Little Spark Refill Shop Funds Second Location with Crowdfunding Campaign!
Little Spark Refill Shop is opening up a second location thanks to a loan crowdfunded by Honeycomb! Check out how Honeycomb helps businesses grow here.
Since opening up in October of 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been nonstop growth for Rachel Regula, owner of Little Spark Refill Shop, formerly known as Better World Refill Shop.
Zero-waste shops like Little Spark Refill Shop are an excellent resource for people looking to reduce their impact on the environment. You can go into the shop with your own reusable container (or buy one from the store), weigh it, fill it with whatever natural cleaning product you want, then weigh it again - and you only pay for the product!
These zero-waste stores are hugely popular on the West Coast, but Rachel wanted to be a first-mover and bring the concept to her home in the Midwest, opening up in Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland. Obviously, she filled a gap that was greatly needed in her community - so much so that her customers began clamoring for a second location.
Rachel began looking into opening up a second location, but was having a hard time finding financing. Big banks won’t often give unconventional businesses as new as hers (literally open for only months) the time of day when it comes to a small business loan. But she wasn’t deterred, and turned to Honeycomb!
Little Spark Refill Shop hit their minimum goal in less than two weeks, and finished strong with a raise of $65,950 from 59 investors! Read on to find out more about Rachel’s experience with raising the funds needed to launch her business’s second location, and her goals for building a zero-waste sustainability empire in the Cleveland area!
Little Spark Refill Shop is Bubbling with Potential!
Rachel started getting interested in refill shops inspired by her own personal struggles with finding natural cleaning and body products, as well as her passion for sustainability.
“I went down the rabbit hole of sustainability. I saw refill shops in California and Colorado and Oregon, and I thought these concepts are really cool - is there one here? And there wasn’t,” says Rachel.
But at first, Rachel didn’t know if she was the one to bring a refill shop to the Cleveland area.
“I was working a full time job,” notes Rachel. “So I thought someone else would do it. I'm working my full time job. I have student loans. I went to a private university, I was like, this is just not my thing. My degree was political science and legal studies. I knew nothing about business!”
Then, she changed her mind. “I like my job, it pays the bills. But this isn't me.”
Rachel began looking into refill shops again, researching ones across the country, and decided that she was going to be the one to bring the concept to Cleveland, after noticing some problems with the city’s sustainability infrastructure.
“The city of Cleveland has a huge issue with not recycling. They were recycling at one point. And then some community members found out that their recycling was going in the trash and going to the dump and not really being recycled. So there's this huge uproar. And then the city of Cleveland said, we're not recycling at all!” says Rachel. “And I was like, crud, how are people going to use these containers? It's COVID. Places aren't even allowing you to bring in your own reusable bags!”
This was even more motivation to get started, and Rachel decided to open Little Spark Refill Shop to give her neighborhood a zero-waste alternative.
“We'd be the first in the area,” Rachel enthuses. “Refill shops are moving quickly, so if I don't do this now, I could lose the opportunity and someone else could come do it. It was very spur of the moment. I said, ‘I'm gonna do it.’”
Green businesses crowdfund on Honeycomb for a chance to grow and do good for the environment. Find more stories about green small business alumni here.
Within a few days, Rachel filed for an LLC, and 88 days later, she opened up the shop in October of 2020. While still working her full-time job, she’d leave that job and come do work for Little Spark Refill Shop in the evenings.
“Everything just fell into place. It was the craziest thing, especially during the pandemic. I pulled out some of my retirement to start the business. And then it was about finding a space. So, in my free time, I would literally drive around, like the couple cities that I knew I wanted to open. I’d look at every shop window to see if there was a current For Rent sign.”
From the moment she signed the lease and moved into the first Little Spark Refill Shop location, Rachel has been in a state of growth. Customer demand began spiking as soon as she opened the shop so that by the time she built out and outfitted the store, she had to hire staff. By the time she was thinking about a second location, her shop had saved 4,000 plastic containers from landfills!
“Absolutely no regrets. It turned out so well,” says Rachel. She was putting revenue back into her shop as it grew, and realized there was potential for another store on Cleveland’s East Side, but who was going to finance such a new business?
One of the biggest issues for startup small businesses is finding funding - most banks won’t look at loan applications from businesses that have been around for less than two years, much less than a year!
“It was absolutely a dream, especially when I was contacted by Honeycomb. I talked to Dora, but I pushed off my application process for like, probably a week and a half because I was like, they're never gonna approve me. I'm too new because that's what I was told by every big bank: You're too new. It's a pandemic. We can't get you money.”
“But like, we're doing so well in sales! Like, come on, believe in me, because everyone else does!” Rachel knew that her business was worth financing, even if a bank wouldn’t believe her.
Eventually, Rachel decided to take the opportunity to fund her new zero-waste refill shop with Honeycomb, and launched her campaign!
Working with Honeycomb made the campaign a clean sweep
“When Dora came back with my offering statement, I thought, “This is a dream. Like, is this reality right now? Because I don't know if it is,” says Rachel.
Once she applied to Honeycomb, things began moving fast with the crowdfunding experts team. “It was the day or maybe two days after I had gotten my offering statement, and I talked to Becca the next day, and she said, ‘We need to get your campaign started by Tuesday because on Wednesday, we're having a sustainability pitch.’ And I was like, ‘What?’”
In a matter of days, Rachel got her campaign page written out, had her video for the page created, and was launched on Honeycomb—all in time for a sustainability pitch event that jump-started the momentum for her campaign.
“The investments just came in and our first investor, the investment was $100, which was cool. I would look to see if I already knew this person by looking at our Square system, and I was like, ‘I don't know who this is, who are these people? Why are they giving me investment money? Why do they believe in me?’” says Rachel.
Little Spark Refill Shop hit its minimum goal of $30,000 in less than two weeks - insanely quickly!
“I was on vacation with my mom in Florida for Mother's Day. And I was watching the emails come in. And I was like, “Mom, we're like $1,000 away - this is so cool.’”
“I was totally fine with not reaching my $80,000 maximum goal because I knew how much I would need,” says Rachel. “So I thought, ‘Okay, $40,000 would be good.’ And then we went past 40. I was like, “Okay, 50 would be good.’ And then we went past 50. Making those milestones was my favorite part.”
Rachel will be able to use her funds to find and build out her refill shop’s new location - find out more about retail buildouts and how Honeycomb crowdfunding can help here!
Rachel found working with Honeycomb to be so easy. “I felt like I knew Becca [Rachel’s Customer Success strategist] and she truly believed in the concept right from the beginning, which is what you need in a strategist and someone who's helping you to make your campaign successful.”
Beyond the campaign, Rachel is still forming meaningful connections with the Honeycomb team. “Dora [the sales manager who connected Rachel with Honeycomb] has now become someone who will message me and say, ‘Hey, do you want to go to this networking event with me?’” she says. “I love having those connections in the community because that's what's gonna help me grow as a business owner and how it's going to help me network with other businesses to make the business from.”
“Everyone that I've met is so down to earth and ready to support any small business. And I'm all about that,” says Rachel.
Connecting with Investors
For Rachel, the ease of running the Honeycomb Credit campaign was also made possible by the community connections she made with customers who turned into investors - and vice-versa!
“There's one customer that sticks out. I would definitely call her a loyal customer. She had refill shops in Washington when she lived there. And when she came into my shop, the first time, she's like, ‘I love this concept, I was worried we weren't going to have one here.’ And she was supportive the entire time through,” notes Rachel.
“It's funny how you make those relationships with people because I really think that small businesses are really good at relationship building. And you have to keep those relationships to make sure that your business continues. And that's how word of mouth gets out. Someone goes, ‘I went to the shop, and I absolutely love it, you should go too’.”
Throughout her campaign, Rachel kept her schedule open to take meetings with people interested in investing in Little Spark Refill Shop, and a lot of them said they found out about the Honeycomb campaign and the shop through another person.
“You shop with us, you already believe in us, and you believe in us even more to get us to the point where we have the funds to get to another part of the city,” says Rachel.
“I feel the excitement from my ambassadors, it is what's making me want to get this new location done because there are customers that are wanting it,” says Rachel “There are investors that aren't from the area, and they believe in the concept, which is really cool. But, my local investors are my customers already. It just makes it a little bit more exciting when they come in and be a part of that whole process.”
Building a Sustainable Network in Cleveland
As Rachel builds upon her expanding empire of refill shops in Cleveland, several changes are on the way.
The first major change is that they’re moving their Lakewood location to Rocky River, another suburb of Cleveland. Rachel is excited about this move because it’ll make her a fifth-generation resident of Rocky River bringing entrepreneurship to the area.
She’s also rebranding her shop into a new concept.
“Through the process of Better World, I've been thinking about what our mission is and our mission is not going to change, we're still here to support the community in using less plastic and more natural products,” says Rachel. “But there are a lot of people that come into the shop but have never thought about sustainability before. And they think this is really cool. So I was like, wow, this kind of sparked their interest. Our new name is Little Spark Refill shop because we're here to ignite sustainability in you and help you be more interested in it.”
Rachel is coming close to finding that second East Side location, narrowing down her options until she finds the perfect place for her, but she doesn’t plan to stop with two locations!
“I really want to create this little network of sustainability businesses, and also work with other small businesses and promote women-owned businesses,” says Rachel.
Despite all these changes, Better World Refill Shop (or, ahem, Little Spark Refill Shop) is sustaining its momentum of saving plastic from landfills. When Rachel ran her campaign in the spring of 2021, Little Spark Refill Shop had saved over 4,000 plastic containers. As of now, in late June 2021, that number has grown to 6,224.
“It keeps growing, and it's crazy how fast we get to increase by the thousands. Because people, as they learn about it, they start refilling more, or as they get rid of their COVID stockpile,” says Rachel. “So it's a lot of education, and teaching people why it's important to refill and not use as much plastic, use reusable things, and promote a circular economy.”
Financing your small business doesn’t have to be “soap” difficult
Sorry, we had to do it. We’ll come clean, we’ll never run out of puns when it comes to Little Spark Refill shop, just like we won’t run out on small businesses with potential that need funding!
Whether you’re an established entrepreneur or a new business owner like Rachel, you can fund your business’s capital needs, boost your marketing buzz, and improve your customer relationships with a Honeycomb campaign! Learn more by checking out www.honeycombcredit.com/grow, and sign up below for more information.