Rough bumps. Sweet ride. Coffee and cookie icon energizes Society of Professionals

by | Sep 30, 2019 | Uncategorized

Jeff Werby, Michael Coles, Lisa DeNoia, and Greg Zittrain.

Michael J. Coles didn’t gain weight or lose sleep slaying it in the cookie and coffee business. He got rich.

And resilient. Coles is one tough cookie. He set three trans-continental biking world records after coming back from a near fatal motorcycle accident. He worked his way to the top of two highly competitive, multi-billion-dollar industries—without a formal education or venture capital. He helped the state of Georgia gain a tax credit in favor of in-state filming, and in doing so transformed the movie industry.

He lost a lot. He fell hard. He’s seen it all.

That level of extreme resilience wasn’t lost on the crowd attending United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Society of Professionals Industry Icon event, on September 18, at 1701, in Virginia Beach’s Vibe District.

“He has the most remarkable founders’ spirit,” says Dr. Alan Wagner. Coles’ story resonated with Wagner as a health care provider and entrepreneur. “Although limits are set personally, there are critical times when help and guidance from others is crucial.”

Marcie Warranch is a coffee professional employed by a local ‘global company.’ “I went because of his coffee background,” says Warranch. “But I was pleasantly surprised by the entire evening. It wasn’t just a typical 30-something networking event. Coles relayed a powerful message just by telling his personal story: ‘If you want to start something different, don’t let fear stop you.’ He overcame many major problems and conquered them. When he wanted to try something new, he didn’t stop at ‘will it work for me?’”

People such as Coles thrive on challenges, and when they look back on a remarkable career fraught with obstacles, they want their accumulated grit and glory to mean something and resonate with others, in particular the next generation.

“Nothing is more inspirational than hearing a successful entrepreneur talk about his successes—and failures,” says Emily Nied, a local real estate professional. “Our son, a budding entrepreneur, also started by selling cookie cakes to his classmates. There was nothing more thrilling than watching Michael’s eyes light up when we told him about our son debating between fulfilling his order for half a dozen cookie cakes or studying for a math quiz. Spoiler—our son got an A on the quiz.”

Greg Zittrain is co-chair of the Society of Professionals, a group of medical professionals, attorneys, and business owners—anyone who considers themselves a professional is welcome. SoP holds educational and social events throughout the year. “Our purpose,” says Zittrain, “is to foster community—to learn about each other, to support each other, and to give back where we can. We proudly consider ourselves an outreach arm of our Federation, and we connect with the greater Tidewater community. Going forward, we have a dynamic lineup of trailblazing industry icons to look forward to.”

In business, the right perspective is true currency, just like cashflow and customers. Sometimes it just takes finding your mettle and looking for the blessing in a dark place. This worked for Michael Coles.

Just ask Wagner: “Adversity is an opportunity…if you have a sense of humor.”

Michael Coles was in Tidewater as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Book Festival through the Jewish Book Council.

This event was made possible by Fathom Coffee and 1701. For more information on SoP, contact Carly Glikman at

Visit to learn more about upcoming events.

Lisa Richmon