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I first heard of Lumi last year when I was working on our store, Freddie and Co. When I went to their site, I was amazed. The custom-packaging world isn’t generally the internet’s most stylish or functional space. Lumi is the exception. Their site is easy to navigate and full of nice photography that showcases all of your options. And the real cherry on top is the fact that you can upload your logos and see them mocked up on the various products in real time. If you’ve ever ordered custom packaging online, you know that this is not a thing anywhere else.
Co-founders Jesse Genet and Stephan Ango started Lumi with the intention of bridging the gap between packaging manufacturers and e-commerce businesses.
“The packaging industry is a bit old school. There are a lot of brokers and agents giving business to their friends,” Jesse says. “Our approach is more technology-forward and focuses on putting the entrepreneurs’ interests first.”
Ordering custom boxes as a small business usually means spending tons of time and energy finding a manufacturer you can trust that can produce the small quantities you need. Eventually, though, you outgrow them, and then you have to spend more time and energy to replace them. And usually during all of this, navigating catalogs is frustrating, getting product samples is difficult, and the whole time you’re wishing you could just focus on your actual store. Jesse and Stephan have positioned themselves in this middle ground where they handle packaging logistics for you. Whether you want 100 or 10,000 boxes, they have the connections and the knowledge to sort everything out on your behalf.
“Our goal is to make buying 50,000 custom manufactured boxes as easy and streamlined as buying toothpaste on Amazon,” Jesse told us. “Put simply, we optimize how your packaging is produced based on your current scale, your growth plans, and your geography. We select a facility from our vendor network that is geographically correct and also has the right equipment on the manufacturing floor for your project and volume.”
I asked Jesse what surprised her about being an entrepreneur, and she said she didn’t really know what it was like not to be one. Since she was 16, she’s been running some sort of business, which means she has a real understanding of what it takes and and how hard it can be. When she discovered this packaging problem, she realized she could be the one to fix it.
“It’s been so awesome to see smaller companies be able to design their packaging on a Saturday night sitting on their laptop and then for us to have the opportunity to bring it to life,” she says.
Because of their intimate understanding of the e-commerce struggle, Jesse and Stephan also fit in other ways to communicate and empower business owners. They host a Talk Shop speaker series at Lumi HQ, as well as a podcast where they talk with all kinds of entrepreneurs.
“In both cases we strive to get an entrepreneur’s true story told and to give them an environment where they can be honest about the hard parts of entrepreneurship and what keeps them going,” Jesse says.
1. Manufacturing is hard! “We can’t control everything that goes on in the nitty-gritty physical world of manufacturing. Occasionally, products get stuck in customs or a manufacturing facility gets flooded or snowed in during a rough storm.”
2. Hire the right people. “I hired a smart person who I’m sure would have excelled in a different environment, but I learned the hard way how important it is not just to hire for skills or intelligence but to find creative ways of making sure someone is a culture fit, as well. My co-founder and I have since written up company philosophy and principles that guide us in hiring and also in many day-to-day challenges at Lumi.”
3. Don’t stop learning. “One thing that constantly surprises and challenges me is how fast you need to evolve to grow a business. Every time you think you’ve mastered a new skill set — whether it’s product development, accounting, or managing people — there is always a new frontier of skills that you realize you need. It can be daunting, but I find it really exciting that I have to keep learning new things and challenging myself in order to keep doing what I love doing.”