Search Interviews:

Nicole Tanner 12:35

Yeah. So we had when like within a month of opening, somebody came through as a from a doctor’s office, and they would come and get drinks for the day. And they said hey, did you know what we call our coconut Dr. Pepper at Derby, Dr. Pepper. And we’re like, dang, that has like a cool factor to it. So we started calling them dirty Dr. Peppers. And then it just caught on kind of on our menu. And then we started having competition that were coming into play about 2013 2014. So about three to four years in. And we really wanted to protect that that dirty phrase was ours associated to fountain drinks. So we trademarked it, we did a Utah trademark. And then we went and had a God went ahead and got a US trademark for the term dirty when associated with flavor shots and found drinks. So it was our turn, we felt it was very important to the brand. And lo and behold, 2020 hit and 2021-22, and we got some publicity through Olivia Rodrigo, which is a pop star. And she loves Swig She’s been to Utah many times and she posted about us and then 30 Soda went viral on TikTok and everybody was trying to make dirty sodas at home with cream and lime and and it really was this cool sensation that, of course I didn’t plan for but had prepped for and protecting my brand by trademarking the term dirty. So when people started seeing dirty sodas virally on all this social media, they look to Swig to see how do you make a dirty soda? So I didn’t know that was gonna happen. But I protected the brand and trademarked a term that I felt like meant something to us. And yeah, so we are the OG of the dirty soda.

Chad Franzen 14:24

Very nice. So are all of these different flavors? Are they all customer ideas? Or are they like your ideas? Stab ideas?

Nicole Tanner 14:32

Yeah, they’re both. So a lot of our team members, they are the mixologist behind the scenes, they are creating the magic as well. So we ask for ideas and we come up with come up with new specialty drinks like two or three in each category. So refreshers is our sparkling water, our energy drinks are revived errs and then our sodas and so we come up with about two to three seasonal drinks per for each category. So the team members will come up Put the drinks and we’ll try them. And we love them. We’ll put them up on the menu, or we are behind the scenes making up drinks and putting them on. But it’s a collaboration for sure.

Chad Franzen 15:09

How many people have to say yes, I have to say, give it a thumbs up.

Nicole Tanner 15:13

I mean, we have the team, try it, taste it, we give a few customers a taste. What do you think? And then there’s just like three or four of us that go? Yeah, you know, this is an amazing drink. Let’s put it on. So yeah, and it’s on there for just like, you know, three to four months. And so sometimes they’re huge hit, and they last. So for example, we came up with our own version of a Starbucks pink drink. About three years ago, we call it a strawberry breeze. And that was mainly just to like, let’s see if this will work. It’s a refresher. It’s water, strawberry puree, sugar, free coconut, vanilla syrup, frozen strawberries, coconut cream. So good. Um, but it went bananas. And it’s a top three drink now. So it’s on our menu all year round. So that’s how it kind of works. They’ll bring one out. There’s one called the naughty and nice. That’s for Christmas. Yeah, and it’s Dr. Pepper with English toffee and half and a half. And so that one is popular too. But it’s still seasonal. You can get your rounds of fight on our secret menu once we pull off that seasonal menu board. But um, yeah, it’s just kind of like, we want it to be fun. We want it to be always kind of current, we’re trying new things, making it fresh, so that we’re not just the same drinks every single time.

Chad Franzen 16:29

Have you have you or your staff developed kind of like, you kind of have a feel for what flavors would go well with what, you know, soda pop or something like that. Oh, go ahead. Sorry.

Nicole Tanner 16:41

No, I was gonna say there’s there’s some drinks that mix really well with certain flavors. Yeah, like like Sprite and Mountain Dew. They mix really well with like the fruity flavors. And whereas like the Dr. Pepper is more of like a creamy tone. Like we have one called the Texas Tab, which is Dr. Pepper with vanilla syrup and coconut cream. So it’s more of that creamy type of a

Chad Franzen 17:03

tongue. Yeah, sounds good. Um, I guess there’s it’s more of a process than I than I expected. Can you give me a memorable combination of ingredients? That didn’t make the cut?

Nicole Tanner 17:14

Yeah, I mean, I was I probably go back to maybe the chocolate syrup. Right? The we tried that with. We had a coffee syrup at one time. We have one that was Dr. Pepper basis, we called it the wake up call. And so it was Dr. Pepper with coffee syrup. And I think we put either vanilla cream or half and half in it. It just didn’t quite sell. And so we just stopped offering it. So yeah, sometimes and you just never know, you just you got to put it out there. And some people really love it. And then some people are like, Oh, now it doesn’t work. So we are never stuck and married to an idea, Swig, if it’s not benefiting us, or our customers don’t love it, we’re not going to do it. We started out at Swig, selling shaved ice. We did it for five years. And it was just a paint and make these big blocks of ice. We weren’t great at it. The surf was all over and slow down our line, which took away from the core of who we were. Because it’s a process to make those. So we got rid of it. But it took us five years to make sure that okay, that’s who we are. It’s not okay, let’s go a different route. Let’s get rid of it.

Chad Franzen 18:24

So I asked you about your first location. Now you have 50. Can you kind of take me through that? What it’s been about 13 years to kind of the expansion process? How are you guys grown?

Nicole Tanner 18:34

Yeah, it’s been an amazing journey. It was the first three years there’s just one store, because we’re just trying to see, I mean that we really created a market that didn’t exist before as far as just drinks, fountain drinks in particular, and then just to treat like cookies or pretzels. And so we the first three years Well, the first two years is like, Okay, this is actually working. So then we found our third location, just a mile away from the first location exactly a mile in St. George, where we started. We opened up the second location in March of 2013. And we got some news publicity from a new station that parents Salt Lake City that said that we were the top place to hit for spring break. So we became like the top spring bite destination and it kind of blew us out of the water to where everybody that was coming from northern Utah down to St. George or anybody traveling through from like California, you know, Arizona, everybody wanted to stop and check out this sweet place. And so that really skyrocketed. So we brought out some minority partners at that point so we could scale so I could step away from the stores and really help scale to northern Utah. So we scaled from 2013 to 2017. From two stores to 17 stores. And that was a lot of back and forth. Again, I’m a mom of five and You know, kids with all their things going on, I’m trying to balance that, but then open up locations that were four to five hours away from where I lived. But it was still great. We’re still building this brand of, you know, great drinks, great customer service, we were building a customer base and a huge following. We’re building the menu out, we’re just trying different things. But I knew that we needed some restaurant help, because I could see that we’re moving into this space, that couldn’t be so kind of mob copy, that we needed to have more structure more systems that could really help us scale, because we were scaling, but not at a very smart way of doing it. Like we weren’t giving our stores in northern Utah, the support that they really needed. And so which meant our customers weren’t really getting what they this way experience. And so, and there were there were competitors out there already, there was several by the by the year 2017, there was probably like 20 ish, so we thought we needed to franchise, but it scared me because of franchising can take your brand down if you’re not ready for it. And so we started the legal process of it and got about 90% of that way of that done, and then just really did not feel good about it. I knew I didn’t have the training in place or the systems or structure. I didn’t want to just go land grab because I couldn’t start handing out franchises. And then worry that those franchisees were going to do well knowing I hadn’t given them the right fracture. So I put a hard pause on it. For a good year, I kept praying for the right partners to come around with that restaurant experience to help us to scale. And I got introduced to Andrew and Shawna Smith at poor foods group, which is now savory food group and so they I met with them and I said would you franchise and he’s like, you’re not ready, you are not ready to franchise, but I would love to help you get you ready and help you scale. So they bought out our existing partners and but majority, just open majority of Swenk. And then we started scaling rapidly. And we went back to refining we changed the logo, we refined redefined the brands, the inside the structure, the systems, the training, and then about a year and a half later, we started hitting the guest and we went from 2018 2019 think it was January 2019. We opened our magazine store. And now 2023. So what is that four years later, we are at 50. So we’ve grown tremendously in those four years, five years. And they have brought on so much experience. They they took off, they took on the heavy lifting on the partners, they took on payroll, HR, marketing, site development, site maintenance operations, like it was really great because they’ve been doing it for a while. This is what they do they buy emerging brands buy into them, and then help these restaurant brands scale. So,

Chad Franzen 23:09

so more than 30 more than 30 of your locations are franchises.

Nicole Tanner 23:14

No, they’re all still corporate. Corporate. So we sorry, so we didn’t franchise. We we stopped and we just group corporately. Yeah, so they’re all corporate owns. We did just turn on franchising. And we haven’t opened it yet, but we just turned that on three months ago. Okay, we’ve got over 200 We have over 200 signs already, though.

Chad Franzen 23:35

So awesome. Wow. That’s incredible.

Nicole Tanner 23:38

So you got to go that route.

Chad Franzen 23:40

So you’re so you’re kind of just moving in that direction right now. I mean, very strongly in that direction. But you’re just starting.

Nicole Tanner 23:48

Yeah. Would you still open corporate stores? Because they established a real firm base of who we are. And then we’ll do franchise stores too. So okay, I anticipate in the next three years, I think we’ll have close to probably three to 400 locations. Wow, that sounds crazy. Sounds crazy. But

Chad Franzen 24:09

What do you look for in a franchisee? Or what will you want?

Nicole Tanner 24:13

Yeah, yeah, we’re already we’ve already signed with a bunch of them. So we look for somebody who has some experience in franchising is super helpful, because they know that worlds They especially like the the food service industry, that fast casual, so we look for somebody who might have some of that experience. It’s not necessary. We want somebody who, who’s going to have the care like we care that are going to go in and and aren’t afraid to get dirty and get in there to you know, take some orders and do some dishes and that’s where you’ll find me by the way, that is where I like to be is on that line talking to our team, finding out, you know, great leaders to where who maybe wants to go open an area talking to our customers making sure that they are still feeling connected and taken care of. So that’s what I would love to see from franchisees is, do they treat our team and our customers? Like I would treat them? And are they going to, you know, be boots on the ground hands getting dirty, like, like I would, and that’s how you know, your your stores will be taken care of.

Chad Franzen 25:23

So let’s say you’ve got somebody who fits all that criteria, what makes Swig a good opportunity for a potential franchisee like that? 

Nicole Tanner 25:31

Yeah, I mean, here’s the thing, it’s a simple model, right? And you don’t need a huge blueprint, you don’t need a big building is you’re not flipping burgers, you’re not you know, don’t have grease, you don’t have a lot of waste. Because of that. It is very simple. So your margins are good. And, and it’s, it’s a drive thru. So again, you can squeeze a lot of people through, in and out quickly. So the sales are good. So the margins are good, the sales are good. And it’s it’s more than that, too. It’s about how people feel. And that drive thru line is the best part of their day. So and then we also get back to every community, we have a bunch of different things like that initiatives that we give back. One is breast cancer awareness. I’m a breast cancer survivor. And we get back to a thing that we call save the cups. And so we’re willing to be a part of that community. So from the brand level, it’s a very solid brand, to where people are really starting to learn about it and want a Swig in their community. And and then again, the margins are good, the cells are good. So it’s really the perfect combo.

Chad Franzen 26:46

Yeah. Awesome. So it’s been quite quite a journey. I mean, considering you were just interested in improving the drive thru experience and you liked Diet Coke, what what are you most proud of? Regarding your journey with Swig so far?

Nicole Tanner 27:00

Oh, goodness, so many things. And it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. But I love that we are providing opportunity for people. We have team members that start at the age of 16. It’s their first job. And before they know what they are managers, and then regional managers and then area directors. So we are providing careers for so many people, women as in particular we are 85% women lead, which is really cool. It’s not intentional, it just has organically happen that way. So we are giving people and in particular women purpose and a career. I have we did our big Christmas party in December and I had several women come up to me in tears. Some of them are single moms, some of them are, you know, college students that just never really thought they would be able to do anything like this. And they just said you don’t know what this job has done. For me it has given me my purpose back. And to be able to, to have a business that can give that to people is incredible. And then at the franchisee part of it, where they can actually buy into Swig and have it be their business is like the next level. And then you give you do the entrepreneurial side or that the lab trophy side of it. Where we what we do for our safety cuts is we pay for the medical bills of women fighting breast cancer. So then add that to it. So I’m so proud of our save the cups like that is a very surreal aha moment for me, because that’s what was down for me before I started Swig. So that part of it is very touching. But then just to see the people that their lives are changing because of this, this opportunity to work for, again, a company that I just hoped one location would work. We had 12 employees when we started, you know, I mean it literally is really so cool to see the opportunity is provided for people to have a fulfilling amazing job.

Chad Franzen 29:05

Yeah, absolutely. sounds incredible. Hey, I have one more question for you. But first, tell me how people can find out more information about Swig either as a customer or potential franchisee or information seeker.

Nicole Tanner 29:17

Yeah, so just is where you’ll find us, you know, on all the social media platforms, that yourself we also have our web pages just sweet That’s how you’ll find this. Yeah, there we are on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, tik, Tok, Twitter, all the things. But in franchising, they just go to our website, and you can submit an application on there. It’s pretty easy.

Chad Franzen 29:49

And you have locations in multiple states, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma.

Nicole Tanner 29:53

Yep, Idaho, Arizona. Yep. many more to come. Texas is going to see a lot of sway And it just fits who we are. They’re, you know, more of a hot climate. It’s a large state with a lot of people. And they like their big drinks. So they they are Yeah, so we’ll put our 50th store rocks will be our sixth location in Dallas that we open here in the next week or so. So that’d be pretty cool. Another thing I’m super proud of that just happened to that a lot of people don’t know about, but I want to make sure I get in there is as far as like, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, so when you open a business, you are really just grinding it out, right. And everything that you make, basically just rolls back into the next location that you’re opening, like you’re just putting in and waiting for kind of that that big day of like, Ah, okay, I’m finally being rewarded for, you know, all this hard work and be able to take some chips off the table. So we got to a certain point where we were about 40 locations, and we knew that we were at a tipping point of like, Alright, who wants to come in and partner with us again, and really take us to that next level of franchising, and whatever that looks like. So we met with several big companies, and to see if they would be interested and private equity companies and they just didn’t quite understand swing, they didn’t quite understand the concept weren’t really quite buying into it to give us the value that we wanted. And then we found a company here in Utah, Larry H. Miller, who owns the jazz for a while. And Larry Miller has passed with his wife, Gail now runs the company. And so they came in last summer. And we’re very interested, they know the brand, they live here in Utah, they love it, they see the vision they see can go everywhere. And so they came in and bought a large majority, just in November that finalized. And to partner with Gail and her team, again, a female founded or female brand business, and their values, it just has fit so perfectly with who we are at Swig, and what our visions are together. It’s the perfect scenario. And from my point of view, to be able to see somebody that values this, this business like I do is huge. And who was it then take a few chips off the table and take kind of a sigh of relief and Okay, here we go. Let’s keep going. So that was a big part of the journey is that that was a huge partnership for us.

Chad Franzen 32:26

Sure. Absolutely. That’s, that’s great. Hey, last question for you What’s, um, what is your favorite item, or what’s kind of your go to item of choice at Swig?

Nicole Tanner 32:37

You know, it’s silly, I get the same drink every day, I could get a different drink every day if I wanted to. But I love my drink. So it’s called the founder, I don’t need a drink named after me. But when we started our first date, the cups, we created the founder, which is my drink, so that anybody that comes through in the month of October and buys the founder, we donate $1 To save the cup. So it’s called the founder. It is Diet Coke, of course, sugar free coconut, fresh lime and coconut cream. And I get that every single day. And it’s a top five drink in the company. Like it’s a really good drink. So I get that every day. I’ve tried all the drinks. They’re all really good. But I drink that I drink lots of water too. But my drink is a founder.

Chad Franzen 33:22

Were you integral in coming up with the ingredients in the founder? 

Nicole Tanner 33:27

Oh, yeah, that’s it was my drink. So I would get just coconut in my diet coke everyday. And as a lot of that was just my drink. And I love anything with coconut coconut is my jam. And I know they knew everybody you would have asked people before the founder came to be the drink. What is Nicole get? And they would tell you Oh, it’s a Diet Coke with coconut and lime. And then I started adding coconut cream. And so now it’s it’s the founder.

Chad Franzen 33:51

Right. Nicole, it’s been great to talk to you. Your story with Swig is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. And I really, really appreciate your time today. Thank you very much.

Nicole Tanner 34:00

Thank you so much for having me. Have a great day. 

Chad Franzen 34:03

So long everybody. 

Outro 34:04

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