When it came to starting a plastic-free lifestyle, Marilla Gonzalez’s first switch was a bar of soap and a bag of cotton swabs. After three years of transitioning her furniture, Gonzalez wanted to make earth-friendly products accessible to everyone in the community.
Gonzalez is a native of Geneva and has been working in the health food industry for over 10 years. Because of her passion for sustainability, it upsets her to see the earth-friendly shops she frequents continue to use single-use plastics. And in the year In 2018, Gonzalez began researching and envisioning what it would be like to open her own store where the packaging was small and plastic-free.
She says on her site: “It is my strong belief that ethical products that are good for the planet should not be difficult to access or difficult to understand.” So we have done the homework behind each item and are confident in the puzzle. The result of each purchase.
Here’s an interview with Gonzalez, who gives us an inside look at what it’s like to start her business. Her answers have been slightly edited for clarity and length.
In the year You started researching in 2018, but when did you decide to open your own store?
I have worked for over 10 years in a traditional co-op setting, very similar to a health food store. And he was helping them close shop because the owner had retired. As we were pretty much closing that place down, I knew I wanted to keep doing something like this. And we investigated to take over the power. But when I looked at the model, I was just frustrated that single-use plastic is traditionally found in places like this, so we decided it would be easier to start over. And then after we started doing the research, it reinforced that it was 2017, and the kind of decision we made and the research that followed helped get us to where we are today.
How do you prepare financially to open your own business?
We didn’t have any funding, and we were prepared for that, so we started raising a bootstrap budget, which was the lowest number we could get for a position like this, and we had a lot. community interest. So we started exploring some of the grants available for small businesses in New York State. And we rested on the gift of downtown revitalization that went to many small towns and cities in upstate New York. The only difficult part of most of those grant programs is that you have to show that you have a certain amount of money to even be considered for the money. So we had to save a little bit and take it out of savings and stuff like that. In the end, however, we were able to demonstrate sufficiently that we were eligible for assistance. And that first year we won a grant to open the business.
What financial advice would you give to someone hoping to start their own business?
My advice is to keep it as simple as you can, keep it as affordable as you can and aim for the lowest numbers as opposed to the highest. That helped us a lot because the grant we got was so small that we went in with a very thin budget because then we felt like we had money to play with. You can find things in seconds, see who is removing their shelves and things like that.
How do you overcome challenges mentally? What kinds of things or perhaps people helped you during those times?
I initially came into my business, with a lot of experience from my family, many people in my family had their own businesses. So growing up, I was able to live in a family with parents who owned a small business and I was able to see them mentally navigate through that ups and downs. They were great at keeping a clear head and a calm head through the ups and downs, but then I also had family members who were stressed out, and I could see how that wore on them. So when I opened my own business, I was determined to focus on my mental health and shape something that really mattered to me. And when I need to take a break, I let the clients know, “We’re closing today, because of the wedding.” I have to be there.” And then there’s a bit of excitement all around. So for me, including the people in your business, taking your time when you need it, and letting go of your job as much as possible are the three things that have helped me the most.
What are some resources you’ve found in the community that have helped you thrive?
I think first and foremost, other business owners should be completely honest. There are many resources for small businesses and businesses just starting out. And while those look like small businesses, there’s a big one on the southwest edge. There’s a good one in Geneva, the Chamber of Commerce, and visit Rochester, another one you might be interested in as a small business. But first and foremost, find out who your neighborhood businesses are, how long they’ve been around, what benefits them, what their pain points are, and what they love about your area. Those kinds of friendships and relationships have been more helpful than any organization I’ve ever been a part of.
Regarding outsourcing your store. What do you look for in someone when hiring?
A good work ethic and multitasking are certainly key, but especially for Marillas, a careful approach to service is a big deal for us. I’m always looking for people who have a heart to pay attention to people and that person beyond plastic-free products, beyond the planet, that person is the first. And a well-maintained person can take care of other things like the planet. So there’s definitely a very, very personal and sensitive aspect of our hiring process because that’s what’s most important to me. And when people come in here and feel important, then they leave looking like they’re important. And that’s really the biggest, biggest part.
If you could pick one lesson you’ve learned up to this point, what would it be?
Maybe don’t sweat the small stuff. You know, in small business, everything is small. So it’s a funny thing to say, but if you’re tying your self-esteem or your business to the daily sum, it can be very mentally exhausting; The numbers, the traffic, the little things that go up and down. Some days you have a gangbuster day, and you can’t believe how well you’re doing. And then the next day, you can have a negative dollar. I would say it’s something I’m not perfect at, but a lesson I’m always trying to learn and improve on is not to sweat the small stuff and knowing that you have to step back and look at things as a whole. Believe that one bad day does not mean a bad business.