James Ajaka knows the value of a good Nudie run. Caitlin Ganter spoke to the fruit juice entrepreneur about his success.
In his first week in the juice business, Chief Executive Officer of Nudie, James Ajaka, and the team used 263 pieces of fruit. This week the company will use around five million.
“I was working at a marketing firm when one of the other founders got my name from a mutual friend,” said James. “He knew some of the work I had done and wanted to start a fruit juice business. I thought it sounded pretty boring at first, but soon began to get excited about developing a very strong and unique brand.”
In January 2003, 25-year-old James and two partners set up a tiny office, hand-blended some bottles of juice and persuaded a shop to stock their drinks.
“We convinced all our friends and family to go to the store and buy our product. We sold 40 bottles in the first week, and most of these were to our friends.”
Nine years later, the ACU business graduate is busy managing a team of more than 70 people, liaising with 5000 stockists around Australia, and sourcing millions of pieces of fruit.
“From the very outset we knew we were onto something,” James said. “We talked about ‘nudifying’ Australia and knew if we stayed true to our values we would be a great success.
“Nudie has thrived in an insanely fast-moving and competitive industry. I deal a lot with the brand - ensuring the business stays fresh and innovative. My role is very diverse, but primarily I make sure we have the right people in the business and that everyone is motivated and moving in the right direction.”
James said Nudie’s values - producing healthy juice with no additives, preservatives or concentrates - make the role more rewarding.
“We’re loved by many Australians for our healthy, convenient product, and this makes my job so much more enjoyable. We donate close to 100,000 Nudie bottles a year to different charities, and we are glad we’re able to provide nutritious, tasty products.
“I have so much fun with our brand - at least once or twice a week we’re engaging with a charity or getting involved in a community activity. I think coming from a strong ethical household and studying at ACU has really influenced how essential I consider ethics in business.
“It’s important to like what you do - I always knew from a very young age I liked being a leader. Ultimately my aspiration was to be a CEO and I’m definitely happy with what I’ve achieved.”
James said he had always believed that whatever you do, you will succeed if you do it well.
“I’ve very blessed with a wonderful wife and a 16-month-old daughter I can’t spend enough time with. I think you have to be very clear as to where you want to go and why you want to get there. Everyone will make mistakes, but if you are able to learn from them and have a bit of courage you will succeed.”