Jessica Georges of Brewster calls herself “a tree hugger,” and with the help of a micro-loan from the Lower Cape Outreach Council (LCOC) in Orleans, she has fulfilled her dream of starting a business that befits a conservationist.
Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., Georges became interested, at an early age, in the sustainability of the earth. Of late, she has been concerned about climate change and the health of the oceans which are increasingly polluted by plastic waste.
So a few months ago she came up with the idea of Green Road Refill, a mobile retail store that promotes green living aimed at reducing the amount of plastic waste people create every day by throwing away shampoo bottles and straws, for example. Georges’ premise is that if bottles can be refilled and reused, they need not be tossed out to become waste in a landfill or even the ocean.
But starting a business takes money. Licenses must be obtained; merchandise must be purchased. And the vehicle needed for a mobile retail store? Even a used bus doesn’t come cheap.
In January Georges sought out a micro-loan from LCOC, which provides small loans to startups or newly-established growing small businesses. LCOC caps the loans at $2,000 and offers them at 1 percent interest repayable monthly over eight months.
Georges, who has a background in theater and music, has explored how to run a business at We Can in Harwich and other places.
“More than that passion I have for the cause, the business aspect is my challenge,” she says. And she needed seed money. She figured out that she needed $500 to set up an LLC with the state. She needed funds to join the Brewster Chamber of Commerce. The used 2003 bus that she purchased “needed a lot of TLC under the hood,” she says. Her husband Justin was able to do the mechanical work, saving money there, but he needed money to purchase tools.
Georges applied for a micro-loan of $1,800 at LCOC by meeting with Gennie Moran, LCOC’s chief operating officer.
“It was huge for me because it was the seed money I needed,” Georges says. And so Green Road Refill was born.
LCOC provides financial aid, food, clothing and other essentials to needy residents in the eight towns of the Lower Cape. The micro-loans, which may be granted to people who would not qualify for more traditional loans through a bank, fit into the Cape’s economy as many in the local community rely heavily on seasonal work that may cause a household’s funds to run out in the late winter. This lack of funds can hinder preparations for the season to come. As the LCOC says, “creating more sustainable year-round businesses is the future of the Cape. It’s how many young people can stay here, and will in time create more jobs!”
And on its website page about the loans, LCOC says, “it takes money to make money, especially when you are self-employed, especially when credit is an issue. House painters, landscapers, carpenters, shop owners, everyone knows the end-of-winter pinch that can slow down spring preparations and cut into summer profits.”
Moran says that a micro-loan could be as small as $500. Some people may need to buy a computer for their new business, or create a website, and between that and licenses, “that’s a lot for some folks,” she says.
One of LCOC’s micro-loans went to a man who is establishing a small business repairing computers from his home. The $1,200 loan “helped them tremendously with start-up fees,” Moran says. The loans benefit the entire community, too. The computer repair company is needed locally, Moran says, and will prevent people from having to drive to Hyannis to have their computers repaired.
The loan application revolves around a basic, simple business plan, Moran says. She likes her clients to know “exactly what they’re going to get into.” To be eligible to apply for a micro-loan a person must be a client of LCOC living in one of the eight towns served by the LCOC, from Harwich to Provincetown.
After obtaining her loan in January, Georges and her husband devoted the winter and spring to readying the bus, which she named after her late grandmother Bettie, for retail sales. The interior of the bus was gutted and refitted to hold Georges’ products. Beginning in May, Georges began to sell, from the bus, earth-conscious products in refillable containers. She also stocks refills for soaps, shampoos, lotions and cleaning products sold by the weighed ounce. She sells stainless steel straws, beeswax wraps, reusable produce bags and bamboo toothbrushes. She spent the summer selling at farmer’s markets and her goal for the winter is to continue traveling through the towns and refilling her customers’ products.
“I feel so grateful to have that community support,” Georges says about the micro-loan.
Green Road Refill will be at the Harwich Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. through mid-October. For more information visit greenroadrefill.com.
For more information on the micro-loan program visit LCOC at www.lcoutreach.org.