S. Walter Packaging is a true legacy brand – a custom packaging solutions company founded in Philadelphia in 1904 by Simon Walter with a focus on kraft paper bags and wrappings. Over the years, the company has weathered significant events from the Great Depression to COVID, but more than 119 years later, the company’s resilience has shown in its ability to transform and adapt to ongoing and transformative industry shifts.. When my business partners and I bought the company in 2014, we saw the opportunity to grow S. Walter Packaging into a one-stop-shop for mid-size businesses' custom packaging needs, and we understood that the right banking partner was critical to helping us meet our growth objectives.
In our next chapter, we wanted to commit to packaging that was one-step closer to actual products – think about the “unboxing moment” – the packaging you see when you take products out of the shipping boxes. To take that step, we needed additional investments, to bring on partners in the highly specialized print side of the business.
In 2015, S. Walter Packaging Group (SWPG) worked with WSFS on a large real estate transaction, during which they continued to express interest in a comprehensive banking relationship. The opportunity for a major acquisition occurred in 2017, and it was obvious that WSFS could be a key player in our growth strategy. WSFS helped us navigate the intricacies of our acquisition of Letterhead Press International (LPI), as well as subsequent transactions, and the relationship continues to grow. The impact of these acquisitions has completely transformed our business, as we provide brand solutions in markets such as food and confectionery, spirits and liquor, jewelry and spa and beauty.
S. Walter Packaging Group is constantly looking for new ways to grow our legacy brand, while adding services that ensure we respond to market demands and remain competitive. Throughout this process, I have leveraged the expertise of the Middle Market team at WSFS headed by Jim Gise. Below are some key qualities I encourage other businesses to look for in a banking partner:
- Ability and eagerness to grow with your business
Recognize that you should not be the only expert on your business, and your banking partner should also have a good understanding of the industry, competitors and trends in order to provide sound counsel in helping you achieve your growth goals . WSFS has taken the time to understand our business and that expertise has helped guide some of our most important business decisions. In addition, a good partner should be willing to develop and grow as the business needs evolve. While WSFS is a regional bank and S. Walter Packaging Group is headquartered in Pennsylvania, we have grown exponentially since the start of our relationship and WSFS has assisted expansions into new regions, including Milwaukee, Chicago, and even Portland, OR.
- Acts as a strategic partner
Like many national brands, cost and geography are significant factors in ensuring customer satisfaction while remaining competitive. The challenge is how do we strategically replicate the process to provide customizable packaging solutions in every market while keeping shipping distance and costs low? Everyone needs a banking partner who provides smart solutions that help achieve the firm’s financial objectives, and WSFS has been a strategic partner to SWPG, providing keen insights in our capital and resource planning.It’s also important to find a partner that is aligned with your firm’s priorities. Understanding that there are times when performance is not as robust, but the strategy is sound allows both partners to come out ahead in the long term. WSFS has really demonstrated their belief in building lasting partnerships.
- Offers Service and Services Unique to Your Business
When looking for the right banking partner, it is imperative to find one that has services customized to the company’s current and future banking needs. Requesting industry references and asking pointed questions about existing capabilities are best practices in vetting any potential partner.We are all about custom solutions at S. Walter Packaging Group and WSFS offers these as well. Each of our acquisitions (LPI, Pulver Packaging, etc., ) have been complex and detailed transactions and WSFS was involved in every aspect of these acquisitions – from financial modeling to compliance and credit. Our firm been very prudent in terms of growth and capital spend, and WSFS has played a large role in helping us in our continued success.
My approach to business is the same with employees, customers, vendors and even my banking partner – when we win, we all win together. Finding the right banking partner who was eager to learn and grow alongside us has been instrumental in S. Walter Packaging Group’s growth strategy and continued success. I encourage other business owners and executives to understand what their partner provides in terms of expertise, and ensure a robust, cooperative relationship – one where everyone is “in it to win it”.
Kurt Koloseike is president & CEO of S. Walter Packaging Group.