BYOB: The Refill Shoppe

The Refill Shoppe

© Sarah Bourscheid 2014

Where ‘Bring Your Own Bottle’ speaks beyond personal wine with dinner, Brooks Institute alumni Michelle Stevens makes a difference in Ventura with her post-graduate business, The Refill Shoppe, located downtown on Main Street.

“Our main goal is to make single-use plastic multi-use plastic,” says Stevens as she measures out fragrance for a customer’s gallon of hand soap. “It feels good to take responsibility for the things that you keep and the trash that you create.”

The store offers a variety of Eco-friendly and GMO-free products by the ounce, from toiletries to cleaning supplies, as well as products for babies and animals– with the added option of custom fragrances. If you don’t have your own empty bottle, the store sells a wide array of containers and reusable jars.

“We’ve now refilled well over 10,000 bottles in about four years,” Stevens says. The store also supports natural, organic ingredients and local farmers. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference,” she muses, “Every little bit counts.”

© Aimee Stanchina 2014

Stevens credits her proactive perspective to a childhood on a boat. Surrounded by adults and a supportive community, Stevens bobbed through her formative years on a dock in Mandeville, Louisiana and Naples, Florida.

“It was really neat,” Stevens remembers, “Everybody looks out for each other. It offered me a different way to look at things.”

After graduating high school on land, Stevens earned an associate’s degree at a community college and decided to pursue photography. Before attending Brooks, she interned at a small newspaper in Italy.

“I learned that I still wanted to do photography, but I didn’t want to shoot news,” says Stevens. “You chase the bad so much.”

Although she enjoyed her three years at Brooks Institute, she chose a different path after graduating.

“It’s such a tough industry,” Stevens observes. “I prefer selling things to selling myself constantly.” Once she thought up the Refill Shoppe, she knew what she wanted to do. “It really suited me, both my parents had retail businesses when I was young.”

The Refill Shoppe

© Sarah Bourscheid 2014

In the next 10 years, Stevens hopes to multiply store locations by 20, starting in Los Angeles County and then spreading north.

“It’s crazy just how much is garbage,” Stevens says. “Each person throws away so much stuff every year and it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s just the next generation’s problem.”

Starting in her own community, Stevens strives to make small tweaks in people’s daily lives. She hopes it incites her customers and fellow community members to ask themselves, “What else can I do in my life?”