Liz Moore is the founder of Refills by Beez, a Bicester based sustainable business. Liz has a medical background and worked in obstetrics and gynaecology before setting up Refills by Beez in November of 2021. Refills by Beez offers doorstep deliveries and refills of household cleaning products, as well as selling plastic free household items. As Liz found in her own life making the sustainable choice is difficult even with the best of intentions, so her business aims to help individuals make a small lifestyle change which in the long term will have positive environmental impacts. Currently Refills by Beez is solely run by Liz, but she aims to expand into a physical zero-waste shop in Bicester, grow a team, increase the delivery reach of the business, and introduce initiatives such as educative classes on sustainable practices.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I studied medicine at university and worked in obstetrics and gynaecology for ten years in the NHS and have a PhD in cancer diagnostics from Cambridge University. Three years ago, overwhelmed by the complete lack of work life balance, having three young children, and feeling a lack of control in my professional life I left the NHS. Having come out of such an all-consuming environment I knew I wanted to do something that I would have control over, and flexibility to fit around caring for my children. At the same time as a family we were trying to make changes to live more sustainably, and one of the things I realised was how much single-use plastic a household goes through. You just don’t realise it. And that’s where the inspiration for Refills by Beez originated.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
In the most practical sense an entrepreneur is someone who sets up their own business, but I believe entrepreneurship is so much more. It involves trying to create a solution to a problem in your own unique way, learning from your mistakes and trying to grow your business by creating a strong support network around you.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
Well, starting the business was quite a quick process, the idea came about two weeks before I started. While thinking about what I wanted to do after leaving medicine I had a few business ideas which didn’t go anywhere, however, as mentioned, at the same time our family was trying to make a change to our lifestyle to become more sustainable. One of the challenges I saw was the amount of single-use plastic a household went through which I wanted to find a solution for; and there the idea of refills came in. This was a solution which worked for me and my family but which I also saw as having potential to help others. Talking to people in my community there was interest and desire for this kind of business. In Bicester as well, there is no zero-waste shop so I saw a clear gap in the market, and that this would be a viable product. So, very quickly I jumped in and set up a website got products in, and in January started doorstep deliveries.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Firstly resilience, things aren’t always going to go your way, and being an entrepreneur can be quite an isolating experience. Right now, it is just me working at the company and all that comes with that: marketing, developing the business strategy, product delivery etc. I am constantly learning but it can feel quite lonely and like I am out of my depth, so resilience is key. Linked in with this is dedication and hard work which are essential to keeping momentum and giving your ideas the best chance for success.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I have control over my life and diary. I’m able to grow the business in the way I want to and keep its growth in line with the values and business ethos with which I set up the company. Its exciting all the ideas I have for the business which I can pursue as I am in charge. I’d like to start educative classes around why refilling is important, beyond recycling which seems an end point for most people in sustainability when its simply not. I also stock a range of reusable sanitary products including reusable pads, period pants and menstrual cups. I would really like to set up some sessions to inform people about the environmental impact of disposable sanitary products.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
That’s a good question and a tricky one. There’s not a specific name I can come out with right now, but I would just say that all of the small business owners I have networked with over the last few months have all been so lovely and supportive and always willing to give advice.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
The company is still in the early days but there have been a few really rewarding moments. Recently Refills by Beez was shortlisted as finalist for best local independent business and best new business in the Oxfordshire little ankle biters awards 2022. I was also invited to a Bicester Vision networking event which was a great opportunity to meet other people in the local area who were working on developing ideas in Bicester, for improving Bicester.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Being new to running a business I would say the most difficult thing has been working out how much time to dedicate to certain activities. Asking and ascertaining how beneficial a certain task will be is challenging but comes with time and experience. In the very early days of the business, I did also pay for some advertising which in hindsight was not very beneficial.
How have you funded your ideas?
It has all been self-funded so far.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
I have not been successful yet in acquiring a grant, but I am applying at the moment and hopeful one will be helpful in growing the business.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire?
The networking in Oxfordshire seems fantastic. I haven’t run a business anywhere else so can’t compare it but I have been invited to lots of different events in Oxfordshire, and everyone I’ve met is very supportive and willing to talk.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would recommend the OxLEP business support tool and just recommend speaking to as many people as possible. Even those doing similar things to what you want to do, while often people worry about their competitors, from my experience everyone has been willing to help. While it might feel daunting to ask for advice, people are kind and learning from others is essential.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
Not specifically that I can think of. From one angle as a mother to three young children that is a factor I have to consider; fitting the tasks I need to do for a day within the shorter school days. But if you’re organised and disciplined this isn’t an insurmountable obstacle.
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
I believe there’s so much out there to help women, and as a small business owner I have always felt there was a lot of resources I can reach out to for support. While this support is not reflected in the amount of funding to female entrepreneurs or the number of senior position women occupy, I do believe things are moving in the right direction.
Any last words of advice?
Just jump in. As with Refills by Beez, I didn’t have everything planned out, but I saw an opportunity, a gap in the market which I could fill and wanted to give it a go. It is better to have a go than regretting not doing something. Also do it on your own terms , there is no point in pursuing something that is not going to work for your situation. Be very clear on what you are trying to achieve and the vision you have.