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Nicole TannerNicole Tanner is the Founder of Swig, which sells customized drinks, cookies, and treats. She started Swig in 2010 due to her love of Diet Coke and because she noticed a lack of connectedness in other drive-thru concepts. She is a mom of five children and grandma of four grandbabies who enjoys hiking in the outdoors and spending time with her family.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Nicole Tanner shares what it’s like to visit one of the 50 Swig locations
  • Why Nicole considers her experience as a stay-at-home mom entrepreneurial
  • What were the early days at the first Swig location like?
  • How the brand’s menu has evolved since launching in 2010
  • Nicole describes the original Dirty Soda and explains how it came to be
  • Swig’s process for developing and adding new drinks

In this episode…

How much experience do you need in your industry to be successful as an entrepreneur?  For Nicole Tanner, one of the experiences she found most beneficial before launching Swig in 2010 was being a parent. She says tending to her childrens’ needs and balancing their activities taught her plenty. It’s clearly paid off, because what started as a single Swig location has multiplied to 50, with people convening from all over the US to visit the original location.

On this episode of the Top Business Leaders Show, Rise25’s Chad Franzen welcomes Nicole Tanner, Founder of Swig, to discuss the evolution of a drive thru location that serves flavorful drinks and sweet treats. Nicole talks about founding Swig out of enjoyment of Diet Coke and dissatisfaction with the drive-thru experience. She shares keys to her success, the process of concocting drinks including The Founder, Dew Gooder, and Just Peachy, and the benefits of becoming a franchisee with Swig.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 media. We feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world

Chad Franzen 0:20

Chad Franzen here co host for the show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant where they combined marketing software and payments all in one. They served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at Nicole Tanner is not only founder of Swig, she is a mom of five children and now a grandma of four grandbabies. She started Swig in 2010 because of her love of Diet Coke and noticing a lack of connectedness in other drive-thru concepts. When not working with her team at Swig, now 50 locations, she is in the outdoors hiking, and then spending time with her family. Hey, Nicole, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Nicole Tanner 1:29

Good. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Chad Franzen 1:31

Yeah, great to have you here. So if you could just describe for me a typical Swig location and what a customer might expect when going there. 

Nicole Tanner 1:40

Okay, for sure. Every Swig has a drive thru, it’s all about the drive thru at any Swig. So the square footage of our buildings are anywhere from 700 square feet to maybe like 1300 square feet, we don’t need a lot of space. It’s all about just the drive thru. And again, we sell drinks and treats and so we don’t need that the fryers and the ovens and so it’s a pretty simple process. And so it’s kind of nice that you don’t need a big blueprint to serve that to our customer. So on a daily you know, we we will see you know, a good probably, I don’t know seven to 800 cars at least that go through our drive thru lines. And they typically will get you know, whether it’s a fountain drink or a blended energy drink or a sparkling water combination. We have the good pebble ice that’s why I started it was because of that love of a good pebble ice. And then the foam cup that keeps your cup drink your drink cold all day long. And so yeah, it’s all just based on amazing good customer service. I want our customers to feel known and our drive thru line, you will never have your order be taken with a Squawk Box there will always be person to person with an iPad out there greeting you. And so it’s really that personal connection as you come through our drive thru lines. We want to know our customers. Personally, we want to know how they’re doing, how their day is going. And then make their drink better or their day better by giving them you know, a really good drink, whether that be a fountain drink a sparkling water, energy drink, whatever,

Chad Franzen 3:18

What kind of effects do you feel like that has been to have, you know, to not have to talk in a little box? 

Nicole Tanner 3:24

Oh yeah, I think I think hopefully it what one thing we’ve learned from 2020 in the pandemic is that connection matters and we all need it and crave it we as humans, and I really just helps it helps people to be made to feel known and feel special and that they matter to a business but let alone to a person another person so I started it because I felt like I started Swig because I felt like a number and a drive thru. Like I felt like I didn’t really matter to that business. And I knew that there were other people out there like me, that appreciated to me to be feel known and the drive thru of like, Hey, I love coming to you for my drinks. And I would love for you to appreciate that and I’ll come to you more often if that’s the case. And so I think people love that connection. They love to make it feel known. And we need it as humans and so I think never never a Squawk Box I don’t like squawk boxes I’ll go to establish those that have been because very rarely Can you see someone out there taking it with an iPad but ours will always be an iPad because of that human connection I think people as humans we need it.

Chad Franzen 4:34

So you you I’m curious how the idea overall came about I know you like Diet Coke and I know that you felt kind of impersonal at the drive thru. How did the whole thing kind of come together?

Nicole Tanner 4:47

Yeah, it was I had five kids, I still have five kids but they were all younger back then. And we’d go to get my drink of choice whether to a Sonic or to a gas station which required unbuckling all the Kids and getting them walking them into the gas station, which is never a good idea. And so it was just like there was something missing from my whole experience when I would go get my drink from those other places, get my caffeine fix or whatever. And I just thought, Okay, well, I don’t see anybody else doing something that was just drive thru drinks. And so I thought, Okay, well, let’s, let’s do it, let’s create it to where it’s a fast friendly drive thru, I always want it to be as fast as it can be everybody’s time is so important. So that’s why we take orders iPads out there, so that they can be moving that line, they can go down and take those orders to where the orders are taken, we can take like 10 to 12 to 15 orders down the line, which means they’re faster inside because those drinks are already being made. Whereas if you’re with the Squawk Box, you maybe only have three to four cars in between squawk, squawk Squawk Box and the pickup window. So I wanted there to be more streamlined to where we can fit more cars and get them through faster. And then just make them feel special in that drive thru line, and then create an amazing quality product that they can expect every single time to make the same way. So that’s what I created. I didn’t see anything out there like that, that combined all of that. So that’s honestly how it started. I’m on a wing and a prayer of like, let’s just hope that this crazy concept works because everybody sells drinks, every establishment, from gas stations to restaurants to movie theaters. Everybody sells drinks. So we had to be special.

Chad Franzen 6:36

So you and you have all kinds of drinks. I want to get into that with you in just a moment. But um, so that sounds like the definition of entrepreneurship. Did you? Did you have entrepreneurial experience prior to this?

Nicole Tanner 6:46

Um, I guess maybe kind of I was a Mary Kay consultant for about eight years. And so I built a team with that, but nothing crazy, like six or seven women? Um, no, I, you know, I think a busy mom is that’s kind of your own entrepreneurial experience at home as you’re trying to balance you know, children and their activities and making sure that their needs are taken care of. And, but I mean, I worked in the fast food industry growing up, so I appreciated it and knew what I, you know, like to not experience but other than, like my own, you know, Mary Kay business now.

Chad Franzen 7:26

So, if you could tell me about your first location, where was it? And what the early days there were like,

Nicole Tanner 7:31

Yeah, I remember waiting 20 minutes in between cars, and just hoping that we could, you know, sell, you know, maybe a couple 100 drinks. I remember the first day that we sold, we sold $1,000 worth of product. And that was like a huge win for us. Yeah, it was just very organically just step by step of like, okay, well, this is working. Okay, let’s push the gas on this. And let’s promote this. And we did dollar drinks. For the first two months, every drink was $1, no matter the size, just to get people in to get them to try it. So very little advertising. Now it was all very word of mouth. And we just knew that if we provided an amazing product and amazing customer service, and an amazing experience that they would tell their friends and family. And then it was spread like that. And that honestly is how it did i i did a couple Expo events where I had like a Swig bar. Just I did that within the first year. And then I stopped because we were busy already. opening week I put flyers on cars of who we were, but I never advertised in like radio or anything like that. Because I we were already busy and I am a firm believer of don’t waste your marketing dollars if you if if you are busy and you have things going at work for you. Don’t don’t think you have to put it in something just because they’re telling you that’s the best thing to do. 

Chad Franzen 9:01

So, is that located in that first location still open? 

Nicole Tanner 9:04

Oh yeah, it’s still a top location. Uh huh.

Chad Franzen 9:07

How different is that location now compared to day one in terms of maybe the customer experience or the offerings, things like that?

Nicole Tanner 9:13

Yeah, the outside looks and it’s the same footprint we just recently in the last couple of years repainted it recited it. And just two weeks ago, we reopened we closed for two weeks and redid the whole inside because the pipes were a mess. The flooring was a mess. I mean, it was an old building that we converted into a Swig like we started so simple, and there was no business loans. It was like savings and Kay let’s do it as best we can. I took orders on sticky notes for three years. And it was very mom. And honestly I think that’s why it works so well is because we didn’t put money into the biggest and the grandest of equipment and, and systems we just do. We just did kind of like alright, Well, does this work? Okay, let’s try it and see. So yeah, very simple. But yeah, that the original location is still there. We get a lot of people from all over the world, really the United States, especially that come to that location because it was their original

Chad Franzen 10:15

view. I’m looking at your website, you have a pretty large menu with all kinds of unique drinks. I’ll just throw a few out there, the ring King, Dr. Pepper cupcake, strawberry puree, and vanilla cream, do gooder, Mountain Dew, pineapple, fresh lime, raspberry puree, coconut cream. You know, you can go through it. There’s all kinds of unique tricks. How many of those were available when you open to that first location?

Nicole Tanner 10:40

Not even half of those. We were very simple back then. Because we didn’t know what was going to work right. So we had Coke and Pepsi first, Pepsi didn’t want to be in the same building as coke. That was a battle. They don’t like to exist in the same space. So we knew we needed coke because of my love of Diet Coke. And then it took Pepsi a month to come in. But I was ready to open so we were just like popping cans. We had two liter bottles, and we’re pouring Pepsi Mountain Dew products from there. But um, yeah, so we had that immediate about six flavors shots is all like coconut vanilla. Just your basic peach. And then we inlines lemons. And then as customers will come in and say, Hey, what about pomegranate? What about, you know, raspberry puree? And then what about adding coconut cream to drink? So it really it was very organically of like, oh, yeah, we’ll try it out. We love our customers, we want them to feel like they are a part of the business, and that this is part of their business. And so if they have a suggestion that we feel like will work, we will bring it in now as we now have 50 locations, that’s not quite as easy to do. So I never want to have 100 flavor shots. I want it to be as simple as we can. Tour a menu isn’t like crazy busy. I want it to be simple to where they can easily find something online where you’re you’re looking, we have everything on there. If you put to Swig it’s much more simplified, and so that the lines can move freely. So we have probably about 40 as labor shots you can add to your drink, but we tried different flavors shots. Like we had chocolate at one time. It wasn’t moving, so we pulled it out. So we want to keep it simple, but have variety.

Chad Franzen 12:30

What is The Original Dirty Soda? That’s it? It says you guys are the home of The Original Dirty Soda. Tell me about that.

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