Pack It Up: Why Packaging Matters, More Than Ever


Rockets of Awesome x Lumi

With the direct-to-consumer and e-commerce booming, packaging is more important than ever. Entrepreneurs who get what appeals to Millennials (and younger consumers), naturally, are eager to disrupt the bigger players.

Cue innovative packaging and logistics services such as Lumi, which creates (and streamlines) custom packaging for e-commerce services including Daily Harvest, BarkBox, FabFitFun, the Field Company, Rockets of Awesome, ShaveFaceParachute Home, MeUndies and the Wall Street Journal.

Co-founders by self-described curious dorks Jesse Genet and Stephan Ango, the duo just raised $9 million in series A financing (led by Spark Capital) to expand Lumi, which evolved from shipping Inkodye, their sunlight-activated fabric dye product.

“For many brands, the box is the first physical interaction customers have with them and their products. The unboxing experience has become so meaningful; there are YouTube channels dedicated to it (these videos are mesmerizing),” explains Spark Capital partner Kevin Thau in a Medium blog post.

“The box has become an incredibly important part of the brand story for this new generation of commerce and direct-to-consumer brands. This is what leads us to Lumi and why we’re proud to announce today that we’re leading the company’s $9M Series A, along with Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures.”

Realizing a market need for startups looking for branded packaging to make each order feel special, Lumi produces custom-printed boxes, packing tape and invoice slips for online orders. As Thau puts it, “Lumi helps e-commerce companies produce custom packaging by bringing simplicity to something that is very complex: what machine in what factory in what part of the world would be best to make this box, the wrapping, marketing inserts, etc.?”

Lumi demystifies custom packaging with content including a blog, the Well Made podcast and “Shipping Things” videos, including a “Getting Started” video and a primer on custom packing tape:

“A lot of what we learned was related to making custom packaging,” Genet told TechCrunch. “Stefan and I spent four and a half years launching a product that needed its own packaging (and) learned a lot of the pain points that our customers experience.”

“We were talking about how companies brand themselves and source things to brand themselves,” Genet added. “We landed on packaging not because ‘Whoa, you know where a huge market is’ but because our customers were dealing with this struggle.”

How it works: “The magic behind Lumi is networked manufacturing, i.e. bringing factories online,” Ango explained in a blog post on Medium. “Instead of managing communications with individual suppliers for each item, the Lumi Dashboard centralizes this process. Each item is abstracted into specifications and the best factory for each job is picked based on criteria for cost, quality and lead time.”

Lumi packaging

“Our extensive network of factories allows us to locate manufacturing within 50 miles of almost any distribution center in the United States. If fulfillment moves to a different part of the country, production can be quickly re-located near the new distribution center.”

Field Co x Lumi packaging

Lumi has to date shipped 25 million packages by geolocating production as near as possible to a client’s distribution center.

Spark Capital certainly knows a good bet when it sees one, having invested in Dollar Shave Club,, Birchbox, Bonobos, Glossier, Hotel Tonight, Warby Parker and Outdoor Voices.

How Life Unfolds

Lumi is taking on bigger players, many of which belong to the U.S. Paper and Packaging Board—which has just released its own campaign to highlight innovations by its more than 50 members.

Expanding on the “How Life Unfolds” campaign it introduced in 2015, the campaign features animated characters in photo-realistic scenarios; a library, an orchard, on a graduation stage and at an awards show podium.

The characters represent the creativity, accomplishments and inspiration that consumers encounter every day with paper and packaging products. Another underlying theme is how sustainability is important to both sides of the paper and packaging industry:

“Paper and packaging products are prevalent in our lives. It was our goal to create highly-relatable characters to represent the vital roles that paper and packaging play for each and every one of us,” explained  Mary Anne Hansan, president of the Paper and Packaging Board.

“We launched the ‘Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds’ campaign in 2015 and we are thrilled to introduce these new characters to help consumers nationwide recognize and remember the value of paper in their everyday lives.”

The campaign is running on TV; in magazines such as US Weekly, Forbes, Delta Sky, ESPN, HGTV Magazine and Parents; and via digital ads on platforms like Hulu and across more digital and social media channels.

The upshot—even (or perhaps, especially) in this digital era, paper and packaging matter more than ever as a tactile, high-touch and creative canvas to reinforce (and refresh) branding.