Erin Meagher, on Launching Kelapo Coconut

I attended a great talk this summer by Erin Meagher, Founder of Beneficial Blends and Chief Coconut at Kelapo Coconut called “Message Your Mission: How to Identify & Message Your Brand Successfully” that was hosted by USF CONNECT. In talking about how she launched and built Kelapo Coconut and then Beneficial Blends, Erin offered a lot of great logotakeaways that would be helpful for marketers, public relations professionals, or anyone interested in launching their own business.

If you want to read how Erin started the company, you can do so here. But the short version is that she was a high school teacher who taught entrepreneurial classes. She then came across extra virgin coconut oil, learned that it could be a healthier substitute for other cooking oils, and decided to launch her own brand of certified organic/high food grade extra virgin coconut oil, called Kelapo. In case you were wondering, Kelapo is based on the Malay language and is a combination of the word for coconut (Kelapa) and tree (Pokok).

In launching her coconut oil product, Erin identified three customer personas: foodies, health nuts, and crunchies (hippy activists) and developed content for each group. Some of the content included blog posts, handouts, educational seminars, and talks. For the foodies, they developed recipes and found private chefs to blog about the product. For health nuts, they set up a table at a dietician’s conference. Crunchies didn’t need as much targeting, given that they were already somewhat familiar with the product, but they did attend green festivals to connect with them.

For each persona, they also developed several themes for messaging. For example, for the foodies, they came up with three themes: Celebrate the Food, Spotlight the People, and Join the Revolution. Education was very important in the beginning. They used the website coconutoilcooking.com to spread the word. Some of the other PR tactics they employed included giving guest lectures at Le Cordon Bleu; appearing on the Tampa-based program Daytime, which is broadcast in 200 markets; and appearances on other local programs, such as Good Day Tampa Bay, Fox Morning Blend, and Studio 10. They also got national coverage in a magazine and went on Dr. Oz to demonstrate oil pulling.

Kelapo was also one of eight companies to sponsor the 60th Anniversary KeHE Tradeshow, which raised their profile, and they developed a partnership with Zoo Tampa and the Alzheimer’s Association for their corporate social responsibility initiative.

Back to their messages, they used Google Analytics to determine what messages were working as well as social media analytics for their social sites. They are now using more professional imagery on Instagram and run ads on both Facebook and Instagram.

Erin shared a story about how they attended a trade show in the early years and she joked about how awful it would be if T.J. Maxx wanted to carry their product because she thought that would devalue the product. And guess what, T.J. Maxx was actually interested! Erin underestimated the impact of that partnership and that yes, people actually do buy food products at T.J. Maxx. (I was actually just in there today browsing the food aisle.)

In the end, I found Erin’s story to be extremely inspiring. She had to navigate an industry that was completely foreign to her and learned a lot along the way. She has expanded with Beneficial Blends (to private label their products for grocery stores) and Food Crafters Consulting to help other food product entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

You can watch the entire talk here (although you probably can’t hear her), courtesy of USF CONNECT.

Watch the Video Here