• Thursday, June 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

‘The Coconut industry abounds with huge potential that must be tapped into to grow our economy’

businessday-icon

Biography 

Jadesola Shawana, the CEO of Tosh Coconuts Limited is young lawyer with about 10 years post call experience. She graduated from the University of Ilorin in 2006, and was called to the Nigerian bar in 2007. She also has a Master’s degree (LL.M) in Corporate and Commercial Law from the University Of Dundee, Scotland and is currently a student member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (UK) She is happily married to Kolawole, and they have two lovely boys Oluwato and Tobiloba.

The lawyer cum Business woman is a low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) advocate who lost about 15kg through her LCHF regimen and got the idea for her business in 2016, when she discovered that there is high demand for coconut flour in Nigeria by low carb food lovers and weight watchers. Back then, consumers had to rely on imported coconut flour to make their meals, so she decided to make the product available locally. A few months later, she incorporated Tosh Coconuts Limited, an indigenous Company that has a range of Coconut Products such as Coconut Poundo, Coconut Flour, Cold pressed Coconut Oil, Coconut Yoghurt, Coconut flakes, Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream. The purpose of the business is to create healthy low carb meals as an alternative to the carbohydrates dense staple meals and snacks available in Nigeria. She aspires to grow her business into a multinational company and looks forward to seeing their products on major supermarket shelves, home and abroad.

 

 In the beginning

I grew up with parents who were both business people and I became automatically business savvy too. Every day after school, I would go to my mom’s store called “Our Shop” where she sold fabrics. I learnt the art of buying and selling, petty accounting, customer service and so on, from my early days, as a matter of fact; I remember getting into trouble in Primary school for selling sweets to my class mates. I was always trading one thing or the other in the University which earned me the award of The Most Enterprising Student in my final year.  

 

Why the choice of coconut for your line of business?

My inspiration for choosing coconuts was primarily because of the high demand for coconut flour in the LCHF (Low Carbohydrates High Fat) and Ketogenic diet community in Nigeria. This is because coconut flour is low in carbohydrates and rich in fibre which is ketogenic compliant. At the time we started in 2016, I didn’t know of any Company producing coconut flour in Nigeria, all the brands were foreign, and everyone who wanted coconut flour had to buy a foreign brand. I knew that coconut flour is produced from coconut which is abundant in Nigeria so I decided to explore that space and go into local production of coconut flour.

After incorporating Tosh Coconuts Limited, the business has now grown into having more healthy products from coconuts like cold pressed coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut yoghurt, coconut cookies, coconut flakes and more. 

 

Why the decision to be a LCHF advocate? Journey so far?

I had my second son in September 2015 and I had added some weight which I was trying to lose. Jogging every morning for a few months did not help and so my sister introduced me to LCHF (Low Carbohydrates High Fat) diet which I started around May 2016, in less than three months, I lost about 15kg, 10kg of which I have maintained in the past two years.

I believe that a lot of women are struggling with weight challenges, especially post-partum weight gain.  LCHF provides a way to quickly get rid of excess fat in the body because the diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. However, I do not encourage strict ketogenic diet for prolonged periods of time for instance, over 6 months or a year except for health reasons as prescribed by a medical professional. Strict ketogenic diet is slightly different from LCHF because the former allows you to eat only about 20 grams carbohydrates per day which I believe is too strict while the latter is more liberal. I believe that all classes of foods are good for the body and that portion control will help you manage and maintain your current weight.  So you can lose weight with LCHF and then maintain the weight with good portion control of all classes of foods. 

 

How has the patronage been? How far do requests come from?

When we started in 2016, the reception was quite shocking and that was what prompted us to register the business and increase our capacity and production. We started with an online store on Instagram and we got and still get loads of orders daily. We now have over 1,000 customers on our list and we have distributors in about 10 states in Nigeria, in the UK and USA. We also get loads of orders from West Africa. We currently have our products on the shelves of about 20 supermarkets and we have staff strength of 10 people.  We constantly strive to be better and we believe we can build this company into a multinational brand.

 

What is it about coconut that the Nigerian government needs to begin to look out for in terms of economic/financial gain?  

There is a popular saying that “No part of the Coconut is a waste”. This statement is very true but people do not realise the extent of its truth. One coconut palm tree can actually produce at least up to 50 products and this is not an exaggeration. We already produce 10 products from the Coconut, let me mention a few more; Coconut sugar, Palm wine, bags, fan, hut roof, brooms, baskets, coconut bowls, charcoal, activated charcoal, coir fibre, soil conservator, mulch, rugs, furniture and so on. The government needs to encourage and steer people, not only into agriculture but also processing of agricultural products and manufacturing. Nigerians have high taste which our manufacturing industry is yet to meet up to. The Coconut industry abounds with huge potential that must be tapped into to grow our economy.

 

Has being a lawyer helped in your line of business? How?

I believe that Law is the most versatile industry. It allows you to work in any and every industry because all industries have laws governing them which must be adhered to. I have worked as a lawyer for over 10 years; I also have a Masters degree in Corporate and Commercial from the University of Dundee, UK. In the course of my work and study, I have learnt a lot about business and it is certainly an edge that keeps my business grounded.

 

There are many products in Nigeria today that makes use of coconut, what sets yours apart from the rest?

I want to believe our Company has a pioneer status of novelty in coconuts because we have been able to create a lot of products from one fruit; coconuts. This sets us apart from others. We also have a thorough understanding and appreciation of Coconuts, its uses, benefits and biological composition. We have carved a niche for ourselves as the coconut connoisseurs because our brand is providing healthy food alternatives, not only to Nigerians but internationally.  Our knowledge of coconuts has birthed a coconut academy that runs a monthly training on how to start a business in coconuts.

 

In your line of business, what are you looking forward to?

I have so many dreams and aspirations for the business. I want the name Tosh to be synonymous to Coconuts. I want our products to be on the shelves of all supermarkets in Nigeria and abroad too. To achieve this, we have to build a world class brand and we are constantly learning, unlearning and relearning to make my dreams come true.

 

 

Why is it important as women to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit?

A lot of our mothers were entrepreneurs to support their husbands in little ways. However, in our generation, we have to embrace entrepreneurship in a bigger way. I tell my students in the Coconut Academy that I am not just in this business to help my husband put food on our table, but to help hundreds of other people put foods on their own tables, build their own homes and provide for their families. We as women need to see that we also can build empires, be business moguls and create employment for other people.

 

 

Final words

The words of William Shakespeare, “Some were born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Essentially, we all can be great, we just need to identify our current position and navigate a way to greatness from there.

Kemi Ajumobi