In 2012, Ella Mills began Deliciously Ella, a blog about the lifestyle and dietary changes she had undertaken after being diagnosed with a debilitating condition. Six years later, with four cookbooks, a successful deli, app and product line under her belt, Ella talks openly to Happiful about life lessons, love and gratitude
I meet Ella Mills in her deli on London’s Weighhouse Street. It’s just a stone’s throw from bustling Oxford Street, yet the deli is blissfully calm and welcoming. Ella is sat with a coffee and her laptop, smiling broadly, and immediately and enthusiastically recommending her favourite plant-based dishes on the menu – something she’s been sharing her passion for publicly for more than six years.
Ella’s early career was an accidental and happy surprise, after what was an incredibly difficult set of circumstances to deal with at a young age.
When she was just 19, after great periods of illness, Ella was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, a condition that meant she was bedridden 95% of the time, had chronic pain, severe stomach issues and unbearable headaches, amongst other issues.
The year after her diagnosis, Ella began managing her symptoms through a plant-based diet after researching its benefits online, and found this had an incredibly positive impact on her health. In 2012, she started to share some of the recipes and information she had learned on her blog Deliciously Ella, which became instantly and incredibly popular.
There was an explosion of interest in Ella, and over the next six years Deliciously Ella grew exponentially. Following her best-selling cookbook in early 2015, there came supper clubs, delis, widely-stocked product ranges, festivals, events, an app and more. Ella also met and married Matt Mills, who is now the CEO of Deliciously Ella (she is the creative director), and within two months they brought Austin into their lives – an adorable chocolate brown and white Spaniel who she refers to jokingly as the “king” of the business.
Anyone who follows Deliciously Ella may already know this from social media. What you may not know are the epic struggles and lessons behind the scenes of the business, and the moments that have tested them.
These experiences are included in Ella’s new book Deliciously Ella, The Plant-Based Cookbook which is in an entirely different format to her previous work. While there are still a huge amount of tasty recipes in it (giant peanut butter cups and mango and coconut flapjacks anyone?), this book includes diary chapters exploring episodes from the very beginning of the business, throughout the growth of Deliciously Ella, and the transformational – as well as the truly terrifying moments – behind the scenes for Matt and Ella.
“This book is probably the biggest project we’ve ever done,” she says. “I wanted it to be a reflection of who we are now, which meant that we were involved with every aspect of it. And when it came to writing the diary pages, I really enjoyed doing that. It was really nice to tell our story and all of the things that have actually happened – lifting the lid really.”
I mention some of the instances in the diary pages; desperately seeking a phone signal at Wilderness Festival in order to sort out supplier issues, while simultaneously running a pop-up cafe and event for hundreds of people, not to mention dealing with cash-flow issues and exhaustion.
But if you were to simply look at their social media, the business appeared to be hugely successful and the two of them were having the time of their lives. The reality is, it was hard work, hard lessons and hard knocks – and some amazing times and memories.
Ella is honest about the limitations of her knowledge when Deliciously Ella really exploded in 2015. “I was overwhelmed when everything first took off. When the blog started it was a small community, it was contained and personal and when I was doing a class, it was 10 people. I was learning step by step and it was organic, and then the book came out and people were talking about me rather than to me.
“All of these opportunities suddenly came about and I just didn’t know what to do. I’ve struggled with anxiety a couple of times in my life and the summer after the book launched was one of those. I really felt vulnerable and nervous about what I should do next, and at the same time knowing that people were having opinions about me without knowing me. I found it hard.”