Sophia Gartland is one of the original members who put their application into Hope & Main while the schoolhouse was more relic than renovated. Her company Essentially Coconut produces a range of coconut butters, both plain and nut variants like creamy cashew, butter pecan and sweet almond. I have the sweet almond, made with just three ingredients: organic coconut, roasted almonds and honey. The smell alone is delightfully summery, and the flavor is perfectly balanced and not too sweet.
Sophia’s path to Rhode Island seems as random as it is impressive. A Montana native, her only experience here was an internship on the way to her dietician license. As a single mother with the end of her program looming, she decided to uproot, despite having no job to move to and but one friend in town. Just a couple years later and I’m reading “Peace Love Coconuts” on her enticing labels.
As a driven businesswoman and mother, perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect peace, but the move certainly brought the other two: her now husband, and a torrid affair with coconut. Intrigued by some bloggers making fresh coconut butters at home, she began to dabble in her kitchen with a blender and coconut meat. Eventually what she modestly calls “just messing around” crossed that line into what suits call research and development.
For Sophia, Hope & Main has functioned as an accelerator more than an incubator. She had been working in a more traditional shared-use kitchen in North Dartmouth since 2013, was already certified and selling her butters at farmer’s markets. Plenty of businesses have been successful without an incubator and she imagines she would have determinedly plowed through, but Hope & Main meant she didn’t have to do it all alone. She recalls, “when I was using the Grange kitchen, it was just me going up there by myself, doing my thing. It wasn’t a community.”
Sophia has been able to assist and collaborate with newer members like Leah’s Recipe. Like many who make raw vegan food, Leah makes extensive use of coconut and Sophia has helped her with production issues and compared notes. Not a stranger to Insta-giveaways, Essentially Coconut is now joining forces with other Hope & Mainers with related products for giveaways and growing their social media reach by working together.
Essentially Coconut is more focused on wholesale and online orders, and Sophia has driven these through social media, courting the healthy food product queens with samples. In return she is rewarded with all sorts of creative uses for her coconut butters and more #drizzle pics than a winter vacation to Scotland. I seem to be caught in a rut of spooning small curls of it into my mouth under the flimsy pretense of thinking how I’ll bake with it. As another spoonful liquefies on my tongue, I tend to agree with her when she says, “we just drove and moved here, and it has worked out amazingly.”