Elly Blackwell is on a mission to make healthy desserts more fun and decadent. The young Sheffield-based entrepreneur was inspired to start her Elly Joy guilt-free indulgences and snack brand by the lack of genuinely healthy options available for people with a sweet tooth. And thanks to her perseverance and passion, she’s already well on the road to commercial success.
What was the motivation behind EllyJoy?
Elly has always been passionate about sports and leading a healthy lifestyle. Once an avid trampoliner and gymnast, she has now turned her attention to cycling and triathlon. But diet is particularly important to Elly, as she needs to manage her IBS very carefully. She adopts a balanced diet approach by enjoying all types of food in moderation, but has always struggled to find healthy treats to satisfy her sweet tooth.
Elly decided that if her ideal dessert wasn’t going to be available in the UK, she was going to make it herself. She pitched her idea for dairy-free Froconut to her university’s student enterprise team — and they loved it! Armed with her first tranche of funding, Elly bought her very first Froconut machine.
The Froconut by Elly Joy converted horsebox now travels the country, attending various events and spreading the joy of guilt-free indulgences that happen to be naturally free from gluten, dairy and also vegan friendly. Low in sugar and topped with handmade toppings, Elly’s creations already have thousands of fans — and her business is growing quickly.
The EllyJoy motto is: “Live fit, eat well, treat often” — a sentiment that is derived from Elly’s own experiences.
She said: “I believe that promoting balance in life is essential. Yes, we should eat well and stay active, but we should also be able to treat ourselves once in a while. That’s what my products are all about.
“I’m currently training for an Iron-man Triathlon in Barcelona, so diet is very important to me. But as an IBS sufferer, I’ve found that there’s nothing exciting on the market for people like me. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen — creating the healthy treats I was looking for myself.
“My guilt-free indulgences and Froconut is all about giving people healthy treats that can also deliver real nutritional benefits.”
What challenges to Elly have to overcome along the way?
Elly has already established a successful and growing business, but there have been quite a few challenges to overcome along the way. Indeed, one of the main issues Elly had to deal with was her own enthusiasm.
Elly said: “When I first started, I had too many ideas. I wanted to do everything at once, but I soon realised that I’d have to pinpoint one or two ideas and concentrate solely on them. It’s just not possible to run with many ideas at the beginning.
“I eventually decided to focus on my Froconut product, which is a dairy-free coconut based ice-cream alternative served in half a coconut shell. As this is a seasonal product, I wanted to create products people could enjoy all year round.”
“Another challenge I had to face was my own fear. I was worried about not having regular employment, so I had to stay mentally strong when things weren’t going my way. I also had to fight the instinct to be impatient for success.
“There was a point when all of my friends were working in London, buying houses and getting promotions. I had to focus on the potential for the future. Running your own business is a way of life, so I try to embrace it. I recently read a quote which really stuck, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
“One of the most difficult challenges I faced was raising money. I received a small grant from my university, and I’ve had mentoring support from the Prince’s Trust and the Sheffield Regional Growth Hub. To get started I had to borrow money from my parents, which made me really nervous at the time.”
Elly has several goals to achieve over the next 10 years
Elly has big hopes for the future, and in 10 years time she hopes to have achieved several challenging goals. If she has her way, the Elly Joy brand will be synonymous with healthy, guilt-free eating by the end of the next decade.
She said: “My main aim is to grow the EllyJoy brand. Eventually, I want to have a range of products dedicated to sports and athletes. I’d love to work closely with individual athletes too, and sponsor them.
“I also want my own chain of health and fitness studios promoting all areas of healthy, balanced living. Workshops, fitness classes and wellbeing as well as social events will be on offer. I’d love to think that EllyJoy will eventually provide everyone including athletes a full post-workout meal. I want to develop savoury products, along with a collection of online recipes people can use at home.”
What motivates Elly?
Elly takes her inspiration and motivation from several sources, but one of the most important is the people around her.
Elly said: “People are my main driving force. The positivity I receive from the people who like my products motivates me to improve. It’s often the little things; maybe a short email enquiry or a brief ‘thank you’.
“There’s something very exciting about someone showing real interest in something you’ve created. There’s just so much to do right now, so a few kinds words or a little positive feedback gives me the energy to get stuff done.
“The best advice I’ve ever been given is to pursue a job or career that you’re truly passionate about. I always knew I wanted to build a business, but I eventually learned that being passionate about your product is ultimately more important than being financially aware.
“If you’re passionate about what you do, the motivation and drive you need is always there.”
What advice does Elly have for anyone starting their own venture?
When it comes to advice for people starting their own business, Elly has lots to offer, but she believes that talking to the right people and asking for advice are particularly important.
She said: “I’d say talk to as many people as you can along the way. Running a business can sometimes leave you feeling isolated, but if you develop contacts and professional relationships, you’ll never be on your own. There’s lots of advice out there, you just need to ask.
“Another good bit of advice is to simply be brave and give it a go. If you are passionate about your idea, you have to give it a try, otherwise you’ll never know if it could have been a success.
“And never be afraid of failure; learn from it… embrace it. Failure is part of the learning process, so treat each failure as an opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and listen carefully to feedback about your failures.”
Elly’s exciting journey is still in its infancy. She has plans for a retail arm, as well as ambitious ideas for many new products. One thing’s for sure: this young entrepreneur has achieved a great deal already. In terms of Elly’s future, it’s very much a case of watch this space.
What Do You Do?
Founder of EllyJoy – Creating healthier snacks for everyone to enjoy
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
Omnilinguilism – to be able to speak about the EllyJoy brand in all languages!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
To be in my happy place continuing to grow and expand the EllyJoy brand nationally and internationally whilst still finding time to enjoy all my hobbies.