Your grandmother knew what she was talking about. Natural ingredients are the best cure-all and no one champions this better than Rikita Kapadia, founder of Cocovít, a beauty and skincare brand based out of the US. Born to Gujarati parents, Kapadia was raised in America, but had the good fortune of spending her summers here in India. It’s these visits that kept her close to her heritage and to her grandmother who passed down a wealth of beauty secrets to Kapadia’s mother and then ultimately to her.
One of these was the tradition of using coconut oil as a remedy for beautiful skin and hair long, long before all the hype surrounding this miracle oil. It’s what has kept all the women in the family glowing and wrinkle-free through generations. Armed with both this ancient repository of knowledge and personal experience, Kapadia launched her label in 2014, and as its name suggests, at Cocovít, coconuts are king, with all products made of 100% certified organic, virgin coconut oil harvested in a little farm just outside of Chennai. Beyond trend, and with a strong focus on transparent sourcing, the brand is built on a bedrock of both goodwill and unmatched quality. We spoke with Rikita and got the lowdown on her journey, and on this heart-centred brand that’s empowering a small, local community.
Tell us how you became a beauty entrepreneur.
I always knew that I wanted to find a way to give back to India, where my family is originally from. Prior to the launch of Cocovít I spent over 13 years in the corporate world developing global marketing campaigns and leading new business initiatives, but I wanted to bring something from India here to the US and the first thing which came to mind was coconut oil. It has been in our family for generations so it only made sense to start a company around this priceless ingredient.
Tell us about the name Cocovít, and about your inspiration.
Cocovít means the Life of Coconut and it was named by my husband.My mother and grandmother have always been a source of inspiration for me when it comes to both my personal and professional life and Cocovít was inspired both by my Indian heritage and these two women. Both of them are not only true believers in the powers of coconut oil but also in natural beauty products which are formulated with Ayurvedic ingredients. That’s something they have passed down to all the women in our family.
You probably had an early start with adding coconuts to your routine?
Definitely. My mother applied coconut oil on my skin from the day I was born. I’ve used it all my life. And while the oil I used prior to Cocovít was from India, it was not 100% raw, nor was it as pure or potent as it could be. This is also what lead me to my search to develop a process which would allow the beneficial nutrients and enzymes to stay intact during the extraction process and in the final product. This is how Cocovít was born.We launched the brand in late September 2014, this September will mark our three-year anniversary.
What training is required to develop your products?
All my real training happened while growing up with my mother and grandmother. They taught me about skincare and Ayurvedic formulations from a very young age. That was all the training I needed. I do however believe that my experience in marketing helped me develop the brand from ground up.All our products are handmade and packaged in the US. However a good majority of our ingredients— coconut oil, turmeric, neem powder, besan etc— are all sourced from India, and all our coconut farms are in India.
Tell us about your coconut farms.
Our farms are in Chennai. During a visit to India about three years ago we purchased a farm in a village located in just outside of Chennai. This is the farm from which our coconut oil and other ingredients are sourced.We purchased this farm to ensure we were able to put our proprietary heatless extraction process in place and to provide employment to the local villagers. Cocovít has been able to provide opportunities to the village which did not exist prior to us purchasing the farms. Given the farm’s location in a village, majority of the residents were previously living in poverty. The farm now provides employment to over 150 villagers and allows their children to attend school.
Is Cocovít a sustainable brand?
Being sustainable has always been priority for me therefore creating a line which promoted green living only made sense. All of our ingredients are organic and ethically sourced. Also, we aim to eliminate any waste. For example instead of our coconut shells going to waste, we created an activated coconut charcoal out of the shells which is then used in our Coconut Charcoal Face Mask. We do the same with the coconut water from our coconuts, they are used in our Coconut Water Hydro-Mist.
Why do you think coconut oil is suddenly so much in the spotlight?
Oh, for a number of reasons. The coconut is nature’s most lasting gift to beauty. Potent enzymes and nutrients contained within this miracle fruit have been used for centuries to heal and nourish skin and hair. Inherently antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial, coconut oil is a multipurpose beauty solution. Plus coconut oil also offers lauric acid which is only found naturally in breast milk. Lauric acid is known for its moisturizing abilities, and is also recognized as an acne-fighter thanks to its antimicrobial properties.
What were the top self-care lessons your mother and grandmother passed down to you?
Some of their secrets include always cleaning your face at night before sleeping. There isn’t anything worse than going to bed with a full face of makeup or the day’s pollution and bacteria on you. It helps your skin breathe. Wear your vegetables! Growing up they always encouraged me to rub leftover fruit and vegetable peels on my skin. So instead of tossing out the peels from our oranges, mangos or avocados they would massage the inner peels onto their face and hands. Almost all fruits and vegetables are natural moisturizers and provide the skin nutrient-rich benefits. Of course they always encouraged me to have coconut oil at home and on-hand. They especially emphasized using coconut oil as a natural at-home deep conditioning treatment for strong, silky long hair. This is because the chemical properties of coconut oil, compared to other oils, allow it to penetrate the hair, which help improve strength and growth, and keeps hair from getting damaged often.