Most people often overlook the growing pile of plastic, packaging, and waste that results from a lifetime of production and consumption. In response to the negative impact of waste and plastic pollution on our environment, many are now following the zero-waste movement. As business owners, we have the unique opportunity to adopt these zero-waste principles and create a positive impact.
This holiday season, let’s strive to be responsible business owners and conscious consumers by prioritizing sustainable gifting. To kick off our special holiday series, we’re joined by Allisha Heidt, the founder of Chickpeace, a zero-waste refillery.
Allisha established Chickpeace during the pandemic to empower her community to make more mindful choices for themselves and the environment. She continuously explores innovative ways to expand her outreach and enhance her revenue streams. Simultaneously, her business offers individuals the chance to embark on their zero-waste journey and shop sustainably.
Building a Business With Values: Allisha’s Journey
Allisha’s journey as a woman in business started with a degree in political science and the opportunity to see the world. During her travels, she couldn’t help but notice the widespread presence of plastic and pollution in every country she visited. Witnessing this environmental challenge inspired her to pursue a postgraduate degree in sustainability and collaborate with individuals, governments, and businesses to make more environmentally responsible choices.
After working for a sustainability consulting company, Allisha decided to venture into entrepreneurship and founded her first business, Mother Lab Kombucha. As a first-time entrepreneur, she learned the ropes of launching her own business. However, Allisha was driven by a desire to do more and address a significant gap within her Kelowna community. She explained, “My values and passions were really about sustainability, helping our community to be cleaner and greener, and making a more meaningful impact on our community.”
This marked the inception of Chickpeace, a B-corp-certified business hub initiated by Allisha. At Chickpeace, people have access to package-free food, refill options, and a wide range of eco-friendly products, fostering connections and community engagement.
Sustainability in the Pandemic: The Beginnings of Chickpeace
Chickpeace opened its doors in June 2020, right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, the pandemic had a silver lining. One of these bright spots was Allisha’s ability to work closely and efficiently with their contractor, ensuring they could open as scheduled.
The pandemic was a big hurdle in the zero waste movement, as many people had to resort to using single-use products. Chickpeace became a beacon of hope for those who wanted to continue shopping with sustainability in mind. “This is a place where you can come and reduce our packaging waste, shop sustainably, and support locally while in the midst of a crazy pandemic.” This brought them a huge amount of support throughout the pandemic.
Their store was organized into sections for food, cleaning supplies, personal care, freezer products, and lifestyle items. When Chickpeace initially opened, their shelves intentionally remained 70% stocked. It gave them an opportunity to explore and learn more from their community about what they truly want. Now, the store’s full of amazing products and brands that are mostly Canadian as well.
Sustainable Shopping Online
Amidst the pandemic’s call for safer and healthier shopping, Chickpeace introduced its online store, providing a much-needed source of revenue while catering to the community’s needs. This online option allowed customers to continue their sustainable shopping practices from the safety of their homes.
How Chickpeace Chooses Their Products
Chickpeace takes great care in selecting the products they offer, prioritizing Canadian and local goods from Kelowna. For items imported from the United States, they ensure that the businesses they support align with Chickpeace’s core goals and values. Their vetting process considers the following:
- If it is women-owned
- Their working conditions
- The material of the products, and
- The end-of-life plan for the products.
During the pandemic, supply and packaging issues became common, creating challenges for restocking. As a solution, Chickpeace began crafting their own in-house products to sell. Over time, their brand expanded, leading to an increase in their customer base. They now serve customers across Canada and have even started importing to the United States. This unexpected source of revenue is continuing to grow.
Filling the Gaps in the Community With Chickpeace
Allisha identified a crucial gap in Kelowna’s community—the absence of a community kitchen. To address this need, a commercial community kitchen was constructed at the rear of Chickpeace. This kitchen served as a means to support small-scale food producers, enabling them to expand, thrive, and establish their own culinary ventures.
Furthermore, another gap in the community existed: the absence of a curbside composting program. Many residents had no convenient option for disposing of their organic waste. In response, Allisha initiated a compost program in collaboration with a company responsible for transporting the collected waste to a commercial compost facility. This initiative attracted hundreds of individuals and even small businesses, resulting in the diversion of thousands of pounds of organic waste from landfills.
Building a Business That Profits and Cares
Starting a business can be challenging. Allisha shares that “I think it’s ebbs and flows. It hasn’t always been easy, I’ve had to reinvent what we do and be creative in revenue in a lot of different ways.” The success of Chickpeace is attributed to a combination of factors, part of it is luck, and part of it is thanks to an amazing supportive community and team of people who keep their business running. Initially, Allisha secured startup funding through loans and the Good Sparks Grant. Over time, Chickpeace has sustained itself through revenue and wage subsidies.
Funding can be difficult to get, but Allisha’s prior business experience and her strong community ties have been invaluable. Her solid business acumen and positive relationships with lenders have also played a crucial role. Furthermore, having a well-thought-out business plan and financial projections are essential for assessing your business’s potential profitability.
In Allisha’s experience, “I think that’s what banks and lenders really want to see. They are inspired by your passion but at the end of the day it’s really all about numbers and being able to produce a very formal, professional document with the financial side of things.” Your bank needs to understand your business plan and how it leads to making money in the future.
Making the Journey Towards Zero Waste
Allisha believes that achieving absolute zero waste isn’t realistic. To her, the idea of zero waste is a continuous journey that individuals work towards. It’s primarily about making a conscious effort to make better choices to the best of your ability. Here are some steps you can take on your path towards zero waste.
Start With Small Steps
Diving headfirst into a 100% zero waste lifestyle often leads to frustration and disappointment. Instead, consider focusing on one or two sustainable changes that you can commit to and manage easily. Gradually, you’ll become more comfortable with the process of integrating zero waste practices into your daily life.
Many people come into their shop wanting to learn. At Chickpeace, Allisha emphasizes “We are not very good salespeople. We are not in the business of selling you things that you don’t need. We want to empower you and educate you so that you can make the best decision so that you can be successful. That always starts off with small steps.”
Customers can bring empty bottles to the store and explore a wide selection of products. Understanding their current brand preferences, personal values, goals, and intentions is crucial. Based on this information, Chickpeace can help create a tailored plan and budget to get customers started on their journey.
Know Your Needs
Perform a household waste audit. Collect your waste over a few days, then examine its contents. Pay special attention to the packaging and recyclable materials that you use the most. In most cases, the main culprit is food waste. Food packaging accounts for the majority of garbage waste. Once you identify the primary source of waste in your life, as Allisha suggests, you can “Understand what part of your life are you creating the most waste and then find simple ways to replace some of the ingredients, some of the products w more eco-friendly ones.”
Do The Best That You Can
Even if you embrace all zero waste principles, completely eliminating packaging waste may not be entirely achievable. Some weeks will naturally produce less waste, while others may result in more. It’s important to grant yourself some grace and compassion, and just do your best with what’s available at any given moment. Every effort you make to reduce plastic waste contributes to your intention of making more environmentally responsible choices.
Conscious Gift Shopping With Zero Waste
Allisha offers three thoughtful ways to give great gifts while prioritizing sustainability and local businesses:
- Purchase Gift Cards.
Instead of a gift you’re uncertain the recipient will appreciate, consider giving a gift card. This way, they can choose exactly what they want, and you can simultaneously support local businesses.
- Give Consumable Gifts
Consider offering consumable gifts like food, drinks, or other personal items for a more personalized touch.
- Gifting Cleaning Products
Everyday items such as cleaning products can also make practical and appreciated gifts.
While you’re out shopping, it’s highly encouraged to prioritize local businesses. Allisha underscores the significance of supporting your small business and local communities, emphasizing, “Now, more than ever, it’s very important that you support your small business community and your local community and support small businesses as much as possible.”
Learn More About Allisha and Chickpeace
Allisha Heidt is the CEO and founder of Chickpeace, a zero-waste refillery. As a social impact entrepreneur, she is passionate about living a life of sustainability and zero waste management and encouraging others to make the same eco-friendly choices. To do this, Allisha opened Chickpeace in 2020 to create an opportunity for people to live a low-waste lifestyle.
Her business features products that are locally, responsibly, and sustainably produced.
Use the discount code BCORP15 in the checkout when you buy from the Chickpeace online store!
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