Who better to ask about what it takes to be successful in the Coffee News business than a publisher who has trained, coached and encouraged new Coffee News franchisees for the last eight years?
Ron Vellucci has been a Coffee News publisher for nearly twelve years in the St. Augustine, Florida area. Like many Coffee News publishers, Vellucci has a diverse background and interests.
He has worked in retail, in the newspaper business, in radio sales and promotions, and as the marketing director of a non-profit. He is also an accomplished artist, specializing in wood and metal relief sculptures. His work appears in several galleries.
So, how did Vellucci become a Coffee New publisher?
Vellucci was familiar with Coffee News when he worked in radio advertising sales in New Hampshire and a colleague of his was a Coffee News publisher.
It was on a cold day in February in 2002, when Vellucci’s wife, Donna suggested that Florida was a lot warmer than Maine and she would like to move there.
“We had a lovely home and a good life in Maine, but Donna really wanted to be someplace warmer. I figured a move to Florida was cheaper than a divorce, so off we went,” Vellucci jokingly said with a smile.
The couple settled into a new life in beautiful St. Augustine, Florida. “We had only been there for three days when I spotted a Coffee News in a pizza place. There were hardly any ads sold in that edition, so I called the publisher to find out what the story was,” Vellucci explained.
It turned out that the publisher had purchased that edition a year earlier and, due to health issues and wanting to spend more time playing golf, he wasn’t investing time in his Coffee News business.
In 2004, Vellucci, along with his wife Donna, became the new owners of that edition and acquired two Coffee News franchises. Vellucci refers to Donna, who also has a background in the newspaper business, as his Vice-President of Circulation.
Having limited time available during his start-up, due to having to deal with family health issues, Vellucci approached his business by focusing 80% of his efforts on building readership and 20% on sales. “Selling the ads is really all about meeting people, listening to their needs and concerns, and building trust and relationships. You really have to like people and want to help them,” he said.
Today, his editions are always about 90% full and he credits a lot of that to working closely with his advertisers. “I also enjoy putting together sample ads for a new business prospect. I will spec out an ad after researching their business and other advertising I have seen them do and they love it,” he said.
Reflecting on the history of his business, Vellucci talks about the challenges he faced during the recession. “Coffee News has historically been a restaurant publication. It’s a paper that people pick up and read while waiting for their meals to arrive. When we started out, we focused our distribution on restaurants and when the recession hit, we lost several restaurants in our community.”
Realizing that would negatively impact their readership, Vellucci decided to be pro-active and seek out other types of businesses to serve as distribution points for Coffee News. “We no longer wanted to be perceived as only a restaurant publication, so we went after alternative distribution locations, including the healthcare industry. We started putting out papers in medical office waiting rooms,” he said.
That strategy worked. Not only did it expand the Coffee News distribution network and readership, it brought in new advertisers. “Within a very short period of time, those medical practices wanted to advertise in Coffee News because they saw how many people were reading the paper in their waiting rooms. Kids were kept occupied and busy searching for the Coffee News man in the paper,” Vellucci said.
When asked what he likes best about Coffee News, Vellucci says “It’s popular because it’s fun and easy for people to read. The paper stands out from all the other print media because it’s a one-page paper, which increases the probability that advertisers’ ads will be seen and the ads don’t ‘get lost’ in the publication. Plus, advertisers appreciate that we guarantee exclusivity for their business category,” he said.
Vellucci adds, “Some might be surprised to learn that even with social media and online publications, our Coffee News readership continues to grow every year.”
Vellucci has taken the experience he has learned as a Coffee News publisher and now teaches others how to run their Coffee News business.
Vellucci serves as an instructor, mentor and advisor to new franchisees who attend Coffee News training workshops and is also the coordinator of Coffee News Regional Roundtables.
“I’ve been teaching for about eight years now. In addition to teaching, I help fellow publishers organize Coffee News Regional Roundtables in the U.S. and Canada about seven times a year. Our Coffee News Regional Roundtables are a great way for publishers to come together to share their knowledge and ideas, to learn from business experts, and to leave invigorated and motivated,” he said.
Vellucci also appreciates the flexibility that his Coffee News business affords him. That flexibility allows him to work as a Coffee News trainer and to continue creating his works of art. At 67-years old, he’s looking ahead to perhaps selling the franchise or hiring people to run it in a few years. “I’m looking forward to the future and having more time to work on my art, but I would like to continue training other Coffee News publishers,” he said.
Based on his experience as a Coffee News publisher and a trainer, who has met and worked with hundreds of Coffee News publishers, Vellucci offers this advice for new publishers to be successful in the Coffee News business:
“Get out of bed in the morning, leave your house with a smile on your face and a sparkle in your eye and have fun. Know that it gets so much easier after two years in the business. By that time you’ve worked out the kinks of how you manage your business and you’ve established Coffee News as a credible brand. Plus, you’ll be more experienced and it will be easier for you to talk about Coffee News with confidence. Take advantage of the training and support available to you and most importantly – have fun!”