Behind The Brand: Part 2
Coconut Bowls is more than a brand – it’s a movement for global sustainability. Although our products gained popularity in Australia, our impact extends much further. It’s incredibly rewarding to feel like we’re a part of something bigger, so we wanted you, our Coco Community, to feel it too. In this series of blog posts, we’ll be taking you behind the scenes of the Coconut Bowls brand, so you can get to know the incredible team that make our mission possible. We’ll introduce you to the communities, people, and processes behind our eco-friendly products. We couldn’t do this without you, so we wanted to show you the positive impact you’re having on making the world a more sustainable place.
PART 2: Meet the team that makes it happen
Ever noticed how each Coconut Bowls product is unique? Each mark is a reminder of the beauty of nature, and the love that goes into making them. Pictured below is our founder, Jake, with the wonderfully talented team of artisans responsible for creating the bowls you know and love. In the previous article, we reflected on how we built our team and business with help from the Vietnamese locals – here we’ll take you behind the scenes of our workshop, so you can get to know the amazing people behind the bowls.
The Coconut Bowls Family
It was clear from our first meeting that family is of the utmost importance in Vietnamese culture. Many of the skilled artisans in the workshop come from the same biological family – wives, brothers, sisters, and cousins, who all travel to and from work together each day. We conduct our operations with an emphasis on keeping this custom intact – just as the Coconut Bowls philosophy is against disrupting nature, we are equally against disrupting the lifestyle of anyone that we work with. Environmental and cultural sensitivity go hand in hand, and honouring their way of life has allowed us to build a seamless operation in which everyone has an integral role to play. In fact, we like to believe that we are now one big Coconut Bowls family.
Thuan is the manager of the workshop, and the person responsible for setting up our sustainable sourcing line with small coconut farms. He is the younger of two brothers who run the workshop together, and has a Bachelor’s degree and strong English. For this reason, he is our main point of contact, and our local guide when we visit Vietnam. In turn, Thuan and his wife have visited us in Australia, where they stayed with our founder Jake and his fiancé Renee, who took them on a trip along the Great Ocean Road. Economic sustainability is about building fair and meaningful business relationships - one of the pillars of our movement.
Thuan’s brother is the production manager. In finding this workshop, we were incredibly lucky enough to stumble upon a close-knit team of people who shared our values and were already practiced at working together. The workshop operates like a traditional Vietnamese family business, with the men handling the more labour intensive tasks and the women applying their skills to the finishing details.
Breaking down the process
At the beginning of the process, the farmers themselves sort through the shells to ensure that all meet the desired size and quality. Once approved, they are passed through a line of four craftspeople. The first cuts the top of the shell to the desired height – 6cm for our Original and Natural Bowls, and 8cm for our Jumbo Bowls.
The next artisan manipulates the shell around a conveyor sanding belt, removing most of the husk from the outside. The following task, sanding the inside husk, requires the most time and skill. The interior of the coconut shell is delicate, and the artisan must be careful – sand too much, and the bowl will be unusable. Smoothing the inside takes time, and reflects the love and care our workers put into our product.
The fourth artisan gives the shell a final sand to smooth over any bumps that were missed in the process, and the bowl is ready for finishing. It is heated in a kiln, which both strengthens the bowl and kills any bacteria, and our Coconut Bowls logo is laser etched into the base - this marks our stamp of approval of the highest quality product, backed by our guarantee. After applying three coats of coconut oil to hydrate the shell and fill the pores, the Coconut Bowl is complete, and passed on to be wrapped in recycled craft paper and our branded tissue paper before being packed for shipment. Thuan’s brother oversees every stage of the production line, and personally undertakes a quality control check on each shell before it is packaged.
A shared passion for sustainability
The love and dedication that our workshop family put into our products come from the shared passion for sustainability that unites us as a Coconut Bowls family. The know-how and resourcefulness of Thuan and his team were essential to building our sustainable sourcing line and operations. It was their idea to create products from discarded wood sourced from furniture makers, resulting in the development of our Wooden Cutlery range. The team is wholly committed to up-cycling, and gain a great amount of satisfaction from giving old materials a new life.
However, there is significant progress to be made in Vietnam in regards to educating locals on the dangers of plastic waste. Much of this is inevitable – for many villages, plastic bottled water is their only source of clean drinking water. To combat this and demonstrate our commitment to reducing waste in all business operations, we provide large drums of drinking water in our workshops and strongly encourage reusing bottles – whilst of course providing eco-friendly straws, bowls, and cutlery for meal times.
When we first approached Thuan and the team, they were excited to work with us towards a more sustainable future. And when we gave them our first order of 10,000 bowls, they were blown away – who could possibly want so many of these things?
Today, they continue to be as important to the development of our products and mission as they were in the beginning. We would not be where we are without their expertise or insight into the Vietnamese coconut industry and sustainability practices. We speak daily, whether it be just to check in and chat or to discuss the custom orders for cafes and retail stores that we constantly receive. Most important is making sure they have everything they need – not just to make the best possible products, but to live comfortably, happily, and sustainably at work and in their day-to-day lives.