Stephanie Cochrane

While working full-time as a dental hygienist last year, Stephanie Cochrane decided to start The Waste Less Shop, which provides household cleaners and self-care products in bulk as an alternative to single-use items. Customers supported the store so much, Stephanie was able to make this her career. The Waste Less Shop’s mission is to reduce waste in the community and empower customers to lead healthy, sustainable lives.

Tell us about a unique feature of your business.

“We are a mission-driven company. Our goal is to help heal our planet through the education and empowerment of our customers. By providing affordable, sustainable, nontoxic and refillable household goods, we enable our customers to become champions of change within their own homes. Rather than throwing away a laundry detergent jug or dish soap container when it’s empty, our customers can bring them into our store to be refilled. We carry everything from skin cleanser crafted by an herbalist in Santa Cruz to glass cleaner made in L.A. We support female-owned businesses and uplift communities disproportionately affected by climate change and social injustice.”

What have been your proudest moments during the recent crisis?

“Early on I had no idea how long stay-at-home orders would last or how severe things would become. I knew we had a responsibility to continue to provide essential products to our customers, but our model relied on foot traffic in our storefront. After working a couple of all-nighters, I redesigned our website and launched a home-delivery service to ensure at-risk customers could safely receive sanitizer and hand soap without leaving their homes. I am so proud of the tenacity and creativity my team has shown to survive and thrive through what could have been the end of this newly created business.”

What are you grateful for today?

“I am so grateful for our supportive community. I started this business only one year ago with no business ownership experience—just a passion for our planet and an entrepreneurial spirit. The support and generosity of our community has helped us survive a global pandemic while enabling me to pursue my passion.”

What challenges are specific to your industry?

“We are competing with mega-conglomerates that provide products to consumers in convenient plastic packages at prices that small businesses generally can’t compete with. We stock products that are made with high-quality, plant-based, organic ingredients that are thoughtfully produced by other small, female-owned businesses. Many of our products cost more up-front but are environmentally, ethically and materially superior to their single-use counterpart. We educate our customers on the long-term savings they will realize, but it’s not easy getting someone to give up convenience today for financial savings and a better planet tomorrow.”

What projects do you support to help those in need?

“We donate $1 from every sale to One Tree Planted. Their teams of volunteers work to reforest areas around the world affected by fire, deforestation and industrialization. We have shifted our plant sites to support rehabilitation in areas hit by recent disasters to help communities and wildlife reinhabit those locations. Since opening one year ago, we have planted more than 3,500 trees in California, Peru and Australia. I believe if we are consuming resources from our planet, we need to be doing something significant to replenish it as well.”

How did you come up with the name of your business?

“I wanted a brand name that reminded people that our goal is not perfection, just to be better. By gradually wasting less, we are creating an attainable pathway to a consumer society built for longevity and not reliant on constant consumption.”

When did you first consider working in your industry?

“I started making small, sustainable swaps in my daily routine when I moved in with my now-fiancé a few years ago. His tiny El Porto apartment was not conducive to excess waste, and I couldn’t ignore the unnecessary trash that was accumulating. I had visited third-world countries that don’t have the waste management technology we do, so I had witnessed trash piled in the streets. But feeling that way in my own home was what compelled me to create change.

I started making homemade nut milk and kombucha, switched to cloth instead of paper towels, and our grocery bill and recycling volume dropped drastically. The more changes I made, the more I realized that I was saving money while simultaneously reducing my impact on the environment. So I opened the store, and now I get to see those shifts happening every day.”

Tell us about your ideal day off.

“Oh boy, give me a day in the woods and I am fully restored! I have always had a deep connection with our earth, but getting away from the concrete and cars and walking in the woods always reminds me just how incredibly healing and beautiful our planet is. Throw in an Aperol Spritz at the end of the day, and I am a happy girl.”