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Local Small Business Making Big (Eco-friendly) Impact


Local Small Business Making Big (Eco-friendly) Impact

Smackdab in the middle of the busiest time of year, we keep the mail system hustling and bustling daily. We wrap presents with care, nestle packages into boxes, and wish them well on their journey through the post. We triple-wrap fragile items, in an effort to protect trinkets and favors, and eagerly await the arrival of each to its destination.

The care of your package is important to you, and for FunPak in St. Joseph, what’s inside your parcel is important, too. Rich Daniels, founder of Really Neat Stuff Packaging and inventor of FunPak, became fed up with the nonrecyclable styrofoam peanuts while honeymooning in 2000. The family dog had eaten the polystyrene chunks, and would require emergency surgery while he and his wife Stephanie were traveling after their wedding.

“After we got back from our honeymoon, I just kept thinking about packing peanuts,” says Rich. “At that time, they were everywhere.You couldn’t walk down the street and not see one blowing around. My goal was to figure out how to get people to reuse them, since there wasn’t (and still isn’t), a way to recycle them.”

Years of research would follow Rich’s initial idea. The nagging thought that there has to be a solution, morphed into many discussions as to whether creating a better packing medium was even doable. “What if we shaped them?” he thought to himself. “So I studied everything I could, and I discovered no one had ever patented shaped packing peanuts.” And as an ode to Bob, the pet they almost lost, a dog bone would be the perfect shape.

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Local Small Business Making Big (Eco-friendly) Impact    Local Small Business Making Big (Eco-friendly) Impact

Rich received his first four patents three years later, at the same time that the packing industry in its entirety started realizing that styrofoam packing peanuts may not be the best choice for the environment, for pets and small children, and the future of our planet.

“Biodegradable loose fill was starting to be produced, but the quality was poor and it didn’t replace styrofoam peanuts well,” Rich says. “I got on the phone and began calling manufacturers to see if we could even make it. We spent our tax return that year making prototypes, and I found the guy that was in charge of global loosefill at a large firm in Germany. He liked the idea, but said ‘Can you make it?’”

After multiple formulas, designs, lots of time and effort, he finally did it. One of the equipment partners at the German company was a fellow veteran, and the two clicked instantly. “We weren’t sure we could do it in the beginning, but we finally did. I still can’t believe we figured out something that no one else could. It’s crazy, if you think about it!” says Rich.  An introduction to the right person led Rich to product success, and the guarantee of a lifelong friend.

FunPak is biodegradable, plant-based, 100% sustainable, certified compostable, veteran owned, non toxic, unique, and adorable. There are a dozen shapes from which to choose, available in fun and fantastic colors, adding that special something to ‘just because’ packages, and aiding with branding for small businesses. They’ve gained celebrity recognition too: Cesar Milan was a big fan when the dogbones were released, Lush in Canada uses FunPak stars, and Bath & Body Works uses FunPak Hearts. Kourtney Kardashian’s company, Poosh, has included FunPak in the 2022 Holiday Mailer Gift Bundle, and touches on the importance of being mindful of waste during the gift-giving season, and always.

Local Small Business Making Big (Eco-friendly) Impact

“Our products are now sold by distributors all over North America: Amazon, Pinterest, Etsy, Walmart, and Staples Canada. We are currently designing new product offerings for several retailers that should be in stores mid next year,” Rich adds.

The FunPak retail fulfillment facility is located in St. Joseph, and Rich wouldn’t have it any other way. “This is our home, and there is nowhere else I’d rather start a business,” he says. “We were blessed in the beginning to have support from Todd at Kinexus and the Van Buren Economic Development Corporation, and our local SCORE chapter members Jim Brooks and Perry Ballard. It is amazing to me all of the resources we have for startups if you seek them out.”

Online at thefunpak.com, the friendly filler is available to purchase by cubic foot, and offers tiny tokens of joy while ensuring the safety of what’s inside your precisely packed parcel. Once people are introduced to this product, they love it – kids can get crafty with the squishy shapes, and it can even be used as unique decor. The rainbow hearts and pink hearts filler are the biggest sellers; with happy colors, you can’t go wrong!

Local Small Business Making Big (Eco-friendly) Impact

After years focusing on brand-building, FunPak is branching out into the local community. They sponsor men’s teams at the Saint Joseph Kickers Club, St. Joseph High School ‘Wind Up’ and Yearbook, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and others.

“One of our foundational values is to give back,” says Rich. “It is important to me to help our community that supported us in the beginning. We’ve had setbacks and I have learned some painful lessons, but these experiences are part of the journey, whether we like them or not. I try to embrace these lessons and share the experiences with companies and founders I mentor and coach. If I can help a founder not suffer some of the same experiences, I feel like I’ve made an impact for them, and contributed to their success.”

Visit their website to make purchases, and to delve a little deeper into what makes FunPak so special. Follow FunPak on social media to stay up to date with new products! Congrats on your success, and we can’t wait to see you grow!
By Jocelyne Tuszynski, MOTM Contributor





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