Back in 2007, Dennis Salazar and his wife, Lenora, took a leap.
With about a half a century of combined experience in the packaging industry, they decided to start their own company.
And to make it as “green” as possible.
Then Dennis did something smart. He wrote about his plans. He didn’t write a white paper. “They’re long, they’re boring, they take a lot of time and nobody reads them,” he says. Instead he started a blog, which is no easy feat for someone who’s technical skills aren’t top-of-the-class. “I’m not a young techie,” he told me, unnecessarily, as we struggled to connect via Skype.
He called his first blog post “Am I Retrainable for Sustainable?” and wrote:
OK, I admit it. I am confused and perhaps even a tad nervous.
After more than 30 years as a packaging professional focused on flexible—dare I say—plastic packaging, this new movement people are calling ”sustainable” packaging has me seriously concerned.
He obviously didn’t have all the answers, but he promised to try to figure out what’s best for his customers and for the environment. He listed Seven R’s — renew, reuse, recycle, remove, reduce, revenue and read — promising to educate himself, his customers and ordinary consumers as he learned more. “That’s the beauty of this market,” he says. “While we teach on a daily basis, we learn on a daily basis.”
Today, Salazar Packaging is doing well. Based in Plainfield, Ill., the firm has customers from all around the U.S. including well-known national brands like Stonyfield Farms and Method and smaller firms like Coyuchi, which makes bath, bedding and baby products from organic cotton, and Volcano Island Honey Co., which makes Hawaiian white organic honey.
I ordinarily don’t write about small b-to-b companies — my focus is the FORTUNE 500, and consumer brands — but Dennis, who is now 56, has a story worth telling, for several reasons.
First, he didn’t just talk about making change; he made it. This reminded me of Seth Godin’s new book, Poke the Box, which is all about taking initiative rather than waiting for things to happen. “We had two nice, lucrative, but unfulfilling jobs, and we decided to do something different,” Dennis told me.
Second, he skillfully used digital media to spread the word about his work; that first blog post ran on GreenBiz.com and Sustainable is Good, as well as on websites that specialize in packaging. The Internet helps level the playing field between small and big companies.