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Sometimes entrepreneurial success is finely crafted—planned out years in advance. More often, it’s a matter of serendipity, of paying attention to what the universe brings you, accepting it and letting spontaneous combustion take care of the rest.


That’s what happened to Kelley McShane and Nick Carr, a young married couple who just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the universe came calling. #2+Granny-Bottle+Photo-w-frame copy.jpg

This is the story of the Granny Squibb Company, a beverage business (they sell six flavors of iced tea) based in Providence, Rhode Island, with dreams of becoming a big fish in a small pond. And the story of how a small business transitioned management from family to friends without losing its soul.


Granny Sqibb’s tea is brewed for today’s health-conscious consumers—it’s organic and non-GMO, but it’s rooted in the past. In the early 1930’s Sally Squibb (yes, there was an actual Granny Squibb) took a recipe her mother-in-law gave her and brewed a cold tea (apparently, unusual in those days). Granny thought her brew was “astonishingly delicious” and shared it with the local community.


Flash forward to 2009, when Sally’s granddaughter Robin retired from the film business, moved back to Providence and decided to bottle her grandmother’s recipe, saying Granny had always encouraged her to try everything and “never say never.”


Robin tried 50 or so different formulas before settling on the one that was as “astonishingly delicious” as her grandmother’s and launched the Granny Squibb Co. with sweetened and unsweetened version of two teas—Sally’s Lemon and Mojito Lime.


The rest of the story unfolds like a Hallmark movie—except the “heroic” young couple was already married when they rented an apartment in Robin Squibb’s home.


Neither had beverage experience. Carr was a financial advisor; McShane ran her own tutoring company and worked for a local nonprofit. But in an instant, they went from being friendly renters to co-owners (managing partners) of the Granny Squibb Company.


I talked to Kelley McShane about their unlikely journey becoming beverage entrepreneurs.



Rieva Lesonsky: The st0ry about how you and Nick came to be involved is the stuff of TV movies. Was it really that straightforward?


Kelley McShane: Yes. We moved into the house two years ago—and became part of the business 18 months ago. We were friendly with Robin. One day Nick passed her in the hall and asked, “How’s it going?” She told him (half joking), it had been a terrible day and asked, “Do you want it?”


Nick came upstairs and said to me you won’t believe what happened. We went down to her apartment and asked, “Were you serious?” And she was. She’d been working on the business for nine years, had gotten the teas in local chains like Dave’s Marketplace, Whole Foods and Wegmans.


But she’d been a one-woman show. The company survived by barely marketing.

Lesonsky: What made you think you could run a beverage company?          Oct6 square copy.jpg


McShane: We had both just turned 30. We wanted a change, wanted an adventure, wanted to work together. We’d been married for five years, but never saw one another.


Robin agreed to stay on for one year to mentor us. And a year in, we were ready. We still live in the same apartment, which makes it convenient. Robin is very creative and still involved in the big-picture decisions.


Lesonsky: You came in with an existing infrastructure in place. How did that work?


McShane: It wasn’t complicated. This is her grandmother’s legacy. We knew we needed to keep the integrity of the company and the brand.


We worked full-time for two months before the papers were signed. We just sat down and agreed on everything. People warned us against doing that. But we did it, and it worked. Then we brought in the lawyers and made it legal.


We learned from Robin. Once we were in the industry and trained, we had our own ideas. We built the [new] infrastructure together. We still see her every day. There’s not a lot of opportunity to be sneaky.


Lesonsky: What are your expansion plans?


McShane: Last winter we added a third flavor, Charlie’s Cranberry, named after Robin’s dog. We made it in the same house Granny Squibb lived in. Used the same tea kettle and measuring cups and sat at the same table Granny did.


We’ve expanded to upstate New York and in New England. In 2020 we’re adding new distribution in Massachusetts. But we want to focus on growing sales in Rhode Island.


We don’t want to go nationwide. We’re a New England product. And we’d like to stay here. We source our ingredients in New England. We can drive to accounts if there’s a problem. We want to be accessible. Be local. Build a local, legendary company.


Lesonsky: What has the biggest surprise been for you?


McShane: By far how incredibly supportive other RI brands have been. Companies like Yacht Club Soda (the official soda of RI) have gone over and above to train and support us.


Everyone in RI is easy to work with. People here work with integrity and kindness. We were warned the beverage industry was cutthroat. Not in RI.


Lesonsky: What was your biggest challenge?


McShane: The first year was hard. We were working 24/7. You have to. And growth took off.


At one point Nick and I spent 72 hours within 30 feet of one another. That was tough. But we know it would be. We planned for it. We heard the people who said “don’t work with your spouse.” We knew we needed to expand so we didn’t have to work with just one another. At the beginning we’d go to a trade show and trip over each other’s words. One year in—we got the spiel down, got stronger and more confident.


Lesonsky: I know community involvement is important to you. How does Granny Squibb do that?


McShane: We participate in tons of community events, like Save the Bay. We donate a percentage of sales from the Charlie’s Cranberry to benefit them. [McShane actually swam Narragansett Bay for the event.]


We encourage our employees to pick a cause they support and get on their boards.

We just launched our first big digital campaign, If We Can, We Will. Any Rhode Islander can send an email telling us what they need, whether it’s volunteers for an event, connections, or help with collecting items for drives. If we can help them without spending any money, we will.


Lesonsky: Sales increased about 40% in your first seven months. What changes did you bring?


McShane: In 2018 we added marketing. In 2019 we focused on sales—and they more than doubled—up 250%.


Lesonsky: And you’re in this for the long haul?


McShane: We are committed to being beverage entrepreneurs. We’ve found our calling. We love iced tea. We love the story.


What we really value is the people here. We all love each other.


About Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business Rieva+Lesonsky+Headshot.pngand entrepreneurship, and the blog A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.


Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.


Web: or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

A recession within the coming year seems more than likely. While the economy is great today, more than a few economists believe a 2020 recession is quite possible. Recession Businesses.jpg


And that begs these questions:


1. What if you are looking to start a business today?


2. Are there businesses that you could start – or branch into – that are more likely than others to weather the storm?


Indeed, there are. Here are the eight industries that thrive under recession conditions:


1. Candy: Yes, you heard right. Candy and recessions go hand in hand. Both Three Musketeers and Snickers were invented during the 1930’s depression, and in the U.S., candy sales went up by billions of dollars during the 2009 recession. When people can’t afford larger luxuries, they turn to the smallest - and sweetest - kinds. And that means a retail business can launch, or grow, using candy as a lure.


2. Repairs: During a recession, because buying new is not always a possibility, repairing items already owned become far more popular. For instance, while car sales historically go down during a recession, automotive repairs go up. The same can be said for computers, furniture, and the like. For those who are handy, this can be a boon.


3. Childcare: Some of the best industries during a recession are the ones people can’t live without. When people have children and jobs, they are more than likely to need childcare, especially as they tend to take whatever work (and hours) they can get. This could mean daycare, or an after-school program, or even babysitting – all of these industries remain crucial during times of recession.


4. Niche food stores: In a recession, you might expect the most expensive grocery stores would go belly-up. But this wasn’t the case in 2008. In fact, specialty food stores experienced growth throughout the recession. When someone really loves something (like candy!) buying it during a recession becomes a refuge. As such, specially made, hard to come by, or totally niche items can work.


5. Freelance and temp work: Among the first casualties of a recession is the full-time employee. Many businesses switch to hiring freelance and temp workers to fill the gaps. As such, one of the best industries during recessionary periods is the freelance market, where independent contractors provide businesses the ability to keep going, as they are more affordable than their full-time counterparts. The time to start your side-gig is now.


6. Static businesses: The boring, the mundane, or downright dirty. Some may call them these names, but others call them recession-proof. Businesses like tax preparation, junk hauling, senior care, accountants, funeral homes, and so on provide services that will always be necessary, even during an economic downturn. People will always pay taxes, throw away garbage, and die. While these industries aren’t sexy, they provide a sense of stability in unstable times.


7. Health and fitness: In 2008, many industries came to a screeching halt. But not in this sector. Businesses that helped people remain healthy and fit maintained steady growth during that era. This was particularly true for yoga and Pilates studios.


8. “Sin” industries: When the going gets tough, people crave vices. During downtimes, sales of alcohol boom, and casinos do well. It makes sense, no? When people are feeling down, they often turn to something to help ease their discomfort. Any of these ‘sin’ industries tend to have steady growth during a recession.


Although this is not a comprehensive list by any means, it can give you some clues as to what is and isn’t recession-proof.


About Steve Strauss


Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert Steve+Strauss+Headshot+SBC.pngcolumn is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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