Get to know the company Hippo Premium Packaging in this interview with CEO and Co-founder Kary Radestock, who also serves on NCIA’s Marketing and Advertising Committee.
Industry Sector: Packaging and Labeling
NCIA Member Since: June 2016
Tell me a bit about your background and why you launched your company?
I worked for a Fortune 500 printing and packaging company for 20 years and produced a lot of high-end, award-winning projects. In the summer of 2015, I started to think about a potential business opportunity after watching 5 different people walk into our facility needing cannabis vape cartridge packaging. I pitched the business opportunity to our executive team, but the instability of the industry and the lack of banking forced the company to deny Cannabis clients from doing business with us. I couldn’t stop thinking about the industry, so I created the Hippo brand, gathered a group of potential company founders and we flew to MJBizCon in Vegas. We needed to check out the lay of the land to see if our business concept could be useful to the industry. I brought one of my award winning rigid boxes with me encasing beautiful bottles of oils. The response was overwhelming. It wasn’t even a question any more. There was a need. Just a couple of months later I quit my job and fully launched Hippo. I haven’t looked back.
What unique value does your company offer to the cannabis industry?
We bring an incredible amount of experience to the industry. You know the saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something? Well, each of our experts are masters at what they do. We feel there are three pillars leading to brand success: 1. Brand Development/Graphic Design, 2. Marketing Services and 3. Packaging. We’ve adapted mainstream best practices from each of these categories and are applying them to the cannabis industry. Our mantra is to help our customers succeed in this ultra-competitive landscape.
We comb the earth, looking for the best packaging solutions on the market and are proud distributors of an extensive range of child resistant and other packaging products. Our flagship is the Burgopak Duallok™, a beautifully functioning folding carton that is both child resistant (CR) and re-closable. This product is currently in testing and we expect final certification in the coming weeks. These boxes can be beautifully printed featuring custom decorating finishes that our industry enjoys including Foils, Soft Touch, Spot Varnishes, etc. It’s perfect for vape cartridges, pre-rolls, syringes, edibles and much more.
In addition, Hippo has a boots-on-the ground approach to working with our clients. Our sales team is regionalized so we can easily get together to help our clients through the complicated packaging process. Many cultivators and manufacturers are being introduced to a business world that they are unfamiliar with. Having that face-to-face contact with Hippo instills trust and usually allows for a smoother process. We become an extension of their own internal team and their success is our ultimate goal. This regionalized team is supported by our legal compliance department to help us and our clients understand the complicated regulations that change from state to state.
Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be socially responsible and advocate for it to be treated fairly. How does your company help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?
At Hippo, we feel our immediate and primary responsibility is that of reputation transformation. The industry as a whole has a bad rap for weak and sometimes inappropriate brand development, marketing campaigns featuring scantily clad females and poorly executed packaging. So, we make it a priority to help educate the community about what steps to take to create a quality brand and win the trust of their target consumers. To that end, we write blogs and articles, feature tips on our website and in social media, speak at industry events like High Times Business Summit, Bud Camp, NCIA Seed to Sale Show and many more. We are also in a unique position to help guide our clients in developing their own unique social responsibility programs, of which will go far to endear a mainstream audience.
As far as advocacy goes, we participate in the industry, keep abreast of the issues at the forefront and get involved by attending community meetings and writing our politicians as often as needed. In the near future, our focus will be on lobbying for fair business tax regulations as well responsible packaging laws that protect our children, the environment and our community.
What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?
Where to start!?!? There are so many challenges.
- The regulations here in California have been and remain messy and confusing. We spend way too much time researching these regulations – which are constantly changing and inconsistent state to state. Once the Federal Government declassifies cannabis, then the country will be able to uniformly work together to create consistent regulations across all states.
- We also face a lot of financial challenges with new clients who need to get to market but have paid so much money up front for new permits and licenses that they have no budget left for brand development, marketing and/or packaging. Changing some of those fees to post-sale would help the entire industry, including the ancillary companies.
- But for Hippo, we understand that one of the biggest challenges our clients are facing is understanding and finding premium certified child resistant packaging options. Packaging has a huge impact on the consumer experience and has been touted to influence 70% of buying decisions in a mainstream marketplace. Cannabis packaging is the hardest working packaging in existence with multiple demands; child resistant, resealable, airtight, tamper evident, regulations galore and that’s before we can even start thinking about how to beautifully represent the brand. With many CR form factors still in development and a shortage of stock items, cannabis businesses are scrambling to find anything that represents their brand well. During these next few years, our industry must lobby for packaging laws that don’t overtax the environment or our community and actually make sense.
Why did you join NCIA? What’s the best part about being a member?
I’m a bit of a geek this way. Early on in my career I worked for a non-profit and learned the importance of networking. Networking got a bad reputation from a handful of card slingers looking for quick business. But the reality is the network I built all those years ago is now paying off – royally. I’ve pulled the human capital I needed to grow Hippo from that network. I joined NCIA shortly after launching the business because I wanted to get to know the industry and its leaders. I needed education and I needed community. With my NCIA membership, I got more than I bargained for. I have served on the Marketing and Advertising Committee (MAC) this past year with so many smart and talented individuals. I’ve had a blast and met an amazing group of men and women as dedicated as I am to bringing solid business practices and professionalism to this industry. I’m proud to serve beside them to bring our members tools to help them succeed.
My mentors taught me to get involved, apply yourself and leave whatever you touch better than you found it. I’m not quite there yet… so I’ll get busy and apply for committee membership again next year.
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