Founder’s Journey…

Marta Sylvester

The question is whether ANY civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called Civilized

I was born in Brooklyn, NY. Our family lived in Brooklyn until I was 5, and then we moved to Flushing Queens, where I attended fabulous public schools. It was at Rachel Carson Junior High School, IS 237, where I began my life long interest in the environment. I read everything I could about Rachel Carson, who I thought, must have been amazing if a school was named after her. What I learned about her, I’ve carried with me my entire life.

What about Rachel Carson Inspired You?

As a woman, she taught me that what you know and your convictions can never be limited by your gender. As an environmentalist, she taught me that our world is dependent on each other. She shows us through her life’s work, that we need to respect our environment through consistent effort. I encourage everyone to read her book  “Silent Spring”. Although it was published in 1964 , she could have written it today. It still resonates in so many ways. Rachel Carson left an immeasurable impact on how I think about myself and the world we live in. She is definitely one of my childhood heroes. A hero, I didn’t get to fully appreciate until later in life.

After completing the 8th grade at IS237, my family moved backed to Brooklyn. I completed High School and a few years after graduating went on to Pace University, Lubin School of Business. 

How did you get started in business?

1992 after spending a few years as a stay at home Mom, it became apparent that moving ahead financially required a second income.

Why Sales?

I envisioned a career in Sales that would allow a flexible schedule and an opportunity to interact with people. Getting there would prove an interesting feat, as things in life generally are. At the time, I was continuously advised to take a position as a secretary which was the stereotypical career for a woman at that time. Exhausted and nonetheless determined, I sought a career in Marketing in hopes of working toward a career in sales. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t have a career in sales, I just needed to figure out how to get there.

How did you land in Packaging?

I interviewed with a plastic blow molder of packaging components in Brooklyn and was offered a position as an Administrative Assistant to the Sales and Marketing department. While there were some secretarial duties I need to perform, the bulk of my responsibilities had to do with aiding the sales department in furtherance of the sales cycle. Once there, I became a sponge, amassing as much knowledge as I could about plastics, plastic molding, pharmaceutical regulations and selling.

Within a year, a position in Sales opened. I applied (which was quite a bold move on my part) and was given a 3 month, probationary shot as a Sales Representative for the Mid West territory. The position came with a company car and a car phone, which in those days, was literally a phone in the car.

What did that mean for your family?

For my family, this meant we were in a position to begin moving ahead toward our collective goals. For me, it marked the begin of a life long career in packaging that I am as passionate about today, as I was back in Brooklyn so many years ago.

How did you amass so much knowledge?

I worked in manufacturing as well as distribution. Every company I worked for provided new opportunities to broaden my scope of packaging knowledge. Manufacturing allowed me to understand how things work in the specific molding processes used by that manufacturer (the good, the bad, and the very ugly).  Distribution opened my world up to a broader spectrum of components, materials and processes faster than would have been possible working for a single process manufacturer ever could. As my career grew and I traveled the world I developed a network of packaging solutions providers and innovators that help me today in the quest for packaging that can meet our 3R’s initiative.

Was it scary to make the decision to become an Entrepreneur? 

In 2012, after 20 years in packaging, I made the decision to jump off of the entrepreneur cliff. I gave myself a year to gain traction, and began by developing the business from my home office. I thought, one of two things would happen, either there would be a splat at the end of that year, in which case I would get the old CV out and find a “9-5” or I would have enough new business to get me through another year while I continued to build on what I had. 

When I founded Nugen Packaging, we were focused on showing brands a “Nu Generation” of sustainable packaging options. Its been a long road, and here we are, it’s 2022, 10 years later, we’re still here and as determined as ever to disrupt our industry and show how together we can Reduce, ReUse, and Recycle materials to mitigate climate change. And Rachel Carson, who spoke to me via the many books she wrote is still the heroine that continues to inspire me!