Headshot of Deanna Taylor-Heacock, founder of Good Bottle Refill Shop.
Good Bottle owner, Deanna Taylor-Heacock, in her New Jersey-based refill shop. — Good Bottle

When starting a new business, build on what you know and what you’re passionate about, and ask others to step in when needed.

This is how Deanna Taylor-Heacock grew her passion for zero-waste living into the first-ever refill shop in New Jersey.

Good Bottle promotes sustainability by encouraging customers to bring their own containers to fill up on common household goods, from olive oil and granite cleaner to shampoo and conditioner.

“The purpose [of a refill shop] is to give an alternative to single-use items that fill our landfills and our oceans,” Taylor-Heacock said. “Since plastic does not ever degrade, we need to find better options and more sustainable alternatives.”

By allowing customers to bring in their own containers to fill up on products, Good Bottle helps save many harmful plastics from winding up in the garbage — and, eventually, our oceans.

[Read more: 10 Green Small Business Ideas]

Look to your passions and interests for inspiration

Taylor-Heacock didn’t always dream of opening a refill shop. She has a background in retail and worked as a buyer in a few major department stores. But the idea caught her interest when she spotted a major gap in the market.

“[My family and I] started a zero-waste journey with a New Year's resolution to reduce waste,” she said. “We wanted a place to refill the products we were buying so many plastic bottles [for]. I went online to find a refill shop close to us and I couldn't find one, so I decided to start my own.”

The COVID-19 pandemic actually had a positive impact on the business, allowing it to pivot and create an entirely new stream of income through the “Good Bottle loop.”

Since then, Good Bottle has expanded significantly, now delivering products across the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic actually had a positive impact on the business, allowing it to pivot and create an entirely new stream of income through the “Good Bottle loop.”

“We started the Good Bottle loop because we wanted to serve our customers during the pandemic,” she said. “Customers order all the products online in our sustainable bottles. Then, on the day we deliver, they can leave us the empty bottles. We refund the customers for the empties and then clean/sanitize them to put them back into production.”

The Good Bottle loop operates through local New Jersey neighborhoods and select areas of Manhattan in New York City.

Use prior experience to your advantage

Taylor-Heacock’s background in retail was a huge advantage when opening Good Bottle. She knew how to select the right products for her store, understood marketing and inventory management, and had a solid intuition for what would work and what would not. But when it came to the business side of launching her idea, she felt a little lost.

“I had no idea how to do anything when it [came] to bookkeeping and how to do things like figure out … how much cash to have in the register,” she said. “Those are the things I just had to ask other business owners [who were] willing to help me out.”

Relying on that network of other business owners and using prior work experience to make informed choices helped set Taylor-Heacock up for the success she has today.

[Read more: Top Bookkeeping Mistakes Business Owners Should Avoid]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.