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Making Package-Free Accessible + Affordable with Kate Pepler of The Tare Shop

“I think there’s often the perception that living package-free or a lower-waste lifestyle is more expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. I hope that it will catch on, and ultimately, it’s just better for us if this becomes more mainstream.

Kate Pepler, Founder of The Tare Shop

In this episode

Join Kate Pepler, Founder of SheEO Venture The Tare Shop, and Hannah Cree, SheEO Venture in Residence, as they talk about sustainability, package-free shopping, and Kate’s journey into entrepreneurship. The Tare Shop is Nova Scotia’s first bulk store, coffee shop, and community hub, where customers can shop all package-free.

They also discuss:

  • The story behind starting The Tare Shop and Kate’s educational background
  • Learning to trust herself as an entrepreneur while making mistakes and figuring it out
  • Using entrepreneurship as a way to showcase passion, drive, and create change
  • Understanding + having empathy for individual sustainability journeys without judgement
  • Balancing the need for profits with social good and competition from large chains
  • The importance of education as marketing + impact
  • And actions we can all take towards living more sustainably

We invite you to join us as an Activator at SheEO.World.

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Podcast Transcript:

The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).

Kate Pepler 0:00
I think there’s often the perception that living package-free or a lower-waste lifestyle is more expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. As this desire on the consumers and to do better and want to make different choices, as we push our government and our businesses, I hope that it will catch on. Ultimately, it’s just better for us if this becomes more mainstream. Then when somebody walks into our store, it’s not as foreign as a concept to them.

Hannah Cree 0:29
Welcome to the SheEO.World podcast where you will meet women who are transforming the world to be more equitable and sustainable. Your host for today’s podcast is Hannah, SheEO Venture-in-Residence. Welcome to SheEO.World.

I am so excited to be talking to the one and only Kate of Tare Shop who is a SheEO Canadian Venture this year. Welcome in. Thank you for being here.

Kate Pepler 0:58
Thank you so much for having me, Hannah. This is so fun.

Hannah Cree 1:02
So I love your model. But I really want to know how did you get there? Like tell everybody what what it is.

Kate Pepler 1:10
So The Tare Shop is Nova Scotia’s first package free bulk store, coffee shop and community hub. So you can get all of your bulk items, your flowers, nuts, seeds, shampoos, conditioners, olive oils, etc. but without the plastic packaging or without packaging. So folks bring in their own containers, we let people fill up any kind of container that they want. It can be a glass jar, plastic bag, paper bag, as long as it’s clean and empty. People are able to refill it. And we weigh the containers when they bring them in and then re weigh them at the checkout. And that’s actually the definition of tare—the deduction of the container weight. Fun fact.

Hannah Cree 1:50
Oh, I was, you know, I did. I was like, why did she call it that? I have no idea. It’s that piece?

Kate Pepler 2:01
Yeah, I was home visiting my parents and my sister was also home. And my mom, my sister and I were all lying in my bed trying to brainstorming ideas, names. And that’s that’s where we came up with the name.

Hannah Cree 2:15
So you’re all lying in bed. And that’s how you came up with the name. But why did you want to start a shop like this?

Kate Pepler 2:21
Yeah, so I grew up in Toronto, on Toronto Island, which was a really special place to grow up, I grew up running around on the beaches, playing in the woods or school on the island didn’t have a playground until I was in grade six. So our playground was literally just a field with trees, and we built forts. And it was so much fun. And spending a lot of time outdoors on the beaches on Lake Ontario. I always saw a ton of garbage. And I would always see like, for example, tons of plastic tampon applicators and not understanding things, when I was a kid being like, “oh, there’s like a lot of women on boats with periods,” not connecting that garbage on the beaches, in the oceans, wherever you are, doesn’t come from the water. It comes from land. So there’s always a disconnect. And so I’ve always cared about the environment, I’ve always been—I’ve always loved the outdoors. And I came out to go to Dalhousie in Halifax in 2011, to study the sustainability program. And I ended up doing a double major in sustainability, environmental science and a minor in marine biology. And that definitely, yeah it was a lot I had like no electives.

Hannah Cree 3:35
I was like, “did you see anybody during that time?”

Kate Pepler 3:38
I did. I also worked. I did it over five years, it was fun. A lot of my courses also like overlapped with each other. So it wasn’t like I was learning completely different material for each course, which made it a bit easier maybe. But through that I really I learned so much. But it felt like the focus of my degree was all of the ways that we are harming the environment without much action or like, here’s what we can do. Here’s how people are creating change. And so I was pretty depressed and overwhelmed after graduating, also being a young adult entering the world, not really knowing what I can do how I can make a difference. So I started a website that’s no longer running, called Our Positive Planet. And it was a platform to share environmental success stories. When I read about other people doing inspiring things. That’s what really gets me going. Whereas if I just hear the doom and gloom narrative all the time, I just want to like bury my head in the sand, turn on Netflix, ignore life completely. And so through that I fell into the zero waste movement or the low waste movement package free movement and started making steps in my own life to reduce my plastic consumption. And it was so hard to do. There was nowhere that made it easy. There was nowhere that made it accessible. I was largely mostly unemployed. I taught sailing in the summers but in the winters I was mostly unemployed. So I spent time, I had a lot of time to run around and try to get everything I needed without the plastic packaging. But that’s kind of where the idea for The Tare Shop came to fruition. And I spent a long like a year thinking about the business plan. And then being like, “Who am I to start a business? I don’t know how to run a business. I’ve never worked at a bookstore or coffee shops, I don’t know what I’m doing.” And I sort of spent a lot of time like doubting myself, questioning my dreams. And then after talking to other people who own businesses, realized that a lot of other business owners don’t have a business background.

Hannah Cree 5:39
Ding ding ding!

Kate Pepler 5:40
Exactly, there’s so much learning on the job learning as you go, making mistakes, figuring it out. And so eventually switched that to, why not me? if I wasn’t going to do it, somebody else was going to do it. So I made the decision. And I announced the business in January of 2018. And for me, that was like, Okay, once it’s out there, I can’t go back. That’s definitely like not in my nature to like, put something out there and then not follow through. And so I announced the business in January of 2018, with a goal to open in the fall of 2018. And we opened October 2018. And just this past January, we opened a second location in downtown Dartmouth.

Hannah Cree 6:23
Wow. So I mean, that’s quite the journey to get there. And it is so true that, I love that piece where entrepreneurs sit there, and they’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing. Because I usually have a background in this and this and this, and it’s, and then I will also go to the flip side, because I’ve worked a long time in the entrepreneur community, where there’s a whole bunch of people that go to school for business, and they never use that and go into business. Or they usually just make really good management people, but not necessarily the founders of the business, because founders are usually saying, Hey, this is a problem. And I am innovative and creative. And I’m passionate about this issue, especially in the work that we’re all doing. And so I want to fix it. And so I actually say that we’re not entrepreneurs, that’s not really even a title in a business. Even I use the word all the time. That’s my disclaimer, I use entrepreneur all the time. But I also have this thing of like, we’re not actually entrepreneurs, we are creators. We’re innovators, we’re makers, we’re, you know, we’re environmentalists, where you know, like we are those, and we use entrepreneurship as a tool to get our solution out in the world because we could use other solutions. We’re just choosing to use this vehicle, because maybe that’s the best way to do it. Right.

Kate Pepler 7:43
I love that. I love that way of thinking it. Yeah, like an entrepreneur isn’t some it doesn’t have to be somebody who has that big business background and tons of experience. But somebody who has that passion and that drive and that desire to create change.

Hannah Cree 8:00
And you have that passion and desire. And now you have this shop in Halifax, which by the way is like one of my favorite places in the world. I lived there for only six months, way back in the day, but also not a huge market. So I really want to talk about this like not a huge market. I don’t know how environmental they are. So have you have you had issues or just any challenges with with the model and introducing it into that sector? What did that look like for you?

Kate Pepler 8:30
Honestly, with the first shop, so I announced the business in January. And I think within a week I had 500 followers on Instagram. And my like inbox DMs were flooded with people messaging me being like, “I also have been trying to shop this way and it was just so hard.” So I feel like there’s a lot of different people trying to live this way. Also, there just wasn’t any way to do it and no community around this way of living and this way of shopping. And so instantly was like blown away by the support. And so for doing up my cash flow projections to get loans in the beginning, like the sales were double what I thought that they would be and I think there’s just so many people who were wanting to shop this way but it just wasn’t easy so they weren’t shopping this way. I like expected my target market to be like younger women. And that was primarily at the beginning who our target market was but there’s also a huge jump to like 60 plus year olds coming in and being like, “This is how we used to shop! This is how it used to be, I am so excited to be able to shop this way again.” So that was really unexpected. And as we’ve grown we’ve seen that gap kind of fill in with with the other ages.

Hannah Cree 9:54
Oh you hit on something. This is the way we used to shop.

Kate Pepler 9:58
Yeah.

Hannah Cree 9:59
Like think about that evolution for them. That was the way and it was packaged free and all of this and then went to complete packaging, which also so interesting. They’re like, I didn’t want that. But that’s what’s available now. And this is what I want to do.

Kate Pepler 10:14
Absolutely. And if you can’t buy cheese that’s not in plastic. Or if you can’t buy rice or lentils, beans, whatever it is that you’re buying, that’s not in plastic, obviously, you’re not going to be able to live a low waste lifestyle. So I think we yeah, we’ve just gone we think we’ve moved so far ahead. We think we’ve progressed so much, but I think we’ve just done so much harm, and we need to move back. So much harm. Yeah, we need to revert back to how things used to be in a lot of ways. Obviously, plastic has its time and place. And one thing that I always make sure to emphasize is that, I like, never judge you like if I have a friend who’s drinking out of a plastic water bottle, it’s not my place, like you do you I do me, we’ll get there. Who knows? Like it’s like, even in Canada, we have communities that don’t have clean drinking water. So obviously, they have to get their drinking water in a plastic bottle. And we shouldn’t shame anybody, you don’t know what their situation is. So yeah, like there’s no judgement. You do you I’ll do me. And you do what you can where you can, I’ll do what I can where I can, and we’ll get there. And we’re all just doing the best we can.

Hannah Cree 11:26
Yeah, and what’s your view on that? Right? Because I feel like sometimes there’s a huge push on the consumer to be like, you need to be zero waste and really look at your whole lifestyle. When we all know, there’s like probably top 10 polluters that are companies in the world that if they just changed what they were doing, we’d also to actually those top 10 companies, if they changed what they were doing, they would also change the way they were packaging and everything else in their model. And it could literally change the world.

Kate Pepler 11:54
Absolutely. I think it’s I don’t know if we’re allowed to swear, but it’s such bullshit that—

Hannah Cree 11:58
You can swear all you want. We’re angry. As long as it’s for a reason.

Kate Pepler 12:03
Perfect, yeah, it’s such bullshit that all of the blame and the responsibility is pushed on to the consumer. When really it’s the producers, the manufacturers, it’s the big companies that can take ownership for what they’re doing and create change. There’s a big supermarket chain in England, or in the UK called Iceland Food, I’m 90% sure. And they basically went to all of their suppliers, and they were like, get us your stuff package free or we’ll find it elsewhere. And they gave them a deadline. So I think, yeah, as business owners like, this is what I’m doing, making the choice to not operate in a way that’s harmful. And being really mindful about everything that we do and try to be super inclusive and aware and accessible to the community we’re in.

Hannah Cree 12:55
What do you see in this industry in the next five years, then or 10 years, however far you want to look out? You know, we’re seeing we know that we had you know, Nada is another package free grocery store SheEO that’s on the other coast.

On the west coast now. Yeah, coast to coast. We got that now. And now we have to fill in the middle. But you know, there is a movement there. But how do you see your own growth? And what do you see in the industry?

Kate Pepler 13:21
I think that this way of shopping, is, I hope it just becomes more and more affordable and accessible. So in our pricing model, we try to keep everything as affordable as we can, while still surviving and paying bills and paying our staff. And I think there’s often the perception that living package-free or a lower-waste lifestyle is more expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. So I think as this desire on the consumers and to do better and want to make different choices. As we push our government and our businesses. I hope that it will catch on and it will be in big supermarkets. One of the first couple months we were open, I wasn’t actually at the store at the time but a bunch of like business people in suits and clipboards came into the store. The staff had no idea what to do. And they were all like executives from Sobey’s, a big grocery store here coming in because they had heard about us and wanted to see how we were doing things and what we were doing. So like pretty crazy that we caught the attention of such a big such a big company. And they ended up I believe they did end up expanding their bulk selection. Right now I don’t think they are because of COVID but it was pretty cool to see that. So I hope that other grocery stores will want to start offering some products package free and give people the choice.

Hannah Cree 14:57
You know this is what I love about when we start to look at models that have deep social impact that are working in that environment, where all of us who have these businesses go, Well, we want to see our competitors do better. Like, you know, the old model of entrepreneurship is like, well, what happens if your competitor comes into your store and rips off all your ideas? And you know, like, what if a Sobey’s or Safeway’s whatever the big grocery store is switches to your model? Does that take you out? And, and and your response is like, actually, this is what we need to happen. Like, if we’re involved in social change, there’s a point where business and social change, come to heads, right? Like, one, what’s your value? Where are you going to do that? And so I love that you’re just like, well, I want the big grocery stores. I had a little part of me where I was like, Did Sobey’s pay you or give you any heads up of coming in? Because I also think that’s ridiculous.

Kate Pepler 15:51
No they did not. Absolutely not. They never even reached out afterwards.

Hannah Cree 15:58
Yeah, old school business models, we’ll just go in, rip everything off and find it.

Kate Pepler 16:03
Yeah. Like so clearly not a customer, also.

Hannah Cree 16:07
Did they not even try to buy anything?

Kate Pepler 16:10
They might have gotten a coffee. I don’t know, though. I don’t know.

Hannah Cree 16:13
Oh no, they really should’ve—calling you out, Sobey’s. You should’ve bought a lot of stuff out of there. If you’re going to go in and survey, yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Kate Pepler 16:22
Yeah, yeah, ultimately, it’s just better for us. If this becomes more mainstream, then when somebody walks into our store, it’s not as foreign as a concept to them. Because I definitely do recognize we get a lot of people walking in. And, like our store is also, like very pretty, we have everything in glass jars instead of the bulk bins for a couple of different reasons. But it can be intimidating to walk into a beautiful store with hundreds of glass jars of product, and you’re like, I don’t even know where to go, how to start. So yeah, a big piece of our business. What the staff does, is that education piece, explaining, walking people through how it works, reminding our regulars how things work, and educating the community on the how and the why of the business.

Hannah Cree 17:16
Yeah, it’s a big part, I think of any of these types of models is actually ends up being education, because we’re doing new things in a new way. And so education is really the marketing of it all a lot of times too, and the impact of of what you’re having. Where do you see Tare Shop? You know, like you’re, you’ve already expanded, you already have two stores, which in a small market is really exceptional. Where do you see yourself going and moving into the future?

Kate Pepler 17:46
I would love to have more stores. I’ve gotten so many requests to since before we open to open stores and different locations in Nova Scotia, Canada, and beyond. So we’d love to explore what that could look like. Yeah, I just see so much potential in the business and my team. And yeah, just really want to make package free shopping accessible and affordable to as many people as I can.

Hannah Cree 18:15
I love it. I’m moving to Montreal soon. I would like to have—that’s pretty close to Halifax. Let’s try there next. Yeah, we’d like to have a package free grocery store. Especially SheEO.

Kate Pepler 18:25
That’d be so fun.

Hannah Cree 18:28
So so important. So important. Do you have an ask for the SheEO community or to the listeners, or maybe even a little bit of advice on package free?

Kate Pepler 18:38
Hmm, yeah, maybe my Give would be some advice. My like, advice is always to start small. So if you open your pantry, and you’re just like, Oh my gosh, literally, everything is in plastic. Like, that’s okay. As you run out of things, then that’s like an opportunity. If you have a bulk store in your, in your area, there’s an opportunity to replace as you run out. Also, if you just have no idea where to start, what I always recommend is folks, like keep a waste log or a trash jar for a month or a week or so because all of our garbage cans are like a solid color with a lid and you throw something in it and you close the lid and you never think about it. So even understanding what type of garbage you’re creating or waste you’re creating is so hard because you don’t see it and you’re so disconnected from it. So even just by understanding what you’re creating, from there, you can make steps to cut out what you can where you can. But yeah, start small, be kind to yourself. And my ask is go follow us on Instagram @thetareshop.

Hannah Cree 19:47
Yes. I love all of that. And I want to say, algorithms are not nice to women. Yeah to women at all. And, and, and gender nonconforming and anyone that’s really sitting on margins and so on. And we’ve been discovering that, and the best way, you know, honestly go and follow and like and be on social media when you see them posting things, even a little fire emoji is a comment in their algorithm, which pushes us up and we need to start doing that I forget what the stat is, but it was like very low that I think women’s names appear in media like something like 3% of the time, like don’t even use the names and all of these pieces and so I you know, for anyone that’s listening the things that you love and the women led businesses and SheEO Ventures like get on there, follow interact, throw the emoji, you don’t have to comment a lot. But when you do that kind of stuff, this, that’s the only way to trip out the algorithms. And this kind of information is what we need out there. I don’t need to know about another pizza drone. There’s like a drone delivery pizza thing that you know, will get funded for $100 million yet we have these incredible women working on The World’s To-Do List in environmental pieces. That’s the stuff we should be seeing. And so.

Kate Pepler 21:06
Absolutely.

Hannah Cree 21:07
I want to thank you for the work that you’re doing. So inspiring. And I love the model. It’s actually something I feel the same way. Like if this was easy and accessible, I would be shopping this way and there isn’t in my area. And so right now I have to live in one of the coasts, you know, either Nada or you, and we and we go from there. So yeah, so how do they so they follow you on Instagram and check out check you out? Where what’s your website?

Kate Pepler 21:37
thetareshop.com. Yeah, you can sign up for our newsletter as well. We do e-newsletters, put some fun books and like fun activities you can do with your kids or recipes. Yeah, check us out.

Hannah Cree 21:52
Perfect. And thank you for making it guilt free. Right, like start where you are. I love when I hear that because a lot of times you’ll hear in these industries like you got to do all these things and there’s this and and it has to look Instagram pretty and it’s like no just show up where you are.

Kate Pepler 22:08
Oh my gosh yeah, no just show up. Just try. Yeah, we all make mistakes. We all get judged way too often. Way too many things. We all feel too many guilt about too many things. Just the show up. Just do your best.

Hannah Cree 22:22
Amazing. Thank you Kate. Tare Shop. Check it out. Until next time.

Kate Pepler 22:27
Thank you so much, Hannah.

Hannah Cree 22:31
Thank you for listening to the SheEO.World podcast. Like, comment, subscribe, and share this podcast with your friends. We invite you to join a global community of radically generous women at SheEO.World.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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