Next-up in my Inspire Series is the amazing founder of Coconuts Organic; without a doubt, the most divine vegan ice cream I have ever tasted! The story behind this truly inspiring business is one of passion, self-belief and vision and I caught-up with Cecily to discuss all-things motherhood & running your own business, facing the Dragons and, of course, ice cream!
Tell me a little bit about yourself and Coconuts Organic.
I’m Cecily, the founder of Coconuts Organic. We make exceptional vegan ice cream using coconut cream and unrefined coconut sugar. I started the company in 2015 from my kitchen table – leaving behind a successful retail career in London to move to my childhood home of Cornwall to start the company. Today we are available across the UK in Tesco and online via Ocado.
Coconuts Organic is an amazing story. From making ice cream in your kitchen to being stocked in supermarket(s); what was this leap of faith like and how is your life different now that you’re following your own path?
Its crazy to look back on the last 5 years and see how far we have come. However, taking the leap of faith actually wasn’t that hard. I was so excited about the idea I had to start this ice cream company, excited to move back to Cornwall, excited to start my own company – that I was raring to go. Had someone told me about how hard it was going to be, how difficult it could get, how much rejection I would face – well perhaps then it would have been harder to take the leap of faith.
My life now is very different to what it was pre-coconuts. Most importantly, to me, is that I have total control over my time. I can decide when to work, where to work, and what to do. I also no longer spend 3-4 hours commuting! I also have a whole lot of other stress and pressure on my shoulders, that’s for sure. Running a company, building a company, can be very stressful, and my workload is huge, but if I need to be with my children for a day, that’s fine I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission!
What’s your creative background and what’s the inspiration behind Coconuts Organics?
I’m afraid my creative background ends with GSCE art! However I suppose creating Coconuts has been a creative process – I never thought of it in that way! The inspiration behind the coconuts Organic brand came from wanting a simple, clean look that matched the simple, clean ingredients we use. But this is then contrasted by the brightest colour pallet we could use separated by a cracked coconut shell line to the ‘ice cream white’ that make up the bottom half of the pots. We did actually want to use proper neon colours, only we couldn’t as they aren’t food safe so had to change at the last minute when the pots were about to be printed!
All of your flavours are totally dreamy, can you give a little insight into the (creative) process behind choosing a flavour to it hitting the shelves?
It has been a very natural process to be honest. I can’t go anywhere without people suggesting flavours to me! Plus we get so many great suggestion in from customers and followers. So we have a long list – literally, that’s it! When it comes to deciding which flavour we want to then take forward into the kitchen to test, that’s slightly more academic. We do a lot of marker research, which involves asking our current customers, our buyers, plus looking at the trends forecasted by people like Mintel. We try to find ingredients – sometimes being organic and vegan and all-natural can be tricky! After that we cost them, and if we can get a flavour idea through all of these stages do we actually take it forward to proper development.
What does a typical day at Coconuts Organics HQ look like?
It’s so varied! I travel a lot for meetings so in any week I will often only be actually at my desk for one or two days – three days at my desk each week is a luxury! But the team are in each day, there are 4 of us at the moment. Our office is a mixture of empty pots, a small photo studio, lots of samples of pots/ boxes/ bags. And of course – a huge chest freezer!
You juggle Motherhood with your running your own business, what advice could you give to other mums who are about to embark on doing the same?
I always say the same thing – go for it. But, you have to be disciplined to manage it all. For example, I have to start my day with meditation and exercise. Then I have to review my goals and day ahead before anything else. I never open my emails first thing – it’s a sure-fire way for my day to control me, rather that the other way round. I take priorities, and scrap everything else. If I don’t follow this routine after about 2/3 day I notice that I feel frazzled, overwhelmed, stressed. Being a mom is a full time job, running a business is a full time job – you have to also be ok with a permanent feeling of juggling and learn to be ok with feeling like you can’t quite ever get enough time for anything. As I hear from many other working moms – you do feel guilty sometimes. I missed my daughters first harvest day festival! She was so upset….but, I also co-sleep with my children so I get to get that bonding time at night with them still.
You faced the Dragons in the Den, what’s the main thing you took from this experience?
That belief in yourself if the first step in pretty much anything in life. I went into the den with a very small business – a good product, for sure, but, we weren’t profitable, I had limited stockists, I was a one-woman show. But, the Dragon’s saw something in me and I really believe it was because I believed in myself and my ability to do what I told them I was going to do. I totally have days when I feel like a total failure! But, fundamentally, I believe in myself and that I can achieve anything I set my mind to .
It’s must feel amazing to see your products on shelves, how do you stay driven if you hit a bump in the road?
It can be very hard. You get rejection after rejection in this game. You get everyone ‘advising’ you on what you should do and how you should do it, which often makes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong! On the bad days if I listen to these people it can really affect me. Instead, I have a few people who’s opinion I do listen to. It’s these people who I turn to when I have bumps in the road. My husband, first and foremost, as well as my father and my brother – they help me with the practical stuff. I also have 2 sisters who I am very close to and they are always at the end of the phone. After that, as I said above, I believe I can do this and though I’m not unshakeable all the time, I like to give myself a few hours of moping if I feel bad, and am then quite good at focusing on the goals, focussing on the good stuff, and just carrying on.
What’s your favourite thing to do to unwind after a hectic day?
It’s really the boring stuff – family time! I pick up time the best – when I get to go get my daughters from school/ nursery. That’s always the best time of day. Then we just go home, chat get supper – all that stuff I love doing. not particularly rock and roll!
What’s your vision for the future of Coconuts Organic?
We want to be the UK’s, then the world’s, number one luxury non-dairy ice cream. I want this to happen with us a B-Corp company that can provide secure and rewarding work for all its employees.
What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at the beginning of this journey?
The same I had when I did start – ‘of course you can do it’
I always ask this – what’s your favourite smoothie blend?
Spinach, frozen berries, raw cacao, coconut oil, coconut yoghurt, spirulina, water. Then add chia seeds at the end and wait until they get all swollen, then enjoy! Yum
Thank you so much Cecily for sharing such a wonderful and inspiring insight into Coconuts Organic. Seeing how your business has evolved and how you are planning for the future is so amazing and I am certain that it will inspire lots of people as it has done myself.
Join me next time for more inspirational advice from business-owners rocking to the beat of their own drum!
All my love and encouragement,