In the kitchen: Rya Letham goes nuts 

Entrepreneur decides to spread her love of coconuts

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There's just something about the taste and smell of coconut that transports you to an exotic place, even if it is only momentarily.

For that split second you can almost feel the sun beating down on your skin, the waves lapping at your feet, the sand slipping through your toes, spirits lifted.

That's just one of the perks that comes from dipping your spoon into a jar of coconut butter and savouring the taste sensation.

But longtime local and part-time yoga instructor Rya Letham also found that coconut butter satisfied her after-dinner sweet cravings and was a digestive aid.

The problem was that it was difficult to find in the stores.

So, she decided to make her own — to spread on toast, put in smoothies or, her preferred choice, just straight off the spoon.

"My favourite way is just straight out of the jar," said Letham from her home in Pemberton where her business, Living Light Coconut Tree, began just five short months ago.

In that whirlwind time, she has gone from the dream to the reality of seeing her jars on grocery shelves.

It all began in January.

Once she decided to open the business, a friend suggested the online funding platform, www.indiegogo.com.

Letham's goal was to raise $3,200, enough money to buy a high quality food processor/blender and pay for the first lab test on a jar of the flavour 'Original Abundance,' that would allow her to sell the product in grocery stores. She raised more than $4,100.

"It's like starting your business on a foundation of success and celebration," she said, of the daily affirmation of someone else believing in her concept with a little seed funding.

And so it began.

But starting a business from scratch, as Letham quickly learned, wasn't just about getting into the kitchen and making batches of coconut butter. There was a website to design, which she did herself, with a little help from friends.

There was a logo to dream up and labels to create, business cards to make up. She hired a friend to design the logo and did the rest herself.

There was packaging to research to ensure that it was biodegradable and environmentally friendly where possible.

And the organic ingredients had to be ethically sourced. Letham contacted her coconut distributor and learned that her organic coconuts come from Sri Lanka and she learned some basic information about the farm that they come from.

"It's all about conscious co-creation," she said.

And then she had to get her product to market — beNatural in Pemberton, Olives Community Market, Organic Leigh's Farm Market in Whistler and on her website www.livinglightcoconuttree.ca.

The first jars were sold in March. Letham is already expanding out of her home kitchen to a commercial kitchen once a week to meet the demand she hopes to see at the local farmer's markets this summer.

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