NexusManufacturer’s representative Nexus sells environmentally friendly nonfood disposables to foodservice and janitorial distributors.

By Stephanie Crets

As one of the primary leaders in the western region of the United States, Nexus is a cutting-edge and world-class manufacturer’s representative firm specializing in the sales and marketing nonfood foodservice and janitorial disposables. Since 1985, Nexus has been on a positive growth trajectory. “There are a lot of very professional rep agencies across the country that do a very good job in their respective marketplaces,” President Patrick Nunan says. “However, what makes Nexus unique is the quality and focus of our team. Because we started as a disposables and supplies firm and remain focused on that category we provide a unique level of expertise and experience to our clients. Additionally, our success has always hinged on our focus on the large operator/end user. This benefits our manufacturer clients and our partner distributors.”

As a result of this strategy Nexus has enjoyed double-digit sales growth since 1992. “We are the leaders in developing a market at the operator level,” Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Chris Matson says. “We do that through creative digital and promotional marketing, onsite operator cold calling and by simply partnering with our key distributor partners to work with us in these key operator accounts.” Nexus box

Nexus sells more than 12,000 different stock and custom products to a variety of different paper, foodservice and janitorial distributors, redistributors and operator customers. The company’s line cards encapsulate a broad mix of different types of products such as napkins, forks, plastic and paper to-go containers, along with janitorial disposables such as can liners, toilet paper, paper towels, floor scrubbers, mops and brooms. Nexus introduces and markets these product categories to large operators such as professional sports stadiums, hospitals, restaurant chains, bakeries, caterers and schools and universities.

Nexus started very small, out of founder Bob Weggenmann’s house in the Oakland Hills of Northern California. Nunan was instrumental in helping Weggenmann take this home business to the next level. In 1992, Matson joined the company with just five manufacturers. In 1993, Melinda (Duncan) Webber joined the team, and Nexus was off and running.

Together, these four partners turned a small agency into what is today. Thirty years later, Nexus is a corporation that employs more than 40 people, provides services for 45 different manufacturers and covers 10 states in the Western United States. Since 1992, Nexus has expanded significantly, opening up a regional sales office in Irvine, Calif., that now has 12 employees covering all of southern California.

In 2015, Nexus opened an office in Seattle and added additional personnel in Portland this year. The company is in the process of opening an office in Phoenix, with Denver on the horizon for 2017. “We are not sure how far east we will go – it will depend on market dynamics and the needs of our clients - but we are prepared to invest in new markets as we have demonstrated over the last 10 years,” Matson says.

Zero Waste

Because of sensitivity of the California and Pacific Northwest markets, Nexus has intentionally sought out specific manufacturers that make “green” disposables. “Green or compostable disposables have become a very critical part of our product offering and has become about 30 percent of what we now sell to operators and to distributors,” Matson explains.

Nexus has been selling green products since 2008, when cities such as Oakland, Calif., began to ban foam, plastic bags and plastic in general for foodservice applications. “Many cities have passed strict ordinances that are forcing restaurants to drive waste away from landfills,” Matson says. “California’s goal is to divert 75 percent of waste away from landfills with the ultimate goal to be at zero waste by 2020. Our job is to find certified compostable disposable products to help our customers meet these new requirements.

“These new city and state regulations triggered the need for many of our manufacturers to go find new compostable and/or recyclable materials,” he continues. “New compostable materials like wheat straw, bagasse, bio-film laminated paperboard substrates and polylactic acid (PLA-corn) starch compounds aid our sales efforts because they make what we’re trying to sell more unique and benefits the state mandate and even more importantly our environment.”

For example, Nexus sells certified compostable, biodegradable products for take-out and dine-in such as molded fiber plates made from recycled newspaper, cutlery made out of PLA corn, containers out of potatoes and paperboard and sugar cane bagasse.

Everyday Engagement

Nexus may have started small, but it’s growing fast all over the Western region. However, it still has to contend with challenges, namely competition. “There are many disposable product options for restaurant chain, schools and caterers,” Matson says. How can Nexus distinguish itself from another competitor offering a similar trash bag or plastic fork?

“We face a lot of competition both by competing manufacturers that make products domestically and internationally,” Matson continues. “But when people think of us, they think of us as their go-to resource because we are one of the most experienced and knowledgeable agencies on disposables in the country. We may not always have the lowest price or even exactly what the customer is looking for, but it’s my opinion that customers call us first because they know we will quickly provide them with the creative options they want before they make a final decision.”

Nexus also distinguishes itself from the competition, through product training and digital marketing. Utilizing a cloud-based CRM platform, the company has the ability to digitally launch product announcements to thousands of different customers. From that, dozens of leads will typically contact Nexus’ sales representatives for samples and inquiries, which then trigger new product placements that drive sales back to the distributor level.

Nexus speaks to its clients daily to discuss trends and changes in the marketplace. Matson says the company is their sales arm and must be engaged with them on a daily basis. The average Nexus sales representative drives approximately 30,000 miles, sends about 20,000 sales e-mails and makes an average of 800 sales calls annually. “Our sales teams are able to get out on the road more and make more calls every day because we have both a strong inside sales and customer service department that manage all of the administrative needs that go along with complex disposables contracts and daily orders,” Matson says. “Without these key inside support departments, our sales efforts would be cut in half.”

Matson says he is grateful that the risk the original four partners took to push the company from a startup home business into a regional corporation paid off. “There were a lot of long 70- to 80-hour weeks over the past 30 years that has resulted in a highly efficient, regional sales brokerage that is on track to grow even further one day,” he says.

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