WeFill

“We are here to care for the future generations of all species.” That is a bold statement. It happens to be the motto for Durango’s newest business, WeFill. Forward thinking owner and biologist Cristin Salaz created her business model to be a part of the pollution solution. WeFill is a refilling station for household and personal care products: dish soaps, household cleaners (all purpose, laundry, toilets and drains), castile soaps, shampoo and conditioning bars, and shampoos for babies and pets. Her mission is to limit the amount of plastic containers in circulation.

Cristin said most of the garbage floating in the ocean is plastic. She was so affected by this that she went from room to room in her home to count all the plastic containers. “I was astounded by how much two people and a cat wasted! I remember how my grandparents, even my parents, shopped without all the waste we see today. There used to be a milkman that refilled out glass bottles. We have gotten away from that. I decided to open a store for people to refill their plastic and alternative to plastic containers.”

The first thing Cristin did with her idea was contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College. Several years ago, Cristin met with Joe Keck to discuss a business plan. She recalled how helpful the experience was. Regarding WeFill, there was no business model to emulate. Cristin first spoke with SBDC Deputy Director Mary Shepherd. “Mary was excited for me and found the idea unique. She has an open-door policy and said for me to come in with any questions, regardless of how silly they may seem. I came in with a list of questions and Mary put me in touch with the right people.”

Cristin met with business operations advisor Carl Malmberg. He helped her understand financial projections. “I didn’t have to know all the answers but I had to decide what my budget was going to be. Carl showed me how to do financial projections on a spreadsheet and had me fill out my personal goals and business aims. All of that goes into the business plan.” Cristin will utilize the plan to see how she can adjust her operation and monitor patterns over time.

Patty Zink was another SBDC advisor Cristin met with. Patty’s background is in marketing and sales. Her advice for Cristin was to network herself. Patty suggested Cristin join Durango’s Chamber of Commerce and the non-profit organization Local First. Both are deeply invested in the community. Those groups would put Cristin in the position to market herself and talk about WeFill. “Patty also told me to get better with social media platforms.”

Hannah Birdsong, SBDC’s office manager, shared a related perspective. Hannah offered two recommendations. The first was to use Instagram as a social media platform. The second recommendation spoke to the qualities Cristin should look for in people she would employ. “Hannah thought it would be best to hire people who have a similar personality to mine. A personality that I, myself, would like to be greeted with. This quality can’t be taught.” Cristin continued, “Hannah also suggested whomever I hired should understand how to use Instagram. I hired two people. I refer to them as my team rather than employees. They take care of the Instagram posts (and teach me how to do it) as they learn all the business quirks and how to talk with customers.”

WeFill opened their doors December 15th. “We had one hundred plastic containers refilled within the first three days of business. We want all our products to be made from plant based materials. Reducing the amount of plastic is our number one goal. Reusing is number two. If we can reuse plastic, that is the best. People feel good after they refill and walk out our door. We view WeFill as an education center too. We can teach and learn tricks from our customers as well. We listen to our customers and take their suggestions.”

Cristin is in the process of applying to SCAPE’s (Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs) 2019 Accelerator program. Acceptance would allow her to pitch WeFill to potential investors and mentors. She hopes to advance her business and improve her model. “I recommend SBDC one hundred percent to anyone looking to start, or grow, a business. I have made numerous recommendations to my friends already. SBDC is so well rounded. They have helped others and have seen so many businesses succeed. They can assistance with anything. Everything from how to start a business to the nitty-gritty of financial matters. They know it all.”

Bookcase and Barber

The Bookcase and the Barber celebrated their six-month anniversary on June 5, 2016. Without even realizing it, Partners Beau Black and Thomas Gibson, opened their “speakeasy” drinking establishment on December 5. In 1933, on that date the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified that repealed prohibition. The partners modeled their business after those in the era of prohibition. Thus, when you walk into the barbershop, you enter the “speakeasy” through a secret door disguised

Read More »
Impact Fenders: Bracing for Impact

There’s nothing better than spending a day water skiing on the lake. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to fasten cylindrical fenders to the side of your boat before arriving back at the dock. As California natives, Brian Slaughter and Courtney Gates love boats. One day in 2017, they had just finished water skiing and were trying to attach their boat fenders when Brian had an epiphany: why hasn’t anyone created an easier system? As

Read More »
Coffee Bear Silverton

Who doesn’t love a nice cup o’ joe in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Since 2016, Coffee Bear has provided countless cups of coffee and memorable experiences for locals, tourists, and everyone in between. Holly and Sophie were working as baristas at the coffee shop when it went up for sale. After serious consideration, they decided that it “just felt right to buy it together.” Despite the craziness of 2020, Holly and Sophie persisted in

Read More »
Turquoise Raven Gallery: An Unkindness among the Artists

Paintings. Collages. Mosaics. Photography. Glasswork. Drawings. Walking Sticks. Books. Jewelry. Leatherwork. Pottery. These are all things that ignite Mary Fuller’s passion for art. For years, she’s had a vision of bringing artists from the Four Corners together into dedicated fine art gallery. In 2020, after various careers in both the education and nonprofit sector, she decided that it was time to make her dream a reality. Being a former teacher, Mary understood the value of

Read More »
Bountiful Ridge Farms

Rick Goodall is a second-generation farmer in Arriola, CO, whose family grew apples and raised livestock. He married Gerrie twenty-two years ago. That’s when Gerrie was first introduced to farming. While expecting their second child, Gerrie chose to stay at home to raise the children, but the tradeoff was the loss of a second income. Gerrie considered her options and decided to plant a garden. Her first harvest was plentiful, yet it yielded a tremendous

Read More »
Pine Needle Mountaineering

Advisor Terryl Peterson worked with Jeremy Dakin and Miles Avenzoar to analyze the prospect of purchasing Pine Needle Mountaineering. Coincidentally, Jeremy knew Peterson as a customer of the store, but didn’t know what she did professionally. When they originally started looking at the business in the fall of ’07 and the spring of ‘08, the banks were optimistic and the economy was good. Then everything changed. They contacted Joe Keck for advice and what they

Read More »