At first, it was just a task for her final year University of Guyana (UG) project. Now, this project has turned into a thriving manufacturing business for Shaunda Yarde, a resilient mother of one. Yarde was at UG when she was tasked with coming up with a Marketing and Communication Plan as her final year project being a Communications Major. She was challenged with introducing a new product or service into the community. While the other students chose to produce television and radio programmes, Yarde baked coconut biscuits. The recipe was given to her by her grandmother. She said, “It is my grandmother’s recipe. She used to bake bread, buns and salara (red cake). This is in honour of her.” Prior to introducing the coconut biscuits as her project, this lover of baking once baked goodies and supplied them to a canteen owned by the family of one of her friends. This was done in her leisure time and her earnings helped to
cover part of her tuition fees. However, having received positive feedback after the project was completed, she was motivated to start her own business. According to Yarde, “The product (coconut biscuits)
was well received by the lecturer. She (the lecturer) liked the idea. I think that was the first time I got direct
feedback from people. Everyone in the room was eating the biscuits and they liked it.”
After graduating UG and a short stint at her friend’s advertising business, Yarde gained enough courage to
step into the world of business. Soon after, she birthed Coconut Grove – the manufacturers and distributors
of Golden Crunch Coconut Biscuits. This brainchild of Yarde aims at producing healthy snacks using
coconut. Another objective of Coconut Grove is to create employment for women in Yarde’s community
of Patentia, West Bank Demerara. The entrepreneur related, “After working with my friend and seeing how she operated her business, I was inspired to start my own. By working with other small businesses, you get to see the challenges they face and how they work to overcome them.” Coconut Grove has been in operation
for the past five years. But turning a spare-time passion into a profitable business was not without its hurdles.
Yarde recounted the difficulties she faced in acquiring certain documents because of her desire to operate the
business legally. She explained that she had to obtain a food handler’s certificate and even get approval from the Central Housing and Planning Authority and the Guyana Fire Service. She also shared that securing a small business loan to finance a new business or to expand existing operations is no easy task. As such, she is calling on
lending institutions to reduce some of its criteria for borrowers. Yarde further explained that getting her product on the shelves of supermarkets was not an easy task; but for her, it was all about perseverance and determination. Although they were initially rejected by a few supermarkets, the coconut biscuits can now be found on sale at the Bounty Supermarkets, Massy Stores and at the Guyana Shop. They are also available at Oasis Express at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and at the Marriott Hotel. Yarde revealed, They (the companies) were very receptive to supporting the local product.” She also has clients that purchase directly from her.
Building her brand
One of the challenges Yarde pointed out is making a home bakery business successful without compromising
on the ingredients used. However, this is also something that she prides herself on. Yarde has built her brand on quality, using only natural ingredients to produce the biscuits. According to her, all of the ingredients are
locally sourced from farmers and other manufactures. For example, she said that she would purchase the coconuts from farmers in her community. “The biscuits are fresh, they have no preservatives,” she added.
Although production is not where she wants it to be at this stage, she noted that it is gradually growing,
with two females from her community gaining part-time employment.
Training, Marketing and Originality
When she is not caring for her son, Yarde is busy marketing her product on various social media platforms.
She confessed that she has “tweaked” her grandmother’s recipe a little to give the biscuits a distinct taste. She also confessed that testing and perfecting the new recipe was not only exciting but rewarding, since
she had the freedom to do it being her own boss.
Learning how to improve branding, market her product, the importance of networking techniques and
strategies to grow a business were skills Yarde learnt during her participation in a programme sponsored by
the USA Embassy in Guyana. That programme, she disclosed, was the 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), under former US President Barack Obama. It is a professional programme that empowers entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders to strengthen capacity and advance their entrepreneurial ideas to contribute to social and economic development in their communities and regions. In expressing gratitude to the US Embassy in Guyana for the exposure, Yarde, who is a founding member of
the YLAI Guyana Alumni, said that after participating in the programme, her attitude towards business “really
improved.” And to date, this has been one of the most fulfilling business experiences for her.
Having invested in commercial baking equipment, Yarde sees her business expanding soon.
She already has a solid business plan in mind for transforming her business into a high-end bakery. Along
with her brother, she is currently researching on other healthy items—besides the traditional sugar cake and
coconut oil—that can be produced from coconuts.
When quizzed on some of her plans for this year, the businesswoman disclosed that she would be seeking market for her product in the mining town of Linden and the ancient county of Berbice. As it is the first point of interaction with customers, she disclosed that she will also be focusing on how to improve her packaging to make it more attractive.
For now, the coconut biscuits are packaged in a plain plastic wrap with a paper label within. In addition, Yarde also plans on producing the coconut biscuits in various shapes, sizes and flavours. First Lady, Sandra Granger, has already lent support to this young entrepreneur.In December 2016, Yarde presented a sample of the coconut biscuits to the First Lady who expressed, “I’m very happy to see how she’s marketing her product…” In return, Yarde has commended the First Lady’s efforts, through the Interweave Solutions (Guyana), in training women how to make their business legal and insurance compliance, amongst other things. Interweave Solutions Incorporated, a non-profit organization in Utah, USA, aims to move people from poverty to prosperity through neighbourhood self-reliance groups. Yarde believes that more initiatives likes this should be implemented because “there needs to be consistent support for small businesses.”
Having been in business for quite some time, she advises new entrepreneurs that in order to overcome the
many setbacks in starting a new business, they need to be resilient and develop the grit to endure all trials.