Hedley & Bennett's employees know how to brighten up a party.

The high-end apron company launched in 2012, when founder and CEO Ellen Bennett was working as a line cook for two critically acclaimed restaurants. She started making colorful gear for her co-workers, and then saw room for a business that produces design-savvy aprons and other kitchenware for home cooks, celebrity chefs, and companies including Shake Shack and Tender Greens.

Today, Bennett, 30, and her nearly-40-person team of sewers, designers, salespeople, and marketers work out of a 17,000-square-foot factory near Los Angeles. Hedley & Bennett, which has never taken outside funding, now sells several million dollars' worth of aprons and other products annually, Bennett says.

Job applicants take note: Kitchen experience isn't required, but resilience is. "I think athletes have an amazing perspective on stuff, because you're so out of your comfort zone all the time," Bennett says of what she looks for when hiring. "It makes for people who are really gritty."

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How to Design a Product That People Can't Live Without
From the March/April 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine