Matt & Amy Ketchum of Minneapolis, Minnesota

matt amy ketchum

Matt and Amy Ketchum

Matt Ketchum was ready to make a career change when he got into the Coffee News business. Ketchum had been working as a software consultant, a job that required long hours and lots of time on the road away from home.

He thought about finding a new job with a different company, but realized that as long as he was working for someone else, he would likely find himself in the same situation.

Ketchum decided that if he was going to work that hard, he would rather work for himself and began to explore business opportunities.  One of his business dreams was to purchase and run a lodge in Northern Minnesota, but that idea was an expensive one.

Ketchum began exploring franchise opportunities, many of which were appealing, but required a large amount of capital up front.

He knew about Coffee News from seeing it around town and he knew the publisher in his community. That publisher decided to sell his Coffee News business to pursue other business opportunities. The timing was right for Ketchum to purchase three editions that were serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro areas.

That was in 2008.

A year later Matt, along with his wife Amy, acquired two more editions. “I think Coffee News is attractive to a lot of people who are looking to buy a franchise because it is relatively inexpensive compared to many other franchise opportunities. But, they should still do their research before getting into the business and realize that to be successful it requires work,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum kept his day job as he built his Coffee News business. “It wasn’t easy running the business with a full-time job. During that time, we focused mostly on expanding our distribution,” he said.

Ketchum wasn’t 100% convinced he would be good at the Coffee News business. “I thought I needed sales experience. I was used to talking to people in my software job, but selling was not in my repertoire,” he said.

As he expanded their networking by joining Chambers and becoming more active in the business community, Ketchum realized that Coffee News was about a lot more than just selling. “I learned that to be successful in this business it was less about sales and more about getting people to know, like and trust you,” he said.

Ketchum started out by making sure his current advertisers were happy. “There were already businesses advertising in the papers when we bought them. It was important to keep those existing relationships and make sure they were happy before we grew,” he recalled.

Ketchum says that advertisers like working with him because, “They know we put out a good paper and most have a good response from their ads. They like the affordability of advertising in Coffee News and they know we want to help them grow their business,” he said.

Running his business has been a lot about adapting and team building. Ketchum no longer works full-time outside of the Coffee News business. He was able to quit that day job.   However, he still does some independent software consulting.

He has learned to focus his time on the areas of the Coffee News business where he can have the greatest impact. “Amy and I used to deliver all the papers. We would end up spending three days a week making deliveries. That got to be too much,” he said.  Adding, “I realized that I needed to spend my time building the business and focusing on sales.”

Today they have three part-time delivery people plus Amy making deliveries. In addition, they have brought on a full-time salesperson to focus on relationship building and ad sales.

“We went through a few hires that didn’t work out before we found the right salesperson.   He’s working out great and our delivery people are awesome. They all do a great job for us,” Ketchum said.

After working for someone else, working for himself is working out great for Ketchum. “It’s awesome to be self-employed in this business. I enjoy the flexibility it affords me.  I like making my own decisions. Some have been the right decisions – others not so much. But, I’m now responsible for my own success,” he said.

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

1. Have realistic expectations. If you are new in the business, don’t expect to sell all your ad space out right away.

2. If you plan to expand and add editions, make sure you are prepared for the extra work that will create for you.

3. Build a team of people who will represent you and your business well. Be sure to hire the right people!

4. Leverage the knowledge of all of the Coffee News publishers. There is a lot of knowledge and experience to learn from.

5. Phase out lower distribution areas. It can be more work than reward, and by doing so, you will save on the cost of distribution. People who want to read Coffee News will find it!

Working From Home Is Not For Everyone

angela tom maryland

Tom and Angela

Long before Angela and Tom Balsamo became Coffee News publishers, they knew the “ins and outs” of the local advertising market. Having owned and operated three learning center franchises for nine years, the couple spent plenty of time and money advertising and marketing their businesses in the community.

When it came time for a new business adventure, they found exactly what they were looking for in Coffee News.

Their search criterion in the beginning consisted of something they could easily operate from home together, without the need for employees, and was a concept that would be new to the market in their area.

“After the initial call to the Home Office in Maine, we knew Coffee News was exactly what we were looking for,” says Angela.

“We were so impressed that the franchisor answered the phone himself and spent nearly 90 unplanned minutes on the phone with us answering all our questions,” added Tom.

That phone call and subsequent conversations took place nine years ago. Originally starting with two editions, Tom and Angela quickly added an additional two editions shortly after launching.

Earlier this year they added a fifth edition. “The Ellicott City/Columbia area is where we both grew up, so it was hard for us to pass up the opportunity to take over an edition that has been publishing consistently for over seven years,” Angela says. Plus, she adds, “It’s really great to have this opportunity to interact with our hometown as adults and be a part of the business community.”

Community is what it all boils down to for this husband and wife team. “With our previous businesses, we never got engaged in the community like we should have,” says Tom. “Coffee News allows us to be active in all the communities we serve, which in turn helps us expose our clients to new people and opportunities. We’re more than just ‘ink on paper’. We want to provide our clients with exposure throughout the area, often times acting as an extension of their marketing department.”

Tom and Angela are active members of five Chambers, a handful of business networking groups, and sit on the Boards for two Chambers and four non-profit organizations.

In addition to all the networking, this dynamic duo seeks to provide as much added value for their clients, whether it’s exposure via social media, help with setting up social media accounts, free ad design (not just limited to Coffee News ads), advice on marketing strategies, introductions to power partners, Quickbooks questions, etc.

One may wonder how they find the time to do all of this for their clients.

From the start, Tom and Angela decided they were not going to make cold calls. They were simply going to build relationships. Nine years later that plan is still working out well.

Additionally, they partner with a local non-profit that works with developmentally disabled adults (Opportunity Builders, Inc.) to handle all of the delivery. “Initially, we did all the distribution ourselves. It was a great way to build relationships with our distribution partners. As time went on, outsourcing delivery was the best way for us to recapture valuable time that can otherwise be spent meeting with prospective clients and assisting current clients with their marketing needs,” said Tom.

Tom and Angela offered these tips to be successful in the Coffee News business:

1. Network Unselfishly

Don’t go out and network with the intent to sell. If you’re not going out with the willingness to buy from someone, do you really think others are? It’s not about handing out your business card, but the business cards (the paper itself) of all your clients.

2. Don’t Undervalue Your Product!

Research pricing for all advertising options in your area before setting your prices. You’ll always have someone that will say you’re too expensive; they are not your target audience. You want to work with business owners who see value in being the only one in their category advertising in Coffee News.

3. Don’t Sell Short-run Ads (Community events/carnivals are the exception.)

You’re selling yourself and the product short and you’re going to have to constantly resell that space and have business owners walking around saying “Coffee News doesn’t work.”

4. Set Up Systems to Manage Your Business

Use Quickbooks. Take credit cards for payment. Find a CRM that you can use to keep track of inquiries (they like Zoho). Create email templates so you can respond to a request for information quickly.

5. Working From Home Is Not For Everyone

Take a shower and put on ‘real people’ clothes every day! Even if you don’t have outside appointments! You’ll feel more professional and will be more productive.

Marty and Ed Douglass of Jackson Mississippi

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Marty Douglass and her husband, Ed, weren’t looking to get into the Coffee News business.  The business found them!

Marty had a long career in medical equipment sales and marketing, while Ed worked in sales.  They were well-known in their community and attended many networking events.

It was at one of those events where they met a Coffee News publisher who had an established territory.

“She was an artist – a potter.  She wanted to get back to making pottery full-time and was looking for the right people to buy her Coffee News business.  She picked us. We were ecstatic about it.”

“We were starting to think about retiring and this seemed like a great move for us,” recalled Douglass. “We joke that our retirement gig is a full time job!”

They purchased all four of her editions in the Jackson, Mississippi area and worked with the seller to transition the business to them.  “We went all in.  This was an existing operation that required full-time stewardship,” said Douglass.

The Douglass’ published their first paper in July of 2008.  Coffee News has now been published in this market for 17 years and has gained a loyal following.

Douglass says that after 8 years publishing and through a lot of networking and building the business, they are now known in the community as the “Coffee News People.”

“I love wearing my Coffee News gear.  People stop me in the grocery store and tell me they see the paper everywhere and love it,” Douglass said.

“We are viewed as being legitimate and credible because of the relationships we’ve developed.  Our advertisers see us in the community and know us.  Most of our ad sales are the results of networking,” says Douglass.

“We view Coffee News as our business card and often say that we have the biggest business card in the county and we treat it with respect so that it represents us and our advertisers well,” she said.

Douglass says that to attract advertisers, they have to see the value in Coffee News.  She says their advertisers also like the exclusivity and their broad distribution network they have built up over the years.

The Douglass team includes three delivery drivers, two of whom have been delivering in their territories since Coffee News began distribution there.

“Many of my new advertisers are people who call me from a restaurant with a Coffee News in hand,” she said.

Douglass stresses that to be successful in the Coffee News business you have to put the work in.  “If you want to make a living at this – it is a full-time job.”

That said, she enjoys the flexibility this business provides.  “I like that I can take a long weekend to go and visit my 85-year-old mother while maintaining the mechanics of the business from my computer,” Douglass said.

“We are enjoying the business so much now.  This was to be our retirement job, but we have no plans to retire from Coffee News,” she said.

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

  1. BE BOLD!  Get out there and “BE” Coffee News whenever you are out in the public.  It’s all about building relationships and your brand.
  2. PERSEVERE!  Success is not an overnight thing.  Put the time in to build your business and it will pay off.  Have a 3 to 5 year vision and plan.
  3. Don’t freak out when you lose an advertiser.  Go find a new one.
  4. Reduce the turn of your ads and know your ad stats.  Sign up advertisers for a 6 month to a year commitment.  It’s more efficient for you and a better deal for advertisers cost-wise.  Plus, it gives them more time to see results.

Mo Fer of Waynesville, North Carolina

Mo Fer has a confession to make about Coffee News.   When he was a commercial real estate agent, he was approached by his longtime friend, Bill Buckley, to advertise in Coffee News.   Buckley started the Coffee News franchise in Bangor, Maine, where Fer lived at the time.
“I kept turning Bill down,” Fer said.  “The paper didn’t look like much.”
Today Fer regrets that decision.  “I had no idea at the time how powerful that little paper is,” Fer said.
Nor did he know that one day he would become a Coffee News publisher himself.
Fer relocated from Bangor, Maine to Waynesville, North Carolina in 2009.  “I had hoped to continue working in commercial real estate, but I didn’t have the relationships established down here and there was a lot of competition.”
Looking for something new to do as he entered semi-retirement, Fer thought that Coffee News might be a good fit and reached out to his friend, Bill Buckley.
“I remembered the first time I heard about Coffee News.   Bill had just brought the paper from Canada to the US, and talked about his first issue at a Rotary meeting.   From there, he kept talking about how the business was growing and expanding,” Fer recalled. 

Fer purchased his first franchise in Waynesville, North Carolina in 2010.   In 2013, he purchased a second franchise just south of Ashville. 

Fer is happily publishing two editions of Coffee News.  “At this point in my life I’m not interested in a ten to twelve hour a day job like when I was in commercial real estate.   I want to enjoy my life and earn an income to supplement my retirement income, and Coffee News allows me to do that,” Fer said. 

Fer, who likes being “out and about”, delivers his own papers.  “I enjoy meeting the people.  “I’m constantly amazed by how much people look forward to getting the paper and how much they enjoy it,” he said. 

Fer added, “I’ve become known as the Coffee News Guy.” 

Fer recently underwent hip replacement surgery that prevented him from making deliveries while he recovered.   “I had other people delivering the papers for me, and so many people asked where and how I was.   Knowing so many people cared about me was really nice.” 

Fer also enjoys working from home and the flexibility the Coffee News business affords him.   “I like that I can work when I want to work and make my own hours,” Fer said. 

Fer says that people assume to be successful in the Coffee News business you have to be good at sales.  “It’s all about getting out there and getting to know people.  More importantly it’s about them getting to know you,” he said. 

He adds that it’s important to immerse yourself in your community.   “It’s not about just joining your local Chamber of Commerce.  You need to be an active and involved member,” Fer said. 

Fer says many of his advertisers have been with him since he started publishing Coffee News.   Adding, “They stay with it because they know it works and they know the paper gets read.  They also like the exclusivity of it.” 

When asked what Fer looks forward to in the future, he remarked, “I look forward to continuing the relationships that I’ve made and continuing to do my business.   Beyond that I just hope to wake up tomorrow.  As you get older, you learn to appreciate that more and more.” 

Fer offers these tips to be successful in the Coffee News business:
  1. Immerse yourself in your community.
  2. Don’t just “join up” – “show up” and be active!
  3. Get to know people and let them get to know you.
  4. Believe in what you are doing. Be confident. Don’t forget to smile.


Debbie Jackson of Kansas City, Missouri


Debbie Jackson was looking for a change after a successful twenty year “on-air” career in radio broadcasting and then being a stay-at-home mom for more than ten years. While at home, she started working as a freelance voiceover talent and running a mobile DJ entertainment business.


Her two sons were now grown and while the DJ business was going very well, Jackson just didn’t see it as something that she wanted to do for the rest of her life. “It is physically tiring, mainly weekend work, and if I have to play the chicken dance song one more time I might snap!”


Jackson went into insurance sales and quickly discovered that it wasn’t a good fit for her.  Although she enjoyed the “sales” part of the business, she didn’t have a passion for insurance.


She continued to look for another business opportunity that would allow her to cut down on all the DJ work on the weekends.  While attending a BNI (Business Network International) meeting, she met someone who owned a Coffee News franchise and was selling it.   It was the first time she had heard about Coffee News and became interested in learning more.


After doing a lot of research and crunching the numbers, Jackson decided to purchase the business in June 2011.  “It wasn’t a lot of money to get started so even if things didn’t turn out well I felt it wasn’t a huge risk.  It’s been a lot of fun since then so I’m glad I took the opportunity!


Jackson describes Coffee News as “The little paper with the big heart.”  She adds, “It provides a positive break in the day from all the bad news in the world.”  


In the last four years, Jackson has expanded her Coffee News family.  She now owns nine franchises and is currently publishing six editions in the Kansas City, Missouri, metropolitan area. Some were new areas for Coffee News and others were owned by franchisees who wanted to sell their business to pursue other things.


“It was a fantastic opportunity to keep Coffee News going strong in the community, “Jackson said when reflecting on why she purchased the additional territories.”   She added, “Once you’re publishing several editions, then what’s a few more? It’s sort of like having children – if you have five kids then what is one more?”


Jackson is phasing out of her DJ business and is now enjoying more weekends off.   The flexibility of the Coffee News business is one of the many reasons Jackson plans to run the business for as long as she can.   “I can still do voiceover work and have my weekends free. This is a business that I could see myself doing as I am getting older because it is not strenuous like the DJ work.”


Jackson says that in her first year in business, “Advertisers were calling me because they already knew about and liked Coffee News.”   Affordability, exposure and results are some of the reasons that businesses advertise in Coffee News.


Jackson depends on a great team of people to get her papers published and distributed.   She cites her delivery drivers as being critical to her success.  “They are the true face of my Coffee News business and have the most interaction with the businesses that display our paper so they have to be friendly and provide great service.” 


One of her drivers, Ron Sifuentes, has delivered Coffee News to area businesses for more than 250 weeks in a row!


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

  1. Have the passion for it.   Your passion for Coffee News will shine through; if you believe in it – others will.
  2. Focus on your relationships with your clients/advertisers customers.
  3. Subcontract out what you can so you can focus on relationships and sales.
  4. Basic sales skills and knowing how to run a business are a plus!
  5. Celebrate your wins every day!   Focus on what is going right with your business and have fun with it!

Lisa Shaw of Indiana and Tennessee


For Lisa Shaw the best part about her Coffee News business is the freedom it provides.   “I can work when I want to work.   The flexibility of this business allows me to do other things and travel too.  That is the most important thing to me right now,” she said.

Shaw bought her first Coffee News franchise with a tax refund.   That was 15 years ago.   Today she owns five Coffee News franchises in Indiana and Tennessee.

“I learned about Coffee News in a franchise magazine when I was looking for a business to start after quitting my job and recovering from a skiing accident,” said Shaw.  Adding, “To be honest – the fact that it was so affordable was really attractive!”
Shaw decided to explore the Coffee News opportunity further by attending a Coffee News conference in Tampa.   “I went as a guest to check it out,” she said.   “The people I met – the current publishers and the Coffee News team were so great, fun and laid back.  They seemed to really enjoy what they were doing.”
Although she had no experience in advertising sales or publishing, coming from a background in banking and manufactured housing, she said,” It seemed to be pretty easy and I could own my own business.”
So she went for it!   Over the years she has had her share of struggles and challenges as a business owner.   Most of which have been dealing with personal issues that have at times, shifted her focus away from her business.  
Shaw says,” What I love most about my Coffee News business are the relationships I have built.  Those relationships have sustained me through the tough times.  I have one advertiser who has been with me since day one.”
Shaw stresses that relationships are the key to success in her Coffee News business.  “It is so important to build relationships.   You have to continue to cultivate them.”   She adds, “I am now in the position where I no longer have to go out and cold call potential advertisers.”
Shaw says that the reason her advertisers have stuck with her and Coffee News is because, “They like me, they get results and it’s very affordable for them.   Coffee News is well known in our area and everyone really enjoys reading it.”
Shaw credits her support team for keeping her business running smoothly including her husband, Lenny who has joined her in the business and her distributors who go above and beyond to deliver her editions.
She also credits the Coffee News team at headquarters.  “They are always there for support and they don’t pressure you in any way.”  
Shaw offers these tips to be successful in the Coffee News business:
  1. Understand your cash flow and make sure you have enough capital to pay the bills while you build your business.
  2. Selling advertising can be challenging at times.  Be patient and don’t give up.
  3. Success in this business boils down to building and maintaining relationships.


Articles featuring Lisa – How I Bought My First Franchise With a Tax Refund


How a Conversation at a Dinner Party Led this Mom to Her Coffee News Career

Lori Danielson (left), Leah Hickman (right)

NEW Coffee News® Publisher – Leah Hickman of Longview, Texas

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