Entrepreneurial Advice from Conscious Coconut’s Founder
Danielle Conte on inspiration, entrepreneurship, social responsibility, and more.
I WAS INSPIRED TO LAUNCH CONSCIOUS COCONUT BECAUSE…
After a motorbike crash in Bali a local healer gave me coconut oil for my injuries. At first I thought he was crazy for wanting me to use coconut oil on my body, but I quickly learned that the high percentage of lauric acid in coconut oil has potent anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Lauric acid renews your skin, accelerating the healing process for repair and renewal of damaged tissues. I ate coconut oil every day and was using it topically as well (now all that’s left from the accident is a super small scar on my arm)! Lauric acid also strengthens the immune system and boosts your metabolism. I started piecing together that my energy was higher than it had been in years, my face cleared up at 28, and my skin was significantly softer than it had been in the past. I had to share, and Conscious Coconut was the perfect way to do it.
I’ve always been committed to starting a social enterprise, but I wanted to do something a little different. Why not help everyone along the journey? Over my year in Southeast Asia, I was overwhelmed daily by the endless abundance of love and positive energy these beautiful people were sending out to the world (despite their modest means and—more often than not—dire living circumstances). I remember thinking, “these people get it” and I wanted to be that happy and appreciative. So, I was fueled to start something that mattered. After gifting friends and family with blue mason jars of coconut oil throughout 2013, a close friend told me to stop talking about it so much and go sell it.
OUR MISSION IS…
To give everyone the tools they need to live their healthiest, happiest lives. Our organic coconut oil is certified through Fair Trade USA ensuring safe working conditions and just compensation for farmers and factory workers. Once our travel-ready coconut oil arrives in the U.S. it is packaged by adults with developmental disabilities at the Macdonald Training Center in Tampa. Plus, for EVERY product sold we donate a meal to a child in need through Feeding America. We are committed to raising awareness for childhood hunger in the United States. Since our launch at Wanderlust Chicago 3 years ago, we have fed over 135,000 kids through our one-to-one platform!
WHAT I DID PRIOR TO STARTING MY BUSINESS…
Right after graduating from college I accepted an investment banking position focusing in oil, energy and municipals. I was working 90-hour weeks going into my third year, but it was my “dream job,” so I really wanted to make it work. I finally worked up the courage to ask for my first vacation in two years. The day after I got home from New Zealand, I wrote an email to my boss resigning. The following day he says,“D! Are you nuts?” My response was “probably, but if I can work this hard for someone else I can only imagine what I can do for myself”. Shortly after I booked a flight to Bali to teach Math and English.
WAYS THAT I STAY CREATIVE…
I’m privileged to work with amazing souls day in and day out who inspire me. From family and friends to customers and mentors to store owners, team members, coconut farmers, postmen and so on—their energy and gentle encouragement keep me going. Creativity also flows through me from constant travel, reading and hitting my yoga mat as much as possible!
WHAT BEING A WOMAN ENTREPRENEUR MEANS TO ME…
A few years ago my answer would have been that you can certainly run a business with love despite what anyone tells you (coming from an investment banking background, this would make my old boss laugh). I committed very early on to collaborate only with people that I felt comfortable working with and who shared our same mission and values built on respect and kindness.
However, as a new mama of a one year old with a second on the way, now I would say being an mom and entrepreneur means you’re a rockstar. It means tossing out any idea of balance and staying on your toes 24/7 with a smile. Because there’s simply no way of doing it all, honor and respect where you are every morning and try not to set lofty goals. When you do, and you don’t meet them—you feel this sense of failure. Instead, I encourage fellow entrepreneurs to set small, achievable goals so that they feel a sense of accomplishment every day.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS…
- You don’t want to rush a moment of this! It’s important to plan but it’s also vital to be in the moment, because this is everything you’ve dreamed of. From building your accounting system to packaging design and customer relationships, it’s fun to piece it all together and find what makes you efficient and happy. Master your processes and find what really works for you. Because this is YOUR business—not your boss’s, or your professor, or your mother or friends’. You’ll be the one up at 4am reconciling expenses, not your most recent advice-giver!
- The key to this whole thing is forgiveness. Forgive yourself. Then forgive yourself some more. You’re going to make “mistakes” 100 times a day. But they’re not mistakes! You’re learning how to function both personally and professionally. And eat. Remember to eat fruits and vegetables and drink water and matcha tea and not too much coffee. Try not to eat that big sandwich because you’ll crash early evening and realize you still have 8 hours of work to accomplish.
- Start your day with some sort of a ritual, because the rest will be complete insanity. You planned on an accounting day and next thing you know you’re halfway to Miami with a trunk of coconut oil and succulents from Lowes for a pop-up at Exhale Spa. And you’ll love every moment of it. And If you don’t, take a moment – whether it’s in your car or at home or in the last middle seat of an airplane – to say a quick thank you, because you chose this and it chose you.
- Try not to take things so personal (though, if you’re sensitive like me, it’s very hard not to). So, breathe, send a quiet “I forgive you” to the person you dislike in the moment and then forget about it immediately and move on. Five minutes later you may get an order from a large boutique hotel wanting to carry you in 500 rooms—and then 20 minutes after that a customer might write an email calling you a moron. It’s truly magical and it all flies by.
I #EMBRACEAMBITION BY…
My ambition is a balance of gratitude, hard work and giving back to others. I’m grateful for it all—where we’re at, how we got here, who helped us get here and for my health, skill set and support of the community. There is no substitute for committing to your trade and working your tush off—no one’s going to create your dream for you! I get up every day for others—to make them smile, lighten their load, and—through Conscious Coconut—help hungry kids, adults with disabilities and those less fortunate overseas. I’m driven by love!
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