not know how to communicate in your marriage.”

Renée’s mission to help people live their best lives is also reflected in her recipe books. “It’s not about telling people what to eat and to count calories, but giving people the tools to live a full and exuberant life.”

Her advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to trust your intuition: “Starting a business can be lonely. But listen to your gut, if you’re interested in learning about your field, you’ll know what’s coming.”

Watch the full episode here.

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Chapter 1 outlines the concept of mission and how the breakthrough brands of today have succeeded by building a mission that inspires belief, generates a following and instils a purpose beyond profit.