Name: Deanna Taylor-Heacock
Kids: Michael, 8, and Julia, 6
Business: Good Bottle Refill Shop
Location: 1875 Springfield Ave., Maplewood
New Jersey Family: What makes your business unique?
Deanna Taylor-Heacock: Good Bottle Refill Shop is New Jersey’s first zero waste refill shop. At Good Bottle, you can bring your own containers or buy one from us. We sell soaps, detergents, cleaning products and bath and body products in bulk. We sell everything by the ounce so you can buy as little or as much as you like. We also carry an assortment of unique zero waste lifestyle products intended to help you reduce your consumption of single-use items.
NJF: What was the inspiration behind your business?
DTH: First, I was disgusted with the amount of trash my family was producing. We made it our New Year’s resolution to reduce our waste. I stumbled upon the zero-waste movement looking for sustainable ideas and products. I also wanted to cut down on our spending. I started separating our food shopping from all the other household goods and only shopped for those things once a month. I had an “aha moment” when I was at Walmart looking at all the plastic bottles I was buying and realized that all I really needed was the liquid inside. There was absolutely no reason for us to be throwing away all these bottles each week/month since they never break down. I searched for a store like this near me and couldn’t find it. I started working on a business plan right away and spent the summer making it a reality. We launched on September 9, 2019.
NJF: Small businesses are being hit hard during COVID-19. How has this affected Good Bottle?
DTH: Although we have taken a hit in our sales, luckily, we are still able to do business. We are thankful that we can still pay our bills and employees.
NJF: How have you pivoted to adapt to this uncertain time?
DTH: We were in a unique position because we were considered an essential business but also knew we couldn’t service our customers the way we normally do by handling bottles from their home. We already had an e-commerce website selling products. I spent two full days converting it to a local delivery and curbside pick-up store instead. I had to get pictures taken of the products, price them and get them on the site. They are called “prefills” which are sustainable bottles filled with the product of your choice. We were up and running with delivery and curbside pickup hours after the shop had to close its doors. Our customers embraced this new way of shopping from us. We are also buying back the bottles from our customers with our new “good bottle loop” program. We are lucky to have a commercial sink and kitchen where we can wash and sanitize our bottles to be filled again. We have a standard operating procedure in place during this pandemic and are able to ensure all of our products are safe and sanitized.
NJF: How are you giving back through this period?
DTH: We normally spend Mondays doing re-orders for our best sellers to stay in stock. Now we spend that money on Go Fund Me campaigns for local businesses. We also donated 10 gallons of soap to St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston and have given away many hand sanitizer bottles to local doctors’ offices.
NJF: What do you love most about what you do?
DTH: So much! I’ve never been so excited to go to work in my life. I love working with our customers and helping them find solutions in their homes. I love finding new products and working with our suppliers on developing new items. I especially love figuring out ways to merchandise the store and make processes more efficient for our customers. There is no “best practice” or example for me to follow since we are one of the first shops out there so every issue we run into, we have to figure it out ourselves and I love doing that.
NJF: How have your kids been inspired to get involved?
DTH: They love the shop and are so proud. They know why we are doing this business and like talking about ways to “stop using plastic.” I’ve been told by teachers and other moms that it comes up in conversation at school and play dates often.
NJF: How has Good Bottle brought the Maplewood and South Orange communities together?
DTH: Good Bottle is in a marketplace with other locally owned businesses called the General Store Cooperative. The marketplace has a mission to bring our communities together through events and outreach. Good Bottle has certainly sparked a conversation in our community regarding zero waste and reducing our consumption. There is lots of discussion on this topic on our community Facebook pages now more than ever before.
NJF: What advice do you have to encourage a waste-free life?
DTH: Start with a trash audit. Understand what single-use items you fill your trash with. We realized our trash was almost half filled with paper napkins and paper towels. We eliminated those things first and then tackled other things. We found reusable items to replace almost all the single-use items in our home.
NJF: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever gotten?
DTH: When I was a buyer for Bloomingdales, I was responsible for buying the brand Spanx. Founder Sara Blakely was such an inspiration to me and I’ll never forget something she said which was “hire your weakness.” I will always remember that. I have one employee at Good Bottle and she shines in so many ways but especially in the places where I do not.
NJF: What will be the first thing you do when this is behind us?
DTH: Celebrate our new line of soap. Right before the pandemic, we launched our line of hand soap, dish soap and laundry detergent. We never got a chance to fully launch the product line and celebrate with our customers.
NJF: What else should we know about Good Bottle Refill Shop?
DTH: Good Bottle is a no judgement zone. We don’t believe that zero waste is a one size fits all mentality. Whatever changes you would like to make in your home, we are here to help you out and give suggestions. We’re so excited to bring this new concept to the Garden State and start a #refillrevolution.