2020 Rhode Island Jeffrey Butland Family-owned Small Business of the Year
Taylor Box Company
The year is 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrives in New York harbor, Dr. Pepper is served for the first time, and Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is published. In Providence, Rhode Island, Clarence Taylor opens a small factory to produce fancy boxes for retail stores, and he names it: Taylor Box & Card Company. While much from that era has faded, 135 years later, with its fourth generation of family leadership now in place, Taylor Box continues to evolve and thrive.
Today, Taylor Box Company is a leading design-manufacturer in the premium and luxury paperboard packaging industry. It has a national customer base that features numerous leading brands spanning multiple business categories which has earned them the title of 2020 Rhode Island Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year.
The company provides design services from ideation through final prototyping and manufacturing, fulfillment and logistics. However, Taylor Box was not always the cutting edge “Best in Show” award-winning design/engineering production studio it has become. It began modestly, a handful of box makers in a one room rented space where the Dunkin Donuts Center now sits. Howard Scholes purchased the company just after World War I and was the first of now four generations to manage the company.
The company relocated from Providence to their current location in Warren in 1952. In 1980, with the retirement of his father, Dan Shedd took over as the third-generation president and began implementing his vision of modernizing the company.
First, Shedd refocused sales efforts on the high value-added segments, which meant expanding their investment in design and engineering services. This resulted in a doubling of their business, which in turn, required expanding their operational capacity. This required investing in modernizing each point of Taylor Box’s operation from design to manufacturing and introducing emerging computer technology. The design studio went from pencil, protractor and cutting mat to state-of-the-art CAD software while operational management went from back of an envelope doodles to comprehensive ERP systems.
The Taylor Box design and engineering studio has received national recognition, including being named “Best in Show” from the Paperboard Packaging Council and National Paperbox Association, and being awarded the Benjamin Franklin Award for “Best in Category” from the Printing Industries of America, and numerous other awards. While modernization has been the focus, it is the results of the modernization that are unquestionable; from 2009 to 2018, Taylor Box saw a sales increase of 371%.
“Dan is the quintessential small business owner,” said Melissa Travis, President of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs, and Dan’s award nominator. “Dan is not afraid of hard work, never backs down from a challenge and won’t let anything stand in the way of success -it’s a great lesson for all of us,” added Travis.
Shedd continues to grow his business expertise by leveraging the resources that are available to him including getting assistance from the SBA and its resource partners the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and the Center for Women & Enterprise. “Rhode Island is blessed with a really active and engaged SBA leadership. Programs like the Center for Women and Enterprise have been invaluable to us as I bring my daughter, Marken, our 4th generation, into the business. The importance of having an SBA that is always reaching out to small business to listen to our concerns and then crafting ways to support us is critical to our success,” said Shedd.
When COVID-19 forced Taylor Box to halt operations, Shedd was able to secure a PPP loan from Bank RI. The funding allowed Taylor Box to keep its staff on payroll, negating any perspective layoffs and ensuring that the business could continue to operate.
Surely, Clarence Taylor could never have predicted the success the company he started in 1885 has had, but it is something Dan Shedd is looking to continue for the next 130 plus years. “First and most importantly, we never could have had this success without our amazing team; engaged, committed and hard working. It is said that what does not kill you makes you stronger, and that is certainly true in small business. I have learned from every challenge we faced over the past 40 plus years of my stewardship that resilience, enthusiasm, willingness to accept a measure of risk, partnerships and building engaged teams is at the core of our success. Family businesses have responsibilities that public companies wouldn’t begin to imagine and happily our family has been successful in meeting them.”