As we settle into a new calendar year, I’m reminded of the awful start Kapuluan experienced as we were heading into 2016, our first year in business.
Funny what a difference a year makes; we are feeling truly blessed and thankful for what 2016 has given us.
It all starts with our community of amazing people – where our goals start and end.
When I started Kapuluan I set out to build a community of people who care about making the world a better place. People who could help us achieve our goals of improving the livelihood of impoverished coconut farming communities and providing an antidote to environmental issues with our tree planting program.
I knew that seeing my dreams and goals come to reality would be incredibly challenging. What I wanted to accomplish was clear, but I had no idea how to make it a reality.
The first step was building a successful business. No business = no money. No money = no coconut trees and no change for coconut farmers. And I didn’t know anything about starting a business like Kapuluan. Products, packaging, supply chains, and logistics were all foreign languages to me, and I failed my language classes in high school. Well, actually, I didn’t even graduate high school.
In an incredibly competitive beauty market, full of big time business’ with tons of money, it’s safe to say that Kapuluan was an underdog destined to fail. And things didn’t exactly start out well when we launched at the end of 2015. After a failed crowdfunding campaign and our piggy bank flushed down the drain, we were forced to start over with hardly any money.
I had put my savings into the launch – I filmed Kinabuhi to tell the story of impoverished coconut farmers, and made a crowdfunding video to raise money. I hired a PR company and Social Media staff. I built an email list and a digital ad campaign on Facebook and Google. I worked relentlessly to build a beautiful crowdfunding campaign page, and got help from friends and my girlfriend to design beautiful images and branded content for the campaign. I did everything I was supposed to do. None of it mattered. We had a goal of $90,000 and raised less than $5000.
None of it mattered. We had a goal of $90,000 and raised less than $5000.
And I can mostly thank my family and friends for the $5000.
That was a tough pill to swallow. I wondered if anyone cared about what I cared about.
I had a trip to The Philippines booked at the end of 2014. The plan was to do research and make connections with coconut farming communities and government authorities in preparation for our DME Handmade Coconut Oil facility.
2 days into my trip, I was sitting on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. It was dreamlike; sitting on white sand and surrounded by the most beautiful water i”ve ever seen. Palm trees at my back and a beautiful sunset warming my soul.
I had a grand plan and a positive mindset. Everything was perfect.
But that evening a voice came over the radio and changed the way I would feel for the rest of my life.
A few days later, I would end up in an evacuation center facing the eye of Super Typhoon Hagupit.
I had been in this part of the Philippines the year before, delivering relief goods and clean water after Super Typhoon Haiyan completely destroyed the region. I was unprepared for what I experienced. I had never done any disaster relief, and despite feeling invincible, I was brought to my knees and reduced to tears on far too many occasions. No one should see what I saw. It was completely devastating.
Now I was in the same place facing the same situation. The Haiyan experience made this one so much worse. I had seen too much. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything. I’ve never felt so weak in my life, and that was a really difficult feeling to cope with.
But it was time to Walk a Mile in Their Shoes.
After 10 hours waiting for the worst, and despite the roof coming off the building, I made it out alive and the experience solidified my commitment and determination to see my goals come to reality. If it weren’t for that Typhoon, I may have quit at some point in early 2016.
I kept grinding and rode the ups and downs of a small startup company for months. I had a great WHY that kept me going and I knew that WHY would open doors for us eventually.
Finally, we started catching a few breaks.
Kinabuhi was featured at the United Nations Climate Conferences in Paris, and Nasty Gal became our first retailer. I knew things were looking up when they sold out in a week. And then came Urban Outfitters as our next retail partner. And then we secured a distributor in Canada who rep S’well, Manduka, Vega, and other top brands. They had seen Kinabuhi and wanted to work with us.
That was the best feeling I had last year. Knowing that Kinabuhi had resonated in a way that someone wanted to support Kapuluan and work with us. That meant everything; I knew that other people cared about these coconut farmers.
2016 was a wild ride. I made gambles that have paid off. I made mistakes. I fist pumped in the midst of small wins. I cried at times that drove me to the tattered edged of the unknown. I’ve added a patch of grey hairs. And I slept less than I figured possible to continue functioning.
Despite our accomplishments, it is challenging, to say the least, to see Kapuluan as any kind of success.
I am constantly reminded of our amazing retail network, our media and celebrity coverage, including our recent feature in People Magazine, or our sales growth.
But all I can think about is seeing coconut farming communities reborn, surrounded by thousands of coconut tree seedlings shining new hope on resilient coconut farmers and their beautiful children.
It’s going to be a lot more hard work, won’t stop until it is reality.
This is a journey, and patience is a virtue.
Ultimately, the reason for this post is to thank YOU! Without the tremendous support we’ve received from our amazing community, my goals might be a distant memory.
Today, we’re blossoming and our goals are within sight. We’ve committed to plant 4544 coconut palm trees, and this December we raised over $1000 for Filipino children who have been rescued from abuse and abandonment.
It means so much to me that we’ve been able to build such an amazing community because everything about Kapuluan comes directly from my heart – All natural products, simplicity, a product that can help people and planet. It is a great feeling to know that other people want to contribute to be a part of these virtues as well.
So, when I sit back and reminisce on all of the good and bad over the past year. I cannot help but feel incredibly excited at what lies ahead in 2017. And I cannot help but feel extremely grateful for all of the people who have supported Kapuluan along the way.
Together, we will make The World a better place!
I am looking forward to your help in achieving our goal moving forward is to plant 1 Million Coconut Palm Trees while transforming coconut farming communities in the Philippines.