JFCS Financial Aid Helps Oakland Eco-Entrepreneurs Make Sustainable Shopping More Accessible
  • Stories & Testimonials
  • Financial Assistance

When Matt Zimbalist and his partner started Re-Up Refills, they set out to make sustainable, zero-waste living more accessible in their Bay Area community. But bringing that dream to fruition takes more than just passion—it requires financial support. That’s where JFCS’ Financial Aid Center stepped in, with a loan that helped Re-Up Refills take its impact to the next level.

Storefront of Re-Up Refill Shop

The seeds of Re-Up Refills were first planted at Urban Adamah, a Jewish farm and educational center in Berkeley, where Matt and his partner, Carly, met and connected over their shared values around environmental stewardship. After years of patronizing and operating smaller zero-waste ventures, the pair were ready to establish a centralized “one-stop shop” where customers could purchase plastic-free groceries and household essentials using refillable containers in place of disposable plastic or paper packaging. 

“Getting the loan from JFCS allowed us to expand and put us on a nice path to adding more categories, making it more meaningful for people as a one-stop shop,” says Matt. 

Food wall

But Re-Up’s mission goes beyond just providing sustainable goods—it’s about increasing accessibility to sustainable living to the broader community. With the JFCS loan and resulting category expansion, the store can begin accepting EBT payments, opening its doors to lower-income customers who often don’t have access to affordable zero-waste options.

This commitment to social equity and slow, community-focused growth over rapid, profit-driven expansion resonated with the JFCS loan administrators.

“The board asked really thoughtful questions about our business on a human level. It was very different than a normal experience you’d have at a bank,” explains Matt, “They were excited to hear more about our impact and how we affect change in the community. It was validating to know that the agency funding us cares about things that are bigger than the bottom line.” 

Matt was raised secularly, but as the grandson of Holocaust survivors, the Jewish values of building strong communities and caring for the environment were always present.

refilling bottles

“I think a lot of the early lessons in my household from my mom were always framed through the lens of lessons she learned from her parents,” he says, “The more I learn about Judaism as I get exposed to it as an adult, the more I realize those secular lessons and Jewish wisdom are connected in a meaningful way. Environmental stewardship is an inherently Jewish value.”

As for what’s next, Matt says Re-Up will continue focusing on strengthening its existing Oakland location and finding more ways to increase accessibility before considering broader regional expansion. Matt says he is grateful to partners like JFCS, who have empowered his business to grow in a thoughtful, community-based way, and hopes that other values-based projects seek the funding they need to do the same. 


JFCS’s Financial Aid Center helps local, small- and medium-sized businesses achieve sustainable growth by offering loans with generous repayment terms. Individuals can also receive help developing a business plan based on growth trends and market research.

To learn more and apply, visit our website or call 415-449-1226.



Posted by Admin on May 2, 2024