Member Monday: Robertson Packaging Supply, Inc.
By Tina M. Wolfe
Keeping a business running smoothly requires consistent attention to every aspect of that business. From the meticulous care of financial budgets and margins to the personal attention and service to customers, business owners are multi-talented, ambitious, and assiduous creators and problem-solvers.
Actualizing success becomes a bit easier when you have a dream team with equal but opposite skill sets working together. Brandon and Sarah Whitson are the personal and professional partners behind Robertson Packaging, Inc. (RPSI).
The company has been providing packaging products to Western North Carolina businesses since 1996 and started out of Sarah’s family home. Sarah’s parents, Sue and Alan Robertson, took a chance and a risk when Alan left his shipping industry job behind for the “glamorous” life of a business owner. The Robertson’s proved themselves up to the challenge and quickly learned that glamourous wasn’t quite the right adjective to describe the life of an entrepreneur.
Brandon and Sarah met and married before heading off to Mayland College where they both graduated with Business Administration degrees. Wanting to continue to grow the business, they devoted themselves to RPSI and even call it their “baby.” Brandon’s outgoing personality made him a natural fit for the customer-facing side of the family business. “I really enjoy meeting new people and I saw an opportunity to help grow the business,” he said. “It’s a challenge and you have to work hard but this allows me to build relationships with my customers.”
Meanwhile, Sarah was completely content to manage operations, accounting, and back-of-the-house responsibilities. “I like being behind the scenes,” she adds with a smile. “He’s the outgoing one and I’m happy to let him do that part. As we’ve grown and expanded, I’ve learned how and enjoy keeping things organized and running well.”
The business moved to its current location at 4880 Old Greenlee Road in 2004. Its steady growth required more staff and an expansion of product offerings. “Our customers were asking us for things like cleaning supplies and basic office supplies,” said Brandon. The 10K-square-foot space allows them to service a variety of industries and businesses from 500 employees to sole proprietorships. Their business family includes churches, schools, libraries, small businesses, and even larger manufacturing facilities acros
Thousands of products line the warehouse space from copy paper, packaging materials, to coffee creamer and cleaning supplies. When Covid-19 tsunamied across the country closing businesses, RPSI was primed to step up and meet the needs of local businesses. As if they had a crystal ball, they began shifting their purchasing focus to cleaning supplies in March. “We had out-of-area companies calling us for supplies because everyone else was out,” Brandon explained. “But we wanted to save those products for our customers locally.”
The couple was more concerned about keeping their staff employed and healthy than they were about sales numbers. “Having the cleaning supplies when many businesses and suppliers were out was a huge factor in helping us through the year,” Brandon said. “We didn’t have to lay any of our employees off and that was such a relief.” They even had toilet paper, which became a coveted 2020 item! In fact, the business only incurred minor disruptions in their supply chain, cleaning supplies dominated customer demand, and warehouse and sales staff stayed working.
Sarah’s parents retired in 2016 handing over the reins to the couple who show no signs of slowing down. “We just bought a house so that should keep us busy,” Sarah said. “As we continue to grow, we’re hoping to add more staff and really contribute more to our community.”
The Chamber of Commerce began buying their office supplies locally when they realized RPSI was a great resource here in McDowell. “When I began working at the chamber, I learned quickly that keeping our office well-stocked with supplies was not something I enjoyed.” said Executive Director Kim Effler. “The biggest challenge, however, was breaking away from my busy schedule to purchase the supplies that we needed. When Sarah and Brandon joined the chamber in March of 2019, I knew that they could help me solve my challenge! Now, all of our hospitality supplies, office supplies, janitorial supplies come from Robertson Packaging. The convenience and time that I've saved over the years have been invaluable to our business.”
The company also offers delivery options. With a heart of service, both Brandon and Sarah measure their success not so much in dollars and cents but in quality of relationships they build with their clients. “One of our favorite things about running this company is being able to contribute to the community through things like Operation Backpack and being able to provide our customers with the things they can’t find elsewhere,” Sarah said. With an extensive selection of products to keep your business running smoothly, give Brandon and Sarah a call and let’s keep it local!
Robertson Packaging Supply Inc. is located at 4880 Old Greenlee Road, Marion, NC. They can be reached at 828.724.1772.