Emily Griffith is the boss behind Cap’n Coconut. She makes gender neutral balms, scrubs, roll-on oils and sea salt hair spray, all available here. Emily has been making products since college, but is in her first year, full-time with the brand Cap’n Coconut. She sources organic and locally made ingredients, and integrates sustainability into her business model by using re-usable containers and encouraging customers to return them. She is full of positive energy and intentionally infused her brand with a playful spirit.
Tell us about your personal story and how you got to where you are now?
I started making my own body products when I was in college studying advertising and marketing and working at this amazing bakery, called Two Tarts Bakery. I was surrounded by makers and I would go home and want to make stuff too, but not necessarily want to bake. So, it was like baking without having to turn on the oven. I started making the body balm and giving it to friends and family who were having dry skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and that kind of stuff. Including my Dad and my bestie and people just really liked it.
I moved into the agency world after school, carving my path in studio management, marketing, and human development. I worked alongside creatives, getting to create myself as well. I was working on Cap’n as a hobby simultaneously. The hobby grew, I went ahead and got my business license and turned the hobby into my side hustle. Then last summer, I really felt the pull to move out of the agency space. I got my ducks in a row and went into building Cap’n full-time.
Tell us the details about Cap'n Coconut and the inspiration behind it?
Cap’n Coconut is a creature from my imagination based on my childhood, my husband and one of our cats, Cap’n Reynolds. When coming up with the name and what it would be all about, I really wanted to instill the brand with a sense of fun. I didn’t want it to be gendered and I wanted it to be something that people would reach for on the shelf and feel, “This is fun, this is cool!” I didn’t want it to be intimidating and I wanted my brand to be something people could relate to and have a good time with.
Cap’n Coconut, himself, is a yeti, alien-like creature from an ice planet. He got tired of being cold one day and started exploring the universe in search of warm, tropical, happy, goodness. He started picking up tropical ingredients from all over the universe and sharing the gospel of self-care. A lot of this inspiration came out of growing up in Barrow, Alaska where it’s just dark, cold, and beautiful for part of the time and the rest of the time it is light, beautiful and still…cold. I was born here in Oregon and my family would come down in the summers. I was also really lucky to be able to go to Kauai, Hawaii to vacation as a kid and I continue to visit even more as an adult. The identity and idea of traveling from cold places to warm places, the beach, and the Pacific Northwest adventurous spirit, all just came together in Cap’n Coconut.
What sets your brand apart from other skin care brands?
I’m still learning this! I’m in my first year of being a real brand and a real thing which is super exciting. I would say the fun & accessible aspects of my brand set me apart. The brand appeals to young, old, male, female, a lot of outdoor folks, including athletes like surfers, and rock climbers even - people who are driven by passion resonate with my brand and I am super into that.
What do you believe is important for skincare? What should customers be thinking about?
Well, everyone’s skin is so different. Everybody’s body is so different. I think customers should choose what makes them feel good about themselves inside and out. I think choosing straightforward ingredients and high quality ingredients is super important in skin care. Your skin is an organ that absorbs all the things. Learn how ingredients in products and your skin work together to reach your skin goals.
“WELL, EVERYONE’S SKIN IS SO DIFFERENT. EVERYBODY’S BODY IS SO DIFFERENT. SO, I LIKE TO CUSTOMERS TO CHOOSE WHAT MAKES THEM FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES INSIDE AND OUT.”
How do you choose the ingredients for the products you make?
My philosophy definitely came from Two Tarts Bakery. We got our ingredients from the Portland farmers markets - straight from the farm. I learned a lot about the quality of ingredients in the gourmet baking and food production world. I apply the same philosophy and knowledge with my ingredients. I use organic ingredients as much as possible and I try to work with responsible organizations with strong, positive values. Coconut oil can be tricky. You definitely need to know what you’re doing, making sure you’re getting it from organic, ethically sourced farms is very important. I like to be in contact with my vendors as much as possible, to truly build a community network. I also try and test all of my ingredients on myself, hubby, family, friends, etc. I taste them and put them all over my body. I’m always experimenting to make sure the quality is awesome.
What are your thoughts on the role sustainability plays both professionally in business and in our everyday lifestyle choices, and in regard to the future health of our planet?
I think sustainability goes back to making good choices including responsible packing, clean ingredients, and supporting local suppliers and local business. I believe thinking about the whole life cycle of my product is very important. I chose to package my products in glass to encourage reuse and recycling. I currently have a program where customers can give their jars back to me and I’m able to give that glass another life.
I love seeing the cosmetics and beauty industry starting to move towards a more sustainable model. People are thinking about refilling packaging, using recyclable packaging, removing packaging altogether, which I’m excited about. The beauty industry especially has caused so much damage so it’s exciting to see it take a positive turn.
If you had to choose one place to live with only the basics available to you, where would it be and what would you take with you apart from the obvious survival gear?
I love this question and hopefully there is rope already included in the basics because I would immediately want to make a rope swing and settle on a tropical island or beach of some kind. I would make my husband come with me. He’s my best friend and the ultimate pal. “Come on dude, we are stuck on an island now!” I have to do a product plug here, because I would also bring a giant tub of Cap’n Coconut body balm as I use it on everything. Husband and giant tub of Cap’n Coconut is all I need!
What is your beauty routine?
My beauty routine nowadays is just easy going while we’re all quarantined at home. I love water and I’m constantly exercising so I shower and take baths a lot! Right now, I’m loving shampoo and conditioner bars from Right to Shower, the Zero Waste Store, and locally-made Mad Sass Soap. I regularly throw Cap’n Coconut’s Face Polish & Body Scrub into the mix to exfoliate a few times a week.
After bathing, I moisturize with Cap’n Coconut Balm, throw a little Fat & the Moon cream deodorant on, and spray Mermaid Hair in my hair. I usually let it air dry or toss into a bun. I’m also loving Delas Botanicals Velvet Fuzz on my bikini zone. Sometimes I wear makeup and sometimes I don’t! When I do, it’s a tinted moisturizer, mascara, and eyebrow pencil. When I am going for it, I go for some fun lipstick. I’m into Spela right now (sold on Daughters Market), which is so good.
I also love a good fake tan! If I had only one beauty routine choice, it would be a high-quality spray tan. My at-home tan comes from Kora Organics or Josie Maran. When I'm not at home, my tan comes from Haley at Aurose Beauty here in Portland. She's also selling an at-home tanner I'm pumped to try when these others run out.
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
We have a ridiculous kitten named T-Mo. He woke up today making this adorable snorting sound, like a little piggy, and it made me completely laugh out loud, first thing in the morning.
What advice do you have for other female-identified business owners?
Don’t quit! Surround yourself with smart, courageous people with experience, ask for help and don’t give up. It’s hard when you’re responsible for everything and all the decisions are up to you. There are so many people that have walked the path before you. I’ve learned to reach out to those who have done it, who are successful and ask, “What should I not do?” “What are the mistakes you’ve made that you want to tell me about?” That’s helped me grow with confidence.
How is the COVID-19 crisis impacting your business right now?
The impact is pretty crazy. There are no events which is super tough! There are a bunch of makers in my life and we were all excited to do these events together this Spring and now we can’t do any of them. With being a growing business, it’s really important to be talking to people about their skin, sharing the brand’s story, letting people try the products. Plus, it makes me so happy to get to interact with my customers.
Also, the wonderful boutiques and stores carrying my products are closed at the moment. With all of that said, I’m really trying to remain super positive within this really unpredictable time. There is always opportunity and there is always positivity to find. I’m leaning into the opportunity to grow the brand and the product line during this more quiet time - doing the creative deep dive into everything I can do and can control.
“I’M TRYING TO REMAIN SUPER POSITIVE WITHIN THIS REALLY UNPREDICTABLE TIME. THERE IS ALWAYS OPPORTUNITY AND THERE IS ALWAYS POSITIVITY TO FIND.”
Who is inspirational to you at this time in your life?
I’m so inspired by the fellow makers in my orbit. There are so many women out there that are dealing with the exact same thing. I’ve been staying in touch with them, and supporting them with any extra income that I have as much as possible.
I’m also inspired by my friends and family. I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by people who are really positive. Sometimes you can feel myself being pulled to the darkness, and I’m inspired by the people in my life that can say, “You know what, here’s a positive thing...” It takes a lot to wake up every day in this type of climate and be able to look at the good things. It takes a lot of power. I know I’m definitely coming from a place of privilege too with that and not everyone gets to experience this time as a , hopefully, momentary downshift with plans of ramping back up.
I’ve mentioned my husband a of couple times, but he inspires me every day! He works so hard at an awesome agency called Think Shout here in Portland. They work with non-profits and mission driven organizations. The team there is incredible and the work they do is helping to keep awesome organizations who are doing good in the world afloat - making sure they are able to take donations to get food and money and everything needed out there into the world. He’s been working from home, so it’s been really fun for us to be together and working on our missions.