This Beverage Entrepreneur's Mentor Pushed Her to Pivot, and Now Her Business Is Ready to Bloom
Candice Crane watched a video of Steaz tea founder Eric Schnell giving a talk and knew he could help her grow her business. She reached out, and now he's one of her partners.
In the Women Entrepreneur series Mentor Moments, female founders sit down to chat with their own mentors (and us!) about how and why the relationship developed, and the lasting impact it’s had on their careers.
Candice Crane knew she needed a mentor. But she did not expect to find one on the internet.
The first-time entrepreneur wanted to build a drink company built around rose water, and while her family has a history of business ownership, the beverage industry was foreign to her. When her husband stumbled upon a video of a talk by Eric Schnell, founder of tea-based beverage company Steaz, Crane knew she had to meet the industry vet. She wasted no time, and a close business partnership -- and friendship -- formed.
In June 2018, Crane launched Petal, a sparkling botanical beverage brand that currently offers three flavors, with plans to launch a new collection of flavors in January. Here, she and Schnell sound off on building the next big thing in beverage, and supporting women in business along the way.
Candice, how did you first meet Eric?
Crane: I actually found him on YouTube! Well, my husband did. He couldn’t sleep one night and he found a video of Eric giving a talk at the BevNET conference, focused on young entrepreneurs in their first year of business. It felt like he was speaking directly to us. I reached out the next morning.
What about the video really captured you?
Crane: He was talking about the challenges of finding the right partners, from manufacturers and suppliers to distributors. We just really related. And Eric, with his wife Marci Zaroff, has created Beyond Brands, which helps young entrepreneurs in their first year of business. So I filled out the online inquiry form and we set up a meeting.
Schnell: Since I exited the Steaz brand, my whole career has become about finding entrepreneurs that we can add value to. And Beyond Brands is a majority women-owned company, so women-focused brands is a big initiative for us. The stars really aligned when I met Candice, and we saw the opportunity and realized that we could lean in and add even more value.
So formally, how does this partnership work?
Schnell: One half our our model is client relationship -- formulation work, branding, design. We provide those services. The other half is an incubator model, where we have an equity stake and really work as partners with the founders. We’re opening up our networks and bringing brands to market, safer, faster, smarter than if Candice was doing it on her own. I’ve made every mistake there is, so we can help her avoid those.
Candice, is this your first business?
Crane: It is. My dad had a family business, so he was entrepreneurial and instrumental in helping me set up plans for this business. But I realized that I needed someone in the beverage space, a veteran mentor to guide me through this niche.
In what ways has Eric done that?
Crane: When we started, I was very focused on the rose. But Eric opened my mind to becoming an all-botanicals beverage company rather than just focusing on one.
Schnell: It’s always a balance when you mentor someone -- you don’t want to stomp on their dreams but you also want to give them solid advice. When I met Candice, the company was called Rebel Rose. And I knew that the opportunity to come to market with a botanical or floral brand is so much bigger than just rose. So how do I tactfully encourage her to think outside the box and change the name? Petal lets us honor all the other amazing flowers we can source from around the world. And now, if we want to eventually put this brand in a strategic portfolio like a Coke or Pepsi, we have a platform.
Candice, was that hard feedback to hear? Was it difficult to decide to change the name?
Crane: It’s always hard to make a pivot like that, but it was also really encouraging to have someone with so much experience as a sounding board. It made the pivot feel like a more secure strategy.
Business aside, how has your personal relationship developed over the past year?
Schnell: I can kick that off. I really started to feel a kinship with Candice’s dad -- we’re very aligned. I’d actually be friends with him. And I see Candice as a kind of younger sister. We’ve spent personal time together outside of this business, and that’s the most rewarding thing about business relationships: when they become personal relationships.
Crane: On our end, we just love everything that Eric and Marci stand for, creating this consciousness for brands and doing better and making better products. I’m a millennial mom with two young kids, so it’s nice to have them as inspiration.
As a female founder, were you aware that mentoring women was a focus of Beyond Brands, or was that a pleasant surprise?
Crane: It was such a nice surprise, and it’s been really empowering. I’m so lucky to live in this day and age where I have two kids at home and I’m able to start a startup. Our company is mobile, we’re all over the place, we can check in. That feeling is all contagious -- I’ve been inspired by other women and I hope to inspire others, and I hope to inspire my girls! They’re 6 and 3 and love to pretend they’re making new Petal flavors in the bathtub. It’s the best adventure. It’s tedious and hard and confusing, but we love it.