I haven’t written in over a month about what we’re actually doing here. You know, work – the reason we’re here. Overall, everything is coming together and we’ve made a lot of progress since arriving.
Here we go!
Our goal, and the whole reason we’re here is to help three producers of coconut products. More specifically, we are helping them with coconut cheese. We have been learning from them, helping them, and doing research on our time. We aren’t here to teach them anything; we are here to lend them our skills that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to on the island.
And regardless, they’ve taught us more than we could ever teach them.
The women we work with make coconut cheese in their kitchens, and it takes them several hours to make one batch. Everything is done by hand, from the grating of the coconut to the squeezing of the milk. We saw that there are more efficient ways to do this.
We broke down their overall process into several steps so that we could attack one at a time. We then researched different machines and tools they could use, and tested what we could along the way. It took a while to solve each step because importing machines isn’t a cheap ordeal. Explaining how they work also isn’t an easy feat.
Once we had chosen the separate machines, we designed an efficient process and gave our presentation to them. We showed them the machines and explained how it all works. We made it known that this process will allow them to make three times their normal output in the same amount of time. Their emotions were the only thanks that we needed.
To get the funding, we presented this to the local bank and they are going above-and-beyond to help the project.
They package the treats in small plastic bags by twisting them up and selling them on the street. That works small-scale, but they want to look past the current “just the street” mentality. They want to expand their small businesses.
We met with different packaging companies, did research online, and learned a lot about that industry. Over time, the producers will start packaging their coconut cheese in boxes with a good design – just like you would see in the supermarket at home.
For now, they are designing their own logos and working with a local printing company to get temporary packaging. Better yet, they’ll have their phone number and email on it so when a tourist buys it they can order more from home. It’s a great start.
July 31st is when our work here comes to an end, followed by a week when Dayton’s president comes in to visit. It’s been a rewarding adventure, and this day will make it all worthwhile.
We have been meeting with the main shopping center here to plan a competition for the producers. The original idea behind it was to motivate them to make their product as best as it can be. They’ve been taking it seriously.
The competition will be 50% “people’s choice” judging (where shoppers test them) and 50% normal judging. The criteria ranges from texture to overall taste. There are cash prizes and a radio station will be broadcasting live. Plenty of people should show up and it will run for an hour or two.
It will be a lot of fun, and they are all looking forward to it. The last thing we have to do is design advertisements and talk more to the judges. After that, it’s all good to go.
A cool part of this has been promoting it. We’ve been on three different radio stations and three different TV stations talking about what we’re doing here and the competition. It’s been interesting hearing what people’s opinions are on the air. We’ve noticed that nobody understands what’s we’re doing no matter how clear we are in our description.
It’s all good though, this challenging adventure has taught me more than I could have ever wished for.