Yasemin Ugurlu is the founder of Reboot Eco, a zero-waste store to help us all live more sustainably.
Recently, Caren Dickman, The MEWS+ Coordinator, spoke with Yasemin about the genesis of her business, and plans for the future.
Over the winter of 2021, I watched many documentaries about the environment. I had my lightbulb moment after watching “A Plastic Ocean.” This film made me think about the notion of throwing things away. Where is away?
During the peak of the pandemic, we were all home more and many of us watched documentaries about the environment. We also started spending more time outdoors. We became more aware of the waste we’ve been putting into the environment. Continual national and international climate events have reinforced our need to act.
I studied the negative impacts of plastic, from production to disposal, and our waste dilemma. What could we do? What is missing? I discovered the zero waste concept and refill shops, and I knew that was what we needed in Connecticut. Simply put, zero waste is a way to consume products that move away from disposable containers for a more sustainable lifestyle.
All of this solidified my business concept – to re-boot our lifestyle – to Reboot ECO.
When this pandemic is finally over, I don’t want to return to what was normal. I hope that this experience has taught us to realign our priorities and that our new priorities are what becomes the new normal.
What type of work did you do before starting your own business?
For many years I worked operations in the hospitality, tourism, and non-profit industries. Customer service is the focus of these industries and continuous improvement is essential.
What made you want to start your own business?
My desire to be an entrepreneur was gradual. For years and years, I felt that businesses could do better and I wanted them to be better. After two decades, I realized that I wasn’t just being naive and that I could be the one to do things better.
Tell us about your goal and about the name you chose for it.
My goal is to reduce single-use items and containers with re-useable containers such as glass and other items. Reboot Eco is a refill shop for household cleaners and bath products, with zero waste items to help us live more sustainably.
Reboot ECO is a refill station for good-quality household and bath items. Our products are non-toxic, less expensive, and sold in bulk. We re-use and re-purpose to avoid packaging costs. The store also contains environmentally friendly products that are biodegradable and aligned with my mission.
I want my business to help us reboot our ways of thinking, our habits, and our lifestyle. The solutions to reducing our single-use items can be simple, more convenient, and accessible to all – I want my business to do that.
How long have you been in business?
I started the business in March 2021 and throughout the summer and fall did pop-up mobiles in local farmers’ markets and other events. By November 2021 demand was high enough for one stable location.
What business challenges have you encountered?
I have had to pivot and redirect my focus a bit but my biggest challenge is juggling and managing my time. Right now I have a full-time job and am running my business part-time.
Have you encountered any pleasant surprises during your time in business?
My biggest surprise has been how supportive and interested my customers are – more so than I expected. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that so many people are willing to change their habits when they can do so easily and conveniently. The market is more ready than I thought.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about running your own business so far?
The most important thing I’ve learned is that just because it’s always been done this way it doesn’t mean it’s always right. There are always better ways to do things, especially when it comes to the environment. You can break the mold and so something different when you believe it will work.
In your opinion, what is the key to being a successful small business?
Stay true to your values, belief and mission. Be true to “re-booting” the way things are done. Remain true to yourself and your business – it works and people want it.
I urge small businesses to find programs like the MEWS+ to connect with other small businesses, find resources, and remember that you’re not alone. I was lucky enough to come across and get accepted into the MEWS+ Small Business Incubator program very early on in my journey. The information and resources I gained from that program were extremely valuable and still prove useful.
What one thought motivates you every day?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what I do and how other people are responding to it. My customers are enthusiastic about the solutions and alternatives that exist and the ease with which we can make positive changes. I want to continue to find and offer sustainable swaps and solutions to serve everyone that is looking to do better and improve things for ourselves and the planet.
Maya Angelou said it best “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
What would you like your business to look like in 5 years?
There are many more opportunities for improvement that I have identified in our everyday lives, and that I plan to embark on fixing over the next couple of years. There will be more shops coming soon in Connecticut, and more business-to-business components and community partnerships that will continue to grow.