By Rob Meagher
When I first met Ross Kirsh, CEO of Dymapak, I thought: “What is this kid doing at a cannabis conference?” He not only appeared to be in his early 20’s at best, but he also had an infectious smile, and a certainty and determination about him as he was introduced and I made a mental note to keep an eye on him and his company which at the time was Quark Distribution, better known in the Cannabis Industry as Stink Sack.
It wasn’t until almost 18 months later when I met Ross again with his new COO, Steve Annunziato at the Marijuana Business Daily Conference in Las Vegas this past fall for a mutual update and decided that it was time to share his story with CBE’s readers. They told me that Quark Distribution, Inc. is undergoing a rebrand to Dymapak in an effort to solidify its image as a leading packaging supplier to customers and industries beyond cannabis. They informed me that their current client base is diverse, and that they were repositioning themselves to reflect a broad market reach, which is part of their long-term market strategy.
Ross comes from a long line of family entrepreneurs that have a strong track record in manufacturing overseas, primarily in China and that is how this story begins. After college, Ross moved to China to learn more about the family businesses and he gathered first hand knowledge of manufacturing processes and techniques over the course of the next 3 to 5 years building relationships that still exist today. Additionally, he learned the cultural differences and nuances that are key to Quark’s long-term success.
His uncle’s dad was in the toothpick business in the 60’s, while another relative moved to Asia in the early 70’s, launching a luggage and handbag business that oversaw manufacturing and sourcing in China for some of the world’s most reputable companies. His cousin and uncle were in the lingerie and fashion business where Ross cut his teeth in product development and marketing.
It was during those early years that Ross met a guy at a lingerie trade show who noticed a smell proof bag that Ross was using for his medical cannabis, which Ross was using to treat epilepsy that he developed in his mid-twenties. The guy had a customer in the smoke shop business and Ross told him he could make that bag….and Quark/Stink Sack was born! Ross got his first order and spent the next three years in development, professionally creating point of sale display materials and a formal marketing plan for his product.
In 2013, as adult-use cannabis was gaining momentum in preparation for the 2014 launch in Colorado, Ross met Ean Seeb of Denver Relief Consulting—one of three managing partners as owners of their grow and retail operation. Ean told Ross about the new adult-use laws that required child-resistant bags. He encouraged Ross to pursue it; and in 8 weeks, he had rolled out the Stink Sack line at 3D Cannabis, one of the first retailers in the state.
As Ross followed the changing regulatory environment for cannabis, he realized that his product development skills were badly needed. After early product awareness was developed at events like the Cannabis Cup, he realized that the stigma of being a packer for stoners probably wasn’t a formula for long-term success and began positioning the company as a pharmaceutical packaging company as he instituted best practices like gaining lab certification to have his product declared and certified as child-resistant. He began testing products at New Jersey based Perritt Laboratories a cGMP, independent testing laboratory providing child-resistant package testing and microbiological testing services. They are an accredited by A2LA to meet the international standards of ISO/IEC 17025 and have a long history of working with manufacturers of quality, standard backed products.
Ross determined that there were no short cuts around designing child-resistant bags and that Quark wouldn’t make false claims about producing bio-degradable, child- resistant bags like others have in the industry and gave me a quick lesson as to why the two can’t go hand in hand. He sent me samples to demonstrate the difference between a bag made from 100% PLA material like corn or sugar cane that will degrade, and a bag made with polyethylene lamination (a requirement for child-resistant bags) that seals the biodegradable material and is not degradable.
Even though it costs Quark more, they are committed to creating solutions that fits the clients need without compromising safety.
Since launching the original smell proof bag in 2010 to serve the smoke shop and novelty markets (Spencer Gifts also carried their product) and then cannabis markets, the company has seen their distribution and customer base grow domestically and abroad. They generated just shy of $2 million in sales in 2016 with 8 full-time employees and are forecasting to double that in 2017.
They have primarily been successful because of the customer service they provide and the fact that they innovate regularly to customize orders that meet their clients needs. As Ross told me, “Growth will come from other products that fix problems” as a marketing-driven approach that generally pays off. One such product is their line of oil dispensers, which was designed to remove the stigma attached to other injection products.
They are adding a few more product consultants to the sales team to expand their footprint where cannabis is legal in the states and have the ability to deliver orders on demand from their Chinese manufacturing partners or through existing inventory at warehouses in the US. A higher percentage of Quark’s revenues will continue to come from custom packaging solutions, private label and from their satisfied and loyal customer base.
CBE expects great things to come from Quark and look forward to watching for Ross and his team’s next moves. Not bad for the kid who is the latest player from a family of nimble entrepreneurs committed to serving demand in a thoughtful, experienced and market-centric way; and who has a laser focus on quality, standards and customer service.
Company Name: Dymapak , formerly known Quark Distribution for B2B and Stink Sack for B2C
Year Founded: 2010
Ownership structure/operating entities: Privately held
Management Team: Ross Kirsh, CEO / Steven Annunziato, COO
Headquarters: Hoboken, NJ
Number of Locations: 1
Industry Segment/Category: Packaging
Current Markets/States Served: USA, Australia, Canada, Europe, Middle East, South America
Current Number of employees: 8
Market Strategy/Goal: To establish ourselves as the preeminent industrial safety packaging supplier in the medical, cannabis, and home markets
2014 Revenues: $500K-$1M
2015 Revenues: $1M-$1.5M
2016 Revenues: $1.5M-$2M
2017 Projected Revenues: $3M-$4M
Product/Revenue Mix: Packaging – majority from exit bags with a growing presence in the extracts/oils market
Expansion Plans: Recently hired a full-time employee in CA and also have an established representative in OR. Goal is to put talented individuals in each market to help build our presence and customer base
Financing strategy: Privately funded, to date have closed 1 round with a Series A set to close in the next few weeks