Spotlight: Dignity Coconuts Offers Coconut Products with a Side of Dignity

Businesses can hugely improve the lives of their owners and employees. Some socially conscious entrepreneurs even build their companies around helping vulnerable communities. Such is the story of Dignity Coconuts. Read about the company and its positive impact in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Sells organic coconut oil and related products while supporting vulnerable communities.

President Erik Olson told Small Business Trends, “In efforts to elevate the coconut oil standard in the marketplace, we created a holistic business model to make premium quality coconut oil that sets families free from modern-day slavery and human trafficking.”

Business Niche

Serving an important cause while creating quality products.

Olson says, “A vulnerable community in the Philippines has been positively impacted and radically transformed through Dignity’s creation of meaningful jobs, direct trade with farmers, fair pay, skills training, debt relief programs, community projects like clean water and new roads – and most importantly, restoring their Dignity.”

Small Business Deals

How the Business Got Started

To help those in need.

Olson explains, “After years of nonprofit work helping trafficking victims in SE Asia, the founders looked upstream and discovered the coconut industry played a big role in this vicious cycle. What’s worse is that 80% of people who escape human trafficking rings return because they don’t have a safe and meaningful job. We were outraged and knew we needed to do more. We asked locals what sustainable resource they had access to to start a business. Their answer? Coconuts!”

Biggest Win

Using sustainable practices.

Olson says, “Dignity team has trained over 200 local farmers in organic farming techniques, including sustainable practices, such as intercropping with other crops between coconut trees (to conserve land!) and planting coconut seedlings to prepare for the next generation of coconut trees. Last year, we planted 1,000 coconut seedlings – great job team!! Caring for the earth is not hard, but it does take intentionality. Food waste, land destruction, and even worse, corruption or unfair treatment of farmers, is so prevalent for big corporations.”

Biggest Risk

Their production process.

Olson adds, “When we started Dignity Coconuts, we did not want to compromise quality! To truly create a superior product and rise above cold-pressed coconut oil, we would need to make centrifuge extracted (raw) coconut oil – never heating the oil, but using a centrifuge machine that uses g-force to whip the coconut meat – giving customers a pure, fresh, & mild tasting coconut oil. This method preserves the natural taste and micronutrients, yet comes with its complications. The centrifuge machine in itself is extremely expensive and has a high risk of breaking. Because of this, we spent 4 years in R&D to perfect our process and have hired multiple experts and engineers over the years to oversee the centrifuge. Despite the headache, it’s been worth it to create an excellent product and to see the pride & joy from our Filipino team for their work. Many locals in this area don’t have anything to be proud of – this is true transformation!”

Team Makeup

A worldwide mashup.

Olson says, “Our DC HQ team and leadership team live in 4 different time zones – PHST, CT, EST, GMT. It feels like tetris every time we schedule meetings and check-ins! But we love the cultural diversity and global perspective each person brings.”


Image: Dignity Coconuts Comment ▼

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

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