Entrepreneur Spotlight: Barbara Chaplain

Foto Barb

Barbara Chaplain

Founder of wezero

I am Barbara, a French entrepreneur, passionate about sustainability and zero waste. I have worked in procurement and project management in large corporates for almost 10 years, before launching my own company, aiming to make a difference. I am now also a zero-waste consultant, in order to help businesses be more aware of zero waste and sustainability and find a solution that fits them.

What is your company all about?

wezero is a zero-waste online shop that makes plastic-free groceries easy and accessible. You can find food and non-food products, with a returnable packaging system. We deliver in Barcelona city, with electric vehicles. We are really customer-focused in the sense that we always try to find the best products, locally sourced, and provide flexible options: Paper packaging or glass (Returnable) packaging, short time slots for deliveries so you do not have to wait at home all day, possibility to receive your order at the office and quick support and response to our customers.

Why did you choose to set up a business in Barcelona?

I had already been living in Barcelona for several years when the idea of wezero was born. I originally was involved in a similar concept in France, but for personal reasons, I exited that project and felt that Barcelona would be a good place for starting a sustainable, circular business. A lot of people here are ecologically conscious, and still, most of us find it either inconvenient or simply do not know about the zero waste options around them.

How did you come up with the idea/concept for your business?

I have been trying to reduce my usage of plastic for many years, being conscious about its environmental impact. But I found that it was quite time-consuming, and sometimes more expensive, compared to “standard” groceries. I really wanted plastic-free groceries to be more flexible and more accessible, so that it would become easier, and therefore more people would be willing to adopt this way of living and consuming.

How do you market your business and which strategies have been the most successful?

wezero is an e-commerce 100%, we do not have a physical shop. Therefore, it may be a bit harder to reach our customers. On top of the common digital marketing strategy (SEO through content, SEM with google ads and social ads, e-mailing, amongst others), what has been very successful are the collaborations with some influencers specialized in zero waste, collaborations with other brands that have the same values, and physical events. For example, we took part in some zero waste markets and some flea markets in order for people to know us personally, we feel this is important.

If you hadn't relocated to Barcelona, would you have set up the same type of company in your home country?

Yes probably. Reducing our plastic consumption, especially for food packaging, is critical. More and more businesses and solutions are emerging, but they really need to become mainstream. The amount of waste and pollution we generate is tremendous, and the problem is not going to be solved by tomorrow. It might not have been the exact same concept, but something in the waste reduction area for sure.

Is it mandatory for you to speak Catalan and/or Spanish as an entrepreneur in Barcelona?

It is not mandatory per se, but I would strongly advise having at least one of the cofounders that speak Spanish fluently and understands some Catalan. The reason is that, especially if you incorporate a company, everything will be in Spanish, and these are quite important processes. It is better to understand what you are actually signing.

 

Speaking Catalan in Barcelona is not mandatory, but understanding it helps, especially if you are looking for subventions, most of the documents will be in Catalan. But at least when it comes to e-commerce, people are not necessarily looking for Catalan-only websites.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a business in Barcelona?

I would say the costs and administration part of it are definitely a disadvantage. There are many forms to fill in, and you have to consider all the costs that come with it: Notary, Social Security (cuota de autonomo), accountant (Gestoria), insurance. Some of which may be higher than in other countries.

But on the other side Barcelona is booming when it comes to start ups. There is a lot of support from the local government (Barcelona Activa is a key enabler when you start). I had the opportunity to be accompanied by the Chambre of Commerce of Barcelona (Cambra de Comerç), which really helped in the preparation phase. I am now also part of a mentoring program through Barcelona Activa. I would strongly recommend to use all of the free services that the city provides, whether it is a course, support to the business plan, mentoring programs, etc. It is extremely helpful.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting their own business in Barcelona?

I would have a few insights for people who may want to start their own business. Some are generic and some more related to the location itself:

 

  • If you are alone, find a business partner. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is very hard, and that 2 or 3 persons are not too much to start a business. Maybe you want to launch the company by yourself and then onboard some freelances for example, in any case it is better not to do everything alone,
  • Take the time to talk to your potential customers. When we have an exciting idea, whether it is based on personal experience or intuition, we tend to rush things, but it is extremely important to connect with people who you think are part of your target segment (this is valid for both B-to-B and B-to-C environments) and really confirm your assumptions.
  • Do not rush into incorporating a company. In Spain, there is quite some paperwork and cost associated with incorporating a Limited Company for example (S.L.: Sociedad Limitada). Maybe you can start as an “autonomo”, and if you can postpone the process until the day you need to start invoicing, better. This is not always feasible, but I would strongly recommend it.

Do you have any additional comments to share with us?

It is not necessarily about entrepreneurship, but I would love for all Barcelona citizen to be more conscious about their environmental impact. Whether it is when we shop, our mode of transport, our habits in the workplace, the way we eat, we can all have a positive impact and starting making some small changes. And there is no need to aim for perfection, because that will not happen.

I always say that it is much better if 200.000 people reduce their plastic consumption by 50% rather than 200 manage to avoid it completely.

Barbara Chaplain

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