Franchise Life

Bought for Peanuts: How a First-Grade Idea Launched an Entrepreneur

To be an entrepreneur

In first grade, sitting in the school cafeteria, John Dyer realized he wanted to be an entrepreneur. “One of the items to be an entrepreneuron my tray was the little cup of peanuts that each student got,” he says. “And I was looking at my peanuts and I thought, ‘You know, I don’t really want my peanuts. What if I were to try to sell them? Maybe somebody else wants them more than I do and would be willing to pay for them.’ I found some other people who didn’t want their peanuts, and I collected their peanuts for free; they were just going to throw them away. I turned around and sold them to this girl who loved peanuts, for a penny a peanut and made like a $1.20. Back in 1975 or whatever it was, hey, I was rich for the day!” John laughs about it. “I’m just kind of wired for that. I like people. But I like interacting with people kind of more on my terms, and less on terms set by somebody else.”

That was a good foundation for a Coffee News® publisher. Since 2011, John has owned Acadia Coffee News®, the Ellsworth, Maine (US), franchise, the second-oldest in the U.S. With the May 1, 2017, edition, he expanded to nearby Washington County. About becoming a publisher, John says, “I was looking for some advertising for the tutoring business that I was doing after school hours”—he was working full time as an education technician in eighth-grade special education—“and that’s when I saw that Coffee News® was not being distributed in this area anymore. And I thought, ‘Whoa, let’s look into this instead.’ ” He went to print in Ellsworth in July 2011, while he continued to work at the school for five more years. “I was building Coffee News®  to the point where I could get done at the school and do this full time.” He left his school job in June 2016, and now works for himself full time.

Is publishing Coffee News® doable with a full-time job? “It is doable,” John says, “but not as completely as it should be done. I did it like a part-time job because it was only one edition. But now, having the flexibility to meet anybody, any time of the day, during the work day, is priceless. I built it pretty much as far as I could build it, part time.” Now he’s free to go to networking events, take phone calls, and meet clients any time of the day. When John started the Ellsworth edition, his daughter was almost ten years old. “I was a single father and she was with me half the time. So, on top of only having the time available after school hours, I couldn’t be running around to sales calls when my daughter was with me.” If it was something unavoidable—either meet then or not meet at all—he took her with him.

“I agree with Bill Buckley,” he says. “In our Coffee News® College, he says you can’t serve two masters. There’s no way you can maximize your potential unless you’re giving it your full attention.”

John’s route to Coffee News® was circuitous. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army, which stationed him in Egypt. “I’ve seen what it’s like for people that, in some areas of the world, have no hope, have no opportunity. And it gives you a perspective when you wake up every day and watch people begging for food outside your base. All I have to do is get up in the morning and go bust my butt, and I can make anything happen I choose. It’s completely within my power and wow, we have a lot more power than we realize.”

Back in the States, he worked on an Alaskan fishing boat, staffed the front counter at a bakery, and drove a forklift at 20-below-zero all summer in three different blueberry factories. He attended several colleges before graduating with a history and political science degree from the University of Maine-Machias.

“I’d have to say ‘perspective’ is probably the key word in my entire life,” says John. “I had to do many different jobs, have many different bosses. I had to learn how to communicate better. I had to learn how to listen better. I needed the perspective to have the discipline to be self-employed, and to be successful at it, which is not easy. You have to be a self-starter.”

Speaking at the Coffee News® College in Bangor in Fall 2016, he said the cliché is true that you get out of it what you put into it. “You don’t have to be the slickest sales person in the world, but if you’re genuine, you’ll earn respect. You have to sell yourself. If people don’t like you, they’re not buying what you’re selling.”

Because of his freedom as a Coffee News® publisher, John could go to all his daughter’s volleyball games. Here’s his advice: “Figure out what you love doing and then figure out how to get paid doing it. It’s not about getting rich, it’s about the quality of life. I have freedoms in my life that you can’t even put a price on. And what a great way of life it is—the Coffee News® way of life! It’s fantastic.”