Southside Plants, owned by Meg Renninger, is a small company based in Fort Worth, Texas that manufactures innovative houseplant technologies for use with plant propagation. Since 2018, Southside plants has grown its global sales significantly to become a million-dollar business by aggressive e-commerce marketing on Amazon to both wholesalers as well as to the general public.
Expanding a Small-Business Operation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Southside Plants experienced a tremendous increase in sales and growth which proved to be more than Meg’s home-based operation could handle. The operation needed to be scaled-up to meet the increasing demand in Southside Plant’s innovative products. The company needed to secure an additional manufacturer or a toll manufacturer.
Toll processing or toll manufacturing is a process in which a company provides raw materials or semi-finished goods to a third-party company. Furthermore, due to the supply chain disruption that was caused during the COVID-19 pandemic, Southside Plants needed assistance in finding domestic suppliers for its raw materials. Meg wanted to utilize domestic suppliers and toll manufacturers instead of reaching out to foreign companies. This would allow Meg to focus on making new and innovative products while leaving the day-to-day manufacturing to a toll manufacturer.
Meg contacted TMAC for assistance in supplier matching. Because of TMAC’s expertise in batch specialty chemicals manufacturing, they were quickly able to quickly sketch out a solution to scale-up the production of Southside Plant’s products. TMAC broke down the recipe that Meg was using in her kitchen and came up with a way to replicate her process steps in industrial-size equipment such as jacketed batch-reactors and mixers instead of kitchen utensils. With these specifications, TMAC was able to find a toll manufacturer who had the appropriate equipment and was willing to make the quantities that she required.
TMAC then utilized MEP Connect, a web-based collaboration and information-sharing tool developed by NIST, to look for suitable toll manufacturers who had the capability to implement the manufacturing solution. This led to a collaborative effort between TMAC and Phil Plyler, Manager of Client Services at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which is the MEP center in Arkansas. This connection resulted in the identification of a toll manufacturer in Arkansas.
Meg visited the toll manufacturer’s facility in Arkansas and she was very pleased with their large-scale equipment and facilities. Since they are in the United States and are also willing to not only manufacture the material but also package it, this gives her the advantage of keeping her product manufacturing local and is less likely to be affected by global events (e.g. her current supply of packaging material got delayed because of the problem in the Suez Canal where a large container ship got stuck in the channel and prevented other ships from passing).
By increasing her manufacturing capability 2-3 times, Southside Plants will see a 200-300% increase in sales. This also frees up Meg to make more innovative products and further expand her business. There is potential for new jobs to be created at the toll manufacturer as their business expands because of Southside Plant’s new contract with them. TMAC also conducted several supplier searches for the raw materials that she needs for her products.
Meg is planning to manufacture an additional product for plants for which she has hired a chemical engineer to do development work. Southside Plants is planning on working with TMAC to help scale-up this new product after she has finished the necessary research so that the toll manufacturer can manufacture this as well. Southside Plants is also looking forward to receiving strategic and organizational assistance from TMAC in the coming months.
”We are very excited to have TMAC-Southeast at Lamar University work on this project. The team leverages its industrial experience with the latest in academic research to help us become more profitable.Meg RenningerOwner & Founder