How I Made It: 'Pregnancy made me realise I was in the wrong job'

Welcome back to How I Made It,’s weekly career journey series.

This week we’re chatting with Simona Deifta, a 29-year-old from London, who founded Nojo, a vegan and gluten-free sauce brand, after a career in banking.

After becoming pregnant, she felt inspired to leave a job that wasn’t fulfilling her and take a risk by moving into the food industry.

She didn’t start out making sauces though – first there was a cafe and a stint in catering, and then she began listening to what her consumers wanted from her and kept adapting her work.

Following her gut instinct paid off, and now she’s growing her business.

Hey Simona. What made you get into the food business?

I was working in banking and it just did not feel right, as a massive foodie with a passion for wellness I was always drawn to the idea of having a food business.

So when I got pregnant I felt that I ought to live truly to my core beliefs and made a leap to starting my own business. 

When did you start to realise vegan values aligned with you, and you wanted it to be a part of your work? 

I’ve always had a mission to help the environment, being vegan is such an easy swap to make and yet has such an incredible impact on our planet.

We all eat multiple times a day and there are 8 billion of us.

I thought if I can help people eat plant-based and make vegan food easy and delicious then I can encourage us all to use our eating habits to help the world.

What was career switching like?

I used to work in banking and whilst being pregnant I quit my corporate job to start Nojo.

It was scary, especially being pregnant, but it just felt right.

Despite being vulnerable, exposed and half the time overwhelmed by the amount of things, it felt like a true calling to me and is an absolute dream of mine.

How did you start your business?

It began initially as a cafe which evolved into catering.

I started to get more and more compliments from customers on how good our sauces were and so I made the switch to a product-based business.

Being agile and responding to our consumers has meant we’ve evolved over time.

Financially, was it hard? Did you have investment?

It was definitely hard, and some days I could not draw a salary for myself.

I had to downsize and prioritise business over myself.

I got a little investment for the cafe and I’m now planning to raise funds to help Nojo grow.

An average day in the working life of Simona Deifta

6-6:30am: Wake up and get ready for the day.

7-9am: She checks her to-do list and will prioritise three key tasks. There will also be some kind of exercise.

9-12pm: Zoom meetings and working through the to-do list.

Simona doesn’t like to waste food (Picture: Simona Deifta)

12:30-13:00pm: Lunch time, which is usually a nourishing buddha bowl with leftover vegetables and beans from dinner.

13:00-16:00pm: Continue with ticking off key tasks for the day and taking meetings.

16:00-17:00pm: Catch up on brands social media, alongside answering emails and writing a schedule for the next day.

What do you love most about your job? 

It’s thrilling to see our sauces change customers’ cooking habits.

I also love my strong female team. 

What do you dislike the most?

I find it difficult to see the greenwashing in the food and beverage industry.

It’s difficult to learn that having a great product is not always enough when you compete against big businesses with large budgets.

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