Chris Garner, Versapak, Export Champion Interview

chris garner

Chris Garner, Sales and Marketing Director

What trends in your industry have you seen over recent years?
The trend for reusable packaging is growing. The problems of throw-away packaging are growing. Firstly in the up front purchase costs, but secondly in the additional costs in ordering, storing and then disposing of the throw away envelopes etc. Additionally, many corporations are moving to Versapak as part of their corporate environment and sustainability strategy.

How did the idea for your business come about?
Versapak began by supplying the Royal Mail with mailing bags in 1973. Indeed many companies may still have at their offices two small bags for first and second class mail at their premises. As the concept of a durable, reusable, secure bag grew the applications extended to; cash handling (think of how retailers move coins and notes from the cash till to the finance department) and medical (Versapak bags are used to secure; blood, vaccines, pathology samples etc. etc.).

In the 1980’s Versapak moved into the manufacture and supply of sports doping test equipment and have supplied many major sporting events including the Commonwealth games.

What makes your product unique?
Versapak is known for quality. The bags are designed to last, and are the only bags to come with a guarantee. A FIVE year guarantee to be precise! Furthermore the T2 seal is a genuine innovation and we expect the organisations in the security industry to increasingly adopt this locking system as it is more robust, more user-friendly and more secure than any alternative on the market.

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
Versapak is an SME. Being small is great, but when you want to have profile on the world market, this can mean resources are stretched very thinly.

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
Our produce is quite niche. And to sell in a market effectively requires a local partner. It is not always easy to find the right partner who has the correct connections and the motivation to really drive the business forwards.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business? 
There are a handful of things. The relentless drive of the Versapak team to find new customers has been critical. Investment in new products has played a significant part, and the recent launch of the Versapak T2 seal system is proving to be very attractive to organisations who are operating in the cash in transit and the airline sector.

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
Versapak are a proud holder of a Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen. Royal Warrant holders are members of an exclusive club of organisations whose products have achieved an additional level of service and quality that have earned the Royal Household as a customer. In addition to the significant marketing benefit from the Royal crest, warrant holders are members of an association that regularly meet at a variety of business events. One such theme is an international business forum and Lord Marland was invited to speak on the subject of exporting to our Commonwealth partners. I was enlightened as to the potential that exists within the commonwealth and chose to focus on the opportunities and positives of this as opposed to dwelling on the negatives of ‘Brexit’. The next day I applied to be part of the cohort and am delighted to the part of this initiative.

What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
Versapak have an incredible partner in Canada, and this shows the model can be replicated. We are not present in many other markets. Our objective is to identify prospective partners (distributors or end customers) and ideally conduct meetings with main Cash in Transit companies or distributors supplying the; office products, airline, hospital, banking sectors. With each country we visit we would also take the chance to speak with the sports anti-doping authority in that country to promote Versapak products.

Do you have an exciting new product in the pipeline that you wish to share?
Yes. In the sports doping industry, Versapak is a challenger that is facing an absolutely dominant competitor in continental Europe. In 2018 we will be launching a new test kit designed to securely house athletes urine from point of collection to point of testing. Many people are aware of the recent sports doping scandals and these should have created an opportunity for Versapak as the market challenger. However, the absolute dominance of our competitor has necessitated a product development so we can offer a better product, at a better price and show the market that there is a true alternative. Every country in the world has its own national sports doping testing authority and Versapak need to speak to every single one of them!

What is a typical working day for you?
When you are operating globally it is not unknown to be communicating with customers at either early morning or late evening (and sometime weekends!). These days, this is not untypical and is part of the attraction of a dynamic life!

Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
There is a genuine potential to triple the size of Versapak and that is what we are aiming for!

What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
If you want to do it – then have a go. The one thing that you do not want is to have regrets that you never tried. Also consider that you are not doing it for the money, it is for something on a higher plane. A sense of self-actualisation and achievement and also a lasting legacy for local people who are employed and also for future generations.

 

View Versapak’s CWF Profile

This interview was conducted as part of the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion interview series. Apply now to become an Export Champion.

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