By Jonathan Shieber
It’s not every chief executive who wakes up in the morning to a view of their office door across the parking lot from the Airstream trailer they call home, but Jesse Genet isn’t every CEO.
Genet is the co-founder and chief executive of Lumi, a Los Angeles-based startup that supplies the packaging for some of the top e-commerce companies that have launched with direct-to-consumer businesses. If you, gentle reader, have ever received a box from FabFitFun, BarkBox, MeUndies or Parachute Home, then you’ve touched some of Genet’s products.
Alongside co-founder and longtime partner Stephan Ango, Genet has built a business with Lumi that’s already been profitable, and has just raised $9 million in venture funding to boost its growth.
Genet has built a business on improving the efficiency and aesthetics of some of venture capital’s best-known retail businesses, and living close to the office in an Airstream just fits with that philosophy. As does her office position, up front in an open desk by the company’s front door.
The pickup-truck-driving Detroit-born entrepreneur first began thinking about the packaging business with her partner, Ango, while they were working on their first business together — selling a sunlight-activated fabric dye called Inkodye.
“A lot of what we learned was related to making custom packaging,” says Genet. “Stefan and I spent four and a half years launching a product that needed it’s own packaging… We learned a lot of the pain points that our customers experience [now]. We were living them for four and a half years running that first company.”
In fact, it was about year three years into the Inkodye business that the two launched Lumi — and from the beginning, Genet and Ango knew that it would be their main project going forward.
Genet and Ango both believe that when companies these days launch products, they should focus on what makes them unique — be that swimwear, underwear, candy or curating boxes of makeups and soaps or dog toys — they shouldn’t have to worry about the logistics of packaging.
Like many industries, Genet and Ango are moving packaging toward a services model, transforming it from something that either retailers had to own to manage the experience or they left in the hands of shipping companies that didn’t optimize for a good customer experience. Lumi’s service provides a dashboard to manage custom-printed boxes, tape, packing slips — anything that a retail business might need to ship its goods to its customers.
Lumi focuses on what Genet calls “sustainability by default.” The company geolocates its production to be as close as possible to an e-commerce company’s distribution center.
Simply by doing that, the company makes the process many hundreds of times more sustainable. “When they onboard with Lumi and we’re making their boxes 30 miles away… you’ve reduced thousands and thousands of transit miles,” Genet says, which dramatically reduces emissions and fuel consumption.
Ultimately, Lumi wants to make managing packaging at an e-commerce company easier and more sustainable… services most online retailers are is hoping they can deliver.