Jan 29, 2018 News
– advises local entrepreneur
By Feona Morrison
Starting your own business is no small feat. Now imagine achieving such an accomplishment which has now turned into a profitable venture.
This is the story of the enterprising Shaunda Yarde, the owner of Coconut Grove which manufactures and distributes Golden Crunch Coconut biscuits.
But Yarde was not always into business.
Prior to establishing her company five years ago, she was a Communications major at the University of Guyana.
It was while attending this tertiary institution that Yarde baked coconut biscuits which she supplied to a small canteen to help pay her tuition fees.
For her final year project, Yarde was tasked with implementing a Marketing and Communication plan. And while most of her classmates choose to produce televisions and radio programmes, Yarde did something out of the box.
She baked coconut biscuits using her grandmother’s recipe. Her project received positive feedback from not only her lecturers but her peers. It was then that Yarde contemplated becoming an entrepreneur.
After completing UG, she worked for a short while at a friend’s advertising company. During her stint there, she was exposed to most of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and even learnt how to overcome some.
“After working with her (the friend) and seeing how she operated her business, I was inspired to start my own. By working with other small businesses you get to see the challenges they face and how they work to overcome them.” Shortly after, she mustered the courage to go into business. Her company’s aims are to produce healthy snacks using coconut and to create employment for women in Yarde’s community of Patentia, West Bank Demerara. But for Yarde, turning her passion for baking into a profitable business was no easy feat.
For one thing, she encountered challengers in legalising her business. These included acquiring relevant documents, obtaining a food handler’s certificate and even getting consent from the Guyana Fire Service and the Central Housing and Planning Authority.
As if these were not enough, she also faced problems with marketing her product. Yarde recalled that she reached out to several supermarkets but was rejected by some.
But this stumbling block did not dampen her spirit. She was determined to make her product known to the nation.
Golden Crunch Coconut Biscuits can now be sourced from Massy Stores, Providence, East Bank Demerara, the Guyana Shop, Robb and Alexander Streets, Georgetown and Bounty Supermarket, Kitty, Georgetown.
The snacks are also available at Oasis Express at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and at the Marriott Hotel. Although Yarde has clients who purchase directly from her she related “They (the companies/supermarkets were very receptive to supporting the local product.”
Another hindrance faced by entrepreneurs in starting their business is obtaining loans, Yarde pointed out.
And according to her, this can be remedied if lending institutions reduce some of its criterion for borrowers.
The biscuits are produced from all natural ingredients and contain no preservatives. In fact, all of the ingredients are sourced in Guyana. For instance, Yarde disclosed that she would purchase the coconuts from farmers in her community.
“The biscuits are fresh, they have no preservatives,” Yarde noted.
This entrepreneur confessed that production is not where she wants it to be at this juncture. However, she said that the business is gradually growing and has created part-time employment for women in her community.
Yarde was exposed to various business skills when she participated in the former US President Barack Obama’s 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI). She explained that she learnt how to improve branding, marketing her product, the importance of networking techniques and strategies to grow a business.
YLAI is a US Embassy in Guyana sponsored programme. It is a professional fellows’ programme that empowers entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders to strengthen capacity and advance their entrepreneurial ideas to contribute to social and economic development in their communities and regions.
In expressing gratitude to the US Embassy in Guyana for the exposure, Yarde who is a founding member of the YLAI Guyana alumni, said that after participating in the programme her attitude towards business “really improved.”
And to date, she pointed out this has been one of the most fulfilling business experiences.
When she is not occupied with caring for her son, this businesswoman is busy advertising her product on social media. She has already invested in commercial baking equipment and sees her business expanding this year.
Yarde pointed out that she is not interested in producing the traditional sugar cakes and coconut oil.
Instead, she and her brother are currently researching healthy snacks that can be made from coconut.
In addition, she related that she is looking to secure a market for the coconut biscuits in Berbice and Linden.
She is also working on improving the packaging design for the product and producing coconut biscuits in various shapes, sizes and flavours. For now, the coconut biscuits are packaged in a plain plastic wrap with a paper label within. This entrepreneur has received blessings from First Lady Sandra Granger.
In December 2016, Yarde presented a sample of her coconut biscuits to the First Lady who stated, “I’m very happy to see how she’s marketing her product…”
Yarde has spoken well of the First Lady, who she said has provided training for women on how to make their business legal and insurance compliance, through Interweave Solutions (Guyana) initiative. For Yarde, more initiatives like this should be implemented because “there needs to be consistent support for small businesses.”
Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is “to start your own business you need to develop the grit to endure all trials.”
Persons desirous of placing orders can reach Yarde at https://www.facebook.com/gccoconutbiscuit/
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