You are from the US, but you’ve lived in Jamaica, Egypt and are now based in London. What have each of these different cultures contributed to your personality and to EL&N?
Living in different places with different cultural traditions, religious practices and having a variety of cultural experiences has made me extremely open-minded. It’s in my DNA now to be curious and exploratory and is also in EL&N’s DNA.
EL&N stands for: Eat, Live & Nourish. Because I personally am a blend of different cultures, we celebrate all of them. We bring the best knowledge and culinary traditions from all over the world where we source products and learn amazing recipes. Food knows no boundaries and neither do we!
You decided to launch EL&N after your dad passed away. What helped you grow your resilience?
I had no option. I spent 2 years suffering from depression and severe anxiety and so my choice was to either put all my energy into something constructive, or to continue the way I was. I decided to put my time and efforts into something that would fill the void within me.
What are the most important business parameters you took into account when opening your first Park Lane Café?
First and foremost, it was about finding a good team – a company whatever it is, is all about the people that make it.
Next, I needed to focus on understanding and establishing the target market of customers – who did I want to create the brand for, and how would I find them?
Lastly, and which kind of went hand in hand with establishing the customer demographic, was finding a location that matched the kinds of people I wanted to attract. Taking all of this into account, I began to establish a brand identity.
You built a very “female-based” brand identity. Was this a calculated decision? Did you notice a gap in the market that you were therefor trying to answer to?
I wanted to create a safe place where people could drink healthy and eat healthy in an inspiring environment! I guess it just so happened that it’s turned out this way.
Can you identify a particular woman who has inspired you in life or in business?
I think every woman is inspiring in her own way, but I am not really inspired by women in the public eye, rather, I am more inspired by the women I meet in real life. If I had to pick one to talk about, it would be my mother. The way she looked after my dad during his battle with cancer and the way she continues to stay strong in any given circumstance, she really helped me to find strength in myself.
What do you answer to people who say your spots are London’s most Instagrammable locations?
I am actually very shy myself, so I’m not the biggest Instagram user. Of course, I am extremely grateful for anyone who loves EL&N and wants to post about us, but at the same time I am also so shy that I get a little embarrassed when I hear compliments.
What is the next challenge or risk you are willing to take with EL&N?
We have a lot of things coming up that people may not be expecting… I can’t talk about it yet, but, stay tuned!
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your most outstanding coffee experience?
After my depression I went on a massive diet. I was told to cut out sugar and had also been advised to stop drinking coffee as it can be known to spur on anxiety. So, I woke up one morning after receiving this advice and was thinking about how to replace my morning coffee. I poured half of a shot of coffee in a cup, grabbed my new non-dairy oat milk and added it to the shot. The problem then was that I have such a sweet tooth, I was set on finding a way to make it sweet! I looked for some non-refined sugar alternative and I found an old bottle of maple syrup in my cupboard. I added a spoon of it to my coffee and I’m not joking, it was the best coffee I ever had. This recipe is now on EL&N’s menu as ‘Alex’s Coffee’.
The most amazing food experience you’ve ever had?
Our Head of Food, Daniel Booth, blows my mind on a daily basis. Each time he creates a new recipe I am simply amazed. You can take me to any Michelin Star restaurant, but I would always prefer Dan’s kitchen.
Your favorite EL&N product?
Our coffee capsules. It’s my way to take EL&N back home with me.
Your most fond memory in launching EL&N?
When we got the keys of our first Park Lane branch.
What’s your advice to other young entrepreneurs?
Reset your perception of failure; see each thing that goes wrong as an unexpected way to learn and build yourself up.