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Nina Nguyen, CEO and Founder of Pakko

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Every aspect of Pakko is infused with Nina Nguyen’s boundless passion. The CEO and Founder of the Australian manufacturer of custom packaging lights up when talking about cardboard boxes, her team, and their shared vision for the future.

Nina Nguyen, CEO and Founder of Pakko

This unbridled passion is something you can’t teach in school. It is something that has been imprinted into Nguyen’s DNA.

“My managerial experience is shaped by my life’s journey,” she tells The CEO Magazine.

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Born in Malaysia, Nguyen and her family fled Vietnam in the 1980s. After several years in a refugee camp, the family was granted refugee status in Australia and eventually settled in Western Sydney.

“My family faced numerous challenges when we arrived. Amidst the language barriers and cultural adjustments, we relied on the support of the community and charitable organizations who extended a helping hand by providing us with the essentials such as clothing, shelter and food,” she recalls.

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My managerial experience is shaped by my life’s journey.

“It’s through these personal experiences that I learnt to be resilient and to make the most of every opportunity that would come my way.”

Nguyen’s entrepreneurial spirit flourished from a young age as she launched businesses across a diverse range of categories from beauty to fashion and body art. But the seed for Pakko was planted after Nguyen and her family relocated to regional Queensland in 2008 so her parents could pursue their farming aspirations.

Identifying a need

Nguyen saw a huge gap in the Australian market for custom short run packaging that was high-quality and eco-friendly.

“My parents struggled to find packaging for their products that had the essential qualities of moisture resistance and could handle the different weather conditions. I wanted to help my parents, so I explored importing packaging from overseas,” says Nguyen, who was awarded the PIDA award for the Young Packaging Professional of 2021.

She soon set her sights on producing the packaging locally after hitting too much red tape internationally.

“This was an opportunity that presented itself. I became aware that there needed to be a manufacturer that could deliver cardboard packaging in time with no minimum order quantities, high quality and made here in Australia,” she says.

With financial backing from her parents, in 2017 Nguyen brought to life Pakko, a cardboard manufacturing business with no minimum orders and lead times of 10 to 12 working days.

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Right from the start, my mission was to create a blueprint for a manufacturing renaissance in Australia.

“Pakko was destined in my heart to be a venture that would resolve cardboard packaging challenges for local growers and all businesses across Australia. Right from the start, my mission was to create a blueprint for a manufacturing renaissance in Australia,” she says.

Fast forward to 2023 and Pakko is well on its way to revolutionizing the packaging industry. While the business has raked up countless accolades, it’s the ethos, culture and hard-working team that excite Nguyen about the company’s future.

Celebrating differences

That is what Nguyen looks for when it comes to hiring talent. Whether or not a prospective employee has ticked off boxes on a checklist is irrelevant to her.

“I am most proud of the family that we have created at Pakko. Everyone on our team comes from various backgrounds and life experiences, and not all of us have traditional industry training or experience,” she explains. “What sets us apart is our shared passion for driving change and our unwavering determination. We believe that our hearts and minds are stronger than what industry experience alone can deliver.”

Nguyen is determined to nurture and grow a diverse team from all walks of life, while encouraging them to challenge the status quo.

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I take pride in having a culturally diverse team, which can provide diverse perspectives and innovative solutions.

“Being one of the few females in the male-dominated manufacturing industry, I take pride in having a culturally diverse team, which can provide diverse perspectives and innovative solutions​​,” she says.

“I actively encourage our team to bring forth new ideas, challenge the status quo and share their unique perspectives. We foster a culture of diversity, celebrating our differences and embracing the wealth of opinions each individual has to offer.”

More than a box

Another worthy achievement is how Pakko stands out in the market thanks to its cutting-edge innovations.

“Pakko recognizes the importance of the unboxing experience and offers an online tool, the Interactive Design Platform, that allows businesses to customize their packaging and design a unique box with their logos, color and images,” she says.

“Seeing the packaging in a 3D visual prior to production allows businesses to understand what the end product will look like.”

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Making sustainability a strategic priority is crucial.

“We understand that the way a package is presented when it arrives can convey a brand’s message and express sentiments of gratitude, adding to the overall customer experience,” she says.

As Nguyen looks ahead to the next five years, she’s mapped out three key areas of growth: innovation, sustainability and process optimization.

“By continuously seeking new ideas and involving employees across these areas, the company can drive growth, adapt to the changing market needs and differentiate itself from competitors,” she says. “Given the global focus on sustainability and the increasing demand for environmentally responsible practices, making sustainability a strategic priority is crucial.”

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