A History of the Business Bulletin
Transylvania, Louisiana to Fleetwood, Pennsylvania
January, 2002 – Cracker Barrel. One Sunday afternoon in November 2001, Ken Swarey and I, Phillip Koehn were visiting with Marlin Wedel in our home after a hearty meal. Mr. Marlin, who owned Ole Dutch Bakery in Lake Providence, mentioned that he would like to sell his business to another Mennonite but he did not know how to get the word around. Both Ken and I sat there and looked at each other and we both said that we should start an advertising paper for “plain people.” In the course of our visitation, Ken and I agreed that very soon we should meet and talk about this some more.
Within a week, we both were sitting at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We decided to meet once a week to start the lay out of the publication. We started out by doodling around with a name and a logo, along with a graphic. We took our ideas to the local newspaper office, and Jimmy Neighbors, editor of the Banner Democrat of Lake Providence, LA, turned them into reality.
Six months later, on July 2002, we sent out a sample issue with one ad inside. Much to our surprise, ads came in steadily. The next issue, which was the August issue, had sixteen ads in it, much to our surprise again. From that time on, our publication has continued to grow.
October 2004 marked the addition of a new member to our group. Bryan Wenger of Hiawatha, Kansas, joined us as Ken Swarey decided to become a silent partner. Ken stayed on as an advisor to us and Bryan took on the role of editor and publisher. Jimmy Neighbors was our printer. Bryan made many wonderful improvements to the publication, some of which we still use today.
June 2005 was the beginning of a new phase not only to the Business Bulletin, but to the lives of Phillip and Nancy Koehn and family. We made the move from Louisiana to Pennsylvania. It took about four months to make the transition from printer, Jimmy Neighbors, to The Windsor Press of Hamburg, PA. Bryan Wenger continued for a time as editor-publisher until a new job took all his time, and in February of 2007, he retired at the young age of 28. Of course, he kept his new job!
Bryan Wenger started some of the columns, a couple of which we still use today. Jay Bullock – Another Busy Week, David Ensz – TAQS TIPS, Harlan Koehn – Pace of Technology, Andrew Lambdin – Frontier Section, were our first contributing editors. These writers attracted much attention and drew in many subscribers.
A curious mistake that we made in the beginning was not realized until a year later. In an effort to gain more subscribers, we made an offer of one yearly subscription for $12. The second subscription cost $6 and the third one was FREE! The second and third ones had to be gift subscriptions from the first one. Wow! The subscriptions poured in and we felt very successful. Approximately six months later we discontinued the three-subscription offer.
A year later, when it was time for the giver to renew at full price, very few renewed the two gift subscriptions; they would only renew their own. Our subscription list fell by about two-thirds in several months. It actually took approximately two years to regain the lost subscribers. On May 9, 2009, I, Phillip Koehn, became sole owner of the Business Bulletin by buying out Bryan Wenger at an earlier date, and then later Ken Swarey. The Windsor Press continued to do the printing and lay out until August of 2009.
Earlier in June, a young 21-year-old man from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, by the name of Weston Becker offered that he could do the complete lay out in a professional style equal to that of national magazines. He was already designing advertisements for me. Weston sent me his first proof in June of 2009, and he continued to practice for several months until he was sure he could do the entire process without complications. His first issue that he designed for September 2009 is still my favorite. The front page starts with an article on train facts by Eli Weaver of Versailles, MO, (Common Sense from the Show-Me State). Weston found a super close-up real picture of a train engine idling in the train yard and he wrapped the text around the picture.
At the same time this was going on, we started another phase for the Business Bulletin. We installed a digital printing press manufactured by the Canon. It was leased to us by the Fraser Advanced Information Systems of Reading, Pennsylvania. It was not an easy process, taking from January 2009 to August 2009 to complete all the details, including the lease, electrical, installation, and programming. Fraser Advanced did not leave one detail to chance. When we were ready to print the September 2009 issue, the machine worked without a single glitch. I was able to buy the machine a year later.
Stressful, yes, but two of the best moves we ever made were hiring Weston Becker and the installation of the printing press. The press was brought down to our basement and installed approximately eight feet from my office. With deadlines pressing at the end of the month, it is so easy to download the third proof from Weston Becker and in ten minutes start the printing. Another advancement started shortly after we moved to Pennsylvania. I bought a new computer and hired Harlan Koehn, a computer programmer, to design an entire program for our subscription list and advertiser’s information, using Microsoft Access. He spent several evenings a week for at least six months, here in my office, working after-hours from his own job. This, too, has been a time saver and a blessing to the secretary that updates the subscription list two times a week.
The last years have just been routine with my wife, Nancy, doing all the proofreading, which she has been doing for the last six years. Usually two of my five daughters help also. At this time, August of 2011, there are a total of 15 people who help make the Business Bulletin what it is today. Many thanks to all faithful, contributing editors! Phillip and Nancy Koehn.