The Shop and the Future

So it happened, the shop is open. We opened the doors on the 4th of May and since then its been a whirlwind of activity. I haven’t had time to sit down and type up a blog in god knows how long but I’m happy to say that I’m – obviously – doing it right now. The main reason why I wanted to get something written down was to promote the Crowdfund we launched on Monday, 15th July 2019. The next 4 weeks are going to be so nerve wrecking, I am probably going to have no nails by the end of it. But I feel its so important to get the ball rolling and keep moving forward with The Green Scoop.

But before I get into all of that. Let’s recap on a few things.

I started on this business owning journey last year when I started researching my potential audience and began writing up my business plan. I received help from Big Ideas Wales, a fantastic organisation that helps young folk like me set up their businesses. My business advisor helped me get my business plan top notch and put it forward to the Start Up Loan Company. Yep, I got a loan – a £19,000 loan to be exact – to be paid back over 5 years. Hopefully you can tell how determined I was to get this shop opened, to go for that amount of money, on my own, with nothing but a big idea and a lot of guts. But I did, the loan was approved and about a month later I was handed the keys to my shop.

It was an amazing moment, I cant describe to you how thrilled I was. As soon as I got the key code, I hot footed it over here, trembling fingers fumbled with the key code box and then I had them, my keys. Oh my gosh, I’m getting nervous excited just thinking about it now – a good four or so months later. It was an awesome moment.

My Keys! A bit grubby but still wonderful!

So then we launched straight into getting set up. Sourcing materials, painting walls, ripping up the carpet tiles (the tiles are safe and stored in the basement, didn’t go to the tip) and figuring out exactly where everything was to go.

We had a minor blip when the scaffolding boards we ordered weren’t coming anymore and we had to source an alternative. Which actually turned into a great thing because we found these amazing floor boards and pitch pine panels which worked into the overall look of the shop really well.

I couldn’t have done it without my sister, Cerys and my dad (Plus loads of other people). They helped me put the shop together. I couldn’t have power washed all those boards, sanded them all and put it all together on my own. Cerys is hard working and Dad has skills and power tools. I don’t think the shop would look as awesome as it does if I hadn’t received their help. I’m eternally grateful.

So after a lot of hard work, some tears and a couple of minor finger injuries – we were done! It felt like we had been doing it for years but the same time like no time had passed at all. The Shop was finished, the tubs were washed, dried and filled, the jars shiny and the veg crates full. All our stock were out and all I had to do was swing those doors open on the 4th of May at 9 o’clock.

What a day that was. You could barely move from the amount of people that were in here. It was a hive of activity. It was amazing… and every day since then has been just as awesome. Adjusting to the way of the shop has been difficult but not to a point where I regret any of this.

I do not regret a thing!! By far the best thing I have ever done in my life. I love it. I’d do it all again!

We’ve been open for 11 weeks now. 11 whole weeks. Where has the time flown? It’s been brilliant. Looking forward to every week to come.

But enough of the gushing.

The next stage of the business is to open a Zero Waste and Sustainable cafe in the shop itself. But not just any cafe! A community space where we can host workshops, community groups and encourage people to learn new skills, take up hobby’s and connect with each other. One of the more important things we want to do is start a pay-it-forward scheme to help those in need.

A pay-It-Forward scheme works by someone paying for a meal and/or drink that then gets reserved for someone to use when they cant afford to pay for it themselves. Brilliant right? That’s why we want to do it.

In order for us to be able to do that, we need to raise £16,500.

Yep, I know. What a number. That’s as far down as I could get it as well. We’ve taken over a building that used to be a bank so there is no catering kitchen or special equipment. We have a sink and a cupboard, thats it. To make it even more difficult. We’ve only got 4 weeks to raise this amount. And today, (Day 5 – Friday, at time of typing) we’ve only got £575.

But that’s brilliant! It shows that there are people out there that believe in our project and what we want to bring to Carmarthen! I’m determined to keep the ball rolling, to gather momentum and surge forward to our goal! We CAN do it!

And you can help. By pledging, sharing, liking, commenting, shouting about it and encouraging others to pledge what they can as well. 50 people pledging £10 is £500 – 100 people pledging £20 is £2000! Simple maths but you get the idea. You don’t have to be a massive giver – just your small contribution can result in a huge impact.

If you want to pledge today, you can at – www.crowdfunder.co.uk/community-hub-cafe-the-green-scoop

Thanks for reading my waffling!

Why I Decided to Open My Own Shop

I just wanted to make a blog about why I began this journey. Just to tell you a little bit more about me.

I have experience in the retail industry working as a Till Operator at Wyevale Garden Centre and have been to many craft and Christmas fairs since I was 18 years old – selling things I’ve made and my grandmothers cosmetic products which she makes from beeswax. These I can honestly say, have been some of the most enjoyable experiences of the last five years. One of the most memorable being when I went with Nan to The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Builth Wells. It was busy, exciting and a sort of hard work that I didn’t mind at all. The passion to sell and make my customers happy has always been important to me. 

But the last five years have also been the toughest for me. I found myself in the Caring industry as I struggled for money and had no real goals at 19. I worked hard, enjoyed helping our clients with their needs and took pride in what I did. But after a few years of back breaking slog and difficulties with employers, I was no longer happy. I took a career change and became a ward clerk – something different to get that enjoyment back. Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple, I just wasn’t in the right place. So stepping back, I really looked at myself – asked myself “Where was I happy?” 

Well, that’s when I remembered about my retail experience. I would never have left the Garden Centre if they were able to give me full time work. But I knew I couldn’t just go to a supermarket and start stacking shelves. I have skills and experience that I need to use. I thought I’d start a business selling wool and yarn but I didn’t see myself being able to leave the hospital with just that. I don’t have my own flock and it would take me many years to build up to a point I could have. Although I still want to have my own flock one day and fulfil my creative goals, I needed to find something I could really make a difference with. I needed a Thing, something to be proud of.

That lead me one to my other passions – sustainability and the environment. I’ve been telling anyone who would listen for the past year that I want to build a house out of straw. I’ve been looking into composting toilets, solar panels and turf roofs. Anything and everything to do with eco friendly living and sustainability. Although I’m, and my partner, are a few years off being able to afford our own bit of land and building the house – I’ve been trying to live up to my future goals as best I can. Simply by walking to work, turning off things that don’t need to be on, buying from sustainable sources and buying free range and local. I’ve never dropped litter, I occasionally find myself picking up rubbish from the beach and we’ve always had our own chickens for eggs. 

Like many people, I’ve always enjoyed a documentary with David Attenborough narrating. So like many of us did back in 2017, I sat down to watch Blue Planet 2 with the rest of the country. I didn’t expect it to completely change the way I looked at my feeble attempts to stay environmentally friendly and at the waste I was creating from just everyday life. I immediately began looking at how I could change this for the better. As I detailed in my previous blog – I stopped buying shampoo and conditioner bottles, bought a metal safety razor, invested in some beeswax wraps and made a habit of saying no to plastic cutlery and other disposables. 

What I couldn’t do was completely cut out plastic from my food shop. It was near impossible. Fruit and veg was easy as Chris Thomas & Son sells a wide variety of loose produce just down the road from me. But everything else? Plastic – everywhere. I said to myself many times as I wandered around supermarkets “If only we had a zero waste shop in Carmarthen,” Then it would be easier, right?

Right. 

I saw my first Zero Waste shop in Narberth. I was so excited by the find – it was perfect. I loved everything about it and I went away with a stronger desire for there to be one in Carmarthen. That’s when my passion for retail and my passion for the environment collided. I had my Thing. This is what I was meant to do. 

Then it was just a matter of how. How was I going to do my Thing?

One of the first things I did was look for help. I contacted Business Wales so put me in touch with Big Ideas – an organisation that helps young people set up their business with lots of extra support and events. I’ve met my advisor, been to a business workshop and even a networking event – which was great fun and very positive. They’ve given me so much support and guidance. 

Now, I’m figuring out my budget, writing my business plan, looking into crowdfunding and searching for the perfect place to set up. I’m always thinking of what I could do next and how I’m going to best serve you, my future customer.

I honestly cant wait for the next step in this journey. Even the smallest details fill me with excitement and I sometimes have to rein it in so I can actually get work done. You’ll have to forgive me if you ever catch me doing a little dance. 😉