Rhanda Williams admits that when she first started selling her homemade coconut milk based alcoholic drink in April 2021, she did not really have a plan.
Rhanda, along with her stepsister Monique, enjoyed making and consuming the drink (which is from an old family recipe) but had never really considered putting a name and a label on it until it became popular with friends during the pandemic.
Two years later, ‘Momo’s Coco Loco’, is now available in several shops on the island and Rhanda has added even more variations on the original beverage.
Yello chatted with Rhanda about her evolving small business.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am a persevering and passionate person who never gives up.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
When I was younger, I lived with my aunt in Hinds Hill, Cave Hill and then with my parents in Brittons Hill. Those are the two main places I grew up.
I went to Eden Lodge Primary School and then onto Queen’s College. After that I went to UWI (University of the West Indies) and further to that I did a master’s at Durham University.
I was a tomboy, so I used to do karate and play football. I loved to hang out with my friends at a place called ‘Fat Andy’s’ which we went to quite often to get food.
What were your initial career plans?
Initially I wanted to be a doctor and I actually did a year of medical school in Trinidad, but I realised that it was not for me.
Before and after med school I was at Pine Hill Dairy and then I got into pharmaceutical sales which I did until January this year. Now, I am still in sales but in a completely different industry.
What is the origin story for your small business ‘Momo’s Coco Loco’?
I started ‘Momo’s Coco Loco’ during COVID. It was a family recipe and something that my stepsister and I would make and drink quite often.
Once the pandemic started and we weren’t allowed to buy alcohol, we used up what was there and just made it at home. I shared it with my friends who really liked it and everyone kind of decided for me that I should sell it.
I did some samples and made a label and that’s when it really started. There was no big business plan, but I guess because I am in sales and entrepreneurial, I was able to make it into something. It worked out really well.
Tell us more about the story behind the Momo’s Coco Loco original recipe.
The original recipe is a bit of a family secret. If you look on the bottle, you’ll see that it’s made of coconut milk, coconut cream, and brown rum, and that’s what I tell people is in it along with a few spices.
The other versions, like the primo, I formulated on my own with overproof rum and stout. We also have dairy-free, strawberry, coffee and we did chocolate for Christmas, so all of those were recipes I created on my own.
How do you come up with a new flavour?
I usually think about something that will go with our base which is coconut milk. Everything must integrate well with that ingredient. I remember strawberry was quite difficult to produce because we had to balance the flavour profile and the thickness, so that involved a lot of testing.
What is the reasoning behind the brand’s name?
The name was kind of a joke and I’ll admit that it did not have the heaviest thought process behind it.
The drink is a coconut rum cream so that’s where Coco comes in. My stepsister is called Monique, so I dubbed it Momo’s, then I added Loco at the end because it rhymed. I just needed a name for the label but then I found that most people liked it, so we stuck with it.
What was your biggest challenge when you first started the business?
As an entrepreneur you have several challenges. One of the biggest one’s for me is consistency in terms of the supply of raw materials. Making one batch is different to making 20 batches that will go out to the supermarket, so you need so much more all at once.
That’s also been an issue when it comes to the bottles. Right now, we use a 12-ounce bottle that I would love to change but whenever I’m looking for the shape that I want in that size, I can’t find it, so we just have to use what we have.
Sometimes distributors also take a long time to pay you which can be a bit difficult, and I am lucky because I have a lot of support from family but as a new entrepreneur not being paid, or chasing payment, raises quite a few issues.
What makes Momo’s Coco Loco different to similar drinks on the market?
Our drink is coconut milk based and a lot of people are receptive to that. We thicken it with coconut cream and there is some dairy in it but that is just a small part. For us, everything starts with the coconut milk. So, the first notes of flavour are the coconut, then you’ll get the hit from the rum, and then you’ll get the ending notes of cinnamon and nutmeg and the other spices.
Where can we find Momo’s Coco Loco on the island?
It is available at Massy Supermarkets as well as on the ‘Nudge’ stall in collaboration with Massy at Sunset Crest and Warrens. You can also find it at Trimart and Channell Supermarkets, Popular in Kendall Hill, Clifton Market on the south coast and Jordans, Fitz Village. It can also be bought directly from me.
How do you plan to grow the business over the next 12-18 months?
Nudge offers grant funding, and we will be using that for some rebranding. All the branding that exists up to now, minus the logos, I did myself but now I’d like to make things a bit more structured.
In the summer we’ll be launching our coco pops product. We are also hoping to get involved in some garden parties and party cruises. In fact, on 14 May we sponsored our first cruise along with another brand.
So, we have quite a few things in the pipeline, some of which are confirmed and some we are still working on.
Tell us more about the new coco pops product.
I’m always thinking about what I can do differently and the different ways our customers would like to consume the product so that’s where the idea came from. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put the product on a stick due to the amount of alcohol content, so we are selling it in a popsicle bag.
I tested it out at AgroFest in February and the response was overwhelming; what I planned to sell over three days actually sold out in one day! That face-to-face time with our customers at AgroFest was also invaluable.
What advice do you have for other small business owners?
No man is an island, and you cannot do it all yourself, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help. When I first started, people would offer to help me, but I would never ask and I ended up being overworked, tired, and getting sick.
For anyone thinking about becoming an entrepreneur I would say just do it. I never came into this with a plan, and it worked out. So just get started because sometimes that’s all you need to show you which way you should be going.
In terms of if you’re balancing a job and a small business, be honest with your employer because either they’ll like it, or they won’t. For me, being in sales, an entrepreneurial spirit is always welcome, and I try to balance it, so my jobs don’t overlap.
What do you love the most about Barbados?
The beaches! Whenever I fly home, I love looking at that pristine white sand.
In general, I love Brownes Beach because it has a nice energy and there’s always something to do on that stretch. It’s calm, beautiful, and clean.
What is your philosophy/approach in life?
Just do it! Sales is very dynamic and changes every day and if you sit and ponder for too long, you may miss an opportunity. That’s why I am such a doer and can think on my feet. If there’s a problem, find a solution, and find it quickly.
If you could go back and offer some advice to your younger self, what would you say?
I would tell myself not to expend so much energy on things that you do not control.