Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Salman Shahid, a digital marketing expert and the founder of OXO Packaging. We are a custom packaging manufacturer for small to medium-scale businesses across the USA and Australia.
At OXO Packaging, we provide packaging solutions for all kinds of businesses. No matter what business you run, we have the right custom packaging boxes for you. If you are a cosmetic supplier, you can benefit from our custom cosmetic boxes; for jewelry suppliers, our custom-printed gift boxes are the right choice. So no matter what you sell, we can make the box for you. We offer complete customization, from the material selection to the printing and finishing.
Currently, we are getting around 40 to 50 orders every month with an average revenue of $500,000 per month. With a vast customer base, we aim to become the best custom packaging manufacturer in our target markets.
Our journey has been quite successful so far. In our first year, we made a 10% gross profit. Last year, the profit was over 30%. This year, we are planning to go over 40% in gross profits.
What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?
Before OXO Packaging, I worked a 9-5 job as a digital marketing expert. I was good at it, but a job can be overwhelming. I wanted to start something of my own. I wanted to utilize my skills to do something great for myself and others. That is when I decided to leave my job and start a business.
So my search began for an “absolutely fantastic” business idea. I researched the internet and consulted friends, but nothing seemed to inspire me. And there I was, sitting at my desk at home with no job thinking about what I should do now. That is when my eyes hit a shoe box I had ordered some time ago. I picked it up and started to examine it like I was seeing a box for the first time. That is when something clicked. I started researching the packaging industry on the internet and found out about custom packaging. My research returned the demand for sustainable packaging, and that is when I decided there was nothing else I wanted to do.
The global packaging industry was worth $400B at the time and was predicted to only grow. This is something that caught my interest. I calculated the risk. All businesses needed packaging so there was no chance the industry could fail. So this idea was perfect in every sense with a very low-risk factor. Since then, the packaging industry has seen around 6% growth globally and it is predicted to reach $ 1.3 trillion in the next 10 years. So my idea was truly worth it.
The problem with this idea was that I had no prior experience with the packaging industry. I had already quit my job and had no money. The experience part I could handle, but when it came to money, I got. I didn’t want to lend any money or take a loan from the bank, so there was one other option - find an investor.
The problem with finding an investor is that you must be careful about who to trust. I started looking for potential investors in my contacts and came up with a few names. Finally, I decided to share my idea with a senior of mine whom I trusted. He liked the idea, and so I got my investor. After that, what was left was to decide on a brand name. This is an interesting story. So, I was playing tic-tac-toe on my computer while thinking about the brand name, and that is when a row filled with O-X-O. Bingo! OXO Packaging it is. There was a great sound to it, and so it was final.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
I had the brand name, an investor, and the motivation to go on this venture. Now what was left was to go ahead and do the market research. As I have mentioned before, packaging was new to me. Specifically, custom packaging was a term that I wasn’t familiar with before. So I had to do market research. The goal was to make sustainable packaging, so I set out on my search for the perfect material options. And I did find some great material options in paperboard that were sustainable.
I would like to mention that visiting the traditional market for research is very tedious. It is nothing like researching online. My online research returned different material prices than I found in the market. The traditional market was comparatively cheaper, but I struggled to find the right supplier. After a long struggle, I did find the best supplier who would take care of my packaging manufacturing.
I had decided to outsource the packaging manufacturing process at the time because it was cost-effective and manageable. But it was still essential to know how it worked to ensure I delivered the right products to my customers. So I printed a shoe box on simple paper for the first time from my home printer. The printing process was easy. I got the dimensions and all other factors right. Although I had trouble assembling it because the paper wasn’t stiff enough, I finally succeeded. And this was the first box OXO Packaging ever made, even if it was just for testing.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch part was as easy as it could be. I am a digital marketer and have worked with multiple websites before, so I knew how exactly I wanted the website to look. I had connections with many developers, so I hired one as a freelancer to build a website for me. It took a couple of months, and in November 2017, we launched OXO Packaging.
With the launch, I started reaching out to potential clients via cold email. This is where my experience in digital marketing came in handy. I was targeting small businesses because we were just starting out and didn’t have many resources.
Here’s one of the sales pitches I was using.
“Hi [Client Name],
Hope you're doing well.
Loved absolutely everything about your work and website. One thing that I couldn't help but notice is that you're selling vegan and cruelty-free products. And this is exactly what we preach at OXO Packaging. We offer recyclable and toxin-free packaging all over the US.
- We provide 100% recyclable boxes.
- We use vegetable-based ink for printing.
- Our prices are market-competitive, and we offer the best quality material.
- We offer free design and shipping services.
To get more perks and benefits, get in touch now.
When planning a business, having the relevant skills and experience can help. This is why the launch became so convenient for me, and outreach was also quite easy. I was collecting data from different online sources such as LinkedIn, Bark, Yelp, and others and sent emails. That's simple. I won’t say it was all that straightforward. I had to struggle with the clients. We were a new company, and clients don’t usually trust new businesses, but finally, we closed our first deal in December 2017.
The launch part was easy, but managing orders was hard. The outreach process worked better than I anticipated. We were just three people. We were doing everything ourselves, from getting the packaging boxes manufactured by our supplier to packing and shipping them safely. It was hard for the first few orders, but after that, everything became easier. The business was booming, as we were getting referral customers from our clients and getting responses from our outreach efforts.
By December 2018, we set up our production unit because we wanted to deliver high quality, which is hard with outsourcing. Today, we do everything in-house with a team of around 100 people.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Till now, the only thing that has worked for us is our promise to deliver quality to the customer. Packaging is the face of your brand. If your product packaging is perfect, you can attract customers and increase sales. This is why we always ensure that our packaging can reflect the customer’s brand in the best light. This has helped us retain customers, and they have referred many more customers to us.
Along with this, we implement proper SEO and search ads to increase our website traffic. Google search ads have been quite helpful for us, with around a 5% conversion rate. We also have a newsletter that we use to share packaging facts and impressive deals with our customers. We stay connected with our customers through our website blog, social media, and emails, and that helps us retain them. Here is a breakdown of our 3 main acquisition channels.
- SEO: 40%
- PPC: 40%
- Other Channels: Socials/Emails 20%
We often get customers that wish to switch their packaging manufacturer. To onboard them as permanent customers, we have a “Beat My Quote” deal.
We ask the customer to share the quote they got from other packaging companies, and we beat it. This has also helped us in getting new customers. So these are some techniques that have worked for us in getting new customers and retaining them.
Our customers love us. The positive reviews from my clients motivate me to continue striving for excellence and finding new ways to exceed their expectations. It is a great reminder of why I do what I do and the impact it can have on others. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and make a difference in the lives of my clients.
When planning a business, having the relevant skills and experience can help.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our journey has been quite successful so far. In our first year, we made a 10% gross profit. Last year, the profit was over 30%. This year, we are planning to go over 40% in gross profits. We started in the US, and we expanded our packaging business to Australia. This year, we are expanding our operations to the UK as well.
OXO Packaging was built on the vision to produce more job opportunities for people. We started with only 3 people, and today we have a team of over 100 people working with us from across the globe. This year, with our expansion, we are planning to go over 200 people.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting a business on your own has its perks along with disadvantages. The benefit is that you learn a lot. The disadvantage is that it is stressful, and you can mess up pretty badly. But that is part of the game. You can never always make perfect decisions. It isn’t even important to make all the right decisions. The important thing is what you take out of the failure.
If I talk about myself, I made some mistakes along the way. Once, we gave the wrong quote to the customer. The packaging process involves a lot of steps, and when quoting the cost, we have to add the prices for all those steps, such as graphic design, material cost, finishing cost, printing, and much more.
Once, we didn’t calculate all these steps and gave a quote to the customer. We had already agreed on the quote, so we had to deliver on it, and we did. I had to pay a portion of the cost from my pocket to cover the cost of the client’s packaging. But a good thing that came out of this is that we told the customer about the situation. We had a loss on that order, but the good that came out of it was that we got a permanent customer.
The thing we took away from this mistake was to be more vigilant about everything and focus on the business more. Also, we realized that being honest with the client means a lot in the long run. Honesty can be a great thing for your business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our website and CRM are custom coded. Along with that, some platforms and tools we use include;
- Authorize.net: For service payments from customers. We also use PayPal.
- DHL/FedEx: For shipping fulfillment.
- Slack: For internal communications.
- Trello: For internal team collaboration.
- ZenDesk: For customer support.
- GoogleAds: For paid ads.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I don’t like listening to podcasts. I believe in doing more than sitting around listening to people. Although I have read a lot of books. The books I found most influential are Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
These books have helped me a lot in my decision on entrepreneurship.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I would suggest that you should not be only inspired by other people’s success when starting a business. Find your way and work on it. The biggest mistake people make when starting a business is not considering all the possibilities. They just see one person or a company getting success, and they think the same will work for them. I was like that once, so I know that is not the way.
If you have an idea you hope will work for you, don’t just go ahead and start it. Analyze the idea, see what other people did to achieve success, and create a plan. Don’t just follow someone blindly. If you think you have a better approach to doing what the other person did, try it out. Your idea might fail, but you will get valuable knowledge. Business is not always about achieving success. Sometimes you fail, and if you do, try getting knowledge out of it that can help you with other ideas. Not all businesses are for you, and not every business you start will be massively successful. Just keep that in mind and try to find the right opportunity.
Another thing I would suggest is to learn from experience. Listening is not in any way equal to doing, and always keep that in mind. When you do things, you face problems that people don’t warn you about. Getting out of these problems nurtures your mind and helps you to be successful. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. When you put your effort into something, it will eventually work out. But if it doesn’t, figure out what was wrong with your last idea and start working on a new one. When the idea doesn’t work, you change the idea not the goal. Just keep that in mind and keep working.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
The vision behind OXO Packaging was to create more job opportunities minus the toxic workplace environment. I have worked in a toxic environment and know how it feels. That is why we create many employment opportunities every year and onboard many people. You can always find a job with us.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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