This Norfolk-based startup is bringing digital magazine racks to waiting rooms across the US

This Norfolk-based startup is bringing digital magazine racks to waiting rooms across the US

Entrepreneurs Scott and Lauren Janney were on track to open a café in Hampton Roads – complete with a wall of magazines – when the pandemic hit.

The couple, who also own an insurance business in Chesapeake, were excited to embark on a less regulated and leaner business venture. They allocated funds, began their search for commercial space and developed some design ideas.

“We agreed that we wanted a big central wall filled with magazines for people to sit down, disconnect and enjoy,” Scott Janney said.

In March 2020, they put their idea on the back burner because, like so many other small business owners, they had no idea what the future looked like. Although they kept the hot coffee dream alive, 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.

It was then, in August 2020, that the Janneys started a different business venture – Jukebox Magazine. They envisioned providing a digital magazine rack service as an alternative to physical magazines in commercial spaces.

“Jukebox Magazine was created out of necessity, but quickly became a desirable business,” said Scott Janney. “It all makes sense: up-to-date magazines, contactless access, user-friendliness and no firewall.”

Lauren Janney said she used to hear her husband say, “Hey, I have an idea.”

The more he researched — while sketching plans in a spiral notebook at the couple’s dining room table — the bigger the idea grew, she said.

“It was really fun to watch him put so many pieces of the puzzle together and how that helped make Jukebox Magazine what it is today,” Lauren Janney said. “I’m really proud of his hard work and his vision.”

The Norfolk-based company, which was an original tenant of 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 view of 700 locations across the United States by the end of the year. The idea is to provide consumers with a way to enjoy magazines without having to touch them while waiting – a solution for common areas in hair salons, car dealerships, medical offices and cafes.

The service offers business customers a personalized scannable QR code, accessible with any smart device with a camera app. Each owner 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 loves the concept and her customers love it.

Hankins said she chose magazines focused on lifestyle, trends, travel and food — all topics her customers enjoy.

Another benefit is that customers can access digital magazines up to 36 hours after leaving a location, giving them time to finish reading the publications.

“Magazines just allow you to disconnect for a bit and focus on something else for a while,” Scott Janney said. “I also like knowing that we are doing something positive that helps reduce waste and prevents trees from being cut down unnecessarily for the production of paper magazines.”

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Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, [email protected]

Amanda P. Whitten