Building a coconut empire w/ Kimberly Roach
Kimberly is an artsy and eccentric development practitioner whose aim is to create an inclusive, innovative, and prosperous Jamaican society for everyone. I have a dynamic professional background which has seen me working in several different contexts within the development practice. In addition, I am a social entrepreneur who believes that we can also solve developmental issues through social entrepreneurship. On the lighter side, I consider myself a coffee and coconut connoisseur, who also happens to love going on adventures in Jamaica and exploring new things.
What industry are you a part of and would you say it is women inclusive?
The coconut industry—of which I am a part—is a small fraction of Jamaica’s agriculture and agro-processing sector. Generally, Jamaicans tend to view almost everything from a gendered perspective, and agriculture is no different. We largely think of it as a more masculine field of work, but women have always been present. In the last decade especially, more women have been featured prominently in the industry. I think that one step to making the space more women-inclusive is to credit those who have been doing the work and to make it more appealing to the upcoming generation.
What inspired you to start your business?
Growing up in rural Jamaica, I recognized the importance of coconuts in the lives of Jamaicans. Coconuts play a very important role in the island’s culinary, beauty and entertainment sectors. Having recognized its value and how coconuts impact the lives of women in particular, who use them to generate income, I decided to start the Just Coconut Company. I wanted to tap into that market and also, provide rural women with some sort of economic empowerment.
What action, if any, is needed to level the playing field in your industry?
I think levelling the playing field expands far beyond just my industry. One of the ways we can start to do that is by understanding the role of gender in shaping the lives of Jamaicans. Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie notes, “We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful.” This is true for women in Jamaica as well, and for us to level the playing field, it will take a commitment from everyone to transform our society by empowering women, so they too can be successful in any industry.
How do you #BreaktheBias?
Simply, I am my unabashed self. Each day, I walk in purpose and in my power as a woman. I am tenacious despite setbacks and the many boxes society has attempted to place me in. I know other women may find it hard to be themselves in a society that sometimes can be restrictive because of gender norms and other toxic cultures, but I maintain that the highest form of liberation and breaking the bias is being yourself. By doing so, you will see the world for truly what it is and understand what it is you need to be successful. #BreaktheBias
How can one show support for women?
You can show support for women by acknowledging the inequities that exist in our society that impact the lives of women. We often negate and challenge the experiences of women—denying that the world is often a harsher place for us. Moreover, we should really interrogate the experiences of women and protect them with laws and equitable practices throughout our society, like equal pay for equal work.
How can we help forge a gender-equal world?
Definitely, we should recognize the explicit and implicit gender inequalities that currently exist in the world. I think contemporary societies across the world have been doing so by researching and understanding the differences that exist. While change can be very difficult and hard to achieve, I think we should start with education and re-socialization of gender and cultural norms. This will impact the laws we enact and the economic opportunities we afford to women.
What are some gender biases – both conscious and unconscious – that you would say are engrained in Jamaican society & culture?
LOL — I genuinely believe that men carry around this halo effect, even if they aren’t experts in any particular field. Jamaicans will certainly take the advice of a man over a learned, more experienced woman.
What’s your advice to any woman that is interested in tapping into your industry?
Be your authentic self and shoot your shot. Do it. But beyond that, you must be deliberate and plan, plan, plan. Find a good business plan and work on it daily. Talk to other women and build community. Any industry can be daunting, but once you have a plan, resources and a community, then I am sure you can do it.
How easy would you say is it to break into this industry as a woman?
No industry is easy to break into as a woman but in the year 2022, I want women to ignore the barriers and focus on executing their dreams. Finding a community of women who have done it before you and international partners that may aid their pursuit to break into the industry.
To find out more about Just Coconut Company, follow them on Instagram @justcoconutcompany.