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  • Ruth

The problem with packaging

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

I’ve wanted to update my packaging for a long time. I started looking into it seriously a few months ago, but it’s been hard.

Before searching, I wrote down all the things I wanted in jewellery packaging:

  • Something made from ethically-sourced materials

  • That is easily recycled

  • Created by a company that values people and the planet (made in Australia would be nice, too)

  • That comes from a transparent supply chain

  • Something that looks and feels more professional,

  • Aligned with my brand aesthetically

  • Is packaging I can afford and is less expensive than what I use now

When talking to my partner about my perfect packaging, I decided to make a Venn diagram to illustrate what was going on in my head.

The problem

At best, I can only get 2 or 3 of my circles in the diagram to converge.

Before I go on, I want to stress that I’m not going to judge another small business owner for the packaging they choose to use. The way someone else decides to run their business is not for me to determine. Who am I to say that their approach is better than mine? Perhaps they’re able to donate more profit to a charity if they cut down their packaging costs? Maybe this decision means that they’re better able to afford health care? Perhaps sustainability isn’t on their radar? I don’t know, and I don’t need to know.

Problem 1: Ethical and sustainable ambiguity

There are thousands of stores supplying beautiful, ready-made, professional-looking jewellery boxes. I was surprised by how many were on Etsy. Micro online stores run by other small business people, no less! The best packaging choices look beautiful, offer a comparable standard to Tiffany, AND are about 90% less expensive than my current packaging.

Packaging like this would make it easier for me to sell my brand to more stockists. It would make my jewellery look more professional and align with the quality of the jewellery I make. It may even make my customers happier. Packaging like this would mean I wouldn’t have to worry too much about design or branding, as it’s all been designed for me, saving me a tonne of work. It would also be a lot more affordable.

But, looking a little closer, these options look sketchy. Where are the boxes made? From what materials? How? And who made them? It’s often hard to get a good answer to any of these questions. This industry is also rife with greenwashing, and it takes a bit of detective work to find out how ‘eco friendly’ that jewellery box is.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling my jewellery — handcrafted ethically from sustainability sourced materials — in packaging that doesn’t reflect this.

Problem 2: It’s too expensive for a micro-business like mine

After searching for the perfect packaging, I find something beautiful. I discover a local packaging company that cares for the environment. They are dedicated to creating sustainably-sourced products, care about their people over profit, and make awe-inspiring designs. I get love heart eyes and dream of how my work will look, nestled in one of these elegantly understated jewellery boxes. Can you see where this is going? After hoping a dreaming of doing beautiful business with this supplier, I become disheartened when the quote comes through. I want to be supporting a packaging company like this, but the cost is a barrier.

Packaging is almost always easier and less expensive for the maker if it’s a big order. Small orders cost a lot. As a micro-business, I don’t have the buying power some other brands do.

So, where to from here?

I’m in the thick of this holy grail packaging quest. I have too many ideas, a few leads and a couple of companies that look promising. I've also been working on some illustrations that will hopefully make their way into the packaging design (see image above). I’m sure I can come out the other side with a good option that satisfies my Venn diagram of requirements, but it’s hard, so much harder than I thought it would be.

I wish I didn’t care as much. Sometimes I wish I didn’t look into these things. It would save a lot of heartaches, so many hours of research online and HEAPS of money. But I do. It’s important to me, and I know that if my name is on the boxes, they have to be something I’m proud to use.

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