One year… and look how far we’ve come!
As friends we often talked about opening a business, about doing something we believed in and challenging ourselves to new experiences. On January 4, 2020, the three of us were on a trip - enjoying a certain someone’s 40th birthday - when we decided we were going to take the chance and open a refillery in Victoria. We had been shopping at some of our favourite refill stores in Calgary and Vancouver and had been making a few products of our own for some time. Some of the most fun we have had as friends has been making and trying new products, sometimes failing miserably and other times becoming obsessed with the beauty in creating. By February 2, 2020 we had incorporated the name ASH Refillery and Co., and we began searching for a retail location thanks in part to the incredible support we had from our friends and family. By May we had packed our bags and moved to Victoria - all during a global pandemic.
None of us had owned a small business, knew what it was like or what to expect. We spent June ordering from our beloved suppliers, putting together furniture, building a website, taking product photos, applying for business licenses, making products, all while trying to settle in and explore a new city we had just moved to! The process was fun, exciting, challenging and sometimes had us running in circles but eventually we got there and we opened our doors on July 6th. We were all hands on deck - helping customers, answering questions, packing orders, popping open a bottle of champagne, and giving each other as much encouragement as we could because we were really doing it - we were making our vision come to life!
There were days where we were scared if we were going to sell anything. There were days we weren’t sure if we could pay the bills. There were days where we struggled with each other and what was going on in the world around us. And yet, here we are..celebrating one year of being in business! One year of working things out, one year of fun, one year of challenges, one year of change and one year of small steps towards a different life.
We began this venture with one goal in mind, to make sustainability easy. We noticed so many barriers in the industry that make living more sustainably expensive and inaccessible and we knew that we wanted to do our part to change that. So much of what we’ve done this last year has continually been rooted in our values, to cultivate conversation around shifting daily habits towards low-waste alternatives and to break down the barriers of sustainable living.
Have we always been able to do this?
The answer to that is no.
We’ve learnt that it can become easy to be complacent and in the small business world, the “getting by” can take more focus than the initial vision we all had. Ensuring you are making enough to keep things going is a constant struggle while keeping prices affordable and fair. Choosing when, how, and with whom you do business is not easy when the market is competitive and similar stores are often pitted against one another. We have come to know that what is important to us is to stay transparent, to stay rooted and grounded in who we are and why we want to continue to offer more than just the products on our shelves.
We want to thank each and every person who has supported us along the way to one year. Thank you to everyone we have met and everyone we have yet to meet. Thank you for letting us be a small part in your lives and thank you for trusting us - this last year hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding, life-changing and we are honoured to meet each of you where you are at in your journey.