Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Shawn Kearns, Founder of Greenbriar Market + Refillery, located in Calgary, AB, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Greenbriar Market + Refillery focuses on local + sustainable options for bath, body, and home. We've also expanded to be the flagship location for Magic Pantry pickles and preserves. All of our vendors are Canadian except for one American one, and about 70% of our products are made in Canada. We are able to curate a collection of locally made goods all in one place. Our customers fall into two categories. The first group is customers just starting the sustainable journey and looking for information on new products that can replace the toxic or heavily packaged options they currently use. The second group is the customer who is already on their sustainable journey and turns to us as their neighborhood pick-up for products they are already familiar with. They may already have been purchasing directly from the brands or previously were traveling across the city to shop at similar stores.

Tell us about yourself

Like the rest of us, Greenbriar Market + Refillery founders Mat + Shawn were thrown into chaos when the world shut down from the pandemic. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, and a lot of time to think. Shawn comes from a family of small business owners, so naturally, he started thinking about creating his own business. But what? Having worked in retail for his whole career, it was hard to imagine doing anything else. He loved interacting with customers, daily operations, and the ever-changing landscape that is retail, but for him, something was missing. Like many people, Shawn wanted what he did every day to matter. Not just to his boss, his customers, or the company he worked for but really matter–like have an impact on the world around him MATTER!

Moving to a plant-based diet year prior, they were already on a journey to reduce their consumption of resources + environmental impact. After mastering tofu, they shifted focus to what they were putting in & on their bodies beyond food. It didn't take long to realize it was no easy task to shop sustainably without scouring the far corners of the internet. What did it all mean, and how to fix it?

Doing everything else together for 15 years, building a business seemed only natural. Armed with their passion for making a difference, they launched Greenbriar Market + Refillery online in 2021. Mat + Shawn was committed to bringing the people what they wanted: natural eco-friendly Canadian products that are more than just a greenwashed label. They worked hard to vet and research every product before adding it to their collection (tested on founders, not fur babies!) Shawn's background in luxury retail drives the uncompromising quality and commitment to outstanding customer service by making sure every customer is treated like royalty. With Mat running the numbers and Shawn interacting with customers, their recipe was a winner, and Greenbriar was a success!

At the end of 2021, they took the next step and prepared to launch their physical market and refillery in northwest Calgary. Their vision was a sophisticated refillery that made people feel good while doing good. Opening in June 2022 in the lively neighbourhood of Montgomery, Mat & Shawn is excited to serve customers at their brick & mortar shop. They look forward to helping guide, educate and share their passion for earth-friendly products that are good for the planet and good for you.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think our biggest accomplishment has been developing a community around Greenbriar Market. Our local makers, customers, and other local businesses work really hard to build each other up and support each other.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

I think the hardest thing that comes with being a business owner is literally getting the word out there that you exist and have enough people coming through your doors to make money. We've learned we can't be all things to all people, and spending countless hours working on social media (something we don't even like doing) wasn't driving results. When we took a step back and started focusing on the things we liked doing, we definitely saw an uptick in business and happiness.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Don't reply on social media. You don't own your followers. Nurture your mailing list.
  2. Don't try to be everything to everyone. Narrow your focus and stick to what you do well.
  3. Work together with other local businesses to build up a strong community. There's no reason to go it alone.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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