Industry: Cannabis & Hemp
Products: Cannabis packaging
Co-founders CEO Ron Basak-Smith and COO James Eichner seek to educate consumers about sustainable packaging.
When he met Eichner during their MBA program at University of Colorado in Boulder, Basak-Smith says, "I was very much a disgruntled cannabis consumer. The environment is very important to me, and I saw a disconnect between the packaging and the plant itself and what that represents."
He approached fellow graduate student Eichner with the idea of creating sustainable cannabis packaging. Their idea won a university pitch competition, and that win encouraged them to pursue the creation of Sana Packaging.
The company now makes child-resistant cannabis packaging from 30 percent micronized hemp pellets and 70 percent polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from fermented corn starch. Their newest line of cannabis packaging is made from 100 percent ocean plastic to further the goal of creating sustainable, responsible packaging.
The company sources the ocean plastic through Oceanworks Marketplace, which has a verified supply chain. The hemp supply is relatively stable and should remain so as long as it's being processed.
The injection molding is done in manufacturing plants in Minnesota and Arizona. Basak-Smith hopes to expand to other areas of the country in order to service other regions at a local level. The nesting packaging ships from the manufacturing facility to the client company to save fuel and time and to further sustainability.
As far as pursuing offshore manufacturing, Basak-Smith is open to the idea for products that will be used in those countries, but not for import to the United States. "We have certain standards with our materials, and the processing of hemp is limited right now, says Basak-Smith. "Working with a plant based bio component is relatively difficult -- not that many people can do it now. It's very much a concern of ours as we continue to grow."
Because Sana Packaging is based on innovation, it has created a competitive advantage for the company. "This new approach in an emerging industry that has not seen this offering before has enabled us to create a market versus entering a market," says Basak-Smith. "Obviously there are other packaging companies, but very few are doing what we're doing."
Challenges: "We're first-time entrepreneurs, so we're learning as we go," says Basak-Smith. "The industry has a lot of different parts, and each state is operating in a different fashion. The biggest challenge is all the opportunities. There're a lot of good options. It's deciding how and what we want to create. We're not chasing after something, to conform to a certain standard. We're trying to change what's currently happening. We have to choose the good options over the bad ones without having the experience to help make those decisions."
Opportunities: Basak-Smith sees continued steep growth. "We're at the beginning stages of the cannabis industry in the country. It's just starting to evolve. It's an opportunity to be a thought leader in this space."
Needs: Capital, says Basak-Smith, as well as a host of operational needs. "We're a growing company, so we're going through rounds of funding. We're working on product development. We're working on our supply chain. We're working day to day to make sure our customers are receiving their products. The bigger picture is that the world values our planet. We have to think about the way we're acting on it. We have to rethink the traditional business model, which puts planet behind profit. But with the paradigm shift, our biggest need is to have people to value the ground we stand on."