inspire: chamila wickramasinghe
Our April "inspire" segment brings to you the amazing Chamila Wickramasinghe, Co-Founder of Ceylon Coconut Company. We were won over by her amazing personality - filled with grace & elegance and were bowled away by her grit & tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit! Read on for a truly inspiring chat...
1. Let's talk Coconuts! Ceylon Coconut Company is one of the top selling brand in the space - how did you get started?
Coming from 10 years in financial services, followed by a small tryst in wellness (through spa management), going straight into motherhood was a bit of a shock to my system. I started off as a rather overwhelmed "I don't have time to brush my hair"type of mother. Though I loved the little critters, I felt I needed a challenge. My husband's family owns one of the largest single coconut estates in Kurunegala, and he encouraged me to try and "do something" with it.
So as the seed of "coconut" was planted, I got 2 of my close friends together & started brainstorming ideas. As I was pregnant with baby number 3 at the time it was a slow evolution into a tangible business model, but the time we spent researching and speaking to experts in the field has proven to be immensely valuable.
2. We love the Ceylon Coconut Company product range! In an increasingly competitive market, how do you keep differentiating your brand from the rest?
Very early on we realised that a traditional product range is not the way to compete with our global competitors. So whilst we initially started with the basic coconut products to learn the ropes and get a feel for the industry, our ultimate aim was to continuously come up with value added products.
So now, going on year 4, we have ventured into the creative side of coconut. From yoghurts, to seasoning sauces, to condiments, body products, the list is endless, and we have lots more ideas up our sleeve. Sri Lanka is a lovely community to validate our value added products ideas. Our working team consists of health conscious foodies, we are all on the same wave length so coming up with new products has been fun and rewarding.
3. Between being a mum of three and being a successful business owner, how do you balance your time?
Definitely a juggling act! But this is the ideal type of work for me since I can never NOT be a hands on mum. I am too hands on! My office is right next door to my house, and though the others work out of the office, I actually work from home. It provides the perfect flexibility.
This means I may be typing out an e-mail to a client or doing a product costing with a child on my lap, another doing homework on the side and another showing me a drawing! Sounds chaotic and it often is, but it also works!
My colleagues are very understanding. Also, thanks to mobile access to email, WhatsApp and Dropbox, I can be anywhere and yet be involved with decision making, at all times of the day.
4. How do you incorporate your ideals of "wellness" into the Ceylon Coconut product range?
After Kid #2 I was feeling rather frumpy and wanted to get out of the rut! I stumbled across a book called Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis sometime in mid 2014, a few months before starting up Ceylon Coconut. Soon after which I slowly started giving up wheat and grains (and have stuck to it since) all amidst the disbelief of my family (who have since been converted!).
Then I came across books by Maria Emmerich and Gary Taubes. Reading all this sent light bulbs off in my head. Sugar was soon ditched. And hooray... good fat was not bad for you!!! All this happened while we were having discussions about the classic fatty villain of yesteryear Coconut Oil!
Everything seemed to fall into place. My beliefs in what was healthy had changed and I was just promoting a food that fit so snugly into what I believed in.
My work colleagues share my views on health and nutrition as well, chances are very influenced (hopefully inspired and not bullied) by me. Given that perfect scenario, when we discuss products we always consider the health aspect, because what we make is what we would want to be nourishing for ourselves as well! That is how we can keep things real and genuine.
5. We love having you at Barressential, what keeps you coming back for more?
I loved the Barre classes right from the start. I had no clue what to expect but it sounded interesting. It really was a tough start off given my low level of fitness at the time. I liked the slower pace and the focus on every little muscle that I have, and that each of those muscles were properly stretched and relaxed after the BURN.
Once I got more confident and fitter I managed to pluck up the courage for Barrebox and BarreHIIT which I now like to do once a week to get a burst of cardio.
6. What is your favourite Pilates exercise?
I love how Pilates has strengthened my core! If I had to choose I would say my favourite is the roll up and roll down, because I can feel the tightening of all my stomach muscles as I do it.
7. Finally, what advice do you have to mums who also want to be entrepreneurs?
Being a mum is hard work and a huge responsibility. Be kind to yourself, give yourself time to get the hang of it, and do not compare yourself to others! If you do have a passion to enterprise, do it! Especially so you have something that sparks you up, and keeps your mind alert. It is important that your family supports you through your venture, so that it is easier for you.
Most importantly, never beat yourself up, just enjoy the ride.
Purchase their delicious & wholesome product range at:
Want to try out Chamila's fitness routine? Book a class with us here