40 minutes | Sep 16th 2020

Plastic-free shop proving local retail can thrive and scale - Kelly Wright, The Refillery

Here's a super retail success story. 20 months ago Kelly Wright launched The Refillery – now Edinburgh's largest plastic-free and ethical shop.

She left a well-paid corporate job to launch the business. Even before Covid-19 some folk might have had doubts about launching a bricks-and-mortar retail business when many high streets are struggling. It was certainly a 'huge financial risk' for Kelly, she says: 'at times I couldn't breathe...'

But The Refillery has gone from strength to strength, smashing through Kelly's first-year targets, becoming a local community hub as well as a thriving business, winning an award from an international foundation, and adapting through lockdown.

Why did Kelly leave a job she loved and was good at to launch The Refillery? How did she fund its startup costs? How did she adapt during lockdown? What have been the biggest challenges – and what is she most proud of? And what's next for the business? Kelly covers it all in this interview.

Also in this episode: social enterprise in Africa offers 'job creation on steroids' according to new British Council report.


0-3 introduction and almost-a-rant from me
3:37 Kelly Wright interview
3:50 What The Refillery in Edinburgh sells
5:06 Kelly's previous career and why she launched the business after working on initiatives to reduce packaging and wanting to make a positive – and radical – change
8:14 Was it frightening to make this leap?
9:00 The key moment which helped Kelly when she nearly gave up her dream and continued in her job – but instead, pushed through to make The Refillery happen
11:05 How The Refillery became a lifeline in recent months
12:00 What Kelly did to adapt and protect customers' and colleagues' health as a result of Covid-19 – and how she launched a click-and-collect service
16:07 How Kelly financed the business using her own savings and support from DSL Business Finance
17:41 The challenge of finding the right premises (and another rant from me!)
20:00 How The Refillery has totally surpassed Kelly's expectations
21:36 In July The Refillery won the Environmental Sustainability category in the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards – how is Kelly using the cash prize?
22:22 Launching 'The Refillery Community' nationwide and how this will scale-up plastic-free retailing
25:00 These are UK-wide plans, including for Sheffield and other cities
28:53 Some great advice Kelly had early on
30:20 Wrapping up Kelly's interview and contact details
31:07 Have your say! Sheffield City Region LEP's strategic economic plan
32:25 'Job creation on steroids' – study finds social enterprise offers opportunity to create jobs and reboot economies (additional reporting from the Thomson Reuters Foundation)
36:32 Wrapping up this episode and how to put yourself forward as a future guest