Component Supply has always been a small business located in a small town. But when it moved from Central Florida to Middle Tennessee two years ago, the business finally had room to grow beyond the storage container where it began 10 years ago.
Father-son partners, Phil and Mark Maffett, spent five years on the management team for Small Parts, Inc., an industrial and scientific supplier in South Florida, before the company was sold to Amazon.com in 2005. Phil moved to Central Florida after the sale, but Mark continued to work for Amazon for two years before leaving. Then in 2009, Mark and Phil received a call with the opportunity to buy back the Small Parts equipment.
“We had a contracting business digging ditches and cutting grass. We were trying to figure out what to do with our lives while we were in the middle of a non-compete agreement,” Mark said. “Then God gave us the business back.”
But, he was hesitant at first.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to do it again. I had already done it once. I didn’t know how we’d get our customers back. Small Parts was a 40-year-old company with an amazing reputation. Duplicating that from the ground up was just too big.”
But with Phil’s persuading, the two decided it was something they could do on a small scale. So, without a company name, they made the deal. They brought the equipment, tables and fixtures to their family farm in Central Florida and parked it under a barn while they tried to decide what to do with it.
“The salesman in Mark pointed out to me that we had no customers,” Phil said. “But we rented an air-conditioned shipping container and stored the equipment there anyway.”
Shortly after they made the purchase, they were contacted by a company in South America who wanted them to supply nylon tubing. Then another customer needed hypodermic tubing. The material was processed in the 40-foot-long container, which had an air conditioner on one end and both doors kept open on the other end to keep the temperature manageable.
“It was hot during the fall in Florida, but we worked in there for a couple of months because we had so many orders that were coming in. We processed everything in that building,” Mark said. “Customers sent purchase orders to our names because there was no company name. We didn’t have any certifications or vendors set up. No power to run equipment. Nothing. Everything was just stored in the container.”
But Mark felt like there was a future for Component Supply beyond the shipping container. So, he and Phil bought two 400-square-foot buildings. At first, one building held a computer, a table for processing material, a saw for cutting tubing and a one-leg desk with one side nailed into the wall. The other building sat empty for a while. Eventually, operations were in one building and receiving, shipping and accounts receivable moved into the other. Three part-time employees were added, and one small rack stored all the material.
Then, more opportunities came as Mark and Phil contacted their former vendors, who were happy the pair was getting back into the business.
“Even though we hadn’t talked to them in years, our vendors remembered us and how we conducted business at Small Parts and issued us credit,” Mark said.
After the first two invoices were shipped, it was time to name the company. “National Component Supply” was the first business name idea, but because the first order was international, Component Supply Company was chosen instead.
“Then about a year later in 2010, I remember sitting at my desk, working on our website and thinking, ‘We have employees. This is actually a place of employment’,” Mark said. “But, I never expected it to be what it is now.”
In 2011, another building was added, allowing room for a small machine shop and for larger volumes of material to be processed. But it wasn’t long before it was time to expand again. While the initial vision was for the company to be an industrial supplier for standard tubing products like hypodermic tubing, nylon and silicone tubing, there was a significant void in the scientific and engineering supply market. Customers were looking for someone to fill the void.
“Our customers found us,” Mark said. “It’s so fulfilling to work with people who are working in those fields, whether medical or aerospace, because they further technology in research and development or in production. As a result, so much of what we do changes quality of life.”
As former customers continued to find Component Supply, the need for even more space became obvious. An additional 1000-square-foot warehouse was built.
“It took us about 8 months to move into it, and by the time we were moved in, we were already maxed out. But we were stuck. We couldn’t add more space. So, we started to look for places to move or rent. Plus, we just wanted to live near the mountains, and when many of our employees wanted to move too, and all those doors were open, we pursued it,” Mark said.
To provide the best services to its customers, Component Supply needed to find a new home closer to the UPS and FedEx hubs and at least one time zone over so the west coast customers could benefit from same-day shipping. After several months of searching for a new building, Phil finally came across the perfect property just outside of Cookeville, Tennessee. In the fall of 2016, renovations began and by June 2017, all operations had fully transitioned into a 10,000-square-foot section of the new facility.
“This building has easy access without feeling like you’re in an industrial park, but it has all the infrastructure that an industrial park would give you,” Mark said. “It gives us a nice working environment for our amazing team with a tremendous amount of room to expand.”
And Mark has big plans for all that space.
“We’re excited about adding new capabilities for custom fabrication because it builds stronger relationships with our customers. We’re ready to test the boundaries of small quantities and short lead times. We want to be the resource that other people can’t be or are unwilling to be. I’m excited that Component Supply has the same reputation that Small Parts had for so many years.”
This summer, as Component Supply celebrates its tenth year of business, it will continue to pursue the mission it has always had: “to be a resource for researchers and product designers by connecting them with the components and knowledge they need to change the world.”