Taste Radio Insider Episode 71

Why Profitability Means Saying ‘No’ More Often

+ Nona Lim


Nona Lim is forecasting 2020 to be the first profitable year for her namesake brand. As she explained in an interview in this episode, it took a lot of saying “no” to get to this point.

The Nona Lim brand, launched in 2014 as a spin-off of Lim’s ahead-of-its time meal kit company, markets a variety of better-for-you and convenient Asian-inspired foods, including broths, sippable soups and noodle bowls. The products are sold nationally at Whole Foods and at select Walmart locations, along with hundreds of independent retail and chain locations. 

As part of our conversation, Lim spoke about the company’s development and path to profitability was guided by a clear strategy and a willingness “to say ‘no’ to top-line growth that isn’t in line with our profitability requirements.” 

“Say ‘no’ to business that’s not going to give you the minimum gross margin target that you have set,” she said. “Say ‘no’ to retailers that ask for too much, because you can’t afford it.”

Lim also discussed the variety of ways that she funded her upstart brand prior to accepting venture capital and why she advises early-stage entrepreneurs to retain a bookkeeper or accountant. She also spoke about how she negotiates favorable terms with suppliers, what it means to be “fiscally disciplined” and why she describes venture capital as a “double-edged sword.”

In this Episode

0:48: “Buttoned Up” Booze, Savory Bars and a Buddy’s Donuts — The episode’s hosts chatted about a recent visit from Bobby Romano, who leads sales efforts for Rochester, NY-based Black Button Distilling, riffed on the development of the savory bar category, munched on vegan pork rinds and discussed challenges in brand revamps
15:34: Nona Lim, Founder/CEO, Nona Lim — Lim joined Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an interview recorded at the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Lim spoke about her role as a board member of the Specialty Food Association, which hosts the annual event, how competitive fencing led to the creation of her meal kit company in 2006 and why she chose soup as the initial product line for the Nona Lim brand. She also discussed the three hallmarks of the brand, why slowing down the pace of innovation was a key learning early on and how microloans, equipment leases and government subsidies can be useful for new entrepreneurs. Later, Lim explained why it’s critical to manage working capital, how she identified the right time to take venture capital and why she jokes that a partnership with an investor is “worse than getting married.”

Also Mentioned

 Nona Lim, Black Button Distilling, Tig Snacks, Mediterra, PigOut Rinds, Beanfields, Snacklins, Jim Buddy’s, Onu, Rau Chocolate, Sonu, Starbucks, Poppi, Kitu Life, Bulletproof, Blue Apron