By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
There is nothing like popping open a cold one on a hot, humid summer day in Milwaukee. From the satisfying crack of the can’s seal to cool heft of the aluminum in your hand, it is the perfect way to beat the heat.
All of the kudos go to the beverage inside of the can, but how much thought do you give to the can itself?
At Oak Creek-based WilCraft Can, the can is definitely the star of the show.
The company began as a mobile canner. Mobile canning operations make it possible for small breweries, craft soft drink creators, and other emerging beverage producers to can their carbonated concoctions without having to invest in the costly equipment required.
Founder Sean Kingston, along with two silent partners, launched the business in 2017. The team began production began in 2019. Since then, the company has added a second canning line, doubling its production capacity. This alone would make WilCraft Can a startup success story, but that is only the beginning of the company’s plans for the future.
While studying the industry, Kingston noticed how many perfectly made cans are scrapped due to typos or other labeling problems. Structurally sound cans that cost upwards of $0.30 to make were being discarded for cosmetic reasons at a huge loss, not only of material, but in energy and labor costs as well.
In examining the practice, WilCraft Canning discovered an opportunity that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation believes has the potential to “offer significant potential for increasing jobs or increasing capital investment in Wisconsin.”
The company has patented a process in which printing is removed from aluminum cans. Using lasers, the process results in a can that is ready to be reprinted and reused without any additional treatments. Cans that would be discarded are purchased at pennies a pound, then stripped and put back on the market a dime or more a can, saving costs for all involved.
“Every plant produces about 2 to 3% waste, and every plant is making about 3,000 cans a minute,” Kingston said. “They’re running these lines close to 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. When you start doing the math, a dime goes a long way in this business, just because there is so much volume. We’re cutting it more to that virtuous cycle, almost reuse instead of complete recycle.”
The process is so novel, and has such potential to advance the industry, that the WEDC certified the company as a Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) in 2019.
The company is ready to raise funds to support the implementation of the patented process. With equipment costs in the millions, the WilCraft Can team is considering opportunities to pursue both angel investors and venture capitalists.
To watch the process of this growing manufacturer that serves the local beverage industry, connect with them here.