Baltimore’s Industrial Power Couple? Mick and Britt Arnold Have Emerged as a Force in the Hard-Knocks World of Packaging and Construction
Do not call Britt and Mick Arnold a Baltimore power couple.
Never mind that the Baltimore native started a construction firm in her 20s and has grown it into a $48 million company. Forget about the fact that Mick is the head of a fourth-generation family packaging company, which he took over at the age of 24, and built that into a $36 million company that partners with the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, 3M, and Lenox China.
Let’s also ignore the duo’s other accomplishments, including:
Mick starting a successful automation division that helps customers improve productivity. Both husband and wife starting an entirely separate company to handle all other side projects and interests like real estate investment and manufacturing masks. Launching a podcast called Love ‘N Business to help guide other entrepreneurs.
And while many people are still embracing remote work, the Arnolds have doubled down on building a workspace in Eastern Baltimore County. Their new warehouse sits in a remarkable and ongoing redevelopment of Sparrows Point, called Tradepoint Atlantic, that is bringing thousands of jobs back to an area that fell into disrepair and hard times after Bethlehem Steel shut down.
But don’t think of them as a supercouple.
“I still have some of that underdog mentality,” Mick Arnold says, laughing.
“If you had asked me, where would I be now five years ago, I would never have guessed this,” says Britt Arnold in agreement. “We are two completely separate entities in two different industries who are able to work together.”
It was that individuality and drive that drew the two together, first to do business and then blossoming into a personal relationship.
The path to a career in construction began on a sports field for Britt Tegeler, who played soccer at the collegiate and professional level up until the age of 22 when she had to make a crucial decision between moving to France to continue playing ball or making a right turn to compete in the business world.
She chose to hang up her cleats.
“My uncle ran Grasmick Lumber,” Britt says. “He said, ‘I know you know very little about construction and you probably don’t care, but we need somebody who will represent our company. That’s how I initially got into construction.”
She spent several years soaking up the industry, learning all about acquisitions, design, and customer service, and developing a strong network of colleagues, partners, and mentors. After another stint at a construction and real estate firm, Britt struck out on her own, starting Tegeler Construction & Supply in 2016. Britt smelled opportunity. Port Covington had unveiled its master plan for redevelopment and state money and local government investments were flowing. Britt knew a portion of government “set asides” was designated for women and minority businesses. She focused her attention on building a company that could get a piece of the work.
“It was terrifying,” Britt recalls. “I had just bought a house, my very first house, that I could no longer pay for. I no longer had a car. I turned off all my utilities in my house. I hadn’t gotten furniture yet. I slept on the floor for like six, eight months. I lived off a light like a floor lamp and a space heater.
“I couldn’t get a loan from a bank,” Britt says, adding that she never sought help from her parents. “I had no history. And in that process as I was starting to build a company, I got my real estate license, I got my contractor’s license, and I finished my master’s at Johns Hopkins that my former employer had actually paid for. So, all this was happening simultaneously as I was getting up and running, and I really think that fear was the best motivator. I don’t know if I could have done it if I wasn’t in that desperate position at that time.”
When Britt met Mick in 2018, he was years entrenched in the family business. Arnold’s Factory Supplies started in Baltimore in 1933 as a manufacturer of adhesives and inks used for packaging applications. Within four generations, the company moved into manufacturing wood and corrugated shipping containers and custom-made containers.
Mick remembers starting work at Arnold’s Factory at 13-years-old pushing brooms, gluing, assembling, and doing whatever else needed to be done to make up for getting a C+ in math. Over the years, he watched and learned as his father ran the firm, building strong partnerships and relationships along the way.
That solid foundation his father built was key to its survival when the elder Arnold battled cancer and died in 1995, forcing Mick to take over the business at the age of 24.
“I was so young and ignorant that I didn’t know enough to worry,” Mick says. “I was just trying to execute what my dad taught me. He really taught me about people. He left me with some really good advisors. We were 60 years old at that point and we had some of the best manufacturing partners. We had a very strong business from a balance sheet point of view.”
Arnold’s Factory was a $4.9 million company then with 23 employees.
Under Mick’s leadership as president, the company rebranded as Arnold Packaging in 2016 to reflect its expertise at packaging products. In 2017, he launched Arnold Automation to help customers leverage the benefits of robotics and automation to reduce labor costs, improve efficiency and increase profitability.
The first time Britt and Mick met; Britt was still working for Grasmick Lumber. It was a snowy Wednesday in 2018 when they met for lunch to talk about doing business – something clicked. Conversation that started with lumber and pallets turned to robotics and efficiency, then soccer, favorite restaurants, and life.
“It just kept going until eight hours later, we had gone to four different bars,” Britt recalls. “And it was awesome. We had a great time, obviously, but it was just business conversation. The next day, Mick said, hey, loved our conversation, would really like to take you out to dinner. We ended up going out to dinner the next night and we’ve been together every day since then.”
As both focused on work, they realized that together they could do more. Whether it was reminding Mick to be nimbler at his older, more established business or guiding Britt through potential logistical pitfalls that a younger business might encounter, the duo leveraged their individual expertise and contacts into creating opportunities.
For example, they’re working with a logistics company that is shipping batteries overseas. Tegeler Construction & Supply handles the pallet and lumber supplies, and Arnold handles all the packaging materials and production line design.
“We’re synergistic partners,” Mick says, with Britt adding, “We’re doing millions of dollars together.”
That synergy also created McBritt Ventures, which sold masks during the Covid pandemic, owns real estate, and searches for other opportunities like backing someone to open a restaurant near Tradepoint. It also sparked their desire to help other entrepreneurs by sharing tips, lessons learned and stories about running a business through their Love and Business podcast, which is expected to launch this month.
Today, Tegeler Construction & Supply has a lean but scrappy team and focuses on selling construction materials with a heavy focus on infrastructure projects. Arnold employs 75 and is continuing to build on its automation division. Both companies are looking to the future with ideas to improve profit margins by distributing, owning, and holding inventory in their giant warehouse.
Both are looking at possibilities to expand into other locations, adding to their team, and building a business culture that takes care of its employees and trusted partners. For the
Arnolds, it’s proving to the world that there’s more to come from a couple that still tackles work like they have a chip on their shoulder.
“We may not be able to outthink you,” Mick says. “But we sure as hell will out scrap you.”