Nelly Semaille: Filling Good Top Tips!
What are the five top tips for starting a zero-waste shop in your local area? Carbon Copy speaks with Nelly Semaille, co-founder and co-director of the Filling Good shops in Maidenhead & Windsor.
CC: Please could you create a mental picture for our readers of what The Filling Good shop is?
NS: It is a beautiful little shop with loads of refill options, all presented in reclaimed furniture and upcycled material, with a lovely feeling! If you enter the shop, you are first delighted by the delicate (but not overwhelming) smell of the handmade soaps and locally poured candles, then you’ll probably be greeted by a lovely volunteer offering to help you with your refills… You’ll end up having a chat, trying some smoked almonds or cold processed chocolate, and then promising to come back very soon with more containers!
CC: Why were you so concerned about the waste problem that it led to you, personally, wanting to do something as significant as start trading?
NS: It is the climate change and biodiversity collapse, more than the sole issue of waste, that was a motivation for me, as for Sophie, the other Filling Good director. Filling Good is about reducing your waste for sure, but generally about sustainable living, and hence proposing a lot of organic and vegan options as well as unpackaged – we research a lot the products we stock, and the ethical side and the content of a product is as important as its lack of packaging.
CC: What was that lightbulb moment that led to the creation of shop?
NS: Tired of researching about all the products I needed to buy, and finding it very complicated to consume without “harming”, I thought it would be great to be able to go to one shop only where I could purchase what I needed, without a bad conscience.
Later on, when I was starting to sell some refills on a stall in a shop in the shopping centre of Maidenhead, many of the customers were keen on helping – all these offers of help, including from Sophie, made me think that it should become a community project and not only “my” shop.
CC: What has been the local community’s response to the shop?
NS: People love the shop! Our refills are really growing, showing that when they are given the opportunity, people are happy to take the steps to a more sustainable future. The kind atmosphere of the shop makes it a nice trip, even if it requires a bit more organisation, plus it re-humanises groceries. No delivery service or big supermarket chain can beat us at this. And our volunteers enjoy coming to the shop and spending time with each other: the community is the heart of Filling Good.
CC: If another community likes the sound of Filling Good and would like to copy the idea, what would be your advice for how to make a start?
NS: Here are my 5 top tips…
1) Community engagement is key. Take time to gather your first supporters, the ones who are going to shop with you, volunteer with you, and invest in your project. They are the backbone of the whole project.
2) Second tip is… start small… but not for too long :) Having a good grasp of the operational practicalities will avoid nasty surprises when things are getting serious.
3) Third tip is… collaborate! There are many people around who can help – not to take away the work, but to use their network to help, to talk about you, and give you advice. A lot of local businesses are keen on cross promotions, and other like-minded zero waste shops, if they are not physically too close, will be keen on a mutual collaboration.
4) Fourth tip is… ask for help, and delegate as much as you can early on. We are a community shop, and the more people are involved in it, the more likely it is to survive.
5) Last one… well, just send me an email if you have a question, we are a cooperative and happy to help other cooperatives and not-for-profit projects where we can!
CC: Thank you, Nelly! If anyone else working on a zero-waste shop would like to get in touch, please visit Filling Good.