From Inside Business By Sandra J. Pennecke
NORFOLK — Entrepreneurs Scott and Lauren Janney were well on their way to opening a coffee shop in Hampton Roads — complete with a magazine wall — when the pandemic hit.
The couple, who also owns an insurance business in Chesapeake, was excited to delve into a less regulated and more lighthearted business endeavor. They allocated funds, began their search for commercial space and developed a few design ideas.
“We agreed we wanted a large focal wall full of magazines for people to sit, disconnect and enjoy,” Scott Janney said.
In March 2020, they put their idea on the back burner because they, like so many other small-business owners, had no idea what the future looked like. Although they kept the coffee shop dream burning, the Janneys were disappointed when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the removal of magazines from commercial spaces to help stop the spread of COVID.
That’s when, in August 2020, the Janneys came up with a different business venture — Magazine Jukebox. They envisioned providing a service of a digital magazine rack as an alternative to physical magazines in commercial spaces.
“Magazine Jukebox was created out of necessity, but it has quickly grown to be a desirable business,” Scott Janney said. “It all just makes sense: the up-to-date magazines, touchless access, user friendliness and lack of firewalls.”
Lauren Janney said she is used to hearing her husband say, “Hey, I have an idea.”
The more research he did — while sketching out plans in a spiral notebook at the couple’s dining room table — the more the idea grew, she said.
“It’s been really fun to watch him put so many pieces of the puzzle together and how that has helped to make Magazine Jukebox what it is today,” Lauren Janney said. “I’m really proud of his hard work and vision.”
The Norfolk-based business, which was an inaugural tenant in 757 Startup Studios and is now in Gather, has grown to seven full-time employees and four sales associates.
Since launching in January, Magazine Jukebox has grown in reach with a clear sight for 700 locations throughout the U.S. by the end of the year. The idea is to provide consumers a way to enjoy magazines without touching them while waiting — a solution for common spaces at hair salons, car dealerships, medical offices and coffee shops.
The service offers business customers a custom scannable QR code, accessible with any smart device that has a camera app. Each proprietor can select a dozen publications to host on their platform. Magazine readers don’t need to download an app.
The platform currently has 25 magazines including Time, People, Car & Driver, Good Housekeeping, Highlights for Children, Better Homes & Gardens Inc, Popular Mechanics, Woman’s Day and Outdoor Photographer.
Luv Hankins, owner of Cltre Vgn Jnt in Virginia Beach, said she liked the concept and her customers love it.
Hankins said she chose magazines focused on lifestyle, trending, travel and food — all topics her customers enjoy.
Another perk is customers can access the digital magazines up to 36 hours after leaving an establishment, giving them time to finish reading the publications.
“Magazines just allow you to disconnect a little and focus on something else for a while,” Scott Janney said. “I also love knowing that we are doing something positive that helps to reduce waste and prevents trees from being cut down unnecessarily for the production of paper magazines.”
For more information, visit magazinejukebox.com.
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, firstname.lastname@example.org