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Alumni Spotlight: Sana packaging saves the planet

Posted by Celia Daly on May 1, 2018 10:45:13 AM

One of the things we hear around here from time to time is the appeal of the cannabis industry because it is not yet set in decades of tradition. This reality opens up opportunities to build something with the state of our world in mind. Ron Basak-Smith and James Eichner of Sana Packaging are two of the visionaries bringing a more sustainable future to this nascent industry.

The two founders met at the University of Colorado Boulder during their MBA program. In fact, Sana Packaging was born out of a class project during the second year of their MBA program. Both Eichner and Basak-Smith were frustrated with the waste created by petroleum plastic cannabis packaging

“We both had all these empty containers laying around our apartments and we realized that the cannabis industry was on its way to having a serious waste problem” explains Eichner. “So we began thinking about what we could do to eliminate petroleum plastic from the equation and make cannabis packaging more sustainable.”

The opportunity came during a Sustainable Venturing class. The two took their frustrations and began working on Sana Packaging for their class project. At this point, the idea was simply to create more sustainable cannabis packaging options, so they started researching. Corn plastic (PLA) was the first and most obvious choice - it is made from a plant after all and not from petroleum; but after considering the pesticide and water-intensive nature of corn cultivation, they set their sights on hemp plastic, a new and relatively unused option. Hemp requires no pesticides and about ⅓ of the water that corn needs, making it the clear choice. I mean… why not package your cannabis in its cousin, hemp?

Their Sustainable Venturing class culminated with pitch competition where the legendary Hunter Lovins was one of the judges. Eichner and Basak-Smith won the pitch competition and realized they had the makings of a real business on their hands. Still in the midst of their MBA program, the founders knew they needed three things they didn’t have if they were going to turn Sana Packaging into a real company: time, money, and mentorship. And where does one find such things in Boulder, CO when building a cannabis company? Why, CanopyBoulder, of course.

Sana Packaging joined the spring 2017 cohort at the accelerator just a few months later and began building their business, all while they were still full-time MBA students. Over the next 16 weeks, the team researched, networked, and learned as much as they could. By the end of the program, Eicher and Basak-Smith had a working prototype of their first product and a thorough understanding of their material options. Due to the specs required for high-speed injection molding, they landed on a now proprietary blend of hemp and corn PLA and Sana packaging truly came to life.

So what have the founders been up to over the last year?

“Product development and getting organized” says Eichner. “We left CanopyBoulder with a 3D printed prototype of our first product and had to start working on our production-scale molds and jumping through the many regulatory hoops required by different state cannabis packaging laws.”

Over the next year, the team developed their first two ASTM child-resistant certified products, closed their seed round, and built their first two production-scale molds. Sana Packaging is officially launching in Summer 2018 and they began taking orders a few weeks ago.

Like any responsible entrepreneurs, the team plans to spend 2018  fine-tuning their processes and providing their customers with high-quality products and hands-on customer service. So head over to the Sana Packaging website because they’re already taking orders! Be a part of the solution and help Sana Packaging eliminate petroleum plastic from the cannabis industry!

Topics: Entrepreneurship, cannabis companies, cannabis business, canopy alumni, startup, sustainability