Eco-friendly Winnipeg entrepreneurs charge ahead despite harsh economic climate

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An eco-friendly low-waste lifestyle is inspiring a Winnipeg-born woman to craft an entire business after the idea.

“I’ve cut single-use plastics out of my life completely and so what we strive to provide is package-free items and products, everything that makes it easier to take the plastic out of your life,” said Sam Soloway, who’s been taking measures to live a low-waste lifestyle for two years and counting.

It’s propelled her to launch a new business with her childhood friend, Tyrell Witherspoon.

Some of the products available through Planet Pantry’s virtual pop-up shop. Marek Tkach / Global News

The duo’s new endeavour — Planet Pantry — aims to provide eco-friendly Canadian products to consumers in sustainable packaging that’s both reusable and recyclable.

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“We want to be able to offer a one-stop shop, zero waste, package-free store that had everything you could think off to buy in bulk,” said Witherspoon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely derailed the pair’s plans. They’re currently holding a 48-hour online popup shop, after their scheduled in-person display at the Forks was thwarted by level red gathering restrictions implemented across the province.

Read more: Manitoba surpasses 10,000 coronavirus case milestone, 5 more deaths Friday

“We just want to make everything as accessible as we can to everyone. So whatever way we need to do that, we will do it,” Soloway says.

Soloway moved back to Winnipeg in mid-August after attending college in Toronto amid concerns regarding Ontario’s COVID-19 situation. Upon her arrival in Manitoba, the pair launched a Planet Pantry Instagram account aiming to garner some interest for their new creation.

“Our orders are still coming in and we’ve sold out of some products already, have low stock of others, so the response has been really overwhelming,” says Witherspoon, in the midst of his first online popup.

Read more: Two businesses fined $5,000 as Winnipeg steps up COVID-19 enforcement

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With irregular economy trends likely to continue well into the new year, experts at the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce are recommending a business model for new entrepreneurs that heavily focuses on virtual presence early on.

“People are shopping differently and are looking to do business a bit differently, but they’re online a lot more so ensuring you have a strong online presence is absolutely critical if you’re a new business starting out,” said the Chambers’ president and CEO Chuck Davidson.

Read more: ‘A tough day for Manitoba business’: reactions to COVID-19 news

“If you can get through the current situation with COVID-19, you’re going to be a very successful business in the long run,” he continued.

Davidson says constant adaptation for new businesses is more important than ever.

“If we have to do it from our popup store before we get into our permanent store we’re totally OK with that,” said Soloway.

“We just love doing and we are passionate about it. We just want to keep going.”

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