How Coffee News Made it to Bangor, Maine
In early 1995 Bill Buckley, of Bangor, Maine was employed as a salesperson, selling injury prevention consulting services. His travels took him to the Hub Meat Packing plant in Moncton, NB where he worked with the safety director. Somehow the safety director had received a manual of operation and sample copies of Coffee News. He gave the files to Bill to evaluate for him to determine if this publication would be viable for Saint John, NB. Bill responded that it would, but he would need to do it full time. Bill also recognized it would work just as well in Bangor, Maine and brought the concept back to test market it.
In May 1995, Bill contacted Jean Daum, founder of Coffee News, in Winnipeg, Canada to acquire the franchise rights for Bangor, Maine.
The Risk of Starting Coffee News
While Bill had enjoyed a successful career of over 25 years in the banking industry, the cost of putting two children through college had drained most of the family’s savings. Bill had to sell the family home to pay off the mortgage while managing to keep a 10-year-old car on the road. The consulting job was ending and at the monthly cost of living, Bill knew he and Sue-Ann, his wife, would only be able to survive about seven months before their reserves were exhausted unless he could find a decent job. The idea of taking 25% of the remaining reserves to start Coffee News was risky, but so to was the alternative of doing nothing.
Undeterred, Bill called an old friend and fellow banker to see about getting a small line of credit as a safety net, in the event Coffee News did not work out and to acquire the supplies necessary to get his new publishing career off the ground. Despite having a small income as a reserve officer in the Maine Air National Guard, and no track record in publishing or advertising sales, the banker approved a $25,000.00 line. Bill insisted on putting a limit of $15,000.00 on the line so he would not be tempted to spend more than necessary. Only about $5,000.00 was ever drawn down at any one time over the next few years. Today, the balance on the line still remains at zero.
When Bill signed the loan documents, the banker, who understood the Coffee News concept quite well, shook his hand and commented that he would be extremely successful beyond his wildest dreams, and envied the opportunity he had discovered. That was a real morale builder!
The Start of the Coffee News in Bangor, Maine
The first Monday in June 1995, Bill began selling advertising with a promise to publish the first edition by July 3rd. A total of 27 ads out of 32 spaces available were sold for the first edition and three weeks later that first edition was full. After 12 months, all editions were running nearly full, generating a net income of over $115,000/year before taxes, a sum far greater than he had ever made in his working careers.
That fall, Bill started three more editions of Coffee News including one for Hancock County where Ellsworth was the county seat with a population of only 7500 people, but with 52 restaurant locations. This edition proved to be one of the most successful editions he had started, generating about $700/week in net income, and an advertiser in the real estate business in Ellsworth begged Bill to sell him this very profitable edition. After 9 months of operation, Bill relented and agreed to sell him the edition for $30,000, closing the deal on December 9, 1996. The operating net income, plus the sale proceeds were worth just under $50,000. Bill was hooked on Coffee News!
The Start of the Coffee News Franchise in the USA
During the year, Bill had negotiated a sub-franchisor agreement with Jean Daum in Winnipeg to operate the United States for her and thus began Bill’s full-time job of publishing Coffee News and selling franchises nationally.
By 2001, it became apparent that a buy/sell agreement was in order to protect the franchise system in the event either Jean or Bill died. This agreement was drafted in January of 2001 and funded by life insurance. Whoever died first would have the rights to buy the other one out. Sue-Ann, who by this time had realized, the future potential of Coffee News and was managing the business and proofing all editions, was horrified to think she would have to manage Coffee News if Bill left early. Jean Daum’s children were also concerned about their capabilities if Jean were to die. However, Candice, Jean’s daughter, had been directly involved in managing the Canadian operation with around 200 franchises and was willing to stay on.
The Struggles Did Not Stop Coffee News
In December of 2001, Jean was diagnosed with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma that was considered quite treatable with an average life expectancy of around 13 years. Her progress was up and down to the point, at one time, of declaring that she had been totally cured, when we all sort of knew that was likely not the case. She lived until July of 2007 or 7 1/2 years from the date she was told of her illness.
Bill struggled to complete the purchase from her estate as soon as possible, but accounting details delayed the final purchase until October 2008. Candace was able to keep everything going in the interim until Bill, legally, could assume control.
The year 2008 started off with a bang as USA franchise sales totaled 239 franchises, or about one a day at $6,000.00 each through the end of August when the beginnings of the Great Recession brought sales to a complete halt for September 2008.
Since then, in spite of one of the worst recessions in the history of the country, Coffee News managed to stay financially healthy and prosper, albeit at lower levels of franchises on the books.
Coffee News, World’s Largest Restaurant Publication
Bill purchased a printing company with the CFO of Coffee News, Garrett Guernsey, in Houlton, ME in 2008. This enabled Coffee News to control printing costs for all USA publishers and some Canadian clients. An online Coffee News products division was created to supply branded items to publishers and keep costs down for them. Staff writers changed over time. Meanwhile, Coffee News continues to win acclaim for being one of the top-rated franchise opportunities in the world and is a member of the International Franchise Association (IFA).
The Coffee News publication has remained identical to it original roots. Today, it is the World’s Largest Restaurant Publication and the largest franchise publication in the world, with approximately five million readers every week in 12 countries around the world.