Why One Couple Left Corporate America To Run A 160-Year-Old Oar Manufacturing Business

Courtesy of Forbes. By Bob House

In 2004, after a lengthy stay in corporate America, Steve Holt, an engineer, and his wife Nancy Forster-Holt, a former CFO, purchased a marine equipment business. They had met as MBA students fourteen years before. Their journey led them to a small business called Shaw & Tenney, which was founded in the small town of Orono, Maine in 1858. It’s the second oldest marine equipment manufacturer in the United States.

For the past 160 years, Shaw & Tenney has crafted oars, paddles, masts, flagpoles and other goods using much of its original machinery from 1858. Today, you can spot its products in the film Lincoln and in the gondolas at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Given its deep, niche history, it makes sense that its previous owner kept the business on the market for years, vetting potential buyers and turning them away when he realized they weren’t perfect fits. So how did the Holts – he a logistics specialist, and she an academic and former finance executive, turn out to be the perfect buyers?

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