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:
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!