How I saved my business when a supplier fell through

how-i-richardRichard Fine and Gary Smith started eco-friendly packaging company BioPak back before the global financial crisis – but that period of time provided it with one of its biggest challenges.

A key supplier was suddenly unable to supply the biodegradable packaging company with product, and it eventually had to abandon the partnership and seek alternative arrangements.

BioPak is fine now, turning over $11 million a year. But the challenge represents a key lesson for SMEs in dealing with the supply chain.

So how’s the business going?

Fantastic. It’s moving at a rapid pace, and there’s so much opportunity and room for growth. The biggest challenge is resources, human and otherwise. But personally, I’m juggling about six or seven different projects at once so it’s challenging to make sure everything gets covered properly.

You had a pretty big supply problem early on in the business. What happened?

The business at that stage was still quite small, we were getting market penetration just at the start and the product offering was quite unique. There were some players at that time who were just using old style tactics, and I felt that the product we were offering was better. The product in question was called “eatwear”, and it was high quality, very rigid, and there was just nothing like it on the market at the time.

There was, however, a price premium. A couple of customers were using it and we were bringing in container loads every single month.

What were the signs?

Their supply became more and more erratic. It was just really strange, the company was always making excuses as to what the issues were and it just became completely unreliable.

I mean, I had a phone call once asking where this product was that we needed, and they were saying the container hadn’t shipped it. We were placing orders and they weren’t getting to where they needed to go.

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