After a successful 19 year career in the clothing business Michael tested his entrepreneurial skills in 1977 when he co-founded Great American Cookie Company. When Michael started the Company there were three major cookie companies in business; one had almost 100 stores and the other two had fifty each. When he sold the Company in 1998 with sales over $100 million, Great American Cookie Company was the largest franchisor of cookie stores and the other three companies no longer existed. In 2003 Michael accepted the corporate reins of Caribou Coffee Company as Chairman, CEO and President. Over the next five years Michael more than doubled the size of the company extending the brand reach domestically and internationally. In September 2005, he successfully took the company public on NASDAQ under the symbol CBOU. Coles was one of the founders of Charter Bank & Trust and served as its Chairman, taking the bank public and selling the publicly traded company to Synovus Bank.
Having contributed much of their time and resources to education, the arts, environment and philanthropic organizations, Michael and his wife, Donna were honored as the Georgia Philanthropists of the year in 1995. Michael was appointed by Governor Roy Barnes in 2001 to serve on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
In recognition of Michael’s success, leadership and benevolence, Kennesaw State University, under the authority granted by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, declared that the institution’s School of Business be named and known in perpetuity as the Michael J. Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. In 1999 Michael received the Honorary Doctor of Human Letters Degree from Kennesaw State University.
Michael lives in Atlanta and Jackson, WY with his wife Donna and they are the parents of three adult children and seven grandchildren.
Michael has served as a Director of St. John’s Health Foundation since 2018.