The month of May has many commemorations, Mother’s Day being perhaps the most well-known. It is also Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Fittingly for this month, we sat down with Nona Lim, who is a mom, an AAPI business owner, and a “Renaissance woman” in every sense of the term. Here’s why…
Meet Nona Lim
Nona Lim has had quite an extraordinary life. Born and raised in Singapore, her early career was in management and software consultation in London. Eventually, Nona relocated to the United States and settled in the Bay Area of San Francisco, where she also pursued competitive fencing. She was indeed an accomplished fencer and missed the opportunity to partake in the Olympics by one point. (Not many people can claim that as an accomplishment!) The Bay Area was also where her journey as an entrepreneur began.
Marking points to success
Nona’s experience with fencing directly influenced her mindset and passion for eventually founding Nona Lim —a company that specializes in creating fresh Asian food that ranges from bone broths to noodles, among many other specialties. Every item is freshly made and free of MSG, additives, and preservatives. And Nona believes the inspiration to create a food company that focuses on health and freshness was shaped by her myriad of life experiences…
- Growing up in Singapore, Nona spent a lot of time at the “hawker center,” where merchants gathered and shouted out what they were selling—much of which were new and interesting culinary dishes. This stirred her interest in food.
- When she began fencing, Nona found herself competing against many younger female opponents. This alerted her to the need of adopting healthier eating habits in order to maintain stamina and strength in order to compete.
- Nona’s mother had two philosophies regarding food and health: “Food is medicine,” and “health is wealth”—both of which Nona believes in and practices.
- When Nona herself became a mother, finding food made from the freshest and healthiest ingredients to feed her child turned into a mission—which resulted in the founding of Nona Lim.
Nona’s is a success story. Where business is concerned, however, she knew the right financing option would be key to her success.
Healthy mix of financing
Nona believes unequivocally that asset-based lending is the strongest path a business can take in order to grow. The combined balance of debt and equity ensures that the business will have the funding to operate its day-to-day operation while at the same time maintaining the founder’s original mission. And Nona’s sense of her original mission and personal integrity are especially strong. A major reason for this is because she has faced significant challenges on her road to success.
Unspoken but obvious challenges
The business world is challenging for women and minorities, or both—as it was in the case of Nona. While not explicit, she observed that there was obvious discrimination when looking at the disproportionate number of older white men who could get financing for their enterprises in contrast to the younger women and minorities who could not. In the last few years, however, she has noticed an increase in younger and more culturally diversified professionals, which should signal a more level playing field in big business. A more recent challenge, however, which impacted everyone—regardless of age, sex, or ethnicity—was the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19: A testing ground for adapting and pivoting
When the pandemic hit last year, Nona’s priorities were to see that her employees not only were safe but felt safe as well. She examined and modified the necessary processes and implemented social distancing practices. And, like many other business owners, she lost many connections, one of which was a major retailer. Since most consumers were obsessed with stocking up on the essentials of bread and milk, among other food products, the specialized selections sold at Nona Lim fell under the radar for some time. This meant that her products remained on the shelves of warehouses for too long. Undeterred, Nona pivoted and strengthened her e-commerce presence, and created and built relationships with online grocery delivery companies. And, the exotic noodles that she takes pride in found an all-new popularity in its new online presence!
Nona believes that the challenges which she and many other women and minorities have faced—professionally and culturally—are actually making way for what she believes to be a silver lining. In a time when, unfortunately, hate crimes and bias have grown, many Asian Americans are stepping up and making their voices heard and presences known. Complementing this is the slow return to some semblance of normality, as restaurants and businesses gradually reopen. Additionally, a new appreciation among members of the family unit has been renewed. Nona points out that the pandemic forced many to hunker down and cook healthier meals, and spend more time with their families. This is one positive practice she believes will continue, post-pandemic.
Nona believes that it is always possible for businesses to thrive, despite obstacles and challenges. Entrepreneurs should always hold onto their passion, while also keeping an eye on the right way to finance their businesses in their quest for growth.
Hear more of Nona’s story by listening to the latest Gerber Finance podcast, “We Grow Together.” (Also, don’t forget to rate and follow us!)