These hometown newspapers entrepreneurs have found their success in print.
Description: Publisher of 16 community newspapers in Connecticut and Rhode Island
Founders: Ryan Duques, 29, & James Warner, 29
Location: Madison, Connecticut
Projected 2005 Sales: $7.5 million
Class Act: Walking around the halls of their high school together, childhood friends Ryan Duques and James Warner knew they wanted to start a business. They'd already tried their hands at lawn care and tie-dye T-shirts, and in 1994, just as both turned 18, they started a publishing company to help businesses market to the local community. Eventually, they produced promotional fliers and even a local restaurant guide. While attending college, their deep ties in the community as well as Duques' experience at his college's newspaper led the two to set their sights on something bigger--a community newspaper. Says Duques, "The first edition went out in March 1996, and we fell in love with the newspaper publishing business."
Set It Free: The basic revenue model for Shore Publishing was to sell ads to local businesses and distribute the paper gratis to everyone in the community. But when Duques and Warner launched their second newspaper, they went the paid-subscription route. They quickly saw their mistake, as both advertisers and readers balked, and the company lost revenue. "We realized just how fragile things can rapidly become," says Duques. "You may feel that [your choice] is right, but if your customers aren't feeling the same way, you have to adapt." After re-evaluating the business model, they went back to what originally worked and re-launched the free paper.
Playing Nice With Others: Employee morale and passion are paramount to Warner and Duques. "We cultivate a corporate culture that is fun, creative, high-energy, aggressive and entrepreneurial," says Warner. The pair also entered into a partnership with New London, Connecticut-based Day Publishing, which took on an equity stake in the company in 2003, giving Shore myriad new resources, from IT support and better printing rates to capital and equipment.
Poignant Press: Covering 9/11 through the eyes of a local businessman who traveled to New York City to distribute flashlights was a particularly moving moment for Duques. He and Warner love the niche they've carved out with Shore's 16 titles and plan to expand into even more Connecticut and Rhode Island communities.