Employees and Growing
of Listeners who Stream the Radio Station Outside of Northern MI
Number of Awards Received
In less than 12 months, co-owners Sheryl and Jerry Coyne went from envisioning themselves owning radio stations in Northern Michigan to purchasing an existing but outdated broadcasting company that included two towers and three frequencies. Sheryl had close to 30 years of experience in radio sales and Jerry had similar experience in business ownership/management, but this career change took them outside of their comfort zone and into unfamiliar areas of business.
How the SBDC helped
Shortly after the Coynes took over the business, they began working with the Michigan SBDC on basic logistics of managing a business; such as, troubleshooting their QuickBooks and setting up payroll to helping them understand business record keeping and cashflow projections. As the business quickly grew and the couple saw an opportunity to expand, their work with the Michigan SBDC increased to include due diligence on expansion potential, business performance, financial projections, and funding preparations.
Their first year of business was extremely challenging and lean. They invested their funds into modernizing the outdated technology and systems within the business, and in recruiting and training their employees. By the end of the second year, the broadcasting company was growing at a fast rate. Since then they’ve grown from the two of them and one employee to 14 full-time and 10 part-time employees. The team at Blarney Stone Broadcasting has also made a significant impact in their communities through their volunteer efforts and commitment to support the local businesses. They have won nine awards for their efforts. In 2017, they will expand their footprint in Northern Michigan to include Traverse City, Alpena, and St. Ignace (in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula).
After the death of her father in 2010, Sheryl Coyne started looking at life with a new perspective. The concept of “it’s the moments that matter and not the car you drive or the clothes you wear” began to take greater meaning. She realized that in the end it’s truly all about the connections you have with other humans in your life that matter most. So, one afternoon while relaxing at their favorite vacation spot in Northern Michigan, Sheryl shared with her husband, Jerry, a vision she had of them owning radio stations up in the area, living a simpler life, and giving more back to the community.
It didn’t take long for that vision to become reality. Jerry began researching and Googling radio stations for sale in Northern Michigan. One day he stumbled across the name of gentleman who owned a broadcasting company in Grayling. He sent him a quick e-mail saying you don’t know me but if you’re ever interested in selling your business we’d be interested. Less than 10 minutes later Jerry’s phone rang and the conversation of buying a broadcasting company began. In less than a week, they were up north sitting in an office at the radio station and negotiating a deal.
Sheryl had worked in radio sales in Metro Detroit for nearly 30 years while Jerry had successfully managed a couple of different small businesses throughout those same years. They had a comfortable nest egg built up for retirement. Now they were looking at using those funds to purchase an existing company that included an old radio station with outdated broadcasting equipment and antiquated systems. In October 2012, they closed on the deal and were now the owners of a radio station, seven acres of land on two parcels, two towers, and three frequencies (two FM/one AM).
Shortly thereafter they obtained an SBA loan to update the equipment, make minor renovations to the radio station, and invest capital in system upgrades and recruiting employees. With local talent, including Jerry, they transitioned the radio station from a syndicated format to broadcasting live. On January 11, 2013, Q100.3/WQON hit the airwave as “The Only Place For Rock & Roll”. The following month they launched “Your Y101.1 Sports Talk/WGRY”, which brought the Detroit Tigers to the radio in Northern Michigan.
“The first year was tough,” Sheryl said. “I thought I knew so much about the radio business but quickly discovered I knew very little; especially, about how to manage a radio business.”
Wanting to strengthen her business management skills she sought out industry and business experts which led her to the Michigan SBDC in early 2013. Initially, Sheryl and their bookkeeper received assistance with setting up payroll, managing QuickBooks, record keeping, and financial projections.
With the foundation of the business in place, the Coynes turned their attention to their main reason for wanting to run a radio station in Northern Michigan. This included being a platform for people to be heard, to help the nonprofits and small businesses within the communities they serve, and to be a strong marketing partner for their advertisers. Soon after the business flourished and opportunities for expansion quickly appeared.
“Working with the Michigan SBDC has been a crucial part of our growth and success,” stated Sheryl. “Our consultant showed us how to run a profitable business and helped us to realize it was possible for us to expand our business.”
In order to expand their reach into a larger geographical footprint across Northern Michigan they would need to secure funding. Through support from the Michigan SBDC, they received guidance on doing a proforma for the business, understanding spreadsheets and financial projections, researching interest rates, and more. This support allowed them to articulate their revenue and expense goals in writing and to present solid documentation to potential funders.
Speaking of her Michigan SBDC consultant, Sheryl shared, “She has been a wealth of knowledge and her savvy understanding of business has been invaluable and allowed us to secure the funding needed to expand.”
Sheryl is very proud of what they’ve accomplished in just four years and credits the success to the passionate and hardworking team at Blarney Stone Broadcasting, which started out as two and has grown to include 24 employees. They went from losing $300,000 their first year to earning $800,000 in revenue at the end of 2016. The company has also won several awards for their outstanding community involvement and has been recognized as the Business of the Year for the Grayling Regional Chamber and the Best Small Business for the Northeast Michigan Region of the Michigan SBDC.
Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to follow the quote from Tony Gaskins, “If you don’t build your own dream someone else will hire you to help build theirs.”
Blarney Stone Broadcasting is a family-owned, community-oriented media resource in Northern Michigan dedicated to providing local information, entertainment, and promotions focused on the needs of the audience and the businesses which serve that audience.
For more information on Blarney Stone Broadcasting, visit www.q100-fm.com.