Toyin Kappo-Kolawole is someone who made lemonades out of the lemons that life handed her. Though lemonade is not popular in this part of the world, she did make a lot of wonderful things out of coconuts. Her discussion with the host of the Good Citizen Show proved that there is always an opportunity to make something amazing from the little things around us. Again, like in our previous discussion, delayed gratification was a key aspect of the discussion and a principle a lot of people need to adopt in their careers and lifestyle.
Ms Kappo-Kolawole started her career by hawking coconuts and making coconut meals from raw coconuts, but today, she has made an empire out of it. She is a small business entrepreneur but she has also built a sustainable enterprise from her products by using resources that will always be needed and available for use. She is doing enough to support herself and her family and hasn’t had to succumb to any of society’s vices to survive so far. She is a stellar example of the type of good citizen that needs to come from the discussions on the radio show.
Small and medium scale enterprises are Nigeria’s largest employers of labour; they are responsible for creating up to 84% of all jobs in the country. This means starting up a small or medium-scale enterprise like coconut manufacturing would do a great number of people a big favour. Coconut oil is an amazing health resource; it is a staple in healthy diets all around the world. The host met Ms Kappo-Kolawole through a friend who shared her contact, in a quest for a coconut dealer that will provide coconut oil to use in her meals. On her first encounter with the guest, the host said Ms Kappo-Kolawole sent the requested products without collecting her fee upfront. Such an act is rare in the present-day economy in Nigeria.
Ms Kappo-Kolawole replied that it is in her character to let her products speak first for her as this sets the tone for her entire business. It was a usual practice in the past to send people products, trusting that they will pay, because people were bound by their word. These days, it is really rare to come across such people with integrity from either buyer or seller’s point of view.
Growing up in the Badagry area of Lagos state, coconuts were a staple natural resource. From consumption and use for skin care in her childhood, the guest learned how to make hot-pressed coconut. In 2018 after an unsuccessful job hunt, she found she could turn her coconut making skill into a sustainable career path. The first opportunity to use her skill presented itself when she found she could use coconuts to heal a person with high blood pressure.
From there, she started making more discoveries from coconuts. She found that she could make more litres of coconut oil for a lot cheaper than what was available in the market. She started marketing her products in her neighbourhood and among her church members. As the business began to grow, she moved from Igando to the Isolo area of Lagos state. She hired more staff and bought more coconut produce. She eventually found a masterclass online to her develop her skills in making coconut produce, but it was too costly at that time.
She was able to crowdfund to pay for half of her masterclass tuition fees and promised to pay the rest before the end of the masterclass. One day, a customer requested 100 litres of both cold-pressed and hot-pressed coconut oil. This was a huge leap from the 1 litre of coconut oil she was producing in the past. This customer of hers paid her in half to make the coconut produce with the intent to complete the payment after the job was finished. This payment was what enabled her to get the rest of the tuition fees to make up for her masterclass. That was her breakthrough.
She never would have been able to get that breakthrough if she didn’t start and relied on excuses that most people rely on to stop themselves from taking the next step. She took her first step and invested in herself and it was amid that investment that she got a breakthrough. Belief in a person’s business, according to her, is the first step in building a successful business venture.
Today her business comprises a range of coconut products like coconut poundo, coconut flour, coconut oil (hot-pressed and cold-pressed) and coconut candy. This business is an oasis in Lagos where it is difficult to find good quality coconut oil. The business name came from her desire to have something that would always take her back to her roots. The name, therefore, came from the word home- “DeCribbshome”. It also speaks of her heritage as well. The major impetus behind her growth is credited to God, her husband, some members of her family who invested in her and her customer referrals. Integrity and hard work have also gotten her very far.
She advised anyone who was thinking of starting a business in Nigeria to start small and be hardworking. Humility and perseverance were also necessary ingredients for success. Humility makes a huge difference in customer relations because everyone plays a critical role no matter how inconsequential their job description seems. She concluded by saying nothing good in life comes easy so there’s always a need to stay true to who you are and what you do.
De Cribbs coconut can be gotten on WhatsApp on 08033409333.
Listen to the full interview here.