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“Oil take three!” Cardiff University graduate seeks to expand coconut oil business

By Toby Holloway

A Cardiff University graduate and his business partner are exploring opportunities to expand their business – a non-profit organisation that aims to export coconut oil produced on a remote Fijian island.

Callum Drummond, 23, graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in psychology last summer, and along with business partner and friend Ellis Williams, also 23, plans to invest the profits from coconut oil sales back into education and health care on Fijian island, Batiki.

With a population of only 300 people and no airport or roads, Batiki residents are relatively poor and rely on subsistence farming and fishing for income. Furthermore, the island has only four teachers and on nurse, and Drummond and Williams’ business, Bula Batiki Coconut Oil aims to support these services.

The young entrepreneurs received a grant of £2,000 last year after winning Cardiff University’s Sparks Enterprise Award, which, according to the Cardiff University website, is “an annual enterprise competition designed to help our most innovative and entrepreneurial students and graduates develop inspiring ideas with real potential.”

Drummond and Williams initially visited the island of Batiki as part of a volunteering trip with charity Think Pacific, which focussed on teaching in the sole primary school on Batiki as well as coaching sport.

After their first visit, the friends made immediate plans to return, the island and its people having left a lasting impression on them, and did so over Christmas 2014.

Speaking to Wales online, Drummond said: “The islanders were amazing. They treated us like family.

“I knew in 2012 that I had to go back and see them again. We returned for Christmas in December 2014, and really experienced the subsistence hardships they face.”

Describing the process by which the idea for their non-profit organisation was born, Drummond said:

“We wanted to find a way of helping the families who had been so kind to us. The family I stayed with asked me ‘do you use coconut oil back in the UK,’ and that was really the ‘lightbulb moment.’

“It’s innovation in a nutshell. We saw that the villagers could produce coconut oil on the island, and we realised coconut oil was becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

“We then started trying to create a business plan to produce pure virgin coconut oil on Batiki, ship it to the UK, jar it, and then reinvest the profits back into the community in order to develop housing, healthcare and education.

“Our primary aim is to establish a sustainable source of income. Producing coconut oil allows the villagers to earn more than double their previous income from selling copra (dried coconut).”

Coconut oil has a number of uses, from cooking to moisturising, and Bula Batiki Coconut Oil has now exported 800 jars to multiple countries, including China, Australia and the US.

The organisation recently funded Batiki’s first ever youth sports tournament – an example of some of the work being done as a result of Bula Batiki Coconut Oil.

Plans to expand the business have taken the form of a Kickstarter project aimed at generating the funds needed for growth.

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