Tempe firm houses co-manufacturing community
Build a better mousetrap,” goes the famed Ralph Waldo Emerson misquotation, “and the world will beat a path to your door.”
But in 2016, Diann Peart and Kandie Konomos learned there were some important details missing from that adage. Up until then, under the company name Truce, they had been making eco-friendly cleaning products in a little house on Peart’s property and selling them at public markets. But when they were ready to expand, companies refused to ship the 55-gallon drums of rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide they required to their residential address.
What Truce needed was a warehouse space with a loading dock. They found this—and more—at MAC6.
Founded in 2011, the owners of MAC6, a traditional co-working office space in Tempe, purchased a building a few miles away a couple of years later as a place to house the tech companies it invested in. It espouses an ethos called “conscious capitalism,” which encourages companies to examine how their own business impacts everything around them.
“Our three rules for the manufacturing space, for example, are no heavy smells, no heavy sounds, and no jerks,” explains MAC6 president and “Creative Excitant” Kyle McIntosh.
As of today, the company has expanded into three separate buildings housing 79 companies: one dedicated to a mix of co-working and traditional office space (50,305 square feet); another straight office space (61,073 square feet), and a third set aside as co-manufacturing spaces (38,000 square feet).
Claiming a 130-square-foot spot in the co-manufacturing space in 2016, Truce received deliveries there, ferrying the large drums back home where they continued to make their cleaning products. Although only about a mile away, this arrangement took its toll in time and effort.
About six months later, they grew their MAC6 space to about 500 square feet and have been expanding ever since. As of this April, they have four employees, two interns, and about 1,600 square feet, says Peart, who is now the company’s principal. “So we grew into MAC6—or MAC6 grew around us.”
Walking into the co-manufacturing space at 941 S. Park Lane in Tempe is a revelation. An enormous warehouse subdivided by chain-link fencing roughly 10 feet tall, it’s currently home to about 33 companies, according to McIntosh.
The 65- to 85-cents-per-square-foot annual lease each tenant signs also entitles them to shared water, gas and electricity. They also gain access to a forklift, pallet jacks, a technologically-equipped conference room, and perhaps the most valuable perk of all, their fellow tenants.
“Everybody looks out for everybody else,” Peart observes. MiaBella co-founder Payton LaCivita, for example, manages the Amazon accounts of Truce and several other tenants. In turn, Teaspressa founder Allison DeVane sometimes borrows Truce’s large scale, and Truce borrows DeVane’s heat sealer. It puts Peart in mind of her public market days—instead of borrowing and lending tape and markers, it’s now scales and heat sealers.
And soap. Verano Bathery co-founder Jena Nagamine occasionally hands out the unsellable results of their soap experiments in the co-manufacturing building. She and husband John Garrard moved into a 10-by-12-foot space sublet from Lafayette Avenue Ceramics last August, in part for that vital freight dock.
Although they aren’t ordering drums of ingredients yet, they will be soon, including sodium hydroxide. The chemical has caused them some trouble in the past; a former supplier told them they’d have to be reported to a government agency because of the amount they ordered.
“It’s used in all sorts of really terrible things,” Nagamine points out. “It’s also an absolutely essential ingredient in soap.”
In the short time Verano Bathery has been at MAC6, they’ve already joined forces with other tenants on projects, she says. “We’re collaborating with Truce to do some little gift bags.”
However, the main reason they moved into MAC6 is much more fundamental. Their tiny space “gives us a separate space to do production and things like that,” she says. “It’s really helped, mostly just mentally, to have it out of the house.”
While MAC6 began life as an incubator, it’s only invested in about six companies on the co-manufacturing side, McIntosh says. Today, it’s concentrating more on creating a debt fund that will help early-stage companies overcome some financial hurdles without having to give up equity.
Long term, MAC6 hopes to market what McIntosh describes as its “high-touch community management approach,” he says. “We’re working on how to take what we’re doing, put it in a box so that it’s very process driven, and then grow that side of the business as well.”
In other words, a better mousetrap.