‘My Mum’s Death Encouraged My Research Into Coconut Oil’



Yetunde Adebola McEwen is the daughter of Ralph Adeola Alabi, the immediate past Chairman of Guinness Nigeria Plc. Happily married with two children, this Business Management graduate from University of Hull, UK explains what led her into production of her Coconut Oil product, Aquila


What informs your decision to go into manufacturing of coconut oil product?

I call it “beauty from ashes”. The loss of my mother to cancer led me to research into disease prevention, natural remedies and healthy foods. It was in the process of this that I discovered that coconut oil is the healthiest oil on earth! That was nine years ago.

I also believe that a good thing came out of the loss of my mother. One thing that was inculcated in us while growing up was the mind-set of independence and entrepreneurship, and it’s a blessing I will be eternally grateful to God and my parents for. That is why it didn’t end with the study for the sake of it and that is why I said a good thing came out of the loss of my mother. I now manufacture the Aquila Virgin Coconut Oil brand as a first of many other Coconut oil products.


How do you source for raw materials, is it all locally or internationally?

We source locally, and of course, you know that that in itself presents a lot of challenges every step of the way. But with the help of God, His grace plenteously on our side and sheer dint of hard work, we have been able to surmount the difficulties that we encounter in every area of our process line.


What was the biggest pain or shock you ever experienced in life?

My biggest shock and pain was the sudden death of my dearest mentor and biggest fan. My dad. It was an experience that I did not prepare for, and there were no indications that it would happen at the time it did. I was the only child here with him, and had seen him the night before he passed. I have handled bad experiences well, especially since the death of my mother whose passing was not as sudden, but my dad’s was not envisaged especially as we were planning different things. He was well abreast of the development of the Aquila project, and he always encouraged me on. I hoped he would see the birthing of our factory.


Would you attribute your success on this project to luck or hardwork?

Grace. That sums up my journey to date. I give all the glory to my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has infused me daily with divine energy to persist in the pursuit of the actualisation of my dream. So though, I had my little part to play in ensuring that I don’t rest on my oars and running with the vision and directives. God is not going to do that for me; it would be tantamount to foolishness and even self delusion to even contemplate it, yet without His grace which made the burden light, many bottlenecks, challenges and disappointments would have conspired to truncate the dream. So, yes I work hard, but even that is because of Him who makes it possible. It’s all about the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and that sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit


What are the risks you took?

Full time entrepreneurship without the safety net of mainstream paid employment. That was the first major risk, even though I wouldn’t really call it a risk. I had the faith and conviction that I would succeed even before I started out.

Another risk was being one of the first entrants into a new market, and not being sure what the acceptability of Coconut Oil would be, especially as the history of the oil as a local produce called ‘Adi Agbon’ presented its own challenge. People still had the impression of it as smelly oil which was basically for external use. Selling it as a healthy oil which can be used for cooking and as a supplementary diet.


What is the unique selling point of this product, and what is your biggest dream on it?

The Unique selling point of Aquila Virgin Coconut Oil is that it is a world standard and a proudly Nigerian brand- an edible cold pressed coconut oil. That means it was not subjected to high temperatures thereby preserving the natural vitamins and anti-oxidants. It is devoid of any chemical refiners and preservatives. That is also why it is clear as water. Delivering unquantifiable health benefits when eaten as food or applied externally on skin and hair.

It’s good because as we speak, we have our first sales outlet in the United States, and they will begin receiving our product from next month God-willing. That’s a very big step for us. It’s also great because many international celebrities and athletes recommend Coconut Oil as a supplementary diet, a trend which is highly welcome and will definitely trickle down here. We see a very big market in our future, and will concern ourselves with guaranteeing optimum and highest quality possible of our brand in preparation for that time.

How was your growing up years like?

I thank God for my family. Growing up, our parents made sure it was an exciting experience, it was almost surreal. It was a full house almost like an ‘Alabi house of fun’. Looking back, I sometimes laugh by myself when I remember those days of conviviality. Our house was always filled with brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents once in a while. There was almost never a dull moment! We had a very moral upbringing. My mother told many inspiring stories and our home was filled with lots of laughter. My father worked very hard but made plenty of time for his family. We also had folk tales by the moonlight!


Did you consider yourself a stubborn, calm or the outgoing type while growing up?

I won’t say I was calm, but not in a negative way. I would rather say I was very vocal and determined, and I suppose it was a trait I picked up from my parents. But the discipline in the home ensured that I suppressed all forms of stubbornness! (Laughs). But I always expressed myself. You know that in those days, discipline was a major issue because it was not just your parents you were accountable to, you were never oblivious of other elders around, neighbours and even when those were not around, just the mere thought of what could happen in the event of news reaching our parents was enough to keep you in check. I also think that it was so well inculcated that frankly, some things never even crosses your mind.



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