Sometimes you just need to make a change. That was the case for Vanessa Cole and her husband, Randy of Dalton, Georgia.
“We both had a long career in law enforcement as sheriff’s deputies and I was a crime scene investigator. About eight years ago we began thinking about starting our own business,” Cole said.
The couple had no idea what kind of business they wanted to start, so they went to the SBA (Small Business Administration) seeking advice. “We asked them to tell us what we should do. They said we would have to make that decision for ourselves and they would help us once we knew what we wanted to do. So, we took some business classes and started looking around,” Cole recalled.
They saw a story about Coffee News in entrepreneur.com and became intrigued with the business, especially because it was such an affordable franchise. “We performed our due diligence by talking with the franchisor about it and with other publishers about their experience. We brought it to our contact at the SBA and they thought it looked like a viable business opportunity, so we went for it,” Cole said.
In 2008, the couple purchased two franchises and published one edition. “It wasn’t easy at first because no one within a hundred-mile radius had heard of Coffee News, so we had to educate people about it. Plus, the economy was in a downturn at that time. We tried to find distribution points and sell ads at the same time. It was hard to sell ads before we had our distribution places lined up. A few weeks into it, I was a bit discouraged, but I’m really persistent and I’m not a quitter,” Cole said.
Today the Coles publish six editions of Coffee News. “I gave up law enforcement to go into the Coffee News business full-time. Randy left law enforcement two years ago to join me in the business. “It’s been eight years now and I’m so glad we did it,” said Cole.
When asked how their background in law enforcement prepared them to go into the Coffee News business, Cole explained, “All I ever knew was law enforcement, so this was a big change. The stress is totally different. It’s not ‘life or death’ and it’s a lot easier and more fun. We learned how to work hard in law enforcement and how to be persistent. You can’t give up when you are investigating a case. Those skills are serving us well in our business.”
The Coles are also enjoying the flexibility of their Coffee News franchise. “There are weeks when we will put in forty to fifty hours. We do work hard, but with this business I can go to the beach with my cell phone and laptop and take care of business from there,” Cole said.
They have built a great team, including two sheriff’s deputies who help them deliver their Coffee News editions. They partner with an organization that provides opportunities for developmentally-challenged adults to also deliver their papers.
They employ a college student part-time for administrative, web/social media support and client retention efforts.
“Randy and I share the duties of running the business. He does some of the deliveries and the ad layout work. I focus more on ad sales. We have different responsibilities. So even though we are in business together, we rarely see each other during the workday because our schedules are different,” Cole said.
Cole also spends a lot of her time volunteering and networking. “Although I was out in my community when I was in law enforcement, people really didn’t know who I was. When we started Coffee News, I jumped into the business community. It was a new world for me, but today I am very involved with our Chamber and community events. A lot of our business comes to us through referrals as a result of me being out there. I don’t do a lot of cold calling,” Cole said.
Cole says the businesses that advertise in Coffee News like the fact that they can target their advertising to where their customers are. They also appreciate the exclusivity and affordability of advertising in Coffee News.
“We educate businesses about why it’s important to advertise for the longer term. We recommend a six-month to one-year commitment to see results. Time and repetition works. We see a higher percentage of ad renewals from businesses that advertise for the longer term,” Cole said.
Cole offers these tips to be successful in the Coffee News business:
- Understand your cash flow and plan how you will cover your expenses while you are building your business.
- Be patient and persistent. Don’t ever give up!
- Get out in the community and get involved. People have to get to know you and trust you.
- Be sure to follow up with people. Call people back promptly. Do what you say you will do. Under promise and over deliver.