Rachel Bajada is on a mission to create sugar-free versions of our favourite foods. She doesn’t believe in treats that taste like cardboard, she believes that when you say “no sugar,” you should mean it, and that everyone with an intolerance should be able to enjoy a sweet treat.
Her business, Noshu, takes out the bad stuff, and gives us the naturally occurring good stuff, because that’s what food should be.
Read Rachel’s interview with Mamamia below.
Tell us a bit about your business. How did it start and what does your Ladystartup do?
Our tagline/mission statement pretty much says it all: #AllLoveNoSugar
Noshu makes natural, sugar-free snack foods that are as decadent and delicious as they are good for you. Having multiple Type-2-diabetic family members on both sides made me realise that for anyone who cannot eat sugar, or is trying not to eat added sugar, there were so few foods and options available.
When I stopped eating sugar myself, I found that what was on the market was either loaded with chemical sweeteners or full of ‘sugars in disguise’ such as rice malt syrup, honey etc – so not sugar-free at all, and totally misleading. So I set out to create great-tasting versions of our favourite indulgences without sugar and without nasty additives. Most importantly, they don’t taste like cardboard and are always diabetic friendly.
Scroll through to see more from Noshu. (Post continues after gallery.)
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
I was working for News Corp in a digital media and marketing role. In 2010 I decided to pack up, leave Sydney and live in Paris for a while – a place to which I had never been.
I knew nobody, had no job or flat to go to and did not speak the language. Crazy move, right? It may have been crazy and it was a wild journey full of challenges and adventures, but it did give me both the confidence and motivation I needed to set out on my own path when I finally returned to Australia three years later.
What made you want to start your own business?
I had the entrepreneur’s itch… after being my own boss the last few years of my time in Europe, coming back to the idea of building another person’s empire with all my hard work, ideas and time was just not appealing to me.
I knew that if I applied that same passion and energy to something I genuinely cared about, I could really make an impact and build something great and meaningful. I guess you could say I started out mission-based and became a businesswoman along the way.
How did you come up with the name?
A lot of workshopping and brainstorming! The best way to name a company is to find a place that allows creativity and a clear mind. For me that was sitting at Manly Beach with a coffee and a companion on a sunny morning and taking pen to paper.
Scribble out all possible ideas and combinations which come to mind, no matter how bizarre or strange they may seem at the time. I then got a bunch of friends, old colleagues and creative minds into one room and bought them all beers and dinner as we work-shopped it over a few hours on whiteboards.
It was a load of fun but what it did do was reveal that some of those random words I had previously put together, were actually real winners when put into a different context. (FYI, if you are going to do this, please get your mates to sign a simple NDA and IP assignment beforehand!)
Describe the staff/ownership structure of your Ladystartup.
My company and the management structure has changed a great deal since incorporating four years ago. When I founded the company I brought partners into the business believing that our combined skills and contributions would ultimately create a better result, and faster.
Sadly this did not shape up in the way that I had hoped and my second year in business was largely absorbed by the process of changing that structure to enable me to become the sole owner and shareholder again that I am now.
Having business partners is like a marriage. You want to be sure that you are all 100% on the same page with the same intentions.
Rachel in the Noshu Factory. Image supplied.
Did you require investment to start your business? Where did that come from?
Yes, when you have a products-based business and start from the ground up, you need capital. It does not have to be huge, but it will likely be more than you anticipate needing. In my case, funds came from personal savings, family loans and contributions from business partners.
Investment is not always in the form of money either... I was fortunate enough to have a great deal of help from people close to me who also generously donated time, creative services and skills to get me along the way, for which I am hugely grateful.
What kind of advice did you get before you started and from whom?
Not enough to be honest! I didn’t really have a mentor when I started out, and I do believe things would have been a little easier or smoother had I got food advice from people who had been through similar experiences.
The learning curve from a business, financial and legal perspective was huge, and the advice I did eventually get from those older and wiser turned out to be greatly beneficial.
What’s the single best piece advice you've received?
“Debt is cheaper than equity”. I love that one.
What’s the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?
Don’t try and be everything to everyone. Find those most valuable points of difference in your product/service and stay 100 per cent focused on that. Everything else will just become a distraction and cause unnecessary complication and difficulty along the way. Most of all, stay true to your “why” and let that guide your decision making. People buy the why, not the what.
Finding like-minded, helpful friends and mentors who have been through similar experiences to share their advice and give guidance along the way.
Also gradually forcing myself to become redundant from certain business functions through outsourcing as much non-core business activity as possible. This enables the founder to start being a leader, not just a do-er.
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Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
Xero accounting software! If software could be married, I would totally marry Xero. I am also a huge believer in cloud-based everything and crowd-sourcing everything. We’ve done everything from hiring donut decorators on Airtasker, to delivering 300kg of melted chocolate with a courier app.
What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in a hole emotionally (or financially)? How do you handle those ‘deep-trough-of-pain’ startup moments?
I try not to dwell in ‘feeling sorry for myself’ moments for too long - perspective goes a long way. I normally just think back to how much easier it is now compared to when I started, and that helps.
I also keep a vision board saved in the favourites folder on my phone so whenever I need to motivate myself I take a look at that one page and it reminds me all over again why I am doing what I’m doing and the path I am on.
How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed? How do you manage your time?
I have pretty good balance these days, especially compared to when I started out. I almost never work weekends now and average around 45-50 hours per week, more if I’m traveling. In the first 12 months of startup I honestly smashed through at least 100 hours per week and worked myself to exhaustion trying to juggle part time work commitments to keep the bills paid and grow my business at the same time.
Time management is so crucial. You have to get good at saying ‘no’. Is that one-hour meeting with a supplier showing you their exhaustive catalogue really a good use of your time? What process can you automate to shave off an hour of your day/week here and there?
What are your non-negotiables?
For me if I don’t look after myself and my own physical and mental health, nothing else functions well – especially business and relationships. I know I need at least eight hours sleep a night and if I don’t make time to get to the gym, go for a quick run or do a Pilates class at least three times per week, I will feel terrible and my energy will be affected.
Book time for yourself and loved ones in your diary first before other commitments take over.
What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?
I underestimated how many different skills a business owner really needs to make it in business. When you are starting out, and until you have a skilled team in place, you have to really be jack of all trades and wear so many hats.
In one day you have to play the roles of a CFO, Marketing Manager, Logistics Coordinator, Customer Service Officer, and Receptionist! It really forces you to learn new skills quickly or find people ASAP who can fill the gaps.
Tell us about your proudest moment?
Getting on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Melbourne last year and sitting next to a five-year old Type 1 diabetic girl who was served one of our sugar-free, gluten-free donuts as part of her special meal. Anonymously watching the the joy and excitement it brought her to be able to finally eat a donut was the best feeling!
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
Get a solid financial model in place and make sure the numbers stack up first. Then ask yourself, am I really passionate about this thing/venture/idea? Am I passionate enough to fully commit the next X amount of years of my life to making this a commercial reality?
If you know you are solving a genuine problem in the world with your business idea, and are prepared to get up and out of bed every morning and slog it out until it’s paying you, then go for it. the only thing stopping you now is your own fears, and making decisions based on fear is no way to live your life, girl!
Since we’re in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Startups do you recommend? Who should we be looking out for?
Right now I’m loving Fame & Partners - championing sustainable fashion, Carhood, shaking up the car hire and parking industry, Waddle - a great startup for cash flow financing, Derringer.com.au - awesome design and branding agency, and Oaklas – bookmarking anything anywhere, for when it’s on sale!