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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Made by Mom Gift Guide: Durham mom finds success with line of refillable, sustainable soap products

Posted December 9, 2020 9:00 p.m. EST

Courtesy: Alyssa Cherry

Alyssa Cherry didn't start her career as an entrepreneur. She used to work with Spanish speaking domestic violence victims. But today she's the owner of Fillaree, a Durham business that specializes in refillable, sustainable soap. Today, her products are available at her shop at 3117 Guess Rd., Durham, online and at refill stations across the country.

"I have been learning the business side of thing as I go," Cherry tells me. "My mother, father and grandfather all started, grew and ran their own businesses though, so I believe that may have influenced me a bit more than I knew."

Fillaree works like this: You buy a bottle locally or online. You use the product. When the bottle is empty, you can refill it at a local refilling station. Or, customers can sign up for a soap subscription online to receive the order by mail. They can return the refill bottle once it's empty in a prepaid envelope.

Cherry, a mom of two kids, is the final featured business in our Go Ask Mom Made by Mom Gift Guide. Keep reading for more about Fillaree and the story behind it.

Alyssa Cherry, owner of Fillaree

Go Ask Mom: What was the aha moment for Fillaree? Why did you decide to launch the business?

Alyssa Cherry: Along my low waste journey, I became frustrated with the lack of refillable soaps and cleaners' options. I would always say, "I wish someone would start a company that sold bulk cleaners."

One day in 2014, I stumbled into a refill store and it was a dream come true! The concept was really new at the time but something about seeing it in person inspired me to decide right then and there to take a huge risk, teach myself how to make liquid soap and start Fillaree!

GAM: What all do you offer?

AC: We have a variety of sustainable soap and body products.

  • Soap & Suds -Hand & Body Soap
  • Clean Dream Cleaning Spray
  • Clean Plate Club Dish Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Lotion
  • Hand Sanitizer

Products from Durham-based Fillaree

GAM: How has COVID reshaped your plans for the business?

AC: There have been supply shortages that have been tough. We have had to figure out how to work together in person in the same space. All of the positions at Fillaree are very physical - there is no work from home option. That has been a challenge, but so far so good.

GAM: You're facing a lot of challenges, but what's been your biggest reward as a business owner so far?

AC: Being able to put myself on payroll. Every single cent has gone back into the business, and I needed to hire a great team to get us to the point where I felt comfortable doing so. I was the last one to make it onto payroll and it felt so good. Seven years of sacrifice, hard work and sometimes doubting it would ever happen.  It was and still is a dream come true.

Products from Fillaree

GAM: Going forward, what's your hope for Fillaree? What are your future dreams for the business?

AC: I have a very clear vision of a large factory in a neighboring North Carolina county where we can employ hundreds of people making good soap and offering refill and reuse services all across North America. A refill station on every corner would be the dream realized. A big dream with a bigger impact.