May 2024 Update

by James Turton | May 31, 2024

Being a business owner is hard, I love it, but it is hard. The fact that its hard is not a surprise. 

However, its worth the enormous stress and pressure, because it can bring much greater rewards than working for someone else. Not just financial, but also the freedom to choose your hours* so you can spend more time with your family. This is exactly why I do it. 

*Doesn’t mean you do less hours, but you can choose when you do those hours. 

Although I know this, it hasn’t made this week any easier.  

It has undoubtedly been the most difficult week of my professional life, which has also seeped into my personal life and family. 

Some background... 

My mother-in-law, my wife, and I, (and later, Richard), brought the business, Evolution Packaging, back in 2018. We, apart from my wife, had all been working in the business for over 10 years, some of us a lot longer! The business had stagnated, but we had ideas of growth and the opportunity came to make the business our own. 

Almost immediately we started NaturePac, a brand of Evolution Packaging. NaturePac was designed to help the food-to-go sector navigate the confusing world of ‘eco-friendly’ packaging. Initially, we only supplied Compostable Packaging. 

The timing couldn’t have been better. Blue Planet, the BBC TV series had just been released and it highlighted the plastic packaging issue. Overnight, the demand for Compostable Packaging went sky high. 

NaturePac went from strength to strength. As time went on, it became clearer that Compostable Packaging wasn’t always the best answer to the issue and so NaturePac grew to encompass a wider range of packaging, but still keeping at its heart and always questioning, is this the best packaging item for the job while being as sustainable as possible. 

Then the pandemic hit. No one knew what was going to happen. 

We didn’t know if the business would survive. 

My wife and I had just had our first child. He was less than a month old. It was scary times. 

However, after about 6 weeks, we discovered we were one of the lucky ones. NaturePac thrived with the move to eating and drink outside... Something NaturePac was built for. From 2019 to 2021 we had more than doubled in size. 

We thought it was just going to continue. 

This was the first major mistake we made.  

At the time, current customers were increasing their average order value. New leads were cheap to get due to a massive fall in Google Ad costs. 

Some stock lines were an issue, however, because we had been in the packaging business for a very long time, we knew all the manufacturers and so for the most part managed to get replacement stock very quickly. This also led to us gaining new customers. 

We grew our team. 

We designed the business based on us continuing to grow at the same rate. It was a very different business to what it was in 2019. 

The one thing we failed to do was to plan ‘what if’ and put in place a robust lead generation engine and current customer growth plan. 

As the covid restrictions eased and life got back to normal we didn’t react quick enough, which is unlike us. I think the relief that we could get back to normal, seeing friends and family again, traveling, etc... was a much-welcomed distraction from business and we took our eye off the ball. 

Don’t get me wrong, what we had built was, and still is, a massive achievement. Customers love our NaturePac cups and rely on us to provide them with the latest advice on their packaging and manage their branded packaging. 

However, due to the mistakes we made back in 2020 and 2021, we have unfortunately been letting some of our customers down on plain items since the beginning of this year. There is also the external factor of a recession, but, as anyone who knows me knows, I hate blaming anything outside of my control. 

Cashflow and plain stock have been the major issues. 

We are actively working on this, and according to our projections, we should be back up to normal stock levels within the next couple of months.  

The best thing to have come out of this, is we have had to distill down what NaturePac is really good at, and focus 100% on this. We have discovered which products our customers get most value from. We have also discovered which customers we get most value from. 

This has been extremely useful. It now means that we can really increase our value to our customers, while our customers also add much more value to us. 

Why am I telling you all this and being so open about our pitfalls?  

I love being a business owner. There is nothing quite like it. 

I know that 90% of our customers are also business owners, and most of them do it for the same reasons as we do. 

I am passionate about being a business owner, and having a businesses. I believe it is business that will make the greatest changes for the positive in this world. 

In order to do this, though, we all need to work together, be more open, and support each other.  

I’m often accused of being too open, both within the business and outside of the business, but I believe this is how you build trust and partnerships. Its how I know that everyone who works at NaturePac will always go the extra mile if we need it. Its why so many of our customers have stuck with us. 

As a result of this, it has become NaturePac’s mission, same as mine, to help make life a little easier for the business owners who choose to work with us. At NaturePac, we do that in the form of managing their food-to-go packaging. 

For me, it seems to be taking the form of just being open, so that others can learn from our mistakes, as well as our successes. 

So, if any business owners, founders, what a chat, about anything, please feel free to get in touch. I’m not saying I will be able to give any advice, but it is surprising how many times a great idea comes from just chatting things over. 

Email or call 07774 226439