Sarah Landstreet doesn’t just think outside the box. She thinks about the box.
Landstreet has been running her own business, Georgette Packaging, since 2013 when she graduated from Ivey’s MBA program. It’s a company that gives small- and medium-sized businesses custom designed packaging in practical and affordable quantities.
“Small businesses usually don’t have access to branded packaging,” Landstreet said, speaking from firsthand experience. Prior to completing her MBA, she ran her own bakery in Northern Ireland for three years. “It’s especially critical for bakeries to be able to put their brand on their product. The only way that can happen is through packaging.”
Good things come to those who wait. And those who work.
When Landstreet saw the call for pitches for Next Gen Den, the online spinoff series of CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den, she jumped at the opportunity. She made it through the application process and was given the chance to pitch to the dragons – a panel of industry experts eager to invest in new businesses. The show was filmed in September 2015, and Landstreet’s episode aired this past February.
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Despite the judges’ excitement about the idea, all three turned Landstreet down saying the business still needed work.
But she walked away with some valuable lessons learned.
“If you’re pitching to investors, try to understand the investor mentality and what they’re looking for,” she advised. “It’s way different than when I’m normally talking about my business or when I’m speaking with potential customers. You’re selling different things.”
Shortly after in November 2015, Landstreet applied for Y Combinator, an accelerator program for early stage start-ups. Georgette Packaging was approved – a huge feat for the company, as YC had previously worked with and funded tech successes such as Airbnb, Dropbox, and Tilt.
This past December, Landstreet and her team packed up and moved to the YC headquarters in Silicon Valley. They spent three full months with the program, where Georgette sales skyrocketed and the company could reach its potential.
“YC helped me set goals,” Landstreet said. “It cleared away everything else, all the distractions, all the bits and pieces that kind of float into life. I could just focus on Georgette.”
Now Georgette Packaging has grown into a highly profitable business, working with over 100 companies across North America and growing its revenue every single week.
Landstreet advised entrepreneur hopefuls to surround themselves with like-minded people. The MBA program and entrepreneurship courses at Ivey gave Landstreet the business background she needed to get Georgette off the ground, but to grow the company she needed to branch out.
“As an entrepreneur, it’s crucial to surround yourself with other people in the start-up space,” she said. “You have to go to where it’s all happening.”