EarthCoco, Inc., an organic coconut company founded by Santa Monica residents Patrick Doles and Joel Polis, is using sales to rebuild Samar, an island within the central Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.
Doles, who was living on the island in 2013, was already operating a local charity to support school children and after seeing first hand the devastation left after the storm, he gathered donations to rebuild 20 houses in the village, each for under $300. That success drove him to expand his philanthropic work and the coconut company was founded to help fund more donations.
Four years ago, Doles traveled to the Philippines to surf. While on the island he fell in love and married a Samar resident. He built a small retreat and created “Tools for Schools,” an organization that provided school supplies to 200 elementary students in Doles’ village of Omawage. Following the typhoon, Doles shifted his efforts to promoting a long term, renewal and vocational skills project.
With his friend Polis they founded EarthCoco and three years ago, they launched its first product — raw, organic coconut sugar. Since then, they have introduced coconut water, cream and meat. Doles said that part of the reason he started the company was to support the farmers and the environment where the coconuts grow.
“We want to sell the coconut as a whole — zero waste, all sustainability,” Doles said. “[The coconut tree] is called the tree of life around the world.”
After coconuts are tapped, filtered and flash frozen from small farms in the Philippines, the products are shipped to 61 health food stores from San Diego to Ventura, said Doles. EarthCoco is one of three companies producing raw coconut water. The water is sold frozen and unpasteurized, lasting a few days after thawing. Doles said the process provides a purity of flavor and additional nutritional value.
In the growing coconut industry, EarthCoco values the integrity of maintaining a business that cares about its employees and natural recourses, said Doles. He plans on creating a way for consumers to track improvements made in Samar with the proceeds from EarthCoco products. EarthCoco filed a nonprofit application to establish a foundation and are currently waiting for the 501C3 designation. The company will use its profits to support the foundation.
“To me, that’s what’s missing in this gigantic industry — really making the positive effect on the other side of the world,” Doles said.
EarthCoco raised about $1,800 after the typhoon but spent $8,000 on building, so it has not yet turned a profit. Doles said he believes the company can be very successful in a crowded market place due to the high quality of his products but also due to an increasing trend of aware consumers who want their retail purchases to do more than just buy stuff.
“Coconut is one of the fastest growing segments in the health and wellness industry,” Doles said. “There’s a conscious consumerism alive and well right now, so these people at health food stores want to know where [their] consumer dollar is going. They buy it because it’s really good and they buy it because they’ve heard what we’re doing.”
Doles said the project is still growing in scope. The company plans to build an outreach center in Samar to offer supplies to island residents. He hopes the business becomes successful enough to fund art programs in schools more locally in the United States and that customers feel a sense of serenity from their purchases.
“We’re not selling you a product,” Doles said. “We’re selling you a state of mind and well being. We want you to have an experience, less a pitch of selling you a product.”