Setting up a zero waste store
Interview with co-founder of Cut the Wrap, Cat Moffatt:
At Jungle Culture we receive emails and messages from budding eco entrepreneurs everyday. Some entrepreneurs go on to start successful zero waste businesses, but some don’t end up making the leap from idea to business ownership.
We NEED more entrepreneurs and eco-friendly businesses to encourage people to take a stand against plastic-waste, so we decided to interview Cat Moffatt, the co-founder of Cut The Wrap in Ulverston and ask her what it was like starting a zero waste store.
Before we dive into the interview, let me give you a bit of background about Cut the Wrap.
Cut the Wrap was established in July 2018 by Cat and Paul Moffatt. They are based in Ulverston and a quick Google search will tell you that their shop has garnered loads of success since starting, attracting attention from several newspapers and online media outlets.
Before we delve into the interview, be sure to check below for resources to help new entrepreneurs or business owners!
How did you come up with the idea of starting a zero waste store? Have you owned other shops before this?
We started a zero waste store out of frustration at being unable to shop in a way that fit with our zero waste lifestyle. We had been transitioning towards zero waste for a couple of years and we'd made A LOT of personal changes to lifestyle, shopping habits and the products we chose in our weekly shop, heading for our local market rather than the supermarket for fresh fruit and vegetables, for example.
One thing that we just could not change was the fact that we were unable to buy dried foods without having to buy a piece of non-recyclable plastic rubbish with it! We looked into alternatives and came across the idea of a zero waste shop, however our nearest one was two hours drive away! This was the moment Cut The Wrap! was born. Neither of us had run a shop, or in fact our own business prior to this.
It was an enormous learning curve but we were driven by our passion for reducing waste.
What were the challenges that you faced when you first started your zero waste business and how did you overcome them?
One of the major challenges was the fact that we had no money!
We are an average working family, with very little in the way of savings. We knew that our community desperately needed a zero waste shop, we had done our research and we decided that a crowdfunder would be the best way to kickstart our business.
It was hard work and we had to learn quickly how to navigate social media and promotion, but our community really got behind us and along with a government backed start up loan we reached our start-up total and opened two months later!
The crowdfunder also served to build our customer base before we'd even opened, which was massively important for building a community around our business. I'd advise anyone embarking on a new business venture, who has little experience running a business to take any help available. The chamber of commerce has free business courses available and the start-up loans company have helpful, free advisors.
What are the best zero waste swaps that you can recommend to people?
The best zero waste swaps I could recommend are things that you will be able to do easily and that you will be able to keep up. Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable bamboo straws, a reusable coffee cup and water bottle are easy swaps that you will be able to carry on with without too much effort.
Start small and build from there. It is far better to make a change that will last.
Remember that we don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.
Have you used social media to help your eco friendly business grow?
The short answer is yes!
One of the best ways to engage your community is to create a really positive, engaging social media presence.
We made a conscious decision to not use any paid promotion at all for our business and rely on organic social media reach, word of mouth and engaging our local print and radio media.
We've been featured on local radio, local TV, several local newspapers and our local Green Party, Labour Party, WI, church groups have all featured us in their publications. Make your point and be heard!
What advice could you give to any aspiring eco entrepreneurs reading this?
Know your demographic! If you are opening a physical shop, location is EVERYTHING.
You will often find that a quirky side street is perfect for somewhere like a zero waste shop and if you've got your social media promotion right, your audience will come to you.
Ensure you have the USP. If there is another shop similar very close by, consider a different location, or a different USP.
Do your research! It sounds obvious but if you don't go in to a venture fully prepared, you will find it much harder to succeed.
Finally, be prepared for a lot of work, know your market, know your demographic, know your products, know yourself and go for it!
Overall, how has the zero waste journey been for you?
A lot of hard work but so worth it!
We're doing something we genuinely feel passionate about, we really feel like we're doing something positive for our world.
We might not be millionaires but we're paying our way, growing and expanding and the sense of job satisfaction is enormous - we love it!
Finally, what has coronavirus been like for your business? What support have you been able to get and are you optimistic for the future of zero waste?
Coronavirus has been...a test of our ability to adapt.
We had to change our entire business model overnight! We have a very small shop and the nature of self-serve meant that it was too risky during a pandemic for us and for customers, so we switched to online orders for collection or delivery only.
We were absolutely inundated with orders, which on the one hand was amazing because we needed them for our business to survive, but the sheer amount of work needed to fulfill them was unattainable between just us, so we called on all of the people who had offered to volunteer for us and we had volunteers processing orders and emailing them to us just to fulfill, volunteer delivery cyclists, volunteer drivers and in honesty we would not have been able to survive had it not been for our lovely customers and community.
We are so proud to have built such an invested community - remember, your vibe brings your tribe!
What the future holds, who knows! We'd love to expand to a bigger premises and offer more to our customers, we'd love to open a second shop, we'd love to see our online shop, which we're just about to launch, do well too. We're optimistic - if we can make it through a pandemic and come out the other side then we're not doing too badly!
How to start a zero waste business?
So, after reading Cat’s interview we hope that you are revved up and ready to go! Cat has given us some great advice on how to start a zero waste business with no money, how to start a zero waste store and how to engage with your customers!
Cat and her husband Paul have built a fantastic zero waste store, and there’s no reason why you can’t too!
Here are some of Cat’s top tips to get you started:
- Use the help that is offered to you from government loan schemes, local chambers of commerce, crowdfunding (and one from me – friend’s and family)
- Engage on social media. Be positive, be yourself and connect with your customers!
- Know your demographic!
- If you’re a physical store, think about your location!
- Do your research and have a USP (unique selling point)
How to find products for your zero waste store?
At Jungle Culture, we are always trying our best to support small eco friendly businesses. We have written a guide for finding zero waste products for your business right here.
If you are looking for custom branded eco friendly products or sustainable gifting products, we never ask for a minimum order quantity and we always give a 10% startup discount to new shops.
You can get in touch with us here.
And if you would like to get in touch with Cat, you can find her beautiful shop at:
3b Upper Brook St,
Resources for new business owners:
Check whether your potential business name has been taken on various social media channels and domains:
Register a limited company in the UK:
Use the search option to find best-selling products:
Enquire about our wholesale options:
July 13, 2020
I am getting ready to open an organic store in the uk and it’s great to read about other people’s experiences. Thoroughly informative article and a fantastic section including resources for zero waste store owners!
Thanks for writing.