Starting Fresh and Doing Something Together

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melesa mikeA number of years ago, Melesa Williams saw Coffee News® and was interested, but didn’t think too far into the idea. When she and Mike Thill wanted to start a business together, they researched franchises. “But nothing quite fit,” Melesa says. “Then we happened to be in a restaurant one day. I saw Coffee News® and picked it up. We got home and set it on our dining room table. I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is it!’ We found out the Coffee News® College was in one week.” So they packed their bags and traveled from Chicago to Bangor.

On April 9, 2016, Melesa and Mike published their first issues of Coffee News® Chicagoland, one serving St. Charles and the other in Geneva, both in the western suburbs. Fresh weekly issues of Coffee News® can now be found in locations throughout St. Charles and Geneva, Illinois.

They’ve wanted to be in business together ever since they met. “We were both tired of working for companies,” says Mike, who has been employed by everything from Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop shops. “I’ve got 25 or 30 years’ experience, not only running my own business selling computer hardware and software but since the early 1990s, selling and consulting for different businesses. So stepping into all these businesses to sell Coffee News® is second nature for me.”

Early this year, they investigated franchises, as Mike had done once before, “when I was looking for something to add on to my business.” Deciding on Coffee News® was easy. “The price was certainly an attractive feature. Other franchises cost $50,000 to $100,000 just to set up and would take four or five years to get your money back. I did the numbers right away,” says Mike, who is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). “With Coffee News®, we could make our money back in a few months.”

In dramatic contrast to Mike’s background, Melesa sold headstones for 13 years. “This is quite a bit different,” she says. She also has done event planning, “So I was used to working with people. Back in the day, I always wanted to do some kind of newsletter.” She’d kept selling headstones, “but it just didn’t feel right. Nothing about it felt right. We just continued to talk about this and it seemed like a perfect fit, how we can help people promote their businesses.”

Melesa is enjoying the networking aspect of being a franchisee. “It’s been very exciting, and a lot of hard work—joining the Chamber of Commerce, going to events, and things like that.”

By their fourth week of publishing, they had 20 advertisers. Right now, they’re putting advertisers in both editions and will work out the split later. “Some of our early people we’ll keep in for a while because they were the first ones to jump on,” says Mike. “The idea is to get the two papers set up as quickly as possible, and start to get into that $35 to $40 advertising range.” Then they’ll talk about adding editions. “I’d already planned from the beginning to work that whole corridor, north, and south.

In late March, the Chamber of Commerce sent an email blast to 1500 companies. “That generated our first three orders, right out of the gate, and all three knew each other,” Mike says. By their fourth week, everybody was excited about getting in. “If I don’t get three or four orders a week, I’m ticked. But that’s just me.”

One day soon after the email blast, they were walking door to door in a building that had a large sign over three doors. Mike swung open the door and said, “Hello, LA Tan people!” But it was a Fred Astaire Dance Studio. Everyone was shocked because they weren’t LA Tan. But the owner said someone had given her a recommendation and she was just getting ready to call them. “Stuff like that happens to me all the time,” Mike says, “like ‘I was just getting ready to call you.’ It comes down to doing the hard work, and grinding it out with the phone calls, and seeing people. And eventually, things just fall into alignment.”

Melesa and Mike enjoy walking into businesses wearing Coffee News® hats, or carrying the papers and having people say they’ve seen Coffee News® all over the place. Mike says, “It’s been kind of neat to have a product that will generate that kind of excitement.”


Coffee News® Takes Their Story to Capitol Hill

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Left to Right: Bill Buckley, Senator Collins, John Buckley

Left to Right: Bill Buckley, Senator Collins, John Buckley

Coffee News® took its message to Capitol Hill as part of the International Franchise Association’s Franchise Action Network Conference back in September. The three-day Conference brought several franchise brands from around the world to Washington DC to meet with their respective delegations to educate government leaders on the potential effects of recent legislation on the franchise industry as a whole. Bill Buckley, President and CEO of Coffee News®, along with John Buckley, SVP of Franchise Development for Coffee News® both attended the Conference and met with their delegation during the three-day event.

One change involves overtime pay. Under this change, overtime pay must be paid to any staff member that does not earn at least $47,476/year or about twice the current salary level of $23,660/year. The impact of this change will require that any supervisor making less than $47,476 would essentially need to be demoted back to an hourly pay rate thereby discouraging entry-level supervisors from being promoted up the chain in a timely fashion. As a result, businesses open for longer than 40 hours would need to hire additional supervisory staff to cover staffing needs, thus increasing costs of employing additional supervisory staff or pay time and a half for all hours worked over 40 hours in a week. Businesses such as convenience stores and food establishments would either need to cut back on their hours of service and/or increase prices to their existing customers in order to comply with this change. Higher costs, less service. In addition, goods and services may need to be produced outside of the U.S. where they are not subject to our laws. When this change was introduced in New Zealand and Australia two years ago, lower-wage companies were forced to close, consolidate or automate. The result: Less service and job opportunities for those on the edge of the labor force.

The other change called the Joint Employer Ruling states that if a franchisee violates the labor law in hiring or employment, the Franchisor could be held liable and incur penalties as a result since it would be concluded that the Franchisor had indirect or potential control over those employees. The Joint Employer Ruling essentially impacts the franchise business model as a whole since the Franchisor would indirectly be recognized as an employer of its franchisees, as a result.

Meetings with Senator Susan Collins along with Representative Bruce Poliquin were positive and sympathetic to the legislation and its effects on jobs and franchising as a whole. Senator Angus King and Representative Chellie Pingree were unavailable, but meetings conducted with staffers were well received.


How Mopping a Floor Changed My Life

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Pictured with Rick is Justin Dalton, Owner of ProTex LLC. An electronic and protection company. ProTex has been a long term customer of Coffee News. Rick says, “It been amazing watching his business grow “.

Pictured with Rick is Justin Dalton, Owner of ProTex LLC. An electronic and protection company. ProTex has been a long-term customer of Coffee News®. Rick says, “It been amazing watching his business grow”.

Rick Anderson, Fairmont and Morgantown, West Virginia

After spending 30 years in the restaurant industry—including various chains like Shoney’s, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken—I decided it was time for me to leave the corporate world and open my own restaurant in Durham, N.C. I’d started my career as a breakfast cook, and my last position had been Director of Operations. So I thought having my own business would be a piece of cake. Little did I know what was ahead of me: The Great Recession.

I would travel weekly from West Virginia to North Carolina to work in my restaurant, which I operated for two years. At night, I kept busy cleaning and organizing, and wondering how the recession would affect my business. One night I was mopping the floor and I noticed this brown paper, in an upright stand, called Coffee News®. I picked one up and started reading it, and looked at all the ads. I thought, “Wow, this Coffee News® is cool. It’s a fun read.” The Horoscopes were right on, and the Trivia was fun. I put it back and finished my work.

The next day, on my six-hour drive back to West Virginia, I couldn’t get that little paper out of my mind. So I called the phone number and talked with the franchisee. Then when I got home, I went to the website. After a few days, I called Bill Buckley, and even called a few other franchise locations. I got nothing but positive feedback. I decided to it was time to quit my 60-hour work weeks and get entirely out of the restaurant business.

I bought my first Coffee News® franchise in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 2009. Starting out was scary but fun. I’m a cold-calling type of guy. I believe in STP—See The People—and grinding to get the sale. I do believe in networking and social media, which I do as well. But the greatest feeling is walking into a business, talking about what Coffee News® can do for them, and walking out with a nice check.

When starting out, the other side of the coin is setting up the distribution locations, which I find the most important step in starting your franchise. I continue to look for more locations and tweak some of my slower ones.

In April 2015, I started my second franchise location in Fairmont, W.Va. No matter what, it beats mopping floors and working 60-hour weeks.

Here are some points I think have been keys to my success:

  • Sell from the heart, and believe in what you sell. You have a product that every business needs.
  • Have fun and be positive every day.
  • Set monthly and yearly sales projections.
  • Take time to visit your advertisers after the sale. When I’m out prospecting, one of the things I always say is, “I’m not here to just sell you an ad. I’m here to help your business grow.”
  • Accept the word “No.” I think I learned more from the times when I didn’t get the sale. Failure fuels success. It helped me determine what I did wrong, and to improve by learning what I could do right on the next call. In some cases, I went back to visit a customer who’d said, “No,” and turned it into a “Yes” simply because some other types of advertising weren’t working for the customer. So they gave me a try.

Call to Action Ads

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call_to_actionI cringe every time a prospect or client tells me they want to say, “Mention this ad.” Nobody ever mentions an ad.  Well, I sure don’t, and I tell them that.  It’s actually insulting to savvy consumers to have to do the work of the business owner by helping them track their ads by making mention of it.

And coupons?  Same.  I just lost business because I wouldn’t do their coupon.  Businesses don’t actually want to give money away; they think a coupon or offer will help them track the ad.  If they want to track an ad, they can track their sales revenue, or better yet, have a conversation with their buyers that involve a question about what brought them in to their place of business.

The only problem with that is, consumers don’t even remember what motivated them.  Plus, a consumer will tell the business they saw them in “the paper” which is what Coffee News® is, a paper.  Right there we lose.  If a business advertises in the local daily paper and in the Coffee News® PAPER, and the consumer says “the paper,” the business will always automatically assume that means the daily paper.  Like a consumer is going to go into a business waving Coffee News and announce, “I saw your ad on the left hand column on the back side of Coffee News that I picked up on Tuesday at McDonald’s in Nashville.”

Everyone wants to do a coupon and I simply discourage him or her.  I ask them why they want to give money away when they are already spending money on the ad.  I tell them to start without the coupon/offer and run like that for a few weeks and see what happens.  Works every time!  No coupon, they get results and everybody’s happy!

These are some notes about coupons that I keep in my bag of tricks and refer back to for polite verbiage:

Can I ask what your motivation in extending an offer is?  If it’s for tracking-only purposes, I will strongly caution you against it.  Coffee News® is not a discount-type penny-saving publication.  An “offer” is ok if you really want to give something away and it’s a proven fact that a discount doesn’t reach a noticeable effect until it reaches 40%.   Anything less than that will not move people to buy, it will bring in only coupon-cutters that will shop only if and when there is an offer.  They will just wait for the next offer and will not help grow your regular business.  You will also alienate your potential regular buyers, causing them to think you are a cut-rate business, when you aren’t that at all.

A lot of people want to run coupons in Coffee News® for tracking purposes, but it’s not necessary.

clip-free-couponHave you ever heard of “couponitis?”  It’s the inability of a business to attract customers without coupons.  I try to protect my clients from this awful disease!  “Offers” attract our “C” buyers – those bargain hunters who will only buy on “deep” discounts, and whose loyalty to any store is entirely dependent on what everyone else is offering.  The more coupons/discount sale ads that are used, the more these buyers will expect to wait for coupons before buying.  Coupons do not appeal to the types of buyers who buy at retail, and may actually scare them away thinking the business offers poor quality merchandise, which isn’t worth the retail price.

All that being said, I do actually have 3 businesses running coupons.  One has been in for probably 13 or 14 years and the business is a massage school that offers a 1-hour student massage for only $25.  That’s quite a deal!  Another is an eye doctor that has been with me maybe 6 years and runs a coupon for 50% off an eye exam.  Another great deal.  The third is a discount, dent & bent grocery store that runs $5 off $30.  Not great, but for shoppers already wanting a deal on groceries, it’s another $5.  So, I’d say use judgment.  5% off a rubber stamp at a scrapbook store 3 miles off the beaten path would not fly with me.  That was one I turned down several years ago.

But as it reads above, a coupon doesn’t become effective until it reaches a 40% discount.

The coupons I run also have a short fuse when it comes to expiration dates.  The eye doctor gets about 30 days, but the other 2 are only 2 weeks.   Typically, I set coupons like these to expire in 2 weeks and then we just change the date each week.  If a consumer is going to use a coupon, a shorter expiration will help create urgency.  A longer expiration date will encourage people to take more than one copy from the stands.

We make a commitment to every advertiser to make sure we keep our rates low and monitor our distribution.  Once distribution grows, the rates will also have to grow.  I have found a great balance between our rates and distribution, and that’s how we are able to keep the spaces full for a long time.



Lisa Shaw,

Learn more about Lisa’s Coffee News® journey!

Is Print Media Really Dead?

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Merriam-Webster defines print as “a mark made by pressure:  impression

print_not_deadWhen we hear about print media, we typically think about newspapers, magazines and the like, but print media really encompasses a broad range of things. Signage of any kind can appear on the front of a building, on billboards, or on public transportation. There’s also political signage, direct mail, banners, business cards, brochures and even signs to sell your house or car. The list goes on and on.

With the emergence of digital and online media today, there is a perception that anything in the printed form will eventually become obsolete.

This perception has primarily been perpetuated by the fact that traditional hard news dailies were sold on this notion of becoming obsolete and jumped on the bandwagon, in part out of fear, but also in hopes that they could better serve and reach more readers. Transforming their business model, however, had an unanticipated downside. The significant loss in subscription revenue was due to the fact that readers no longer had a need to purchase a subscription as they could get it free online. The trickle-down effect of this revenue loss made it hard for them to pay their staff of writers and cover the large overhead. Some newspapers today have realized this and, in an attempt to recover, are trying to reverse this trend by offering online subscriptions. This will take time, however, to “re-sell” readers on the value since it has already been provided to them free of charge for so long.

When we consider print as an advertising medium, we have to consider everything that falls under this umbrella and understand how they each differ and how we interact with it.

Business cards remain critical in our everyday lives since we never know when we will meet someone who may have a product or service we need.

Signage, whether it be on the front of a building, billboard or on public transportation, lets the public know your brand and what you do or to convey a particular message, such as directing people to your website, who they should consider in the upcoming election or, perhaps just to let folks driving by that your house is for sale.

The emergence of radio and TV back in the day had little effect on the print media industry. Digital has simply become an additional medium to add to the mix much like radio and news reader

All advertising works whether it be radio, television, print, online and more. The smart business person spreads their advertising dollars around to effectively brand their business since they cannot reach everyone online, or on radio, or in the daily newspaper. Each medium has its benefits and targets different segments of the population.

Coffee News® is a niche publication targeting customers close by who have disposable income. This translates to a long-term, loyal customer for the local small and medium-sized businesses who advertise within it. Businesses want to be portrayed in a positive fashion, and Coffee News® provides them that perfect “buy-local” vehicle at an affordable price, and it lasts longer in the hands of potential customers. The only thing to distract them is the ads, no clicks or switch of a dial. Readers pick up Coffee News® because they enjoy it, not because they have to or are necessarily in search of something specific. They pick it up because it is fun and entertaining.


Coffee News® Profile – John and Linda Bando of Clearwater, Florida

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JohnBandoJohn Bando and his wife Linda had a plan.   They were going to begin a new life together in Florida after they met and fell in love. John had always been a self-employed entrepreneur and Linda, a nurse manager specializing in obstetrics and neonatal intensive care.

Both were thinking about career changes as they approached their “retirement” years and were looking for a business opportunity that would suit them as they entered their next chapter.

John recalled, “Coffee News was attractive because we wanted something that was affordable so we wouldn’t eat up all of our savings. We also wanted to do something fun and we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

He added, “I researched Coffee News carefully for a few months before we signed on. As hard as I tried, I could not find one negative comment about the business from a Coffee News publisher.”

They purchased two territories in the Clearwater, Florida area in June of 2014.   They were on their way to an exciting new chapter in their lives when John suffered a massive stroke. “The prognosis was not good. But I surprised my doctors. They called me the miracle guy,” John said.

Just one week after his stroke, John was in Bangor, Maine attending the “Coffee News College”, a training seminar for new franchise owners.   “I was still able to slowly build my Coffee News business while I recovered,” he said.

Not only did he build the business, but within a year he expanded to publishing 4 editions in the area.   Linda is now a working partner in their growing Coffee News business.

The Bandos enjoy meeting people and building up their area and advertisers.   John says they especially enjoy helping out non-profits who may not have the money to promote worthy causes.

He recalled meeting a young woman at a BNI (Business Networking International) meeting who was a cancer survivor.   She said there were no support groups for people her age battling the disease and she wanted to start one called “Spark the Way”.

Bando offered her an ad in Coffee News.   “I told her I wanted to help her spread the word but she said she couldn’t afford advertising.   We helped her out. We also helped a group promote a monthly square dance event. I get a lot of joy out of doing things like that,” he said.

Bando has also seen the important role Coffee News can play in helping a client or business build a brand. “We worked with a new consulting business that just wanted to start getting their name out to build their brand.   They didn’t expect to actually receive calls from potential customers but that happened too.”

Bando says their advertisers like Coffee News for a variety of reasons including the exclusivity and frequency. “We publish weekly.   Our competition publishes monthly.   Once those issues are gone – they’re gone and won’t be back in circulation for a month.”

For Bando and his wife one of the benefits of their Coffee News business is knowing that if the day comes when they really want to retire, they can sell their business.

“Knowing we can build it up and reap all the benefits of our hard work is a real advantage. We own this business – it is ours. Unlike some other franchise arrangements – our Coffee News business is not owned by the franchisor. ”Bando said.

In the meantime the Bandos plan to continue building their Coffee News business, doing what they can to give back to the community and staying healthy!

Bando offers these tips to be successful in the Coffee News business:

  1. You have to think of this as a full-time business. Be focused and realize that to be successful you have to give this your full attention.
  1. Distribution is key. Advertisers want to know how many people you are reaching.   Make sure you have enough distribution outlets to attract advertisers.   You will end up picking up advertisers just by being out there.
  1. Speaking of distribution – be sure to really check out your delivery people. Check references and perform background checks to insure they are the kind of people you can trust and who will best represent you.

The Community and Flexibility of Being a Franchisee

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JenClarkJen Kline Clark of Bucks County, Pennsylvania

For Jen Kline Clark “” are what she enjoys most about her Coffee News business.

Clark has been in the Coffee News business since 2012.   At that time she and her husband, Patrick had just completed the process of adopting their first baby.

After working in a highly demanding career that required her to travel extensively, Clark said, “We wanted to find something that would allow me to stay home with my son who we waited so long for and I wanted to be part of my community.”

Coffee News wasn’t even on their radar until Patrick met a Coffee News publisher at a baseball game who was selling his business.

Clark recalls, “Patrick came home and told me about this.   It was a perfect match for what I like to do and could provide us with a consistent income.”

Today Clark owns four Coffee News franchises and publishes three editions in Bucks County, Pennsylvania – just North of Philadelphia.

Eighteen months ago Jen and Patrick welcomed a baby girl to their family of three!

“I’m very happy doing what I do.   I love the flexibility of this business as a parent. I was actually doing layouts for an edition while in the hospital when I had my daughter. ” Clark said.

In addition to the flexibility that Coffee News affords her family, Clark enjoys the connections she has made in her community as a result of her business. “I think of my Coffee News business as a way to help small businesses in my community get the word out about their business.”

Building community is what Clark is all about.   When talking about what it takes to be successful in the Coffee News business she stresses the importance of networking and bringing people together.

“You have to network the heck out of this business. In my first year my goal was to attend three new networking events a week.   That really helped to build my business and my networks. I know so many people now,” says Clark.

She adds that over time she has built a Coffee News family and even plans events to bring people together.   “It’s a great way to network and have fun. People really feel like they are part of something.”

Although Clark has a strong base of long term advertisers, some of whom have been with her since the beginning. She stresses that, “To be successful in this business you have to constantly be generating new business and bringing in new advertisers.”

For Clark, bartering has been a great way to introduce the benefits of Coffee News to businesses. She cites an example of losing their furnace after Hurricane Sandy and bartering Coffee News ads to buy a new one.

“My businesses like to advertise in Coffee News because of the affordability and exclusivity.   They like the one page easy-to-read format and I make changes to their ads at no extra cost to them.”

Clark stressed that although there is a lot of flexibility in this business – it is a full-time job.

She says, “There are a lot of moving parts and pieces including taking care of your advertisers and cultivating new ones. There is publishing and distribution and the day to day tasks of managing a business.”

“I do love it. Coffee News has been a great thing for this period in our lives,” she added.

Clark offers these tips to be successful in the Coffee News business:

  1. Have enough working capital to cover your expenses in the beginning while you’re building your business.
  2. Hire a bookkeeper and have a good CRM (customer relationship management) program to keep you organized!
  3. Get out there and NETWORK!   Build your connections and your community.