In a quiet corner of Salisbury lies a hidden gem, a store that brings together sustainability, creativity, and a passion for protecting our planet. Meet Celeste, the founder and owner of Blueberry Den. Her beautiful store offers a vibrant escape, where carefully selected artisan items brighten up even the gloomiest of days. As we sat down (virtually) with Celeste to delve into her inspiring journey, we explored the reasons behind her store's inception, her life as a business owner, and, above all, her unwavering commitment to sustainability.
When have you opened Blueberry Den, what motivated you and what inspired you?
When I first thought about Blueberry Den, it was under a completely different concept – there was a gap in the market and the need to refill household products in a much more convenient way. A shop was never on the plans as I didn’t have the money or the time for it, with 2 little ones and a nearly full-time job, but I really wanted to make it happen.
My children were of course, my biggest inspiration to get started as they were getting more and more aware on the impact of plastic waste and they asked me to create a place – a den, actually – where people would be kind to each other and together we would stop the planet earth from breaking. So I had to do it my way, within my very limited budget and the help of my brother, we created a basic website where people could order essentials delivered to their door without the plastic. I then of course had to think about the delivery side of things so I traded my car in for a van, I branded it and us 3 started doing deliveries in the evenings.
It was so hard; not only driving around with tired children but having to pack orders after work or first thing in the morning and looking for addresses in the dark. Lockdown hit within 2 months of trading and without even realising, BD was suddenly hugely popular as the demand for online shopping increased overnight. Customers were incredibly supportive and everyone started talking about the plastic-free mobile shop!
Why brick & mortar vs. online store? I must say your shop is very beautiful, it seems like a really nice place to hang out & shop!
Covid really changed the game and as convenient as it was to just work from home and deliver orders, I was so much happier when I could see people and tell them about BD, have a chat about the products, etc. I started attending markets once some restrictions were lifted and I decided that one day, I was going to open a zero waste shop to make it even more convenient and accessible to those who have never heard of us.
I am all about communities and being pretty much exclusively selling to Salisbury people has meant that I can provide a dedicated service and customers are so much more than that. I have lived here for nearly 15 years so I know the place well and understand roughly, what is expected of a new shop in town so I have tried to be as inclusive and mainstream as I could when it comes to Blueberry Den – I wanted to display a simple concept with all its beauty and I’m really pleased how it has turned out.
It is indeed a nice place to visit, it is very calm and peaceful, it smells great and it has everything you need to live more sustainably, what more could you want?!
How long have you been living a more sustainable lifestyle? What made you switch? Did you make a sudden switch or was it a gradual process?
I have always had, up to a certain degree I think, as I live a very simple life. I grew up always eating seasonal, cooking with leftovers (I think I could actually write a book about this!) and became vegetarian at a young age.
By the time I was 20 (I am nearly 40) I couldn’t bear buying new clothes or furniture so buying 2nd hand became second nature; and once I moved to England I started working for a conservation charity where I became much more aware of the environmental challenges and how a sustainable lifestyle was achievable to all, we just had to make it more accessible to those who hadn’t discovered it yet. It all happened at its own pace, it was gradual and I think that’s the key to it, making sustainable changes that actually work according to your budget and lifestyle.
How do you choose which products to sell in your store?
I have certain criteria and one of them is being how essential the product is. I think whatever you try to sell, someone will buy it but zero waste shops have the responsibility of cutting down on waste so if I think I personally wouldn’t buy certain items, I don’t stock them.
The products that I offer are also linked to a certain price point as again, if I consider something to be too expensive, I rather not sell it as I don’t want anyone to waste their money. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I look for cheaper alternatives, some products cannot be replaced but I have to make sure that the turnover of them is quick enough for me to get my money back so I can reinvest in more or other products.
I try and use all the products myself and at home so I only sell what works, what’s affordable, convenient and good value for money. I want customers to invest and at the same time, be so happy with what they have that they recommend it to others and never go back to their old ways.
How do you educate your customers and encourage them to adopt a zero waste lifestyle?
I try to do this through social media in the most approachable and relatable tone and I love having a chat with customers about this. People who visit BD have time to talk and are looking to engage in conversation. They have to trust me and if I can speak by my own experience, I think they find quite reassuring and encouraging.
Have you faced any challenges running a brick & mortar store?
The cost of living crisis hasn’t made anyone’s lives easier and as costs soar, some people have had to stick to what is absolutely essential. At times when people where likely to buy gifts (Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc.) families have decided against it and replaced with a nice meal instead for example so it’s hard to know what to stock and how much to buy as there is no pattern whatsoever.
The weather also influences the footfall massively. Too cold, too wet or too hot and people don’t go out so it’s hard to find the ideal weather conditions on certain times of the year and still attract customers.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to reduce their waste but doesn't know where to start?
Probably, ignore most of the advice that you will get as it can be quite overwhelming, especially if someone has never looked into it. When we try to do an audit of what goes in our bins, what could be reused and why we buy certain items in the same place, it can get quite depressing and then you will literally not know where to begin.
Replacing items take time, money and effort so you have to do what works for you – most BD customers start by refilling their hand soap, others just stick to their washing-up liquid bottle, others buy 5L of laundry products to make sure they never run out. What matters is that you make a start, stick with it and make progress so it becomes almost nothing to think about it but equally, you inspire yourself to continue and do better!
What was your easiest/favourite zero waste swap and which one has been the hardest?
The easiest was by far the liquid refills as not only it was a straightforward swap but I was also blown away by the quality of what I was getting, the difference from artificial fragrances to natural ones and how satisfying it was to never having to recycle a bottle again!
My favourite swap has been however, shampoo bars. As I had been refilling shampoo bottles for so long, I resisted the change, I found it pointless and with a substantial amount of hair down to my waist, far too risky. Until one day one of the boxes got sun damaged so I decided to try it and I’ve never looked back. Not only I use them and love them but also recommend them to absolutely every customer who has ever considered using them.
In contrast, natural toothpaste is probably the hardest swap and one I have not continued but replaced with toothpaste tablets, which sound more terrifying than they actually are. Even though the paste seemed like an easy swap, the lack of SLS (a good thing obvs!) makes it not foam at all so I felt my teeth were not getting clean enough; my children were using far too much and the dentist told me to stick to fluoride toothpaste, at least for them. Toothpaste tablets tick all the boxes that the natural toothpaste doesn’t so I have gone for those instead. A brilliant and easy swap by the way!
Do you have any upcoming plans or goals for Blueberry Den?
I have a lot of marketing to do so I can grow the business. August 2021 was when I opened the shop and 2022 was a game changer, which saw many businesses closing down. It was hard mentally, to even consider growth, so just kept my head above water; it’s been one challenge after the other but I believe the zero waste movement is gathering momentum, more and more people are hearing about BD and I am determined to make 2023 the year that see us take off.
Lastly, how can people support your business and the zero waste movement?
If people are not local, they can always support us through social media by liking, commenting or sharing our posts. Instagram especially, is not the place that it used to be, so we need that engagement so others can see us and hopefully grow the account.
Followers are not necessarily going to be customers but I hope they can be supported in other ways. BD is also online so there is much they can get from us where they are, but I would say, find where your nearest zero waste shop is, support them, tell others about it and don’t let them go! We are here for you, we are on your side but we are all part of a team and we need you so we can help others and be here to stay.
Thank you, Celeste! I must say, whenever I'm thinking of a new zero waste swap I always check your shop first for inspiration and trusted recommendations!
Where to find Blueberry Den
Shop address: 50 Winchester Street, Salisbury, SP1 1HG
Shop online: https://www.blueberryden.co.uk/