With a passion for creating eco-conscious textile products and educating about conscious living, Lolly Nicol founded The Greener Gift in 2017. The startup has continued to evolve since then and is currently one of 11 businesses in the reSET 2022 Impact Accelerator cohort.

Lolly spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her entrepreneurial journey and what she hopes to gain from participating in the accelerator.

NAN PRICE: Have you always been entrepreneurial or known you wanted to have your own business?

LOLLY NICOL: I’ve always been entrepreneurial. This is my fourth iteration of trying to make a small business.

NAN: What’s making this one stick?

LOLLY: I actually care about this and I’m passionate about the mission. That’s what makes the difference.

NAN: How did you develop the business concept?

LOLLY: I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. In my mid-20s I went back to school for hairdressing. As I was graduating, I became aware of all the toxic chemicals in personal care goods. It was a wake-up call for me to start learning more about living more eco-consciously.

When I found out that the majority of gift wrap isn’t recyclable, I thought: Well, what can I do about that? I can make reusable gift wrap. My mom had taught me to sew when I was a kid. So, during the holidays in 2016 I made reusable gift bags for all the gifts I gave. Everybody said they were so cool and I should sell them.

NAN: Did that sort of plant a seed?

LOLLY: Yes. But it took a little while. In until October 2017 I was taking a mental health day with my best friend after a rough work day. We were co-working at her home and talking about my business idea and she asked me: Are you going to do the thing? When I said yes, we got in the car and drove to the Department of Revenue Services in Norwich to file the business paperwork. Conveniently, I was able to speak with someone on short notice and file all the necessary paperwork right then and there.

NAN: Tell us about the business evolution from then to now.

LOLLY: I was originally just making reusable gift bags. I did six markets to test the waters and made a couple thousand dollars, which helped me realize it was a viable concept. I was still working 9-5, so I sat on the business idea for a while. Then in 2020, I lost my day job two days before Christmas. I felt like it was a sign from the universe and I decided to go for it.

I was able to prep everything and get ready to start doing markets in June 2021. At first, I was only making gift bags and gift wraps. I started exploring new products, throwing ideas at the wall to see what would stick. That’s when I developed the snack bags, which have become my best-selling product.

I did markets from June through December and got to the point where the business seemed doable. And here we are.

NAN: How did you became aware of reSET and why did you apply to the accelerator?

LOLLY: I saw that Reboot Eco Founder Yasemin Ugurlu had participated in the 2021 accelerator. She and I met at markets and then she started doing wholesale from me. We’ve collaborated and have done events together. When I found out she’d been in the accelerator, I decided to investigate. I met with reSET for a prescreen-type interview and thought: This seems like a good fit.

I had participated in a virtual business course coaching program in 2021 that was focused on digital products. It was great and I learned a lot, but reSET is local and more focused on our area. And, being an eco-conscious business, I want to connect with people who are making a difference in the world. Also, the fact that reSET is a social enterprise that supports social enterprises made a big difference for me.

NAN: What do you hope to gain from being part of the cohort?

LOLLY: Resources and connections to be able to grow and have the business be more sustainable, because right now it’s still small. It’s my full-time job but it’s not lucrative. I’ve seen other people go through the accelerator and do great things with their businesses, so I hope I can poise myself for that growth through the program.

NAN: What are your biggest challenges as a business owner?

LOLLY: Time and money, like everybody else.

My other challenge is finding my voice in the education piece—figuring out the best way to support people and inspire change. Because ultimately my goal is to grow entry-level, eco-conscious people and help them feel more comfortable making change so we can create demand that will in turn influence big businesses. The more people on board, the more change we can make. But finding the language and methods to reach people to do that has been my unexpected challenge.

NAN: What’s next for the business overall?

LOLLY: I’m scaling back on the diversity of products and starting to focus on the ones that really make a difference. All my physical goods are going to either replace a single-use item or be multi-purpose. I’m also going to be expanding the wholesale piece of the business. Although the return on investment isn’t as large as retailing direct to customers, the physical goods are often my bridge to education and networking.

I also want to expand further into workshops and public speaking to help educate people about living consciously without the shame or blame of not being an expert in the eco game.

NAN: Do you have any advice or tips for other people who have an idea for a small business?

LOLLY: In theory, I want to say just do it—but that’s not always feasible. My advice is to find people who support you. Find people you can talk things out with and those who can help pick you up and keep pushing you through the challenging times.

Learn more about The Greener Gift
shop.thegreenergift.com | Facebook | Instagram

Photos courtesy Visual Appeal Studios