We see the coconut craze everywhere, from high end beauty counters to local grocery store aisles. But there is a great disparity with how nourished we feel soaking up any form of coconut goodness via health, food and beauty, and with the coconut farmers that provide us with this magical fruit. The Philippines is one of the world’s top producers of coconuts, yet 60% of coconut farmers live below the poverty line. Upon learning this, Sara Beatriz Meredith cultivated her beauty obsession with coconut oil and created Kaya Essentials — a coconut oil-based skin essentials line that donates a meal with every purchase.

Photo by Sara Beatriz Meredith

The National Statistical Coordination Board of the Philippines reported that coconut farmers earn an average daily wage of just under $4. With one third of the country’s farmland dedicated to coconut farming, the need to implement better business practices is necessary. Kaya Essentials sources their coconut oil from a fair-trade farm, located in Davao, part of the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Sourcing from this farm means supporting better wages for farmers and promoting sustainable organic farming practices to break the cycle of poverty. Fair-trade is an international standard that ensures fair wages and sustainable farming practices. Fair wages are important because smaller farms are ill-affected by market fluctuations and then have to sell their crop for less. In exceedingly tough times, they may get bought out by bigger international companies who only pay minimum wage. The cycle of poverty continues and this disparity is what frustrates Sara most. After living in London and Los Angeles, she witnessed how valuable coconut oil is to consumers and what consumers pay is not going back directly to the source: the coconut farmers.

Sara wants fair-trade coconut oil to lead the market, so it must be the best coconut oil out there. Kaya Essentials uses cold centrifuged organic virgin coconut oil. It’s hard to keep up with all the different types of coconut oil so here’s a quick low-down:

  • organic: coconut tree is grown on organic manure with no synthetic fertilizers
  • virgin: comes from fresh coconut meat (not dried coconuts) and is unrefined
  • centrifuged: a more timely and expensive process where it goes from tree to oil within 48 hours maintaining its freshness and nutrient quality

The quality and value-driven mission of Sara’s work doesn’t stop with the products. With every purchase, Kaya Essentials donates a meal to a Filipino child between the ages of 5 and 11 attending public school. The UN reports that approximately 16 million Filipino children are undernourished and the Philippines ranks 9th among countries with the highest number of stunted child growth. Kaya Essentials donates these meals through a grassroots feeding program, Kusina ng Kalinga, which translates to Kitchen of Care under the Gawad Kalinga foundation. After working with this Filipino non-governmental organization, Sara knew creating a social impact would be a core value in making her coconut dreams come true. She wanted Kaya’s customers to feel good about their purchases and believes every person has the ability to care about problems of poverty. Serving a social good is integral to her business model, not just an afterthought.

Although Sara’s never lived in the Philippines, her mother instilled Filipino values in her growing up. During summer visits to the motherland, the spirit of bayanihan (the spirit of unity towards a goal) stuck with her and she leads Kaya Essentials with these values in mind. She admires the KNK kitchen for this reason — the community works together to feed the children. They procure ingredients from local farmers and the mothers of the community prepare the meals every morning. It is this bayanihan spirit that created Kaya Essential’s core mission:

“Handmade with care to give care.”

Photo by Sara Beatriz Meredith

Sara literally handcrafts the products in her kitchen, usually in the late hours of the night when she can find peace and quiet. Her journey began in January 2017 with the balm formula. She prioritized keeping the formula simple because she wanted people to really understand the ingredients. After being frustrated with long lists of unpronounceable ingredients present in commercial skincare products, she found it difficult to keep up with what was safe or not. The balm was her first lesson in understanding how ingredients work together and the ratios in which to use them. In short, her balm formula contains beeswax, mango butter and of course, coconut oil. Sara’s got some delicious creations in the works along with new products coming soon. You can find Kaya Essentials lip balm in the following flavors: calamansi, honey and coconut, lavender, and grapefruit.

Photo by BlushCon 2018

This month Kubo is exploring the theme of Pilipin@ representation. No matter what industry you’re in, we’re here to share the stories of Pilipin@ millennials because our voices matter.

Shop Kaya Essentials 24/7 here. Follow Kaya Essentials on Instagram: @kayaessentials.

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