The Coconut Lane story
2021 marked Coconut Lane’s 6th Birthday - wahoo! We interviewed our founders, Jess and Charlie, to give you the story behind the growth of Coconut Lane over the past 6 years.
What was the inspiration behind founding Coconut Lane?
As best friends since year 7, we always wanted to have a business together and making that dream come true was our inspiration. When we started out, the focus wasn't so much about what we were selling or where we wanted to be, it was about what the brand represented - having a job which didn't ever feel like work because you woke up everyday and got to create and innovate with your best friend. As two young women ourselves, we wanted to inspire and motivate young girls to follow their dreams. Creating a platform on socials which would help spread positivity and encourage this was our ultimate goal!
What were the first products sold on Coconut Lane's site?
Believe it or not, when we started Coconut Lane we started out with wall art and greeting cards which we designed and printed on Charlie's printer at home. We trialled a few phone cases which then sold so well so we began to focus on the tech side of things.
Did you have a business strategy/ plan for how you wanted Coconut Lane to grow?
The honest, but the slightly crazy answer is no. Coconut Lane was founded with no investment or business plan and we had little experience in business. We put £1000 each of our savings into the business account to cover stock and initial expenses and we grew organically (albeit very slowly the first few years). We started with no strategy or plan, but as we've grown the last few years, we have more responsibilities so have naturally developed more of a strategy so we can forecast with our marketing, finances and stock.
We have our own vision and plan for the brand long term and expanding globally is something we are really excited to do next year. We have considered investment a few times to help us scale up faster, but at the moment we love waking up everyday and having full autonomy over the brand, making decisions which are not only best for Coconut Lane, but for our own lives too and what makes us happy.
What was your biggest challenge in the first year?
Building a customer base and getting people to hear about Coconut Lane. When we started out, Facebook and Instagram marketing had only recently taken off and most companies were still primarily using offline marketing which we had no experience in. When you start a brand which no one has heard of before, establishing a customer base and building trust with those customers is the hardest challenge.
What was your biggest achievement in the first two years of Coconut Lane?
After over a year of packaging up orders in Charlie's spare room, we got to Christmas 2016 where we were spending all day packaging and driving to Royal Mail to drop the parcels off. Whilst we felt like Santa delivering sacks of presents (we had a lot of fun), we knew it wasn't sustainable so we found a 3rd party fulfilment house. We moved to them just under the 2 year mark which was a huge achievement for us as it meant we were growing and we were on the right path. It was the best move we ever made because it allowed us to free up our time to do bigger things and further grow the business.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you did differently in the first year?
Having more confidence! Starting a business (especially with no plan) is scary, but looking back we sometimes doubted ourselves too much. There will always be people who say "shouldn't you get more experience first?" but running a business is logical and you just learn as you go along. Things which were completely alien to us at the time (VAT returns, End of year accounts, Facebook Ads, Book-keeping) are all skills anyone can learn. You don't need to go to school or uni to run a business - you just need to have passion, confidence and determination and the rest will come.
What was the biggest change for Coconut Lane in years 3 and 4?
We recruited our first employee and got an office! These were both huge changes for us as a company and as Founders as it changed our day to day and began to feel like a proper business. We used to work out and about in cafes or from our bedrooms, so going into our own office and actually having a Coconut Lane team was such a big change, but super exciting!
How did you find hiring someone for the first time?
Making the decision to hire someone was super exciting but also scary. Having an employee comes with new responsibilities and definitely changes the day to day running of the company. Although it was a big change, it was the best move we ever made as our first employee Phoebe helped free up our time to grow the business, which was key to where we are today.
What was the biggest challenge faced?
As we really began to scale during this time, strategy and decision making was definitely one of our biggest challenges. Not having anyone more senior to point us in the right direction or advise us from a business point of view was tricky at times - we had to make all our own decisions with little experience.
What was the biggest development/change for Coconut Lane over the past two years?
One of our biggest moves yet was taking the plunge and getting our very own warehouse! This has been our biggest risk to date, but definitely one worth taking. We now have our office above our warehouse which works so well as we are able to maintain a hands-on approach with the stock and packaging. Launching a sister brand, Cocopup was also a huge development for Coconut Lane - but such an exciting one!!
How did the pandemic impact Coconut Lane?
The pandemic was a difficult time as everything was so uncertain. Although we had just moved offices, we had to turn to working from home whilst also managing an increase in orders and needing more staff. Recruiting new employees was definitely a challenge during a pandemic, but we were lucky enough to know some people who needed work and it was a great feeling to employ our friends and family during such a difficult time.
What was the inspiration behind Coconut Lane's sister brand, Cocopup?
Our Founder Jess got a lockdown puppy (little Ralph the Cavachon) during the Pandemic. We were discussing product development in the office one day whilst Ralph was running around with a Coconut Lane scrunchie in his mouth... and the rest is history. We thought how perfect it would be to extend our Coconut Lane prints to pup accessories! So little Ralphie was the full inspo behind Cocopup.
What is your proudest achievement over the past two years?
That's such a hard one as we have had so many proud moments! Outgrowing our first warehouse within a year and moving next door to a larger unit has to be up there as a proudest moment. It was probably our biggest risk to date and seeing all our stock filling up our warehouse aisles is such a surreal but amazing feeling for us.
We are also so proud of our Cocopup Dog Walking Bag which we designed and created from scratch. We wanted to create an all-encompassing dog walking solution which combined a poop bag holder and treat pouch, whilst maintaining a stylish look. We were overwhelmed by the response when we launched and sold out in under a week!
What are your future aspirations for Coconut Lane?
We have so many plans for the future including exciting new product development and expanding internationally - we know we have so many fans all over the world, we're making it our mission to make it easier for them to buy on both Coconut Lane and Cocopup! We're also looking to work closely on more collaborations with both other brands and artists - we love supporting other businesses.