Amber Haukedahl’s Market Offers Plastic- and Package-Free Goods for Shoppers Striving to Create Less Waste

By Chris Olsen

Like many Americans, Amber Haukedahl grew up thinking recycling was the answer to the world’s environmental problems. As a teen, she implemented a recycling facility at her California high school, and her passion for preserving the planet continued to grow. She studied environmental science in college and earned a master’s degree in conservation biology. While conducting research felt meaningful to Amber, she discovered she was most energized when she connected with communities and shared her knowledge.

After spending time as a researcher and educator in South America, Amber and her husband landed in Minnesota (his home state). She wasn’t clear on where her career path would take her, but after reading that the average American discards 4 pounds of trash a day, and almost every discarded plastic toothbrush—more than 5 billion a year—ends up in a landfill forever, she started to learn more about the zero-waste movement. The concept goes beyond recycling or composting an item at the end of its life cycle. It considers an item’s entire lifespan, starting with product development and design. It also focuses on the use and management of materials in ways that preserve value, minimize impact, and conserve natural resources.

While working a full-time job as an environmental consultant, Amber began making small shifts toward a zero-waste life, like switching to a bamboo toothbrush and investing in reusable produce bags. She started a zero-waste blog to share tips for reducing waste on a daily basis. Her platform picked up steam, and her audience wanted more. Specifically, they wanted to know where to shop and businesses that supported a zero-waste lifestyle. Co-ops were a great place to find bulk groceries, but what about plastic- and package-free personal care products and cleaning supplies? That’s when Amber realized her career path had led to a business idea: a marketplace featuring zero-waste products.

She started by curating a collection of 15 products for sustainable living, which she sold out of her home and at popup markets and zero-waste workshops throughout the Twin Cities. Demand was overwhelming and provided proof of concept for a brick-and-mortar shop. Amber officially filed an LLC for Tare Market in 2018 and, not long after, signed a five-year lease on a South Minneapolis retail space. Based on community interest, she also set up a crowdfunding campaign, and on the day it launched, Tare Market was featured on the front page of the Star Tribune’s business section. Within four days, it had surpassed its fundraising goal.

April 2019 was monumental for Amber. The shop officially opened on Earth Day with hundreds of bulk food items and sustainable products. Customers filled their own or borrowed containers and the shop sold out of its entire inventory by the weekend. While this was reassuring, Amber had planned to stay in her full-time job a while longer—until the company unexpectedly closed its Minneapolis office and her position was eliminated. This caused some anxiety initially, but Amber quickly realized everything would be OK. Her gut told her there was no better time to focus on the business. Her instincts were right—earth-conscious consumers continued to flock to the store and Amber’s educational events. Tare Market was profitable within four months.

More change came in 2020. Amber and her husband welcomed a baby girl to their family and just as her maternity leave ended COVID shut down the world. As an essential business, Tare Market stayed open and retained as many employees as possible. Amber implemented safety protocols like handwashing before entering, allowing one patron in the store at a time, sanitizing scoops and bins after each shopper, and offering dedicated shopping times for at-risk individuals. Customers could also drop off containers to be filled. When foot traffic dropped significantly, Tare Market added online shopping.

Though the year ended with a decrease in sales, and there were times Amber would forgo a paycheck to ensure her staff got paid, she knew the business model was sound and worth continuing to pursue.

Business gradually picked up again and customers began inquiring about plans for expansion. Amber’s original vision for the business included multiple locations so she decided to add another shop. In April 2022, Tare Market opened a larger second store in Northeast Minneapolis. It provides ample space for events like clothing swaps, warehouse sales and sip-and-shops. This location has grown at a slower, steadier pace than the first, and it began exceeding revenue projections at the two-year mark.

Today, Amber is content with two locations and proud of the impact her business has had in the community. Her efforts have kept more than 53,000 plastic bags and 5,000 toothbrushes from the landfill. She has reused more than 3,000 jars and enough packaging supplies to ship 2,500 orders. She continues to welcome and educate new shoppers who are curious about how they can live more sustainably, as well as a steady stream of regulars who have fully committed to the zero-waste movement. She is currently analyzing the ways customers’ buying habits have changed post-pandemic and how Tare Market can best serve all who are interested in leaving the world a better place.

To learn more about Amber’s business, follow @taremarket on Instagram and visit www.thetaremarket.com.

Photo credit: Tare Market

About the Author

Chris Olsen is a broadcast media veteran turned communications consultant, educator and the author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose.” The founder of Publish Her and Publish Her Story, Chris has helped thousands of women tell their stories and publish their books.

About Publish Her

Publish Her is a female-founded publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all. Publish Her specializes in print-on-demand books, workbooks, journals, magazines and more.

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