In Conversation with Krista Maas de Villiers of Nunona

Krista Maas de Villiers_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

Nunona is a whole food plant-based (evidence-based!) maternal and infant nutrition company helping to create healthier humans for a healthier planet.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

After suffering burnout in business school I switched to a plant-based diet. I dug into the literature around the benefits that a plant-based diet offers and became convinced this was better for my body and better for the planet as well. When I became pregnant I quickly realized that the traditional solutions for Moms and Babies weren’t in line with my requirements and put my expertise to work creating whole food plant-based nutritional solutions for my pregnancy, breastfeeding journey and for my daughter when she went onto solids. I was so frustrated at the lack of support and education on the market for new moms and realised I needed to work to change this.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Prior to starting Nunona I was Global Head of Marketing and Innovation for a major Infant Formula company. I had spent 12 years in the industry helping to ensure infant formula is as close as possible to human breast milk. I worked with global key opinion leaders and had incredible exposure to the research in the field of maternal and infant nutrition. It wasn’t until I became the customer that I realized the industry needed to help support women, not just babies. In my desire to do the best for my daughter during my pregnancy I realized that the research I’d been exposed to wasn’t being translated into product solutions for women. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes! I’ve always had a vision of being an entrepreneur and I knew it would be something at the cross-sections of health and business – something that could make people healthier. I just had to figure out exactly what that would be. I spent my entire life preparing for my future business garnering restaurant experience, a dietetics degree, a marketing degree, 12 years in global nutritional and pharmaceutical businesses and eventually an MBA.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I don’t think anything in 2020 has gone to plan! As individuals, businesses and society it’s been important to take stock, regroup and strategize how we can do better. The foundational pillars of our marketing strategy have remained, with pivots in how we executed. Our most important pillar is the ‘Word of Mom’. Which means that it’s our consumer who will tell people about our brand and our products. It’s our job to create compelling products worth sharing. The maternal nutrition market has been so terribly overlooked and undervalued historically, at Nunona, we aim to change that.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

By far the biggest challenge I’ve faced in founding Nunona, on the heels of becoming a mother, has been the isolation of being an entrepreneur. I craved an office and colleagues, I craved the identity of who I used to be. I also knew that I couldn’t go back to that life. No matter what, I had to build Nunona. I’ve learned to be patient, trust the process and power forward.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I’ve spent the first nearly 3 years of my daughters’ life with her as much as possible, balancing early morning meetings with overseas clients and mommy-daughter time. I don’t know why as women we feel we need to do it all, all the time.  I threw myself into her, and into her nutrition. I then justified it to the shadow of my former corporate self by calling it the most intense market research project I’ve ever conducted. 

Once my daughter was 8 months old I got some part-time help and started working on Nunona about 20 hours a week, eventually launching our company into beta when she was 2.5 and starting to scale it now that she is nearly 3. She is the reason and inspiration behind everything I’ve created. I don’t believe children are ‘accomplishments’ as they are individuals. But she will always be what makes me the proudest.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

There is no ‘go-to’ question, I like to put people on the spot and gauge how they can think on their feet. In a start-up, it’s a have to have!

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic caused a delay in our launch and a pivot in our go to market plan. It was so important for me to understand the situation we were all in and ensure we are communicating with the market appropriately. My hope is that the pandemic can allow us all to understand how connected everything is and come out of it with a greater appreciation of health and our resources. Placing a premium on what we put in our bodies, and how it affects all of our futures.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

I’ve created a product that will be the third option for breastfeeding women. Currently, we have breastfeeding or formula. Over the next few years from Nunona, you will see that we are expanding on that choice. I absolutely can’t wait to bring it to market!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

I’ve learned to pause, be patient and appreciate the little things.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

It’s going to take a lot longer than you think it will! Stay the course.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

As a parent I’m not sure you have a choice. Workouts help, as does wine!

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Work/life balance is a fallacy. It’s all life. Understand your priorities, and spend your time accordingly.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I lived abroad in South Africa for 10 years. I’m also a black belt in Taekwondo. 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

I plan my goals for the week on Sunday evening. Daily things can come up that keep you from being able to complete your tasks, I find knowing what I need to accomplish in terms of weeks keeps me focused.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means solving problems and creating a better future!

.

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





How to achieve a life of financial freedom with Alisha Pennington of ATvantage Athletic Training

Describe your business in a few words? Empowering, Dynamic, and Comprehensive. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been a business owner in a very niche industry (athletic training) for almost 10 years, so I have experienced the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a business owner. My…

How Jenny Strebe used positive affirmations and crystal healing to create her modern haircare brand AIIR Professional

Describe AIIR Professional in a few words? A modern haircare brand that is focused on well being through positive affirmations & crystal healing. What made you take the leap to start your own business? As I was driving every aspect of my stylist business and social media facets, the peace and relief I found in…

How FLyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita is using the esport platform to affect real change and make people happy

Describe your business in a few words? FlyQuest is an esports organization competing in the franchised League of Legends League Championship Series (LCS). What made you take the leap to help transform FlyQuest into the organization it is today? One of my primary goals throughout my career in esports has been to create a community…

Lauren Montgomery, founder of Monty’s, on making simplicity the new sophistication through her line of plant-based dairy products

Describe your business in a few words? Monty’s makes clean and craveable plant-Based essentials like cream cheese and butter that nourish your mind & body. With simplicity and nutrition at the core of the brand, Monty’s selection of cream cheeses and butter are made from real-food ingredients and crafted using time-honored techniques like fermentation. What…

How Maradith Frenkel turned bamboo into pajamas for the whole family with Little Sleepies

Describe Little Sleepies in a few words? We make buttery soft bamboo sleepwear that your whole family will love. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I saw a white space in the market after I had my son. I absolutely could not find a sleeper that checked all of the…

Erin Coles couldn’t find exactly what she was looking for in a band for her wedding so she launched her own — The Metropolitan Players

Describe your business in a few words? The Metropolitan Players is a wedding band collective based out of NYC – so we provide incredible music for weddings! What made you take the leap to start your own business? When my husband and I were planning our own wedding, we couldn’t find exactly what we were…

Azora Zoe Paknad on creating a new entry point to sustainability with Goldune

Describe Goldune in a few words? We make sustainability less beige! What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was into the sustainability world, personally and professionally, but I didn’t see myself in any of the dominant narratives I saw on Instagram or online in general. On one end of the…

Elisa Marshall on creating warm, French-inspired spaces with Maman, a collection of NYC-based cafés and venues

Describe your business in a few words? Maman is a New York City-based collection of cafés and event venues, offering family inspired recipes with French influences in a warm and welcoming home like environment  What made you take the leap to start your own business? Before I opened Maman, I had many passions and there…

Kim Hehir, co-founder of Brutus Broth, on enhancing your dog’s health through specially formulated bone broth

Describe your business in a few words? Brutus Broth is the latest innovation in pet health, made with human-grade bone broth that has been specially formulated to enhance any dog’s existing diet by adding beneficial nutrients, amino acids, and joint protecting supplements. What made you take the leap to start your own business? Sue’s dog…

How a lack of female empowerment in the real estate industry lead Marina Shiferman to create her business, The Real Estate Academy

Describe your business in a few words? I teach women how to buy and own real estate correctly so they can be the bad ass queens of their own lives. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was a realtor for 10 years, I loved it but something was missing.…

Carla Olivia on revolutionizing the beauty bar experience with DashBar

Describe your business in a few words? DashBar is beauty made efficient! We are one stop beauty and wellness for the modern woman. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been an entrepreneur since I was 22 years old. I started my first business because a great opportunity was…

Christina Matteucci (a.k.a TeucciMama) on her 19-year tenure as the ultimate Number Two

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Christina Matteucci, Executive Director of David Beahm Experiences and proud “Number Two” to celebrity event designer David Beahm. I’ve produced legendary soirées all around the globe, but it’s my unique, 19-year tenure as the ultimate Number Two that qualifies me as a sought-after speaker and coach. In…

Niki Shadrow Snyder on coining the term “givefluencer” and making an impact with the Project Pop Drop foundation

Describe your business in a few words? My husband and I started the idea for the Project Pop Drop foundation on our first date. Our business sponsors a monthly drop off at a different homeless shelter each month. We spearhead these donation events with our children, and with local businesses and schools. We call this…

How Natasha Case of Coolhaus is disrupting the dessert space with cutting-edge ice cream creations

Describe Coolhaus in a few words? We are an innovative dessert company, specializing (for the time being) in ice cream/ice cream novelties. We are known for thinking outside the box, super unique partnerships, a truly cutting-edge brand identity and an inventive way of entering the marketplace with our trucks, brick and mortars, and now national…

How Jennifer Jolorte Doro used strategic partnerships to build Nouri from the ground up

Describe Nouri in a few words? Supporting people to feel their best. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I wanted something of my own. I’ve worked for many successful entrepreneurs and I knew I could do “it” my way and really enjoy it. What was your background prior to starting…