by Mani Hayre
Fresh from her studies, where she passed with flying colours, in Executive Leadership from Saïd Business School, Oxford University, Jigna sat down with me to discuss her incredible rise to CEO at the tender age of 31.
It wasn’t always easy for the bubbly and outgoing Jigna. Growing up in Plumstead, South London her family were the victims of an armed robbery when she was just six years old. Such a life changing event had a profound impact on Jigna and her family, who owned two restaurants at the time.
It spurred a move to the Midlands, Leicester to be precise, where Jigna tells me she became a “massive introvert” due to the trauma at such a young age. She was, however, passionate about the sciences and particularly biology at school, which she later pursued when she went back to London, for her degree.
Unfortunately, another traumatic event, this time a six-car pileup, which lead to 18 months of recovery and leaving university unfinished. When she moved back to Leicester with half a degree under her belt and no experience, getting a foothold on the employment ladder proved difficult. Yet Jigna had a determination in her to keep moving forward.
It was by chance a family friend mentioned there may be a temp role for a few months at a local firm. An interview was set up with Byron Dixon MBE, the owner of Micro-Fresh and taking a chance on her as they shared similar values, it’s safe to say it paid off.
During her first week she was tasked to find a solution that prevents mould in buildings. A hard task for someone who had no training and was new to the company, but that didn’t stop her. She didn’t know where to start but said yes anyway to figure it out later. The research involved and her love of loving meant she completed the 12-month funded project in nine months.
It was also the beginning of the idea for Home-Fresh, a company that was set up in 2020 to which is the CEO.
I asked Jigna why she stayed on when the initial job was only temporary. Her answer was that her initial intention was to learn as much as possible and move on in 12 months to get the experience she had initially lacked when applying for jobs after her accident.
However, the company grew 45% year on year with her there and the opportunities she found herself in were too irresistible to give up. She treated the business as if it was her own. Micro-Fresh founded in 2008 grew from five staff to 86 globally by 2021.
The biggest reason for continuing to stay is that Micro-Fresh and Bryon trusted her to get the job done. Jigna became the first point of contact for their brand-named customers and within two years, through sheer grit and determination she had secured a contract with Emirates.
She is known as a “fearless and ruthless leader in Leicestershire.” A phrase, she laughingly tells me she’s not sure what to make of.
As well as working her way to becoming CEO of Home-Fresh she stayed on at Micro-Fresh and as an integral part of the company she rose through the ranks to become COO. As she made her way to secure a different deal in Dubai, a piece of advice stuck with her ‘think like a man.’ Be unapologetic and get the job and deal done.
Her tenacity for life and taking chances comes having a gun in her face at six years old. This has led her to where she is today, turning a drive and fearless passion into tangible results. 2020 was one of their best years as a company and personally for Jigna with the launch of Home-Fresh.
Her advice to anyone in business, regardless of gender, is ask yourself “What is your way?” Her why was to always add value, that’s what she did and continues to do as COO and CEO. She isn’t a fan of adding a gender to the front of those titles either.
Jigna admitted towards the end of our chat that it can be a lonely place but you have to keep yourself motivated, as no one else will. Last and most importantly she tells me that you should never give up and be comfortable with who you are. Always remember your why.