Nona Lim

American Made Since 2006
2014 Food Finalist

Nona Lim

Oakland, California
We make real, simple, and delicious soups, made with fresh ingredients and nothing inflammatory, that are ready in minutes.
Food, Bottled, Jarred & Canned

Tell us about your business.

When my husband and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I dreamed of starting a business where I could make healthy and delicious food to fit any active lifestyle. Nona Lim started out as a food- based Detox Delivery, where each meal was hand-prepared and delivered to close friends and a growing circle of loyal clients. Soon my customers began asking for a way to purchase the soups included in our meal plans by themselves so they could enjoy a clean and convenient meal without committing to a weeklong detox. That’s when I realized that we had an opportunity to provide quality retailers with convenient, wholesome soups with an ingredient list that met the standards of my food detox program. Our soups, noodles and broths are currently being sold in store across the nation, we just recently rolled out nationwide in Whole Foods. Our goal is to provide real, simple, delicious foods that are quick to prepare and easy to enjoy.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

A major milestone for the brand was when we moved into our own “family kitchen” production space in Oakland. Having our own proprietary kitchens allows us to keep our high healthy standards as we grow. Walk into our Nona Lim family kitchens and you will see and smell roasting veggies and 30 gallon pots of soups and stocks slowly simmering. You will see piles of fresh veggies from local California farms being cleaned, chopped, sautéed and pureed. The family kitchen ideal also compels us to treat our employees as good as family. We employ a diverse workforce that reflects our diverse community. All our goals are written on the wall for everyone to see and work for together. We put a lot of trust in every person in our kitchen and even the starting salaries are living wages well over the minimum. We know that to ensure high quality food, a lot of trust and warm feeling is a necessary ingredient.

What inspires you?

Today, one in four Americans is clinically obese and childhood obesity rates skyrocketing as well. I want to help reverse this epidemic. By founding Nona Lim on the model of a family kitchen, I wanted to show that it is possible to create convenient food that is both healthy and delicious. Recognizing that busy modern life meant people need convenient foods, I strove to recreate the simplicity of home cooked meal without excess salt, additives or processing tricks. I wanted to create food that I am proud to serve and to consume, and something that I would serve my own child. I'm also inspired by my childhood in Singapore, a tiny country with a thriving food culture where I regularly visited the famous food stalls. Hungry customers would watch while their food is prepared right in front of them. These fresh food stalls had fresh, healthy ingredients, convenience and the ability to feed a lot of hungry people. If they could do it, I knew a model could be recreated here.

What makes your business stand out?

We are making a product that is unique in the retail setting, soups made without preservatives or anything inflammatory and packed with wholesome, fresh ingredients. Our key insight was to model our business after a family kitchen rather than a food factory. Armed with a simplifying ethos, this model has helped us to make both healthier food and contribute towards broad community justice. Looking at the family kitchen as our guiding model may sound like a soft approach, however it changes everything. One of our chefs makes lunch every day for the team and we share and converse over the same healthy food that our customers enjoy. Every daily meal is an opportunity to celebrate our values because we work hard to only make food we would be proud to serve our children, knowing that it is nourishing, that it is low in sodium and fat, and has lots of fresh vegetables. We consider as much about what not to put into the food as we do what to put into the food.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

First, as an entrepreneur you must be open-minded, what you set out to do in the beginning, might not be what you end up with, and that is okay, it's a journey. Second, you have to be ready for the marathon, things will always take three times longer to get finished, and cost twice as much as you originally planned. Lastly, over the years I've really learned to pay it forward. I learned from lots of great entrepreneurs and pay it forward by sharing my leanings with others. It can be tough out there, but we can help one another in the entrepreneurial world by sharing our experiences and lending a helping hand when possible.

What does American Made mean to you?

American Made means using innovation to solve problems in the community and to help make the nation a better place. For us at Nona Lim that means reducing the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US by making fresh, wholesome meals simple and accessible. At Nona Lim, our kitchen is a part of the community, and every decision is made to strengthen both our delicious, healthy foods and to help the community. Nona Lim partners with like-minded local farmers such as Alhambra Valley Farm and Community Grains, which work to build a sustainable grain economy in through local California farms. By partnering with Bread Project to make hires in the kitchen, we are providing economic opportunity to individuals with limited resources in the inner city. We strive to be innovators not just in the products we create, but also by continuing to find new ways to support our community, and that's American Made to me.

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