An inspirational friends’ duo launches first plastic-free pop-up shop in Newport.
Started by Laura Parry and Liz Morgan, Sero Waste Ltd is the first zero-waste pop-up shop in Newport. With support from the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service, the entrepreneurial friends managed to choose the right business structure, earn a significant social media following prior to successfully launching the business in the summer of 2020, and are currently in the process of negotiating permanent premises:
- a successful start
- 2 jobs created
- growth advice on setting up, premises, funding and marketing
Recognising the challenges of trying to start and maintain a plastic-free lifestyle in today’s world, Laura Parry and Liz Morgan founded Sero as part of their vision to reduce plastic waste and consumer impact on the environment.
Sero is Newport’s first zero-waste shop, offering sustainable tea, coffee, bathroom and cleaning products as well as household items, aiming to make plastic-free shopping as convenient and affordable as possible.
Why did you decide to set up your own business?
We each had separate reasons for wanting to start our own business and when brought together, they immediately formed Sero's ethos. Furlough gave both of us the time to dedicate to setting up, so there seemed no better opportunity. I (Laura) left my role at the Marine Conservation Society where I was working alongside local communities, seeing what difference businesses like Sero can have on behavioural change and educating the public on the issues surrounding pollution and our oceans. We all have the potential to make a huge difference, so that is what we would like to facilitate in an area, which currently has fewer resources.
Liz left her role at a small independent events company in Bristol, where she was working as a Travel & Events Adviser, to take on a new challenge with Sero and use her skills in sales and customer service, as well as her experience of working closely with the directors of a small independent business. In terms of timing, it could not have been better, not only from a wider world point of view, but on a personal level, too, in terms of support and our current responsibilities.
Working in partnership will bring an infusion of different strengths and skills to the business. We constantly communicate and try to come up and answer questions from different perspectives, understanding that a huge asset to our team is being able to agree to disagree and still make quick but well-informed decisions.
What challenges did you face?
Many people have dubbed us 'brave' for starting our own business at this turbulent and unpredictable time but honestly, we think that there are so many positives. We found that, very quickly, lots of support and events moved from face-to-face to online which meant they were much more accessible to us. Many Business Wales webinars, for example, which we attended on Zoom, were initially scheduled to take place in North or West Wales, which would have been far more difficult for us to travel to.
We faced other challenges, I suppose, in the sense that face-to-face meetings were difficult (impossible) during lockdown and it wasn't possible to engage with the public in any way other than via social media, which again has turned into a positive as we managed to build up a bit of a following before launching the shop/beginning to trade.
Business Wales support
Liz and Laura identified a gap in the market for a zero-waste shop in Newport but needed help with the legal aspects of setting up a business, its structure, their business plan and financial forecasts.
Having attended a number of Business Wales start-up webinars, they engaged with a growth business adviser, Miranda Bishop, who provided advice on premises, cash flow and funding, as well as marketing, including social media, community involvement, diversification and PR.
We didn't actually realise how much support was going to be available to us through Business Wales. The webinars and events they have run have been invaluable and we could not be happier to have Miranda as our business adviser. "Empowered women empower women" and that is exactly how we feel about Miranda. She has so much knowledge and experience; she is approachable and non-judgemental, which is what everyone needs from a business adviser.
Future plans and ambitions
We hope to have our physical shop open before the end of the year, which will serve our local area with sustainable and package-free goods. Our longer-term plans involve making Sero a community hub in Newport and a place where people can come and learn how to become more sustainable through green workshop, clothes swaps and repair cafes.
If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.
Photography © Georgina Bray