Tom Franta started Superior Packaging Company in 1994 in his hometown of Minnetonka. Eventually he moved the business to Superior, where he was able to get his foot in the door with many companies by cold calling. The company’s product, called dunnage, or damage prevention, consists of materials that are placed in domestic and international shipping containers or boxcars to prevent damage to inventory by restraining any excess space.
SPC supplies companies such as Kikkoman, Del Monte and Seneca foods. Franta recalls his humble roots in his then-partner’s parents’ garage with no heat, using the alleyway to roll paper tubes to make packaging supplies and gluing them to cardboard to make pallets by hand. Today, Superior Packaging Company uses machines to do what he once did by hand. The company moved to its present location in West Duluth 15 years ago, when a larger facility was needed. This location is convenient for SPC as most shipping is done using common carriers on the highway.
Franta believes surrounding oneself with experts, such as accountants and bankers, is the key to running a successful company. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be willing to work 24/7 and be prepared to not make money at first, to never make an emotional decision, and surround yourself with people who will guide you to make rational decisions.
“You need to be willing to work, not 8-4 or 9-5, but 24/7, and to eat, sleep and breathe the business to make it happen,” he says. “It’s fun and can be very exciting, but you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot.” And most importantly, have an end goal for what you want to accomplish. Know where you want to go, or you might end up somewhere else.
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