KITCHENER — Sarah Landstreet can almost see the medical school through the old windows of the factory where she built Georgette Packaging into a multi-million dollar business.
The 37-year-old founder is making a major pivot — she wants to go to medical school and become a doctor.
Earlier this month, Landstreet sold the company she founded in 2013 to two of her 13 employees, Kristopher Lewis and Jennifer Appleby Vines.
Working out of their office in the former Boehmer Box factory at 271 Duke St. W., Landstreet and his team have built a business that now makes over $8 million in annual sales by supplying custom orders of carbon neutral packaging. .
After selling her business, the engineer-entrepreneur will focus on applying to medical school – her first choice would be McMaster University Medical School.
“In the meantime, I will be doing as much medical observation and volunteer work as possible,” Landstreet said.
It is inspired by the work of Dr. Rebecca Kruisselbrink, critical care physician at KW. Kruisselbrink teaches at McMaster and founded a charity called Kusomesa which helps African students pay for their post-secondary education.
Landstreet is applying to McMaster and will work as a volunteer in Ghana in November for International Needs Canada.
“I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a career in medicine since I was a teenager, but too intimidated by the application process,” Landstreet said.
With a clinical approach to teaching, McMaster’s medical school is known for accepting students from backgrounds not traditionally associated with medicine — people like her, Landstreet hopes.
Landstreet graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from McGill in 2007. After a short stint working in England, she left the field altogether. She found the work boring compared to the challenging and complex problems given to engineering students at the university.
After opening a cupcake bakery in Belfast, Landstreet soon learned that bakers around the world were working long hours for low pay and needed better packaging. Someone would make millions, she thought, if they could find a way for bakers to browse packaging options online and order batches to order.
The money, she discovered, was not in the craft cupcakes, but in the packaging.
When its Belfast bakery was purchased in 2011, Landstreet pursued this idea. She went to the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western. She founded Georgette Packaging in 2013 as a freshly created MBA.
Using only Instagram, she marketed different packaging options for bakeries. It tapped into underutilized factories in southern Ontario to turn over the manufacture of the products.
Georgette Packaging was accepted into Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s startup support program, and Landstreet worked at the tannery. Shortly after starting there, Georgette Packaging was accepted by Y Combinator, the San Francisco-based startup accelerator.
Each startup that enters Y Combinator has received US$120,000 and has ceded 7% of its business to the venture capitalists who run the program.
Landstreet wasn’t in it for the money. She wanted to learn about scaling – how to quickly grow a business in many markets around the world at the same time.
She eventually paid Y Combinator investors to simplify ownership of Georgette Packaging and facilitate the sale to two employees.
Georgette Packaging has always been profitable, even though Landstreet did not pay itself a salary for the first two years. Business has continually grown and the clientele has grown from small independent bakeries to medium and large enterprises such as Jillian Harris, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Shopify, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
“Our business is majority American now,” Landstreet said. “We work with many clients in Florida, Texas, California and New York.”
Average order size has increased 300% over the past six years, and annual sales have increased 15 times over the same period and now exceed $8 million. The two best years came during the pandemic, when the customer base shifted to bigger companies, Landstreet said.
“The focus is on the environment, everything we do is carbon neutral,” she said. “We are the first Canadian packaging company to become completely carbon neutral. »
Landstreet and Georgette Packaging demonstrate that the region’s growing tech sector is open to entrepreneurs who aren’t really tech-savvy. She calls Georgette Packaging tech-adjacent.
It is also an early leader in an emerging industry called “climate economics” – technical and business innovations that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.