Women-owned businesses account for 4 out of every 10 businesses in the US. As one of the fastest growing types of small businesses, they are key to the success of local economies and communities. Since 2007, the number of women-owned businesses in the US has jumped from 7.2 million to 12.3 million—a 58% increase.
At Beyond, we are surrounded by talented, hardworking women—not just our Beyond Employees, but also the female business owners we partner with every day. To celebrate International Women’s Day—a global initiative dedicated to honoring women’s achievements—we’re highlighting a few impressive Beyond clients that are women-owned.
Meet Michelle Stevens
Owner of the eco bath store, The Refill Shoppe, Stevens is every bit as creative as she is successful. Raised on a sailboat for 10 years, she felt a connection to the environment and conservation from an early age. That connection carried with her after she graduated college, and like many, searched for a career that would not just employ her, but allow her to live her passion.
Not long after graduating, her desire to make a difference in the world and her love for shopping intersected, sparking her business idea.
After purchasing a decorative glass bottle to house her olive oil, and subsequently buying a bottle of olive oil to fill it, she wondered if there was a way to eliminate the plastic bottle that had transported the oil from the store to her glass bottle at home. Why not just refill all the perfectly good bottles instead of buying new ones every time?
As she mulled over the idea during a road trip, she wondered the possibility of turning her idea into a business—but with bath products instead of olive oil.
“I knew it was a practical, fun solution to a significant problem the environment is facing,” Stevens said on her dilemma of whether to take the jump and open the business. “But I thought, would people really want lavender shampoo over and over again? Was there a way to scent it? Were people really going to bring in bottles and refill them?”
Nearly 10 years later, The Refill Shoppe has refilled over 30,000 containers.
Growing a Green Business
Located in idyllic downtown Ventura, CA, The Refill Shoppe offers a wide array of bath, beauty, and cleaning products—ranging from shampoo to aftershave and dish soap. For both online and in-store purchases, customers select a product, pick a container or bring their own, and customize their scents.
As the business expanded online, Stevens saw an opportunity to innovate and serve a larger audience. Online orders arrive with a prepaid postage return envelope—once a user runs out of the product, all they have to do is drop the pouch back in the mail and the shop will refill that container and send it back. As a company with sustainability at its core, the biggest hurdle for the e-commerce business was finding a sustainable solution for packaging materials.
“When you’re in the Green space, there’s a lot to live up to behind the scenes. You can’t fake it,” Stevens said. “We use real towels, we reuse everything, we save boxes and packing materials, and what we can’t reuse, we give to people on craigslist who are in the shipping business. We pay attention to all the details and try to make our business awesome from every angle.”
Since launching in 2009, the shop has moved into a larger retail space, launched e-commerce, and grown to a team of nine. Stevens manages her team with a philosophy of being realistic, flexible, grateful, and truly caring—something that has helped her retain talent.
As the zero-waste movement continues to pick up speed, Stevens plans to continue to grow web sales and expand her business.
As most entrepreneurial journeys go, Stevens’ path hasn’t always been smooth. There have been roadblocks and antagonists, but Stevens has also found immense support.
“I have an amazing group of female friends,” Stevens said, when asked about career mentors. “I value and appreciate them. I love the culture of women supporting women.”
For women considering starting their own business, Stevens encourages them to take the leap.
“Life is short. If there’s something you believe in, that you’re passionate about, put your time there. Put your energy there,” Stevens said. “There will be ups and downs and that’s just life. Do your best through the downs and really make the most of the ups.”
Beyond the Shoppe
The Refill Shoppe has a strong base of loyal customers who care about what they put on their bodies and how they treat the planet. Stevens builds relationships with her clientele, ensuring they love the products and keep coming back.
One such relationship, is with Beyond’s own Patricia Logan. A regular customer at The Refill Shoppe, Logan introduced Stevens to Beyond Payments.
Stevens, who donates a portion of her own sales to 1% for the Planet, was excited to work with a company committed to doing social good—thanks to Beyond’s beneficiary Give Something Back. The opportunity to give her business to a company with a cause, and knowing she would have a trusted partner in Logan, made the choice to switch to Beyond easy.
“Patricia has been absolutely amazing throughout the process. It’s just so nice that I have a person I trust, in addition to the social good that Beyond is doing,” Stevens said. “I really love having somebody who I know that I can say ‘Hey I had a disputed transaction,’ and she’ll come by and follow up—that’s amazing and not the norm for customer service in business to business.”
Beyond is proud to support businesses like The Refill Shoppe, owned by entrepreneurial women making an impact in their communities. Today, and every day, we celebrate the 12.3 million women-owned businesses across the country.
And if you’re a woman considering taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, Stevens has something to say.
“Believe in yourself. You’re worth the risk.”