BUSINESS 

A coconut entrepreneur’s story of success

International award-winning entrepreneur, Nwanji Ogechukwu Henrietta, founded her business, Hetty Coconut ,two years ago.

She said: “I didn’t plan to go into the business. I stumbled on the vision and ran with it. My quest for the solution to my hair problem led me to coconut in 2017. I started with coconut oil and the first coconut oil looked more like palm kernel oil, the only difference was the smell. Through research, I discovered that there was more to coconut than just the oil. I also discovered that what people call waste, that is the coconut shell is disguised fortune. These coconut shells are improperly disposed into the environment or used as firewood for cooking, thereby causing pollution to the environment. To tackle this problem, I discovered a means of eradiating this pollution by recycling these coconut shells into valuable eco-friendly products.”

A graduate of Computer Science from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Henrietta, popularly known as “Coconut Professor”,  started  the business with five  coconuts, which was equivalent to about N1,000 in her location.

But the business has grown. Her words: “The business has grown rapidly beyond the N1, 000. I started with N1000 and have sold over 2000 products.” She has three part time staff.

After harvesting the coconut flesh, farmers discard thousands of shells, which are usually burned or used as landfill.

That was then. Now she is turning trash into treasure by using discarded coconut shells to create bowls.

The popularity of such bowls on cafe menus and at home has helped in driving her business.

She is not stopping at coconut bowls. She has expanded the range to include other products made from coconut off-cuts. On her stable are eco-friendly products, such as wristbands, buttons, key holders, soap dishes and bowls made with coconut shells.

Building a sustainable business has become increasingly important to her.

Words of mouth has proved a tremendous growth vehicle for her business. She is using various social media channels to post photographs of the coconut bowls.

The life of an entrepreneur is motivating her to improve herself daily. It is motivating her to learn new things and do things differently and more efficiently.

She has been able to cultivate a knowledgeable business network to turn to for expert advice.

Her challenges: “I will rather call it challenge instead of failure. I have been unable to acquire industrial machines needed to upscale production to reach more people. Currently, I work with simple tools for production. I have learned that we can only create limitations for ourselves with our excuses. I didn’t wait to acquire all the big machines I needed, instead I started with my simple tools and produced amazing products which are appreciated locally and internationally. I believe that this is only a stepping stone to the exploits I will do with coconut shells.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business? “My most satisfying moment in business is being able to create valuable products from what people call waste (Coconut shells)

The future is bright for her coconut-based products. More products lines, more distribution deals and continued success ensure she won’t quit the business.

She wants to use coconut shells to produce more eco-friendly products. So far, she is proud of her accomplishments. “I am very proud of my achievements so far, the journey that started as a joke,” she said

She has been featured as one of the 10 Innovative Young Leaders in Nigeria in African Women in Leadership Organisation (AWLO) 10th Anniversary Magazine. She is an alumnus of the United States Exchange programme – Academy for Women Entrepreneurs; Enactus Nigeria, and The Platform: Young Professionals. The founder of Hetty Coconut World is a recipient of Innovation award at International Youth Summit by Jamie Pajoel International.

Her advice for young entrepreneurs: “Believe in yourself. Put God first. Be consistent in whatever you are doing.’’

In 10 years, she sees her business creating employment for over 500 people and impacting the lives of one million people through Corporate Sustainability Responsibility (CSR).

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