• Calla Norman

How to Open a Zero-Waste Store


Prostainable zero-waste store in California, Honeycomb Credit alumni

One of the biggest trends in small businesses right now are zero-waste stores, also known as refill shops. In these stores, customers bring their own reusable containers and are able to stock up on bulk foods, cleaning supplies, soaps, and other sustainable products. In 2019, there were only 400 zero-waste stores in the world, but that number is exponentially growing as more consumers become aware of the impact that single-use plastics have on the environment.


If you’re tossing around the idea of opening up a zero-waste store in your community, here are some things to keep in mind when you do so!


Choose the right location for your zero-waste store


When you’re opening a zero-waste store, you want to make sure your shop is located in a central, easy-to-reach location. It also is worth doing a bit of research on the population of the area you’re looking to move into, to make sure your target market can reach it. Is your potential location near a lot of young professionals or young families? Have you witnessed demand for zero-waste products in your area?


“A lot of people in the community that have wanted a refill shop on their side of town invested in us,” says Rachel Regula, owner of Little Spark Refill Shop in Cleveland. Rachel ran a campaign with Honeycomb to open up her second location, and raised $65,950 from 59 investors in her community, mostly from her customers who demanded more opportunities to refill in town. “I ran my Honeycomb campaign at the beginning of 2021, I was in business for only 4 or 5 months. I didn't know a ton of other business owners, as I was a new business and I was growing, I didn't have a lot of ties. Most of my investors were people who believed in my mission, were already Honeycomb investors, or were just interested in helping a sustainable business.”


You also need to consider some logistical things. Are people in the area more used to making smaller, more frequent shopping trips on foot, or do they drive their cars and stock up on what they need? Knowing this will inform whether you need a lot of parking space, or if you can locate in a more walkable, urban area.


When you find a location, you’ll probably also need to do a bit of renovations to make it work for you. Factor in a build-out, and at the very least consider the costs of any furniture, counters, and display spaces you’ll need.


Stock up on sustainable inventory for your zero-waste store


Working capital is another one of the common startup costs for small businesses, and zero-waste stores are no different. Look into the costs of the different items you’re planning to stock in your store and how you’re going to source them. Most of the time, zero-waste stores also are aligned with supporting local businesses, so now is a good time to connect with small businesses you can collaborate with!


Hire staff for your zero-waste store


As a business owner, you’re going to be wearing many hats. While you might be able to run the store yourself for the first couple of months or so of business, eventually other responsibilities will become pressing for you and you’ll find yourself in need of a few extra hands. Make sure you hire well for your business - the best employees for zero-waste shops are those who share your mission of reducing waste and have a great knowledge of your industry and products.


Figure out financing for your zero-waste store’s launch (and next steps!)


Everything we’ve mentioned so far is going to cost you money. Sure, you can bootstrap a lot of your launch, but things like paying for your first few months of rent, building out your retail space, purchasing inventory, and hiring staff are going to require a bit of capital. While you could try paying for it out of your savings or seek out a bank loan (and good luck with that as a new business), why not try a funding strategy that can get you the capital you need and earn you a following of customers ready to line up out your door on opening day?


“My first 30 or 35 investors were women. And that was super, super cool,” says Laura Yochum, owner of zero-waste store Prostainable in California’s San Fernando Valley. “And a lot of them were my customers. You know, they were just giving what they could, it just kind of blew me out of the park - I had no idea they were even interested. They all had sent me a message or something like that, they've never been an investor before, and they were proud to invest in my company.”


Prostainable raised $70,800 from 55 investors to open up two more stores. Laura also notes that her crowdfunding campaign was a valuable marketing tool for her zero-waste store. “I think that the awareness was super helpful. And that's probably our biggest growth in the last couple weeks,” she says.


Zero-waste doesn’t have to mean zero-profits


And when you open up your store, you will be able to see it grow! When you’re looking for funding to open up your zero-waste store, or are looking to expand your already successful model, consider running a Honeycomb loan crowdfunding campaign to get that capital and connect with your community. Fill out the form below for more information.