EPac Flexible Packaging LLC is opening an Ohio site for its new take on packaging, where it aims to serve small businesses in the communities where it's located.
"The business is built to serve the customers and the community in that region," said Tim Novak, managing partner at ePac, which makes flexible packaging such as wrappers and pouches for snacks or pet food.
The company uses digital printing, which Novak said allows it to offer customers faster turnaround and a lower cost to entry. That's because the company just needs an emailed file to get started instead of having to create a new printing plate for each project.
EPac got its start in 2016 with a plant in Madison, Wis., and has been expanding ever since. The company's model requires local buy-in, with each new facility the result of a partnership with someone at the local level who can invest in and operate the business, Novak said. It has some similarities to a franchise model, but ePac is fully partnered with its local operators. The local operations share consolidated resources like IT, financing and marketing.
In Cleveland, the company is partially owned by Novak's private investment firm, Woodhaven Capital Partners. Novak is heading up the Cleveland operation, as well as several others.
Novak's family owns a food manufacturer, Sokol and Co., in the Chicago area, and he was involved in the business growing up. Investing in something like ePac, where he also got to operate the business, made sense. Currently, he lives in the Boston area, near another recently opened ePac site he's operating.
A location like New York City might be home to a lot of big brands, but the companies there outsource much of their manufacturing work, Novak said. Cleveland was an attractive location for ePac because of its strong manufacturing base.
"Cleveland and the surrounding area, it's essentially a hotbed for co-manufacturers," he said, adding that its base of manufacturing employees and its location near a number of other Midwest cities also made it a good spot for ePac.
In November 2018, ePac hired a sales representative for the Cleveland market, who started pre-selling the territory. While ePac worked to get a local manufacturing site up and running, orders have been filled from other ePac locations across the country.
In Cleveland, ePac's sales team has been reaching out to manufacturers, not individual end brands. Signing an agreement with one manufacturer could lead ePac to agreements with a variety of end users, Novak said.
EPac will lease an approximately 20,000-square-foot building in Solon for its Cleveland-area manufacturing. Novak said the company can typically build out a plant within 90 days, and his goal is to have the Solon facility producing by the end of the year.
"And really, it's not like we hope that happens. We need it to happen. With the way sales are going, we need the presses to be on and running, because we're at a point right now where we can't build fast enough," Novak said.
He estimated that ePac would invest in more than $5 million worth of equipment to start the Solon location.
Solon Mayor Edward Kraus said ePac will be a "great addition" to the city, and he thinks its services will complement the city's existing business base. The city tries to ensure that the businesses joining its community are a good fit, he added.
By the end of 2021, ePac wants to employ about 70 people in Solon, Novak said. Currently, there are two sales representatives in the Cleveland market, and he's looking to hire about 20 individuals for positions ranging from customer service to equipment operation.