Featurepreneur: A Wholesum Start to the Year

Genevieve Allen Hearn

Krista and Rachael are childhood best friends turned business partners. They co-own and operate Wholesum Refillery, a low-waste retail shop in downtown Kentville that opened in November. Even though it has only been open a short time, Wholesum Refillery tied for second place in The Grapevine’s Best of the Bunch “Best New Business of 2021” category.

The Grapevine (GV): Tell us a bit about Wholesum Refillery’s origin story.
Krista & Rachael (K&R): Rachael left her job of twenty years to move her family to a new life here in Kentville and the timing just made sense. We knew we wanted to start a business together and the idea of a refillery was so appealing to us. We are always working towards being more eco-conscious in our daily lives and the concept of a low-waste venture was the perfect fit for us. It is something that we are passionate about and once we did some research, we realized that many others are too. It was a business that we could build together wholeheartedly. So, we put our heads down, did more research, and applied for a start-up loan through the Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC). The day our funding was approved was just so amazing! Rachael runs the shop day-to-day, while Krista keeps a day job and works behind the scenes and is in the shop on weekends.

GV: What is a low-waste store? What sort of products do you carry?
K&R: The concept of low-waste shopping is quite simple: buy only what you need. For instance, every time you purchase a jug of laundry soap, you keep the container and simply refill it instead of purchasing a new one every time you run out. Our shop is focussed on reducing single-use packaging and plastics and we do this by offering bulk and reusable goods, as well as products with little to no packaging or packaging that is biodegradable or reusable.
We currently carry over 35 bulk products, including laundry soap, dish soap, household cleaners, shampoo, body wash, lotion and even muscle rub! We also offer things like plastic free makeup, deodorant, and dental care products. Our products are sourced from Canadian companies and we try to stick as close to home as possible within our supply chain.

GV: If people are new to the concept of tare shops or refillery markets, what do they need to know? What are a few small changes people can make immediately?
K&R: The idea is to start where you are and within your means. To get started, you can make a habit of cleaning out old containers and instead of putting them in the recycle bin, set them aside to bring into the shop for refilling. Anything works! Mason jars, old laundry jugs, empty shampoo bottles – as long as it’s clean it will work! We also offer various containers in the shop for purchase. Start with small, manageable changes that suit you and your lifestyle. Remember, this isn’t about perfection, it’s about starting small and working your way up.

One of our favourite quotes is: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” (Anne Marie Bonneau).

GV: Incorporating low-waste principles when making purchases seems to be something that is growing in popularity. Where do you see this buying philosophy going?
K&R: We realized when doing our research for our business plan that many other countries have already adopted these principles. In some supermarkets in Europe they have implemented refill stations for common items like liquid soap and dry goods. People want to reduce their ecological impact. Seventy-five percent of respondents who participated in a 2019 study in Quebec stated that they are taking action to reduce food loss and waste. Going low-waste isn’t the most convenient route for many people, since it involves some planning and dedication. We see this philosophy evolving to become more convenient as we are all leading busy lives. For Wholesum, we want to make low-waste easy for people. We plan on offering local deliveries in the future and options for busy folks like dropping your jugs off in the morning and picking them up on your way home, and curbside pickups will be coming in 2022!

GV: The two of you started as friends, and then built a business. Any advice on how to manage friendships when working together?
K&R: Be open and honest with each other. We have been friends for 30 years, so we know each other pretty well, but this is all new to us! We try to keep an open mind and be supportive of each other. We lean on each other’s strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses. This is our dream that we built together and we are so proud of each other on this journey. We know that mistakes are going to happen, but such is life. It is how we learn from the mistakes and grow from them that will define our success. We also remember to laugh and have fun along the way: midday dance parties are highly recommended!

Wholesum Refillery is located at 19 Aberdeen Street in Kentville. To learn more, visit their Facebook page at @wholesumrefilleryshoppe.