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Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Nina Nguyen is the CEO of an innovative packaging company called Pakko. After just five years in business, Pakko won the Progressing Australia category in the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards. In this Q&A, Nina shares how tapping into her customers’ values, understanding her community’s needs and adopting new tech, like an interactive design platform, helps her achieve success.

Nina Nguyen, CEO of Pakko, with her 2022 Telstra Best of Business Award.

Nina Nguyen likes to joke that ‘the box life’ chose her – with a little nudge from her parents, who are vegetable farmers. “They were finding it difficult to source produce packaging that was moisture resistant, sturdy and could handle different weather conditions,” she says. So when her mum asked for her help, she jumped at the chance. “As a good daughter to Vietnamese refugees, I said, ‘Of course! How hard can it be to make a cardboard box?’ I started importing packaging to help my parents. And today I run my own manufacturing company.” Nina’s innate ability to care for and support others guided Pakko from the very beginning.

Understanding your customers’ needs has always been necessary. But understanding their values is more important than ever. According to McCrindle’s Australia Towards 2031 report, it’s now “very important” to 60% of consumers that a brand is authentic, and “very important” to 42% that a brand’s values align with theirs. Customers want to shop with businesses that share their belief systems.

Since launching Pakko in 2017, Nina has committed to integrating her values into every aspect of the business. She supports a vibrant, diverse company culture and taps into the needs of her customers and local community. Nina is quick to adopt new technology to streamline processes and encourages her team to get involved in community initiatives. Every year, the Pakko team fills Christmas hampers with small gifts, which they hand out in the holiday season.

Here, Nina shares with us how authenticity, transparency and adopting a values-driven, customer-centric approach put Pakko on the path to success.

Smarter Business: Can you give us the background of Pakko and what it’s about?

Nina Nguyen: We help brands by creating, manufacturing and delivering functional packaging. People might look at a box and think that it’s simple and ordinary. But there’s a whole team involved in making it come to life. We do everything in-house, in our factory in Geebung in Brisbane. So that’s printing, die cutting, gluing, assembling and graphic design.

Smarter Business: So how do you demonstrate to your customers your values, your beliefs and how you care for your community?

Nina Nguyen: It’s in every aspect of what we do. From the way we communicate to our social posts and our website. At the core of everything we do is honesty, transparency and passion. It’s not only about us making boxes. It’s about our customers and understanding their needs and requirements. People want authenticity. If we can’t do something for our customers, we find another way to help them. When we support our community or do community activities, it’s a team thing. Everyone is involved and that’s how we’ve been able to grow and prosper.

Smarter Business: Did you conduct any market research before launching Pakko?

Nina Nguyen: I did. The perception has always been that importing packaging from overseas is more cost effective. I didn’t know what that involved and the challenges that come with it like language barriers, exchange rates, buying more than I needed, no quality control and long lead times. So I did a bit of market research. I spoke to family, friends and the local communities. I asked them, “What if I could create a business that provided solutions for custom packaging at a new level of convenience and affordability, no minimum order, and it’s all made right here in Australia?”

Pakko’s culture

Nina says Pakko’s culture is the backbone of the business. “I set out to create a culture that would inspire, engage and excite,” she says. “I want people who are passionate, committed and dedicated. The goal was to create an environment of honesty and transparency where we could lead and innovate by listening and sharing ideas. It’s really our people who have provided the solutions to enable us to be adaptive, efficient, productive and cost effective.”

Smarter Business: How did you identify your customers’ needs and pain points? And how did you troubleshoot a solution?

Nina Nguyen: Pakko’s culture is the foundation of the business – from meeting our customer needs and our values to what we do and how we deliver.

Pakko isn’t like your traditional manufacturing company. It’s not about pushing volumes through the machines. We take the time to listen to our customers’ needs and their pain points.

And it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Start-ups, growing and established businesses each require a different level of attention. We always ask ourselves the how. How do we:

  • Quickly respond to a customer’s concern?
  • Manage their expectations?
  • Increase customer engagements through all social platforms?
  • Continue to have face-to-face interactions as remote working becomes more commonplace?

And the all-important one: how do we ensure that our pricing is going to meet their needs?

“By welcoming people from all different kinds of cultural backgrounds and experiences, we’re able to create a young and diverse team. I encourage new ideas, challenge the status quo. I really like new perspectives.”

Nina Nguyen, CEO of Pakko

Smarter Business: How do you stand out from your competitors?

Nina Nguyen: We adopt innovation and technology. It’s our ability to challenge the status quo and continuously improve on how we do things. What systems are available? What automations are available? How can we adopt that to make our productivity levels higher and more efficient? We work out how to bring down our cost to better serve our market. That’s our biggest difference.

Smarter Business: Can you explain what your interactive design platform is all about?

Nina Nguyen: The interactive design platform shortens the customer’s experience by showing them a 3D model of what their packaging would look like. They can jump on, insert the dimensions, select the board type, the box style, and they’ll see it in a 3D image. Then they can upload their logos, designs and custom fonts. They see it instantly, can open or close the box in 3D and see how it folds. Pricing is generated straight away. They don’t need to wait for us or a designer to respond. They’ve got it all in front of them within minutes.

“We adopt innovation and technology. It’s our ability to challenge the status quo and continuously improve on how we do things. That’s our biggest difference.”

Nina Nguyen, CEO of Pakko

Smarter Business: Do you use any other tech to elevate your customer’s experience?

Nina Nguyen: We also have a quote system on our website. It asks our customers a series of questions that prompt them through all our different types of box styles. Depending on the order, our backend will show us everything we need to use for production. We’ve got everything ready to go as soon as the order’s placed. Compared to traditional manufacturing – about six to eight weeks in Australia – our lead time is 10 to 12 working days for custom packaging.

Smarter Business: So how do you measure customer satisfaction?

Nina Nguyen: We have a customer happiness team that contacts the customer after their job is delivered and through customer reviews. But it’s really when the customer comes to our factory, picks up their job and they’re in tears and jumping for joy – that’s what touches me the most. It’s not so much in metrics, but it’s the way I’m able to make people feel about receiving their packaging and that unboxing experience when they get it.

Smarter Business: What social and digital marketing platforms do you use to build awareness of your brand?

Nina Nguyen: We use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. We invest in Google Ads to get our message across and market to those in different stages of their business. In order to talk to them correctly based on their needs and wants, we have to create different campaigns. We have a significant number of digital marketing campaigns running that dynamically target certain words and phrases to ensure we pop up in search. We try to use all social platforms. We’ve found some that work better for us than others. It’s all about trialling.

“You need to lead by example and show people what’s important. Connect with the right people. Talk in a way that’s authentic. Have integrity in what you do and the business will come.”

Nina Nguyen, CEO of Pakko
Pakko’s company values
  • Celebrate diversity.
  • Pay respect to First Nations peoples with an Acknowledgement of Country.
  • Create sustainably sourced products.
  • Support women in business.
  • Work with honesty, respect and integrity.
  • Cultivate community and support other businesses.

Nina explains the core of Pakko’s values best: “For the team at Pakko, cultivating our community is about creating the best version of Australia we can. We start at work with the values of honesty, respect and integrity, and we take this out to the wider community. We know that when we work and behave as one community, we will create better innovations and we will be better able to serve each other and create a country that can successfully compete with our global counterparts.”

Pakko’s success shows that aligning with your customers’ needs and values doesn’t need to be time-consuming. It’s about focusing on core belief systems that show your customers what you stand for and demonstrate that you’re listening to them.

For more inspiration and tips to help you meet your customers’ needs and expectations, read our articles ‘Deliver exceptional customer service in the digital world’ and ‘Five unexpected ways to build customer loyalty’. And if you’d like to explore how new tech can help you streamline how you do business, adapt to market changes and prepare for the future, the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Thriving in the Digital Age is a great resource.

2023 Telstra Best of Business Awards

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