Amina Rabiu Bako, 21, from Kano State is the founder/CEO of MILK COCOMATE. She is an innovative entrepreneur who uses coconut shells to produce stylish interior decoration sets. She is a 300L student at Bayero University Kano.
Tell us about your business
The name of my business is Milk Cocomate. It’s a mixture of coconut and milk, packaged in different sizes. At the initial stage, I used to throw away the coconut shells because I used only the coconut to make the Milk Cocomate, but later I began to think outside the box and I came to realize that instead of throwing away those shells I can create something innovative and unique.
So I began to produce flower bases, candle bowls, purses, bowls and other interior decoration items. I use tools such as hacksaw, file, drilling machine, sand paper among others. My business is completely creative and innovative.
How did you start this business?
My love for coconut is the driving force. I started with the locally made coconut known as ‘Kwakumeti’ in Hausa, but eventually; I realized that combining the coconut with milk will add value to the business. The innovation was successful as I received positive responses from my customers.
Based on that positive feedback and as the business keeps improving with lots of profit, I made an effort to secure the Corporate Affairs Commission’s (CAC) registration, and later the product was branded as Milk Cocomate.
What motivated you to establish this business?
I have a great concern for the environment, and having learnt that most of the people burn the coconut shell, thereby obviously polluting the environment, I felt it is necessary to think of ways in which these coconut shells could be transformed into something creative, unique and innovative. Eventually I conceived and developed the idea of producing stylish interior decoration sets with the shells.
How did you get the idea for this innovation?
The inspiration came from Mr Idris Dangana of DI-HUB Kano when I presented him with the coconut product. He asked me if I was doing anything with the coconut shell. When I told him I was putting it into trash, he advised that I think of ways of processing it into something productive, innovative and unique.
From that moment, I embarked upon rigorous research. I watched a lot of videos, read a lot of materials and finally I discovered that I could produce amazing things like coconut shell bowls, pen stands, spoons, purses and other stylish interior decoration sets.
Where do you think this business will take you to?
To a greater height! I’m very optimistic because I’ve already pictured myself in the next few years as a successful entrepreneur who has a company, employees with the necessary processing machines that will make the production of both Milk Cocomate and the Coconut Shell decorative items easy.
I see the business taking me to a level where I can change the impression of people in society to begin to appreciate the value of innovation and how those innovations can provide job opportunities in society.
What are the challenges you encounter?
My major challenges are the lack of sophisticated equipment that will make the processes easier. All the tools I have been using are manually based tools and therefore they do not give me the accurate shapes I need. And because they are manual, the amount of time and energy spent is too much.
Do you feel comfortable doing this business?
Of course, I feel very comfortable because I am interested in the business and I have a passion for it. In fact, it is a source of happiness and peace of mind to me because I am doing what I love to do. The vibes and feelings I get in this business are just extraordinary and incredible.
It makes me feel as if I am walking in the cloud. From this business, my knowledge increased; my exposure and understanding of the real world of innovation opened. Above all, I’m exposed to the world of coconuts.
How do you cope with school and business?
I believe time management makes everything possible. I reconcile the two by programming my timing and ensuring that I stick to the time plans. I attend school when it’s time for it, and I attend to my business also. My business has never affected my academic studies negatively. Everything has its allocated time, although sometimes it may be too stressful but I am able to manage the time.
What advice do you have for those interested in this kind of business?
Having a focus is the most important thing. Also, I urge them to be patient, to be hard-working, and always research, practice and never give up until they attain their full potential.