Planet Organic is the UK's first and largest organic supermarket. Renée Elliott, who established it in 1995, was a pioneer in an industry which has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Renée has been described as a visionary. It was at university that she first started to take an interest in human health and the environment. After that, Renée went travelling, ending up in London where she met her future husband on a night bus on Lower Regent Street, eventually moving to England to live with him.
The idea about opening an organic store came during a visit to the US. While exploring the organic supermarkets in Boston she realized there was nothing like it in the UK. She first felt that passion and trusting her gut, Renée started planning.
She got a job in a health food store to learn about the industry, leaving after two years to set up her first store. Planet Organic featured the first organic and British meat counter, first sustainable wet fish counter and first organic juice bar in the country. She created a value-led commercially-driven business.
‘To live a life of fulfillment is everything’, says Renée. A belief that has guided her through the highs and lows of owning and expanding her own business, she ventured into the fledging new field with a goal to make it mainstream. Renée was therefore learning about the industry as it grew. She admits that from a young age, she has never been a conformist and never tried to do what everyone else was doing. In her search for a better life Renée has often taken a different path.
A few key pieces of advice
For people looking for their own path in life, Renée suggests to start by looking at your interests and desires. For those who have no idea what they want, she says to remember what you loved in your childhood. Often the key to our happiness is in our childhood, says Renée. Childhood is the time when we were not preoccupied with the expectations of our parents, friends, society and we had interests and passions just because of who we are. A good way to find your real passion according to Renée is to remember five things that you enjoyed doing when you were young and free. At least one of them could be a basis for a career change. I try to think what are these things for me – I always loved writing, drawing, eating chocolate and talking with my mum. I guess I can’t make a career out of the last two, but writing could be a great career choice for me.
Her decision to step back from the company came as a result of her having three children now aged 15, 12 and 9. Having your own business is a process of learning to let go, says Renée, similar to having children. Once your business is mature enough to look after itself, you can step back and look for a new challenge.
‘Not taught at school’
Of course things are not that simple and for that reason Renée launched her new venture, Beluga Bean, with her business partner Sam Wigan. Beluga Bean supports women who are starting or growing their business, or who just need some guidance. Renée reminds me that the most important things such as how to be happy and satisfied, how to achieve work-life balance and how to fulfill your full potential, are not taught at school.
I wonder how can Renée be so busy and successful and, at the same time, so fresh and full of positive energy. Renée says that in order to live a life of fulfillment, you have to do what makes you happy. ‘You only have one shot,’ Renée says. ‘You never know what’s going to happen in the future, but you have one precious life.’ This is why it is important to live a life of wellbeing so you can follow your dreams.
I am so inspired by her story that I feel like there is no time to delay – I have to do what makes me truly happy and satisfied today, because as Marquez says in his famous Farewell letter: ‘Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. You mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives.’