Chatting Sustainability and Coconuts with Coconut Bowl Founder Jake McKeon
Jake, founder and CEO of Coconut Bowls in Byron Bay, is leading the way when it comes to sustainable and innovative thinking around turning waste into something beautiful.
In 2015, while visiting a local market in Bali, he was inspired when he came across painted coconut shell handicrafts. He realised they would make great bowls for smoothies, cereals and salads. He ended up travelling back to Australia with 100 coconuts and his surfboard Coconut Bowls was born.
Image credit: Destination NSW
Can you share your background and the story behind Coconut Bowls?
My family instilled in me a passion to create my own path in business. So when I left LaTrobe University with a Bachelor of Business I worked two years in the corporate world, before starting a social network called, Moodswing which fostered peer to peer emotional support. This platform grew to a user base of over 100,000 people from more than 50 countries. I then took my passion for health and wellness into launching a successful superfood supplement business and a social media marketing agency.
I was offering the Coconut Bowls as a free gift with purchase for my customers when the feedback became clear; everyone loved the beautiful and sustainable Coconut Bowls. My new business was born. Over the last 5 years we’ve grown the business to have warehouses in three countries, employ a team of five in Byron bay, a further five in the Philippines and dozens of local artisans in Vietnam.
The environment and our impact on it is at the heart of everything you do. Can you tell us a bit more of your work in this area?
At the beginning the sustainability of the product itself was easy to recognise, and the more the business grew the more i felt inspired to take more positive action. My passion for sustainability has grown so much since starting Coconut Bowls, to the point where it’s considered at every level of our business, from sourcing and production to shipping and packaging, and even distribution of a percentage of our proceeds to charitable partners. It has been clear to me that the more good we do, the more our brand grows and I think we’re leading the way in being a socially and environmentally responsible business. I believe this will be a consumer expectation in years to come.
As a business, all of our artisan crafted products are made from natural waste materials, and our extended range is made from natural materials with minimal other inputs. They are packaged in FSC certified recycled paper, and plastic is absent from almost all shipments. To combat the carbon created in ending products to our customers, we invest in carbon capturing projects to offset 100% of our carbon emissions. We are committed to 1% for the planet, where last year we were able to donate over $40,000 to environmental charities - our primary focus for these donations is to combat climate change, through Ocean Conservation and Reforestation (Tree Planting), two core missions that resonate well with our customers.
What makes Coconut Bowls different from other natural/sustainable lines on the market?
Beyond the sustainable nature of the products themselves, we prioritise sustainability throughout our business operations and actively donate to initiatives that protect and conserve our environment. After recently completing our B Corp Assessment - we’ll soon be recognised as one of the few businesses meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, while balancing profit and purpose.
Coconut shells are a renewable resource, with each tree producing up to 100 coconuts a year for a lifetime of 60-80 years. When halved to extract the precious white meat, they’re naturally shaped like a bowl. It's as if mother nature intended us to eat from them.
Why did you choose to move to Byron Bay?
Byron Bay is the epicenter of all things nature and sustainability in Australia, and as a business we feel by being based here we can help lead a movement towards better business practices with the environment in mind. Personally, after living in Melbourne my whole life, I longed for warmer weather and easy access to beautiful beaches - that’s why I now call Byron Bay home.
What is something you recommend travellers see or do when visiting Byron Bay and the region?
I always recommend spending time in nature, we are blessed to be surrounded by beautiful beaches, rainforest walks, hinterland hikes and waterfalls. If there’s one thing in particular, it’s the three sisters walking track around the Broken Head headland to Kings beach for a picnic. It’s really accessible yet not of many people’s radar when visiting.
Image credit: Destination NSW
Which items do you always pack when you travel?
A drink bottle, reusable coffee cup, Coconut Bowl and our Wooden Cutlery Set are always first in my bag. I like to travel light with clothes, my Birkenstocks and a pair of runners and whatever I need to keep cool, clean and feel fresh.
What projects are on the horizon?
As a team we’re excited to actively participate in some upcoming beach cleans and tree planting projects. Product wise, we have some fun creator collaborations in store, while we’ll be releasing a range of sustainable coconut cleaning products soon and a new plant-based cookbook later this year.Coconut Bowls are available in the Crystalbrook Byron resort boutique.