Dignity Coconuts is a social enterprise with a mission to stop modern-day slavery for coconut farmers and their communities. After years of nonprofit work in coconut farming communities, they concluded the corrupt practices of the coconut industry was responsible for enslaving the farmers, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking.
The founders built a Community Transformation Plant where they process coconuts in a vulnerable community and provide farmers with a way to escape predatory loans and corrupt buying practices. Dignity' holistic approach includes jobs, direct trade, education, and clean water.
A successful Kickstarter campaign enabled them to launch their own brand of premium, raw virgin coconut oil in 2016. Their jars are now offered in over 1,200 retail stores across the US, including Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Meijer, Coborn’s, Woodman’s and Central Market.
Dignity Coconuts was born in 2010 out of a conviction to stop sex trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Dignity’s production plant is located in a small seaside village in Bicol, Philippines. The company currently employs 90 local workers with plans to expand to 200 workers at full operation. Coconuts are purchased from 156 local farmers with plans to contract with 300, all of whom were organic certified by Dignity. Future plans also include expansion to other areas of the Philippines as well as other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond.
Dignity pioneered a centrifuge method of removing the moisture based on gravity to create a truly raw coconut oil that retains all of the micronutrients. In addition to being 100% Raw, Dignity Coconut Oil is 100% Organic, Non-GMO, Direct Trade and bottled at the source for freshness. It is a great substitute for cooking, baking, frying, and sautéing needs, as well as an excellent natural moisturizer for hair and skin.
Stephen Freed, CEO & Co-founder of Dignity Coconuts
Raised near New York City, he finished his BA at Gordon College. Stephen served as the CEO and President of International Teams (IT) from 1996-2005, and as International Director from 2005-2009, leading over a 1,000 staff in 61 countries. In 2009-2010, Stephen transitioned from International Director to establish missional business enterprises full time, beginning with Dignity. Stephen, with his wife and Australian Shepherd, reside in St. Paul, MN, USA.
Dr. Don Byker, Co-founder of Dignity Coconuts
Raised near Holland, MI, Don graduated from Calvin College, AB, 1957, University of Michigan, MA 1966, and PhD, 1969. Don taught for 4 years at Calvin College, 2 years at University of Michigan, 9 years at Harvard College, and 2 years at Harvard Business School and then moved to consulting. In 1990, Don co-founded Affinity Industries, Inc, a temperature control business. After selling the company in 2001, he began volunteering full-time for Habitat for Humanity and International Teams. In 2009, Don partnered with Stephen to found Dignity. Don passed away in 2016. His widow resides in New Hampshire, USA.
Erik Olson, President of Dignity Coconuts
Raised near Minneapolis, MN, Erik started his business career at age 18 owning a branch of Student Works Painting in Arizona to pay for tuition and provide summer jobs for his friends. He finished his degree in Business Administration from Azusa Pacific University. After a year of humanitarian work in war-torn Iraq (2003-2004), Erik joined the non-profit International Teams, helping community development teams in Africa, Middle East and Asia. In 2012, Erik joined Stephen, his father-in-law, in starting Dignity. Erik currently resides in St. Paul, MN with his wife, Bet, and their two squirrely children.