Coles Super Bakes Jewish Networkers
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Coles Super Bakes Jewish Networkers

Michael Coles, founder of the Great American Cookie Company, networks with Jewish Atlanta.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Michael Coles, center, shared his bumpy road to success with JNA networkers David Liniado and Jason Smith. Liniado came as a guest of JNA member Smith.
Michael Coles, center, shared his bumpy road to success with JNA networkers David Liniado and Jason Smith. Liniado came as a guest of JNA member Smith.

About 11 years ago, Adam Butler, a commercial real estate broker, along with Jonathan Grant and Blair Rothstein, started Jewish Networking Atlanta with the idea of growing contacts within the Atlanta Jewish business community.
Serving as president, Butler said, “We hold meetings every other week with an average of 35 members and guests. I have developed hundreds of personal and business relationships, which translated into friendships, clients and business partners.”

On March 4, member Eric Fisher, through his Buckhead firm Barnes & Thornburg, hosted 60 eager, mostly millennials, for a motivational talk by local legend cum business guru and author Michael Coles.

Fisher, a business litigation attorney who recently changed law firms, said, “JNA’s support network helped to ensure the transition was easy in terms of community awareness of the change and referrals of new business. In the nine-plus years that I’ve been a member, I have built friendships, client relationships, and connections within the Atlanta Jewish community.”

After a light dinner, Coles, who has been generous in sharing his wisdom with various groups, including the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival, brought to life scenes from his book “Time to Get Tough: How Cookies, Coffee, and a Crash Led to Success in Business and Life.” That all translates into his “aggressive” push in 1977 to get a cookie business into Perimeter Mall, recovering from a near-fatal motorcycle crash to become a record-breaking cyclist, and heading Caribou Coffee, doubling its business model. And that’s just a tiny glimpse of his roller coaster ride, which found him with a financially bankrupt father, and forced him as a youth to take very seriously pitching in to help the family “while peers were out enjoying Miami Beach.”

Officers and event co-chairs Holly Gelfand Kurtz, Eric Fisher, Adam Butler and Samara Kaufman-Waldman welcomed 60 members and guests.

Coles recalled that he had 25 years of Post-it notes, which he eventually compiled into the book. He told the group that his message is to move forward by understanding that things go wrong, learning from them, and then doing a better job. He recalled that in 1977 he stalked the Perimeter Mall manager to take a chance on his 100-square-foot cookie business, which later became a pioneering and huge franchise. He said, “We had no paid employees, my mom, all family when we opened the doors.” They had no oven mitts and made a smoky mess, but persevered. “Things progressed from there,” Cole recalled. “Southlake Mall was the first store to do a million dollars, then Greenbriar Mall was a disaster.” Coles’ mantra is: “Learn to deal with the unexpected.” Confidence is one of Coles’ charms and forces.

Coles, immediate past president of Hillels of Georgia, ended his talk with an emotional acknowledgment. “We all draw from our inner strength grounded in our Jewish heritage.” Fisher then announced a $500 donation to Hillel in Coles’ honor. Coles will be honored by Hillels of Georgia at its annual event March 24. The Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University is yet another example of his education advocacy.

After the program March 4, Coles signed books and networking continued. Holly Kurtz, meeting planner and hotel insider, a two-year JNA member, noted, “Here is a professional community which creates opportunities for leadership. I gain more knowledge of what others do in their fields, which helps me refer clients and vice versa.”

Co-founder Grant explained, “In my sales career I was a member of other networking groups like PowerCore and BNI. They were composed of different types, like masseuses and chefs, and their rules were very strict. That’s why I started JNA.” Raanon Gal, employment lawyer and JNA member, said, “JNA is doing great things and keeps us from being insulated.” An anonymous member laughed that co-member Justin Spizman had coached him on how to handle a previous traffic violation.

Samara Kaufman-Waldman, entrepreneur and sommelier at Cinagro Wine Experience, echoed, “JNA has brought many incredible professional and personal relationships into my life. Through my involvement, I have grown my business significantly and helped others do the same.”

Jason Smith, director of business development of Cingo, summed up the group’s mission. “I’ve been in JNA over three years. It’s become more than business networking. We’ve become a tight knit group that helps each other in business and in life.” Annual JNA dues are $100.

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