Interviews | April 29, 2019
New Member Spotlight: TrueLeaf
TrueLeaf is a referral-based consultancy specializing in startups, food producers and small teams. They assist with labels and packaging, print production, design, branding and brand management.
PSDA spoke with TrueLeaf owner Marc Laucks to find out what makes his company unique, what it offers customers and what it is most looking forward to as a PSDA member.
Tell us about the products and services TrueLeaf offers.
On the print side, we specialize in producing labels for produce growers, specialty food and natural product manufacturers. On the consulting side, our focus is on project and process management for startups, entrepreneurs and small teams. We produce and fulfil the crowdfunding campaign rewards for an international crowdfunding platform.
What keeps you on your toes?
I like to be handed projects that are either about to blow apart or have a high potential for failure. I feel most alive and competent when I’m able to keep cool, draw from my personal experience, tap into my vast network of contacts and keep an important client project on the rails. Right now, I’ve thrown myself into short-run custom laminated collapsible containers (e.g., toothpaste tubes).
What makes TrueLeaf unique?
We try not to get caught up in believing we’re special in any way. We’re honest with our customers and our vendors. We treat everyone fairly and with respect. Produce growers come to us to help them manage their label inventory, which can sometimes be a nightmare for them. We custom-wrote an inventory management application that gives us greater insight into what needs to be ordered, and we store the labels in a distribution center.
We also help label buyers better manage their inventory and gain more control over their purchasing habits so they aren’t running out of labels. This makes the whole process for them that much easier — it’s one less thing they have to deal with. Because we’ve been successful in this regard, we might only deal with four or five rush orders each year.
What is your company most proud of?
We’re most proud of helping startups and small teams, like Madecasse, a Brooklyn-based chocolate company that makes chocolate in Madagascar. I met them in their infancy while attending the Fancy Food Show in 2007 and helped them navigate the packaging world and avoid the pitfalls and potholes that can derail or seriously “ding up” startups.
Our company name is inspired by the critical importance of true leaves. True leaves are the first leaves that emerge after the cotyledons (the more roundish, plump leaves that are essentially “stored energy” within the germinating seed emerge from the seed). Cotyledons can’t turn sunlight into energy, so that’s where true leaves come in. Without them, an ambitious and energetic plant, one full of promise and potential, would wither and die — just like a startup with inadequate resources would.
What PSDA member benefit are you most excited to utilize? What do you hope to get out of joining PSDA?
I’m most excited to utilize sources and the listserv. I wish 100% of suppliers were active. I’m eager to attend more events so I can get to know more of my peers. I don’t know where I’d be without Roger Buck’s help over the years.
I was a member for 20-plus years. I took a three-year break primarily because I wanted a reprieve from all the thought-provoking and stimulating messages I received about exciting products and applications/markets. I’m an innovator, somewhat of a futurist, and I’m excited by what’s possible. I would get so excited about sharing these innovations with the world, and it gummed me up. I needed time to hone in on my singular focus.
In addition to creating lifelong friendships with other distributors, and the value of the listserv in terms of the sharing of ideas and insight into what others are doing, I was most moved to make changes after participating in a SDS in Baltimore where I heard David Baker speak. I’m confident that my attendance at P2P Technology + Innovation Summit in Indy will pay me back tens of thousands of dollars over my career.
What challenges have your company faced, and how have you overcome them?
Many years ago, we helped breathe life into a startup in the dollar store business. We worked with them for nearly a year to develop all their brand materials. We created five different logos for their operating units, store signage, marketing pieces, gift cards, product labels, feather flags, stationery, floor graphics — all of it. We had inadvertently booked orders in our accounting software under two different customer names, thereby masking what they truly owed us. I received an email from my CPA who had referred this customer to us, and she described how one of her clients was under federal investigation. Our mutual customer was convicted of stealing the money used to start his dollar store business, and he went to federal prison (affectionately referred to as “camp”) for 30 months. We got stuck with over $6,000 in unpaid invoices. But, I got a really nice dollar store plastic citrus juicer out of the deal. It’s my most priceless kitchen “appliance.”
Is there anything you’d like to close with?
I’ve always been inspired by the talent of those in our industry — the innovation, the creativity. I talk to Shawn Kelly on the phone on occasion, and I walk away with such a tremendous sense of admiration and respect for what he’s working on. Innovators like Bill English, Warner Mason, The Flesh Company and Ward Kraft inspire me. If it weren’t for Mike Bingham, former owner of Vector Business Systems, purchased by Superior, my life would be much different today.
I started with Mike’s company in 1994. He was patient and kind, and he nurtured my “talent” when others within the company encouraged him to cut me. He was supportive of me and my family when we needed help the most. I’m so proud to be a small part of a field of professionals whom I admire and respect.
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