Interview with Walid Boustani, VP of Operations, ePac Flexible Packaging
Walid Boustani is the managing partner and VP of Operations of the Boulder and Los Angeles ePac locations. He is a mechanical engineer with an MBA from Drexel University. He has over 20 years of experience in flexible packaging, mainly in Operations ranging from start-ups, turnarounds, to expansions of existing operations. His work in the industry has taken him all over the world, including Europe, the Middle East, and Canada.
ePac LA will focus on regional food manufacturers and contract packagers throughout Southern California and the surrounding area. With a focus on small and medium size businesses, ePac is the only US company based on the latest in digital printing technology, providing brands of all sizes fast time to market, high-definition graphics, low minimum orders, and the ability to customize packaging to select target markets.
Since opening its first plant in 2016, the rapidly growing Delray Beach, Florida-based company will have fifteen locations across the US by the end of 2019, six of which are now operational. In addition, the company has announced expansion into Europe, with its first plant to open in the UK later this year as well. For more information visit ePacFlexibles.com.
Tell us about your site search – what was important to the company’s new location?
We started looking into opening a South California location about one year ago. We wanted to find a business-friendly community and within proximity to our customer base since our mission is to serve the flexible packaging needs of small and medium-sized businesses of local communities. Furthermore, we wanted access to a skilled labor workforce to recruit from. Our workforce needs ranged from machine operator, sales staff and customer service to computer technology workers.
What made San Bernardino County the right choice?
We considered three different counties: San Bernardino County CA, Riverside County CA, and Clark County, NV. The follow up by the San Bernardino Economic Development Agency was second to none. It really made our search easier and eliminated multiple hurdles. In addition, San Bernardino County checked off several items from our wish list: proximity to a large customer base, access to a skilled workforce, and as noted – very business-friendly.
Describe your experience working with the San Bernardino County economic development team:
If I had to rate the experience of working with the San Bernardino County Economic Development Team, I would give it a 5 stars rating. Our questions were acknowledged immediately and answered within 24 hours. We were referred to the right contact people and were given a half day tour of different cities in the County, where the local city officials met us, explained the permitting process and corresponding lead-time to expect. The team really made it easy for us.
What incentives and/or programs have been especially beneficial to ePac in its move to SB County?
We have benefited from the California Competes Tax Credit and we are planning on applying for training grants.
Can you describe your workforce? How does the County help you in terms of talent?
For our business to succeed, we look at a workforce that is a mix of skilled machine operators, sales staff, customer service, and computer technology workers. We expect a high sense of customer service, as the brands we serve are often SMB’s whose livelihood depends on our performance. We value our employees because our success can only be achieved if they are committed and given all the tools to succeed. The county itself has a database of candidates that they put at our disposal.
What would you tell another CEO when considering SB County?
South California, in general, offers one of the biggest markets that a business can hope for. San Bernardino County is well located within this market where business can have access to customers without overpaying for rent or labor. I find myself surrounded by large choices of candidates for every open position, diverse market segments that need my products, and encouraging officials that want my business to be within their city.
As a new resident of San Bernardino County can you share what your experience has been so far of the community.
I’m very pleased with how ePac is being received by the market. We have been selling in CA for about a year, with manufacturing being done out of our Boulder, CO plant, and our value proposition of 10 to 15 business day lead time, small order quantities with the ability to order to demand, is being well received. Our presence online, www.epacflexibles.com, has been well noticed by Southern California SMBs. I highly enjoy sharing my experience with start-ups, compare it to theirs, and listening to what they went through to get to where they are now. From a workforce perspective, so far, I am very happy with the commitment of each employee we hired and I am looking forward to continuing to grow the team. As a resident, San Bernardino County has provided my family and me with a high quality of life, access to relatively affordable housing, excellent education, and proximity to plenty of entertainment and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. We are thrilled to call San Bernardino County our home.
About ePac Flexible Packaging
ePac Flexible Packaging is based on the premise that emerging digital technology will significantly disrupt the service and manufacturing models that have served the flex pack industry for decades. Founded in 2016, with a charter to serve small and medium size businesses throughout the United States, ePac is technology driven and built to provide our customers a fast and easy way to buy flexible packaging. Offering competitively priced short to medium run length orders, and 10-day turnaround, ePac is the first supplier in North America built entirely on the latest wide-web digital printing technology – the HP Indigo 20000. With our manufacturing platform optimized to provide industry leading customer service, ePac offers true high-definition custom printing with variable imaging and the elimination of plate fees, while enabling customers to print to demand and avoid inventory and obsolescence costs. With locations throughout the United States; our offices in Austin, Boulder, Madison, Miami, Chicago, Boston, Houston, and Los Angeles are open to serve local and regional brands of all sizes.
Embracing the Sun: The Simplest Wellness Hack for Busy Lives
So Many “Wellness Tips” So Little Time
Wellness Tips By Sarah Goudie, Nutrition Expert & Guest Writer for IEBJ
For many of us, managing all the “right” things amidst the chaos of daily life is not just overwhelming but also… let’s get real, feels almost like an impossible task! Navigating where to begin feels like finding a needle in a haystack, particularly when ads, influencer opinions, and well-intentioned suggestions from friends and family bombard us. Here’s the deal: We can’t do it ALL. Take a deep breath and let that sink in. We. Can’t. Do. It. All. Now, don’t misunderstand me; I’m 100% into discovering what works best and crafting a routine that caters to the health needs of each individual. But let’s face it: with the hectic schedules of entrepreneurs and business owners, finding time for it all feels like a constant challenge.
So, what’s my top recommendation? It’s all about soaking up the SUNSHINE!
Catch some rays between 8 am and 10 am daily, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes.
You may have heard before that our bodies have an internal clock. It’s called the circadian rhythm. At the heart of this rhythm is light. When we soak up natural light during the day, it’s like our bodies are taking cues from the sun to stay awake and alert. Our eyes catch that sunlight and shoot signals to the brain, giving it a little wake-up call. At the same time, our melatonin production, which is the sleep hormone, takes a back seat until about 12 hours later, when it kicks in and gets us ready for bed. It’s about syncing up with the natural light-dark cycle, like tuning into the right frequency for a good night’s sleep. Sunlight helps with sleep and dishes out Vitamin D, amps up energy and mental health, kicks stress to the curb, and boosts our immune system. *Quick note: Artificial light can mimic these signals, too, so be aware of screen time close to bedtime, as they can interfere with melatonin regulation.
How can you fit this into the daily grind?” Park a bit further from the office and enjoy some sun rays on your stroll. Take a breather outside during work breaks. Roll down that car window during rush hour. Do a lap around your workplace or hit the pavement after breakfast. And when outdoor time isn’t an option, consider snagging a red-light therapy lamp for a little biohacking boost.
So, instead of diving into the deep end with ALL the wellness trends this month, give this sunshine tip a whirl and see how it adds a sprinkle of vitality to your life!
Sarah passionately advocates for the intricate relationship between the mind and body. Her dedication to promoting vitality at the intersection of lifestyle medicine and nutrition inspires her exploration of biopsychology, epigenetics, and systemic belief systems within her PhD studies in Health Psychology. Sarah genuinely enjoys educating and guiding others, using an approach that is supportive and free of judgment. Recognizing the potential for shame in discussions about nutrition, she is committed to creating a supportive environment that encourages growth and progress. You can learn more about her work with approachable nutrition while visiting Murrieta Hot Springs Resort.
Partners in Action: How CalOSBA is bridging the gap in funding and resources for Inland Empire small businesses
By Josaline Cuesta, California Program Director, Small Business Majority & IEBJ Content Contributor
For Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), entrepreneurship has always been a core principle of her life. Her journey as an advocate for small businesses wasn’t built on textbooks, but on her family’s roots in small business ownership. As a young girl, she watched her grandmother empower and elevate Black women’s presences by styling their hair and instilling confidence in their personhood. She witnessed the direct impact of small businesses on community members in real time, and that’s always stayed with Tara.
As a key partner of Small Business Majority, she stands as a champion for the dreamers and risk-takers; the pillars of the communities across California and in the Inland Empire. I chatted with her to share more about her work at CalOSBA, what entrepreneurs can expect when they meet with a CalOSBA advisor, and the resources and community support available to help boost entrepreneurship in the Golden State.
Tell us about CalOSBA’s role in the small business community.
“California has the biggest small business community in the country, accounting for 4.1 million small businesses in 2023 alone. The overwhelming majority have no employees at all, except themselves, which means they don’t have a Board of Directors, expensive consultants, and they definitely don’t have lobbyists. I take my role as their advocate seriously, talking with and listening to small business owners from up and down the state. During the pandemic, we were under a very bright spotlight, administering nearly $5 billion in direct relief funding and we’re proud of the grant programs we still oversee. But that’s only a small part of what we do at CalOSBA.
My team connects small business owners to information and resources to help them get started, manage their business and, most importantly, to grow. If they’re looking for help, we want to be the first door they knock on. In addition, we offer Outsmart Disaster training, which focuses on how to mitigate risks associated with natural disasters and recovery avenues available to them. I always say the flagship of our office is our support for the statewide network of Small Business Centers, providing 1:1 business assistance and training for small business owners of all industries and in dozens of languages. In addition, supporting partners that deliver these services–all the federally funded centers like the Small Business Development Centers and the Women’s Business Centers but also Chambers of Commerce and other nonprofits—is a core function of my office. And a big source of pride because we know what a difference they make for their clients.”
What can small business owners expect from meeting with a California Small Business Center advisor?
“Small business owners can expect to meet someone who is fully invested in them. Our Centers cover the full spectrum of business needs, from writing a business plan and obtaining the right permits and licenses, to finding capital, planning a succession strategy and marketing to e-commerce. Our business advisors provide the experience and the objective perspective to help business owners optimize their best assets: ideas, energy, and ability to keep adapting and learning. And they do it because they love helping other people succeed. What’s more, business ownership can become isolating and it may be challenging for entrepreneurs to find assistance. But they don’t have to go at it alone–and they shouldn’t, when these no-cost and low-cost services are available to them.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your role at CalOSBA?
“I always say I have the best job in the state. And it’s because I frequently have the honor to watch someone’s dream come true. I love a ribbon-cutting ceremony–Every time, big or small. It means someone dreamed of accomplishing something and worked hard for it: They opened the doors to their business, they made a sale, and hopefully they will hire their first employee and then it’s off to the races. But no matter what happens to that business, that ribbon-cutting is a milestone they made happen for themselves. There are many other events I get invited to, where you can just see the hope and pride, and even fear in their faces. I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer emotion of it, and I’m always humbled that I get to participate in that person’s big milestone.”
What are some new programs that can benefit small business owners in the Inland Empire?
“The number one question my office gets asked is how to access small business financing. To help address this key need, we’re launching the Technical Assistance for Capital Readiness program this February. The program is part of a bigger effort to fill well-known funding gaps in the state to benefit very small businesses and Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals (SEDI). Through investments from the U.S. Treasury, the State Treasurer’s Office and IBank, the program is going to support lenders to facilitate “high risk” loans that they normally would not approve.
In addition to supporting lenders, my office also received $25.3 million in U.S. Treasury funding to start the new Capital Readiness network. The Capital Readiness Coaches in this network will help business owners get ready for the lending marketplace, help them make the best choices in a high interest-rate environment, and optimize the use of the capital once they receive it. The network is also designed to help spread the word about this opportunity to these SEDI-owned businesses, and some of those partners will be focused on supporting the Inland Empire small business ecosystem.”
How can business owners get in touch with CalOSBA?
“That’s simple! Check out calosba.ca.gov and sign up for our monthly newsletter, where I write a column and showcase success stories from our network, along with deadlines and updates on grant and workforce support programs. We’re also on social media, so I would encourage business owners to check out all of our channels.”
BNBuilders’ Scott Augustine Leads the Company’s Expansion into the Inland Empire
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
Residing in the Inland Empire for nearly a decade, Scott seamlessly integrates his professional expertise with a personal dedication to regional progress. With an extensive 20+ year career in construction, he has played a vital role in shaping BNBuilders’ presence in the Inland Empire’s landscape. Notably, his impactful contributions to UC Riverside and his current involvement in the development of the Chámmakilawish Pechanga School for the Pechanga Band of Indians. This endeavor reflects his commitment to projects that not only enhance the built environment but also contribute to local education and well-being.
Since joining BNBuilders in 2020, Scott has brought valuable knowledge and leadership to the team. His impressive professional qualifications underscore his dedication to safety, sustainability, and maintaining the highest standards in construction practices.
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