One of the many things I love about what I do is being able to connect with some really amazing people.
Like-minded ambitious souls who are on a mission to not only build something for themselves, but who contribute in helping our beautiful planet and others raise their quality of life.
I wanted to do something with this by offering a platform where others can share their story.
I truly believe in working together and supporting each other to live our highest potential.
This is how the idea was born to do a Coconut Queens series. It’s about driven female coconut entrepreneurs who put themselves out there and are involved in social, cultural, environmental, and other empowering projects.
Amazingness is of course not related to gender or anything and I welcome everyone. So to the men, groups, couples; if you are or know someone with an inspiring coconut entrepreneurship story, get in touch with me!
For now, let’s start with the ladies. I’m very excited to introduce our first Coconut Queen Danielle Hodge.
Danielle is the CEO and founder of Indigenous Coconut Oil – organic virgin coconut oil from Guyana, South America, made by women from Indigenous communities.
We met on Instagram and I instantly connected to her beautiful energy and passion for what she’s doing. I love what she stands for and wanted to share her inspiring story with you.
Hey Danielle, great to have you here! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you for this opportunity! Well, I was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Orlando, Florida.
My Mother is from Guyana and my brother and I would take many trips to Guyana when we were young. We would have the summer off and spend the entire summer there.
My background is in marketing and working with many brands.
I enjoy the outdoors and genuinely love meeting new people and any atmosphere where I can spark up a new conversation with someone.
I’ve blended my passion for marketing and my roots from Guyana which has organically developed Indigenous Coconut Oil. So here we are!
You grew up with coconut oil being used in your family, what are some of your favorite uses for it?
My family owns coconut farms and they are actually in the process of re-developing their farms now.
Would you believe this is a tough question for me? Haha I use coconut oil from head to toe!
I would say my favorite use is to add lavender essential oil and apply on my skin in the evening after a shower. It’s almost like hitting the reset button after a long day.
Lavender essential oil has a relaxing affect on your body and Indigenous Coconut Oil absorbs quickly and settles nicely into your skin.
Your idea for Indigenous Coconut Oil was born during a trip to Guyana. Can you tell us what happened between that moment of inspiration and the time you held the first jar of your coconut oil in your hands?
As mentioned before I’ve taken many trips to Guyana as a young child, but something about my recent trips as an adult changed my life.
In 2016, when I discovered Indigenous Coconut Oil, I invited 3 close friends to join me on my trip to meet my family and to give them a tour of Guyana.
I planned our trip around the first Coconut Festival in Guyana because I had already thought of the idea of starting my own coconut oil business, but wasn’t sure how.
Bringing my friends along on my trip inspired me. They saw the same beauty I saw in Guyana and witnessed the strength & entrepreneurship in Guyanese women, while trucking through the streets of Georgetown.
After attending the Coconut Festival, I immediately canceled my trip back to the States, said farewell to my friends, and got to work.
I did a lot of networking and research to find my supplier.
Along the way, I made great friends who still assist me to this day on running my business.
When I shipped my first batch of coconut oil to the States, bottled off my jars, put my labels on, attached my spoon and info card on the side… I almost cried. I held my first jar and could not believe that I not only had a product of my own, but a responsibility to the women of Guyana and to the youth to keep them inspired.
My goal is to keep inspiring young entrepreneurs and women to find inspiration and act on it.
One of your main focus points is to help create opportunities for local women in Guyana which you work closely with. How are these women involved with Indigenous Coconut Oil?
These women are involved with Indigenous Coconut Oil by supplying me with their products.
I don’t just want it to be a “You supply me, thank you and goodbye” situation.
I actually want to know their goals. I want to know the issues their community is facing and how we can use our voice together to solve them.
I want to know about development issues and how we can build more and offer more opportunities in their villages and communities.
That’s why my motto is “It’s more than a coconut”. To me it’s way more than this wonderful tree of life. It’s about us coming together to use our life and work experience to build each other up and to make our movement contagious.
How does the average life of a woman from the indigenous communities in Guyana look like? And how do these traditional communities maintain themselves in a changing modern world around them?
The average life of a woman from Indigenous communities is to take care of the home but also provide for their family while their husbands are away at work.
Most of the men travel into the interior for work that pays more, so they often aren’t around to take care of the home and help raise their children. This leaves the women to finding creative ways to work from home, while at the same time providing for their families.
The world is becoming more modern and while some women find ways to market their products and craftsmanship, a lot of them are still in need of help, getting their products marketed on a larger scale.
When someone like myself steps in with not only marketing experience but a passion for sustainable products and community development, it’s a win-win situation.
Guyana, which is the only predominately English speaking country in South-America, has a long tradition of using coconuts. What are some of their unique typical coconut dishes?
Some typical dishes made with coconut are popular Guyanese pastries such as coconut buns and a favorite pastry of mine called Salara. (which is a doughy sweet coconut bread) They are made with grated coconut.
Crab curry and cook up rice (which is rice, peas and your choice of meat) are two popular dishes made with coconut milk.
Part of your heritage goes back to Guyana. What does it mean to you to be able to be so closely involved with Guyana and the communities there?
It really is a feeling like no other. One thing I’ve observed recently is that in the Guyanese culture they love to teach you. It can range from a natural product that helps with healing or showing you how a craft is made. Guyanese culture really takes pride in showing you how they live.
To be involved with the communities is such a humbling feeling. It also makes my mother proud to see me so involved.
You focus on several aspects such as promoting a healthy lifestyle, supporting women entrepreneurs, supporting local communities, promoting sustainable agriculture and production and of course all the aspects of running a business. That’s quite an impressive package!
How do you manage to do all that and what gives you the most personal satisfaction?
I’m doing what I love. I am literally taking a skill I’ve learned, grew a passion for and turned it into something I can call my own. There’s no greater feeling, especially when I know it involves impacting peoples’ lives for the better.
There are days I do get overwhelmed or stuck on how to take the next step in growing on my journey. I would say I do it by knowing it’s ok to not know what’s next and to be completely open to figuring out HOW to take that next step.
Humility is a word I hold dear to my heart and I always remember to not have too much pride.
Those two things, plus having faith, are what keep me afloat.
You are a firm believer of sustainable practice and of using the whole coconut as much as possible. As a result, you’ve extended your product line to include activated coconut charcoal.
Can you tell us something about how to use this product and its benefits?
Activated coconut charcoal is another multi use product that can be used to whiten teeth by absorbing plaque and microscopic tidbits that stain teeth.
It’s a great natural solution for oral hygiene.
Another popular way to use it is as a base and mixture for making an all-natural face mask.
You can add 1 tsp Bentonite clay, 1 tsp activated coconut charcoal, 2 tsp water, 1/2 tsp raw honey, and 1 drop each of tea tree and lavender essential oil.
Activated coconut charcoal lifts toxins from your body so it’s also a great natural mixture for hangovers and reducing gas and bloating.
How does a typical day at the Indigenous Coconut Oil headquarters look like for you?
I can definitely tell you I start my day off with an oil pull. Haha not kidding! I sit at my desk and make a list of tasks to complete for the day.
My physical calendar sits right in front of me because having a visual for the month helps as the day gets busier.
I process any online orders that come in and try to post on social media at least twice a week.
It can be a lot managing all aspects of the business and being a first time business owner.
I must say that every day is exciting, knowing I’m creating a platform for women and young people in Guyana.
What is your mission with Indigenous Coconut Oil?
My mission with Indigenous Coconut Oil is to create more opportunities for entrepreneurship and to be an inspiration for those who may not know how to start in business.
Thank you for sharing your story Danielle! I wish you all the success and fulfilment on your journey, keep up the great work you’re doing.