A Raglan family of three were packing their bags this week after an unexpected invitation to play a support role to the glittering Emmy Awards in Los Angeles mid-month. But rather than being in line for any small-screen honours themselves, they’ll be there promoting a line of their own.
Called Cocolove, it’s a range of products – of both skincare and edible treats – created from raw coconut that the Manu Bay-based McCullough family imports from Fiji. They’re busy now getting 150 promotional gift baskets ready for display at a luxury gifting event called Honoring the Emmys, which courts celebrities in LA for the prestigious American television industry awards.
A “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” is how 26-year-old Morgan LaShelle McCullough described the upcoming trip last week from her stepmum’s tastefully renovated bach, which has expansive coastal views beyond an enticing infinity pool.
Morgan told the Chronicle she’s never been to LA before and to be able to take her skincare range of body butters, scrubs and lip balms to the States only a few months after launching Cocolove Organics online is “exciting” to say the least.
The invitation to show her products at the Emmys event came completely out of the blue, she said, about seven weeks ago via an email from a company in LA called Celebrity Connected. “It was through the promotional work I do on Facebook.”
At first suspicious however, Morgan checked the company out to make sure it was legitimate – then decided to take the opportunity and “promote all our products”.
To date she’s had 1500-odd ‘likes’ and 10 to 15 weekly orders through her Cocolove Organics’ Facebook page, while stepmum Michelle – who set up the original Cocolove page – has recently scored a coup with wee bags of raw coconut candy now on sale locally at The Herbal Dispensary downtown.
“I’m the beauty part (of the company),” Morgan explains of her skincare range which relies heavily on virgin coconut oil. Meantime Michelle’s been busy the past few years inventing healthy Cocolove treats – all dairy and gluten-free – like milkshakes, yoghurt, granola and candy from frozen or dehydrated coconut “meat”, milk and water.
“Coconut is my favourite food and drink on the planet,” Michelle enthuses. Unsurprisingly it’s been the mainstay of her diet while living until recently in Hawaii, where the fruit grows abundantly.
“We’ve (all) been living on coconuts for years,” adds husband John who meantime has been to-ing and fro-ing between New Zealand and Fiji where he’s involved in the logging industry. But more recently it’s his Island Coconut Oil company that’s taken off, and from which Michelle’s Cocolove treats and now Morgan’s Cocolove Organics have been born.
John believes the Emmys honouring event will be “an excellent marketing opportunity” and knows of one other company – FIJI Water – that got started the same way.
Cocolove is a family business, he insists, part owned by “our Fijian family” and supporting isolated outer island communities. Making and marketing coconut products is both sustainable and commercially viable, he points out, although dependant on village generators and shipping which is less than reliable.
Morgan says her father’s always brought “copious” amounts of coconut oil home for Christmas and she’s “tinkered” with ways of using it. “Let’s just say I haven’t had to buy soaps for a while,” she laughs.
But it was only on moving to Raglan from Nelson this year that the enterprising single mum really thought about the original Cocolove brand Michelle had started, and began researching the product herself.
She wanted to capitalise on the oil’s medicinal and health qualities by including it in her beauty plan. “And I wanted it to be affordable for people like me.”
Cocolove soaps are all 100 percent coconut oil mixed with organic ingredients like dried mandarin peel – good for acne – ginger and vanilla bean. A sugar scrub is made of whipped coconut oil, shea butter and coconut sugar.
One of the body butters uses hemp seed and avocado; another adds apricot kernels. There’s a bentonite clay face mask and a lip balm using beeswax.
The family’s on task for the big trip ahead, but just before they head off to LA there’s Sunday week’s Creative Market in Stewart Street to look forward to. “We’ll come with our truck, our beauty products and some food,” says Michelle, who’s booked the Old School’s kitchen from which to prepare her coconut treats.