Friday, March 31, 2006

Million Dollar HomeBusiness

Tamara Carlisle left her successful career as an independent film and commercial producer to distribute videos for kids. She has found a niche distributing her own videos as well as those of other independent producers all over the United States. Success, however, did not come easy. Customers were slow to discover her wonderful videos. There even came a point that she had to call herself just to hear the phone ring.

Now, she ships a 44-page catalog featuring over 250 videos, software and audio products to a growing number of customers around the world. To complement her print catalog, she opened a web site in 1996. However, it was a dud. She did not know how to tap the Web for her business. Relaunching her site three years later, has become an important source of educational and fun videos for parents, libraries and schools.

Tamara Carlisle Story

I was in the film business as a film producer for 10 years. I produced high-end commercials. I was completing a two-month shoot, which was very tough. At that point, there was a surge of independent live action production being done for children's videos. My father, who has a construction company in Cincinnati, said, “You need to make a children's video about
construction.” And I thought, “Oh my gosh. Here I was working with 400 extras on the set and a 50-man crew. A children's video was totally different from where I'd been for many, many years.”

But I did do it. I produced a children's video called “What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up”; and it was called “Heavy Equipment Operator.” It was a very big success. It was written up in all the papers around the country, and it was in schools and libraries, and a lot of retail

So I followed up with other 30-minute videos called “Railroaders” and “Zoo Crew.” Basically the videos are a behind the scenes show.

Upon completion of “Heavy Equipment Operator” we quickly discovered how difficult it was to distribute a children's video in a market dominated by multi-million dollar corporations. We also realized that there were many fabulous children's videos out there but their producers, many of them working mothers, were not able to find adequate distribution.

So we decided to start our own distribution company through Big Kids Productions, Inc. Big Kids Productions, Inc. and have become important parts of the children’s entertainment industry. We search out the very best live-action, independently produced video and audio products for our catalog, web site and other distribution efforts.

It was just a tough situation in 1994 and 1995. I was getting out into the distribution world, which I had never been in, and I found out that it was very hard to distribute against powerhouses like Nickelodeon and Time Warner.

So I started with a small brochure of about 9 videos and did the direct mailing. I started to make my way through the maze of distribution in the country, both retail and other wholesale distribution companies.

After many months of making calls and waiting for the phone to ring, we gradually developed strong relationships with our wholesale outlets and expanded our retail customer mailing list. We have since grown into a company with a few hundred audio, video and software titles, and we pride ourselves on customer service and quick, accurate order filling.

BigKids started distributing in late 1995. Since then, our sales were approximately $45,000 that first year and we'll probably do a million in sales this year. We have worked very hard.

But, here is what people might me surprised to find out – it’s still a home business. One of the biggest advantages to having a home-based business is that I am able to spend a lot of time with my two children. When we started, I was working out of a rented space. When we really had to dive into this, and I was also pregnant, we decided to build a separate building outside of the house. So it has worked out real nice because I'm a mother of two. I know that I am so lucky because I am just 30 walking steps from wrapping my arms around my babies.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hidden Link Between US Comedian Chris Rock And Iran Exposed

Jamie Masada Story

In 1977, at just 14 years old, Jamie Masada found himself alone in Hollywood. A native of Iran, he didn't know anybody and spoke only Farsi. The American producer who had promised to look after him and give him a shot at success had abandoned him. With the $850 his parents had given him long gone, Masada was taken in by a compassionate apartment manager who let him sleep on a couch.

And so began Masada's journey to becoming one of America's top comedy impresarios. Supporting himself through a series of odd jobs at comedy shops on the Sunset Strip, Masada was befriended by a group of local comics. It was here that he learned the rhythm of a good joke and honed his instincts for spotting talent.

Though he enjoyed comedy once he found it, making it a career path was all but accidental. "If I'd have become a dishwasher then," he says, "I would have gone on to be the best dishwasher."

Today, Masada's flagship Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood is not only successful -- with packed houses for the past 25 years -- but also one of the most influential proving grounds for comedic talent in the nation. Jamie Masada's Laugh Factory changed the industry and gave rise to the likes of Chris Rock.

In building his kingdom of comedy, Masada has groomed and showcased some of the biggest names in the industry. In the process, he has helped change the economics of the business by paying all comics for their work, helping to promote diversity within their ranks, and finding new revenue channels through crossover promotion.

"Jamie has really grown his club in a really hard business," says comedian Bob Saget, former star of the sitcom Full House, who has known Masada for 25 years. "Not only does he have a good gauge for talent, but he's a guy who's always helping people." Saget says the fact that even the biggest-name comics return on their own -- Chris Rock performed just a few days after hosting the Oscars -- is a testament to the club's proprietor.

"When I perform at the Laugh Factory, it feels like a home for me," he adds. "He always treats me really well, and it is one of the best spaces for doing stand-up. It's like a tiny music hall."

With that success has come inevitable expansion. Just last year, Masada opened his newest venue, a $4.5 million multilevel complex in New York's Times Square, and a third club, in Long Beach, Calif., is on its way in June. Like many successful entrepreneurs who have become industry standard-bearers, he faces a challenge: building upon his self-made reputation without diluting a brand that is now considered among the best.

In 1979, when he was barely 20, Masada used a $10,000 loan from a producer friend to open his now-flagship club. Almost from the start, Masada distinguished himself on a number of fronts. For one, there was the pay. At the time, most up-and-coming performers worked simply for the exposure. But Masada always split the door receipts, even when there wasn't much to split.

Following his opening night, Masada says he gave headliner Richard Pryor his cut: $2.50. "He then pulled out a $100 bill from his pocket and gave it to me," Masada recalls. "He said, 'Your heart is bigger than your wallet.'"

Masada also opened his stage to overlooked voices. During the early 1980s, the dominant clubs in Los Angeles were the Comedy Store and the Improv. And most of the marquee names were white males. Masada nurtured talent among African-American ("We had a Black Pack," he says), Latino, and female comics, as a way to differentiate his club from the other venues as well as to expand both the talent pool and audience.

From day one, his business philosophy remained simple. "I wanted to make people laugh," he says. "I believe if you enjoy what you're doing, the money will follow."

Masada does little advertising, instead relying on word-of-mouth and a spectrum of crossover partnerships, including the Laugh Factory Minute, a daily radio spot that airs routines from the club's shows to 240 markets and 19 million people through Premier Radio Networks. And recently he joined with Nick at Night, using his New York club as backdrop for the network's Funniest Mom Contest.

While Masada says his West Coast club has been profitable for years, with the new Times Square venue, he has had to raise awareness for an audience not nearly as familiar with the Laugh Factory name. Masada's foray into the Big Apple came in large part as a result of an invitation from former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was encouraging new businesses in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "I thought, 'Yes, New York needs some laughs,'" Masada says.

Despite the recent expansion, Masada isn't interested in a rapid rollout of Laugh Factories, which he believes could weaken his brand. "I get so many offers," he says. "Jamie Foxx and Chris Tucker have asked me to partner. But I am very particular. I want to make sure to go to places where I will be successful. I don't want franchises like McDonald's."

In addition to operating his clubs, Masada manages a roster of comics. Past clients have included Rodney Dangerfield and the Wayans brothers. He also serves as a TV consultant and has produced comedy specials like Fox's Comic Strip Live. These moves help create a pipeline between comics and opportunities, and further enhance the Laugh Factory's standing as a talent hothouse.

A business based on laughs means you have to keep them coming. Although a number of big names spent their fledgling years on his stages, Masada continues to nurture newcomers. Every Tuesday he holds an open-mike night, drawing comic hopefuls from around the world. And afterward, Masada offers individual feedback and advice.

In the business for nearly 30 years, Masada has developed an instinctual grasp of what is funny -- and, more important, what the audience will find funny. If a routine is smart and makes him laugh, he's willing to take a chance. "Sometimes you're going to lose," he says. "It's the audience who decides if they're stars. I give them a spot. I can't take credit for their talent."

After his own hardscrabble start, Masada maintains a soft spot for those in need -- and uses comedy to help. Every year, he provides Thanksgiving and holiday dinners for struggling actors and comics. And since 1984, he has run the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, giving disadvantaged children in Los Angeles the opportunity to spend 16 Saturdays working on their own routines with mentors like Ellen DeGeneres. This summer, he'll launch the camp in New York.

Masada has watched the industry evolve over the years, but perhaps the biggest change has been his what his club's audience expects. "When I started, they would come for the big name on stage," he says. "Now it doesn't matter. They come because they know they're going to see a good show."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How Knitted Thongs Helped A Couple To Launch Fashion Business

Vicky Prazdnik and Lori Mozzone Story

With so much competition nowadays, a small business needs to create buzz and excitement to survive. That’s exactly what Vicky Prazdnik and Lori Mozzone did in their startup fashion business Curliegirl

The duo designs and creates crocheted and knitted hats, bags and scarves, but it was their sexy crocheted cotton thong underwear products that got them lots of attention at the start! As Mozzone says, “The thong has gotten us a lot of attention in the past. In fact, we tried removing them from our website a few times to make room for new items, and without fail someone emails us asking, "what happened to them?" This has earned them a permanent spot on the site!”

Prazdnik and Mozzone, avid knitting and crocheting hobbyists, knew that they needed to create something beyond the standard fare of knitted hats and scarves for them to succeed as a fashion company. They stumbled on the idea of dainty crocheted thong underwear, and went on to create the design and develop the right prototype. Once convinced that they have the right design, they tested the market’s reaction by showing the crocheted thongs in a Valentine’s theme party in New York. Their product got a wild response!

Prazdnik and Mozzone work together in a New York company as web designers, and became fast friends. Mozzone took up knitting as a hobby and shared her newfound interest with Prazdnik, who in turned shared her skill in crocheting. As Mozzone describes their start, “Both Vicky and I are very creative people who went to art school. When you are an artistic person by nature, you need an outlet for it... So, Curliegirl was born out of a hobby of knitting and crocheting.”

They became passionate with their hobby that they soon started an informal group of women who enjoyed knitting and crocheting as well. The two then created the usual knitted and crochet products – hats and scarves – that got complements from their colleagues and immediate circle. “We used to do an informal knit/crochet group with our friends, but got bored with what we were making,” says Mozzone. “That is when Vicky started experimenting with making the cotton lingerie, which eventually turned out to be our signature product!”

The duo formally launched their company Curliegirl in 2003. Mozzone explains the name, “Curliegirl was a personal URL of mine (for my curly hair), and we started using it as a temporary website. People thought it was cute, and so it stuck.”

Slow but sure, Curliegirl has attracted a growing clientele. They have also expanded their product lines - offering hats, scarves, handbags and other small accessories in addition to the thongs. They also have some salespeople who help distribute their products to other areas of the country. Right now Curliegirl is sold in boutiques around the USA.

“Our fashion philosophy,” according to Mozzone, “is we make what we could see ourselves wearing. We also like our products to be practical and cute. We want our creations to be different and to make the woman who wears them feel good.”

At the start, Curliegirl was a two-women show, and Mozzone and Prazdnik used to do everything themselves -- from crocheting every single product to shipping the orders. Now that the business has started to gain momentum, things have improved somewhat to allow them to focus on other important aspects of the business.

Mozzone explains, “When the business first began we were a one-stop shop with us doing it all, and in some ways we still are. We started outsourcing to get our items made which has freed us up to do more marketing, sales, and everything else to make the business work. Finding a manufacturer was very difficult for many reasons – quality control concerns, distance, cost and minimums. We wanted to find someone who communicated well, had a fair price, and a reasonable minimum.”

Even with limited manpower, these two business savvy women have an arsenal up their sleeve: they understand the power of media in influencing the fashion business. In fact, Curliegirl has received a fair amount of media exposure and mentions, including interviews in publications such as Redbook Magazine, and product inclusion in fashion spreads of YM and Jane magazines.

As Mozzone says of their strategy, “In fashion, getting endorsed by the media is very important. For a small company like us, paid advertising doesn't do much.. But when a magazine editor chooses your item to feature in a photospread, or wants an interview to tell the Curliegirl story, that is far more meaningful to consumers and they react really well to it, both in feedback and in sales.”

While Curliegirl continues to make inroads in the fashion business, the two women are still taking their entrepreneurial journey slow. In fact, they are only doing the business on a part-time basis, with the two continuing to work full-time on their day jobs!

According to Mozzone, “It is extremely difficult at times to balance a day job, Curliegirl and our personal lives. Forget about "free time!" There's a lot going on right now for both of us, so we just do the best we can. We are lucky to have a wonderful, supportive husband and boyfriend who help us out whenever they can. If Curliegirl were to one day become financially lucrative enough we would consider quitting our jobs. But as I said we take it one day at a time. It doesn't seem necessary to put that kind of pressure on ourselves at this point.”

Two years into the business, however, their partnership remains strong. Mozzone says, “We both handle the majority of things, but balance each other out in areas where one of us is stronger, the other is weaker, and vice versa. We easily pick up where the other left off.”

Nonetheless, Prazdnik and Mozzone have lots of plans for Curliegirl. “We are considering expanding our consumer base and experimenting with baby wear, but that is something for the future. We'll see what happens, we take it one day at a time,” says Mozzone.

Their advice to aspiring fashion designers and entrepreneurs: Be persistent, and don't wait for opportunities to come and find you... YOU have to go and find THEM!”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Employee Fires His Employer, Starts A Forty Million Dollar Business.

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Patrick Martucci Story

In 1980, Patrick Martucci, just out of high school, left his hometown of Cleveland with $300, pointing his Trans Am toward Dallas. He landed a $6-an-hour job at a company that was launching an odd, new product at the time -- "voice forward mail."

When he tried to explain voice mail to his grandmother, she thought he was a postal worker. Others, however, caught on. He was soon in the sales department, where he was a natural. "I had the opportunity to watch a product go out the door and gain world-wide acceptance," he says.

He leapfrogged to increasingly challenging jobs across the telecom industry, setting up distribution channels, running sales departments. A stark opportunity stared him in the face when he worked at a company that provided maintenance on Rolm phone equipment. Mr. Martucci was thrilled to pitch a sale to J.C. Penney, which, after a trial, offered him the maintenance contract for the entire retail chain's phone service. But his company could handle only Rolm equipment in specific geographic areas, not the full sprawl of a retailer with a mishmash of phone systems. Mr. Martucci says he saw what could have been "a $10 million contract go to $1.5 million, and that bugged me from that day forward."

From Chicago, he launched United Asset Coverage, which could have struck that deal. It would informally stitch together a network to fix anyone's office equipment -- no matter the brand, and no matter the place, a sort of managed-care approach to the frustrating world of office-machine maintenance.

Mr. Martucci unveiled the concept to a small venture fund, where he worked at the time. "It's a $36 billion marketplace, and I'm familiar with it," he told his partners. They jumped in, investing a total of "a couple million" dollars, he says.

He called the best salespeople he knew from previous jobs and hired 17. They told potential customers that UAC would handle all the maintenance chores for less if they paid upfront. Just like explaining voice mail to grandma, the new business model, part insurance, part repair clearinghouse, wasn't an easy sell. "There is nothing more boring than telephone maintenance," Mr. Martucci admits.

It took six long months in 1997 for the company to secure its first customer: A TGI Friday's in St. Louis signed up for UAC to maintain its lone copier. By 2001, UAC installed a call center in Chicago so that anyone could call and order service. Establishing a network of service providers proved easier. Once they saw that UAC provided steady revenue, acting as a sort of agent for them, many agreed to discounts on their services to be part of the network.

Though new competitors are sprouting up, today UAC is the largest telecom-maintenance company in the world. The closely held firm doesn't disclose revenue, but earnings reached $40 million this year.

Monday, March 27, 2006

How To Make $4 Million A Year In Sales With An Ugly Website.

Joel Boblit Story

Joel Boblit parlayed nostalgia for his childhood toys into big-time business when he discovered how much Transformers--robot action figures whose popularity has continued since the 1980s--were being sold for online. He launched in 1999 shortly after graduating college, while he was reliving fond memories of trading his favorite childhood toys--GI Joe, Masters of the Universe and Transformers. The biggest challenge in those early days? Boblit admits: "Being teased by my friends."

While in college, Boblit sold action figures as a hobby for extra money, but when he decided to turn his hobby into a business, his parents supported him on all levels. They went heavily into debt to finance the business, and worked 100-plus-hour weeks alongside him for BigBadToyStore. Housing his inventory at one point, his parents had to create aisles in their home to navigate around the ceiling-high boxes. Says Boblit, "They have been instrumental throughout all this and worked just as hard as I did to keep it all together during the tough early years."

BigBadToyStore caters to specialty toy buyers with vintage favorites like Star Wars figurines and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Boblit also branched out to comic- and movie-related items, earning loyal customers around the world. Serious collectors prize mint-condition toy packaging, so Boblit guarantees his toys by using a grading system to distinguish "standard grade" (mint or near-mint condition) from "substandard grade" packages.

He also offers a premium packing service that ensures an item is in tiptop condition and handled with extra care when it's shipped. Another big draw is the "Pile of Loot" function, which allows customers to stockpile items they've already paid for in a virtual storage bin. Upon the customer's choosing, the company will ship out all the items at once, reducing shipping costs. Future plans include distribution to approved retailers, who can view volume pricing online. Boblit says, "We've got the competitive edge for convenience."

Joel made $4 million dollars in sales in 2005, so the strategy seems to be working.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

How About A Few Million Dollars For Clubbing In New York?

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Andrew Fox Story

In 1995, this oft-rejected newcomer to New York City's club scene found a way to get past the doorman of every hot club he longed to enter--start a website offering club-goers free club reviews and information. The now-savvy Fox recalls his earlier, awkward days: "I showed up at a club wearing green shorts, and everyone was in black. The bouncer looked at me and said, 'There's no way.'"

Working on the website in his off hours at first, Fox chucked his investment banking job in 1997 to give (then his all. Volunteers provided early club reviews, until Fox hired a full-time editorial staff in 1999. Then he came up with a new idea: Start a guest list on his site for access to otherwise hard-to-get-into clubs. By offering a discounted cover charge to those who both signed up on the site and arrived at the club before midnight, Fox helped enhance the exclusivity of the clubs as well as increase revenue. Club owners were dubious about Fox's concept at first, but when hundreds of club-goers who signed up showed up at their doors, the owners gladly forged relationships with the innovator and paid him a "bounty" for every head he brought in.

Fox installed a management team for so he could focus on two other businesses he was involved in, but he admits giving up control was a mistake. Upon learning of's mismanagement and financial woes, Fox engaged in a bitter struggle to regain control. He ultimately won, but the battle took its toll on the company. He was forced to lay off employees he had never met. With only two employees, Fox started back at square one, selling his other companies to refocus on his "baby." has grown to include thousands of club listings around the United States and the United Kingdom, and now syndicates its content to Citysearch, newspapers, Yahoo! and other third-party clients. Fox also recently launched, an upscale, urban Latino version of, and is working on a version for the gay community. He's since expanded his empire to include a New Year's Eve event ticketing site,; an exclusive club access site,; a ticketing company,; and an offline event and marketing company, Track Entertainment.

How much money do these sites generate for Andrew Fox? Last year it was a cool 22 million US Dollars.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

How To Turn $5000 To $25 Million In 5 Years Selling To … Babies

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Julie Aigner-Clark Story

Most great ideas are born from a need. The Baby Einstein Company LLC based in Littleton, Colorado, came from Julie Aigner-Clark’s need for a learning tool for her infant daughter. In 1995, this former teacher and new mom read the latest research regarding babies’ capacity to learn. Finding nothing in stores that used the research and that was developmentally appropriate, educational and fun, Aigner-Clark (pictured with daughters Sierra, 3, and Aspen, 6) decided to create something herself. Her first video, Baby Einstein, featured intriguing pictures and mothers speaking different languages.

Says Aigner-Clark, “I wanted something that was not only entertaining but stimulating and engaging that would give [my daughter] exposure to things that were lovely.”

As a mom, she knew her product was good, but “nobody was returning my calls,” she says. “I knew if I could get it into the hands of a mom or an executive who had a baby, [that] would sell it.”

Two years later, with no responses to her many queries, Aigner-Clark finally hit pay dirt: She went to the American International Toy Fair in New York City determined to get her product into the hands of a buyer from The Right Start, a high-end baby retailer. She searched the huge show for two days without luck. When she finally found the buyers, she says, “I ran up to them [and said,] ‘You’re going to love this video! You have to watch it! It’s perfect for your store!’ ” Aigner-Clark’s instincts were right on: Baby Einstein soon became the store’s fastest-moving product. Here initial investment - $5000

She’s followed up with more books and videos—Baby Bach, Baby Mozart, Baby Shakespeare and Baby Van Gogh. She’s also developed Baby Santa’s Music Box.

Still, even with 1999 sales of more than $4 million, $10 million in 2000 and $25 million in 2001, Aigner-Clark’s best rewards are being able to organize her schedule around her daughters and reading the stirring letters she gets from Baby Einstein viewers. How does she define success? “That I’ve made these kids—who are so special—happy . . . that I’ve made them smile.”

Using the philosophy that the infant brain thrives in a child who is positively stimulated emotionally, physically and intellectually, Aigner-Clark incorporated puppetry with sounds, foreign languages, poetry and classical music. Baby Einstein's productions emphasize "real-world" images over computer graphics or animation to more accurately reflect the world that babies see.

Despite Baby Einstein's phenomenal reception, the company has never employed more than seven people. Clark (Julie’s husband) also notes Baby Einstein never took out a loan or equity capital. In fact, Baby Einstein operated from Aigner-Clark's home until 2001.

The secret to Baby Einstein's success, Clark said, has been "a good concept and a brilliant branding strategy."

"[Julie] did a marvelous job of catching a trend and building it," Clark said.
That’s when the business got Disney’s attention. In 2002 the couple sold the company for an estimated $25 million dollars.

With Disney, the characters that Aigner-Clark created would not only get a wider audience, but better production values.

As for Julie Aigner-Clark, she’s looking for another big idea.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

How A Guy Became A Millionaire Selling Antenna Balls.

Jason Wall Story

As Jason Wall sees it, success is all about having a ball. Since 1998, Wall has been topping car antennas with happy faces, 8-balls and even cowgirls—complete with braids and hats. Wall is president and CEO of In-Concept Inc., the company behind, which manufactures more than 500,000 custom antenna balls per month.

Based in Glendale, California, owes its success to one “man”: Jack. It all started when Wall saw a Jack In The Box fast-food commercial in mid-1997 that said the company had sold more than 3 million antenna balls. Sensing opportunity, Wall came up with a few designs he thought would penetrate the auto accessory and novelty industries. The designs stuck.

After selling four million balls through local gas stations and convenience stores, Wall recently landed some major national accounts, including AutoZone, Circle K and Wal-Mart, and he’s negotiating licensing deals with Universal Studios. With sales of $1.15 million for 1999 (one year after he started his business), Wall attributes timeliness to his overnight success. Six years later, Jason Wall is a multimillionaire.

But it wasn’t all easy. First, in 1999, Co., a division of Self Reliant Systems, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Wally Balls, L.L.C., Jason Wall, and IN-Concept, Inc. The amended complaint alleged copyright infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition relating to Coolballs'(R) proprietary antenna ball designs.

After the issue was resolved, online retailer of antenna ball toppers, and In-Concept, Inc., (, developer and distributor of custom antenna toppers, announced an agreement to join forces in January of 2006.

“This alliance is a perfect fit,” says Jeremy Turner, founder and owner of the Florida-based “Our website carries over 500 unique and collectible antenna toppers,” says Turner. “This partnership will create one of the largest antenna ball manufacturing and distribution companies in the United States."

“The next time you are driving down the road, look at people’s antennas,” says Turner, “You will be amazed at how many antenna balls are out there. Companies seeking effective advertising methods should consider the low cost of antenna toppers,” he says. “At its peak, Union 76 sold 4 million antenna toppers each year, and if you saw one of their antenna toppers, their advertising message worked – and it worked well. This is viral marketing at its best,” Turner says. “You can get your message across much more cost effectively with four million antenna balls than just one 30-second television commercial. Your customers and potential customers carry your advertisement with them wherever they go for the entire world to see – a constant reminder of your product or service,” says Turner.

“It’s very easy to think of a good idea,” Jason Wall says. “But I think success really comes down to execution and perseverance.”

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pregnant Woman Finds A Strange Way To Make Money Online

Holly Nill-McKay

When Holly was pregnant a few years back in 1999, she looked for a unique way to tell her friends and family of her pregnancy. Making phone call after phone call to every cousin, aunt and uncle was a daunting task, but she still wanted to share her news with everyone. She hunted through stores and on the Internet and all she could find were birth announcements. Thus, Holly's idea for Fetal Greetings was born. She wanted to create cards where a little embryo baby could make the announcement of the upcoming birth for her.

She began by asking a friend from high school, who had a talent for drawing, to draw some pictures of fetal babies in different settings (i.e. sonogram, mother's belly). She was most pleased with the results and the drawings came out exactly as Holly had wanted. Holly proceeded to create the sayings for all the different cards. In June of 2000, Holly took her business online with

Holly's business is run completely online and she takes orders via a secure website or by phone.

Holly designed her own website but worked with a webmaster until recently. She is pleased to now have complete control of her site now and to have the ability to make changes anytime, which she does almost everyday.

Holly attributes her online success to networking, gathering current online business information and analyzing the competition.

"Networking is vital," says Holly. She belongs to several online groups, including MyWoman2Woman and Creative Enterprises. "It's invaluable to interact with others who are in your same boat of running a home-based business," Holly says emphatically, "You learn from each other's mistakes and successes and get to form a real bond with people you otherwise wouldn't have when running a home business by yourself."

Finally, Holly stresses the need to check in to see what your competition is up to. Always know who is ranking higher on the search engines than you and why. Submit to search engines regularly and test out new keywords and phrases.

Running a business from home with two small children at home all day does have it's challenges. Holly mainly works during her children's naps and when they go to bed at night.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How To Make Millions DESTROYING Hollywood Movie Sets

Myan Spaccarelli Story

Founded in 1986, Looney Bins, Incorporated is an award-winning, progressive, and rapidly growing construction and demolition (C&D) debris waste hauling and recycling company with locations in both the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County Recycling Market Development Zones.

Looney Bins found a market niche by contracting with local Hollywood movie studios to deconstruct movie lots containing wood, cardboard, metal, plastic, and other salvageable items; Looney Bins then sells and/or donates the recovered materials. Some of the uses promoted by Looney Bins have included providing wood to a company that makes reconstituted pallets; reusing Warner Bros. Studios' telephone poles for the Special Olympics; shipping reclaimed nails, screws, and other building materials to hospitals overseas; and helping a Southern California nursery reuse wood scrap for planter boxes.

In 1999, the CIWMB Recycling Market Development Zone (RMDZ) program made its first loan to Looney Bins for the purchase of a wood grinder, ancillary equipment, and working capital. This enabled the company to expand into grinding wood and drywall into mulch.

By 2003 the company had grown considerably and it received another RMDZ loan. Its new site, Downtown Diversion, is capable of processing all types of C&D debris, including asphalt, brick, wood, drywall, cardboard, concrete, carpet, scrap metal, roofing shingles, and other similar materials. Eighty percent of what is brought in will be diverted from landfill disposal. Material diversion is expected to reach 50,000 tons of C&D annually. With the increase in material intake and processing, the company expects to realize some economies of scale.

Looney Bins is committed to helping municipalities and businesses recycle efficiently and economically. "In part because of the RMDZ program, our landfill diversion rates are in excess of 70 percent and sales are higher than ever," says Myan Spaccarelli, Looney Bins founder.

Its commitment to recycling has earned Looney Bins a number of awards including L.A. County's LACoMAX Exchange Award (2002), CIWMB's CalMAX Match of the Year (1998), CIWMB’s WRAP Award (1999–2005), and the City of Los Angeles' Good Earthkeeping Award (2000).

P.S. Business App Of The Day - X-Cleaner Deluxe

Monday, March 20, 2006

How To Turn Tragedy To $10 Million Dollars A Year Business

Amilya Antonetti struggled to find a cure for her son’s ailments, and found with it a successful business. Amilya had just given birth to her son, David, but her joy quickly turned to horror when the newborn would constantly cry in pain. The baby experienced shortness of breath and skin rashes. Not knowing what ails the baby, she and her husband consulted various specialists and doctors, to no avail. No one could them what is wrong with David or what triggers all the pain.

Her spirit undaunted, she made a careful record of her baby’s life in the hope of finding the triggers to David’s painful reactions. She discovered that David’s pain was worst on Tuesdays, the day she cleans the house.

Careful research led her to finally discover the culprits: chlorine and ammonia from her household cleaning products. The synthetic ingredients in the cleaning products caused David tremendous discomfort and pain. Amilya threw out her cleaning products and David’s crying finally stopped.

She then started her quest of developing cleaning products without synthetic-based ingredients. Using vegetable-based ingredients, she created a line of household cleaning products that are safe to use around David. Before long, word got around of the hypoallergenic cleaning products she developed. Her business, Soapworks, was born. It has now grown into a $10 million business in three years that it has been in business. Amilya’s company now offers a line of cleaning products: Laundry Powder or Liquid Laundry, Automatic Dishwashing Powder, All-Purpose Cleaner, Glass Cleaner, and Spot Cleaner.

This is what Amilya has to say.

I never really decided to start a soap making business and become “Amilya, the soap maker.” I was sharing all the products with friends and family and they kept encouraging me to start a business.

When I ran an ad in a local newspaper “Calling All Moms” and saw how many other mothers were in the same position I was, they also said you need to get this soap out to others. Because of these “mom gatherings” I was hosting with moms testing the products; the business really started without me even realizing it.

I started the business in 1993 making soap in my sink and later in my garage.
This continued into 1994 as I continued my fact-finding research on the hazards of chemicals. In 1995 with all my notes and research in hand, I hired formulator and SOAPWORKS was born.

Initially I gave my product to doctors, took it to PTA meetings and community and civic groups, schools, etc. It was basically word of mouth. The challenge – always cash flow, cash flow and cash flow.

Customers were very warm and receptive but the businesses (supermarkets, chain stores) were not at all receptive. I learned quickly that it is all about business and the money. The buyers wanted to know what they – their store – would get by purchasing the product, i.e. special discounts, coupons for their customers, etc. Store space is a premium and I was competing in an $8 billion industry for that space. No one was going to hold my hand and walk me through what I needed to do just because it was a good idea or a great product. I had entered a dog eat dog business.

We started as a family business but have gone way beyond that now. I balance my life by duplicating myself and building teams for everything. I have a team for David’s needs; for my business; a personal team that keeps me grounded. No one can be the “end-all” and if you think you are . . . well you’re in for a rude awakening. I surround myself with people who can be an extension of me as well as people who bring what I don’t have to the table – in both my business and personal life.

P.S. Business App Of The Day - Spyware Doctor

Saturday, March 18, 2006

How Surviving Cancer Helped New York Woman Become A Successful Entrepreneur And A Happy Person.

Sheril Cohen Story

I rushed back to work as soon as my treatment was finished. Everything was the same, but I was different. My colleagues got all fired up about the minutiae of marketing materials, and I'd think: "Wow, that used to be me." I felt I could make a bigger contribution, but I wasn't sure how.

People often asked me to talk to their family members or friends who had cancer. One of the first questions people asked was: "What about my hair?" I had worried about that, too, and wondered if that made me shallow and vain. But when you're healthy, hair is just hair. When you're ill, it is something else entirely. It's the moment you take a very private struggle public.

I cautioned people about wig shopping by sharing my own experiences, which were terrible. Salespeople rushed, tried to push me around, and didn't want me to bring a friend for advice. I started my company so others wouldn't have to go through that.

I immersed myself in the wig business. I met with wholesalers, retailers, and stylists in Brooklyn's wig district and spoke to women who wore wigs. I hired four part-time stylists, each of whom had a connection to someone with cancer. They bring wig samples into people's homes and style them as the client likes. My prices -- anywhere from $50 to $5,000 for a wig, depending on the hair -- are comparable to those in wig stores because I have no overhead.

My three oncologists placed my brochures in their offices on Dec. 17, 2003. I got my first client on the 23rd. I had helped 100 clients by the time my business became full-time in October, 2004. Now, I'm setting up agreements with other women to expand into a handful of states.

This is not the kind of business that people scribble down the name of in case they ever need it. You won't know about the company until you need it. I rely on word of mouth from doctors and service providers. I knew I'd arrived this November, when my business made it onto Oxford Health Plan's preferred providers list.

Soon I started getting calls that were way out of my geographic area -- women in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and West Virginia -- which led to a new service called Look Just Like You. Women send us pre-chemotherapy pictures with their hair styled as they like it, and we recreate that style and color in a wig.
Part of my philosophy is that any franchise has to give back to the medical community. All our business expenses are charged to credit cards that give 2% of case back to St. Jude's Hospital for Cancer Research. I also intend that one day we'll be able to contribute to cancer-research trials.

My business is all about service. I will not take on a franchisee who can't treat clients with the same level of compassion and care that we give them in our existing territories. That's a lot of work on our end -- interviewing prospective franchisees and their character references and work references extensively. We have to make sure they're excited about the impact they can have on others, not just about the business.

Quite frankly, far and away the biggest is increasing awareness, letting people know this kind of service even exists. I often say that a client will not know about us until they have to. You don't file away the name of Girl on the Go so that you'll have it one day in case you need it.

A lot of our clients find us on the Internet and some find us on the American Cancer Web site -- the New York City chapter lists us. When people find out about us, they say they feel so lucky to have found out. I wish I had the funds to do advertising that would reduce the role luck plays in finding us.

P.S. Business App Of The Day - Registry Mechanic

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Tech-Head Becomes Nostalgic, Earns Millions At It

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Mike Becker Story

Working in Washington's high-tech hub in 1998, all Mike Becker heard about was high-tech this and future that. So Becker took a look at what his fellow Redmonites were doing--and did exactly the opposite. Inspired by an article in Entrepreneur magazine and having long collected nostalgia-based toys and items from his childhood, Becker surmised "There's got to be people like me out there [who love nostalgia], where I could have a cool little business based on that love." Choosing to resurrect the bobblehead, Becker pulled out his life savings of $35,000 and took a business trip down memory lane.

Becker makes his "Wacky Wobblers" out of plastic. Focusing on characters and personalities he enjoyed from the past, Becker chose Bob's Big Boy as his first licensing conquest. He convinced the distributor who sold to the gift shops in Bob's Big Boy restaurants it would be a hit, and after a couple thousand sold, he landed a big order for 13,000. Becker then applied his profits toward new licenses, characters and molds.

Becker's second licensing deal came with the help of a business acquaintance who is the licensing director at New Line Cinema. His break took advantage of the afterglow following the first Austin Powers movie, which resulted in shagadelic sales of 80,000 bobbleheads.

Becker's growing line of Wacky Wobblers (recent additions include Bozo the Clown, Lucky Charms and Pink Panther) helped Snohomish, Washington-based Funko Inc. reach $2 million last year without selling to large discount merchants. Opting instead for the small, cool, independent gift and specialty shops, Becker is content with Funko's volume, but has plans to diversify with other products, keeping with the nostalgic vibe he's created.

And although he's now the one being approached by companies for licensing about half the time, the self-titled "chairman of fun" hasn't swayed on lucrative deals that didn't fit with his ideology, such as the promotional sports figures his competitors have jumped on. He continues to be the sole decision-maker judging which characters are Funko-worthy and vows to keep his small, eight-employee family-and-friend operation anti-corporate. "My dog's here every day, and we wear shorts and play video games like we wanted to in the beginning," Becker shares. "As long as I'm doing what I want to do and we're making a profit, I can't imagine anything better."

P.S. Business App Of The Day - Genie Backup Pro

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How 18-Year Old Kid Makes Sell Bean Bags Worth $30 Million Each Year

Shawn Nelson Story

At age 18, Shawn Nelson was watching TV on the couch when he decided "a huge beanbag thing" might be more comfortable. He bought 14 yards of vinyl, cut it into a baseball shape, and spent three weeks filling it with anything soft he could find. The finished LoveSac was 7 feet wide, and everyone who saw it tried it out—and loved it.
When neighbors started placing orders, Nelson decided to start his company almost as a joke. With free help from his friends, he made the LoveSacs in his parents' basement and sold them at trade shows, events and even the drive-in.
Business was moderate at best, until he got a call on his cell phone that changed his life: a quarter-million-dollar order from Too Inc., which was looking for a back-to-school offering for its Limited Too stores. "I answered the phone and said, 'Twelve thousand LoveSacs? Sure, no problem. That's what we do; we're the best in the world at it,'" remembers Nelson.

Undaunted, Nelson amassed $50,000 in credit card debt building a factory. He worked 19-hour days and slept at the factory. "It nearly broke me emotionally, physically, mentally," Nelson says. "My hands were cracked and bleeding. We finished the order [for Too Inc.] but ate up all our profits." Just when things seemed darkest, a deceptively simple idea presented itself: Open a mall store. Not just any store, but one designed from the beginning to look like an upscale chain—even before it was a chain. It paid off: With some 55 stores, about half of them franchised, LoveSac is looking at sales topping $30 million this year.

"We're headed toward owning [the market for] oversized living," says Nelson, who dispenses with all modesty where his business is concerned. "We're going to have a catalog that'll be three inches thick, selling everything that's over-the-top, bling-bling, LoveSac-get-out-of-our-freaking-way."

No one fully expected LoveSac's success—not even Nelson himself. He says being committed to solving any problem is vital to his—and any entrepreneur's—success. "Decide that there is always a way," he says, "and you'll find that there is.”

P.S. Business App Of The Day - BitDefender

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How A Man Makes Over 2 Million Dollars A Year... Chasing The Geese Away

David Marcks Story

David Marcks discovered a lucrative business opportunity when he used his dog to solve a problem that he constantly faced working at a golf course - the proliferation of geese. Geese love to inhabit open spaces that provide them with water and plenty of food (such as short, tender grasses). While adding a "natural look" to golf courses, no one would want to play in a golf course where the grass couldn't be seen under the cover of goose droppings. Imagine wading in the middle of goose droppings to hit a golf ball. Yikes!

David and other fellow golf superintendents tried several approaches. According to David, "We tried everything - sprays, pyrotechnics, flags, fences. Everything worked for a little bit and then it would stop working." Until he discovered that his dog, a Border Collie, was a natural in driving geese away. As he recalls, "It was so successful that I never looked back and we've been doing it ever since."

David started Geese Police in 1986, as the solution to driving away unwanted geese from town parks, corporate properties, golf courses, or even front lawns. Using trained border collies, they drive away the geese without harming them. Today, Geese Police has considerably grown and expanded, earning just under $2 million in 2000. David has also begun to franchise his business to a highly selected group of individuals.

About fourteen years ago, David Marcks never thought that chasing geese as a way to keep his hyperactive dog busy could become a lucrative business.

David, then 23 years old, was working as a golf course superintendent in Greenwich, Connecticut. As he recalls, "I had a problem with 600 geese residing on the golf course." They tried several options: goose-repellent chemicals that don't always work, to streamers or other "goose-frightening" props that altered the appearance of the golf course. Killing or injuring the birds was out of the question.

At the same time, he got his first Border collie. After trying various approaches unsuccessfully, he stumbled on the idea that he could perhaps train his dog to drive off the geese. "I contacted the American Border Collie Association, told them about what I want to train the dog to do and they thought I was a lunatic."

It worked! As David proudly recalls, "Once I had my dog for 6-8 weeks, I didn't have any geese on my golf course. Of course my neighboring golf courses suffered greatly because all the geese went someplace else."

With the geese gone, however, a new problem popped up. David had a new problem: what will he do with the dog?

"What nobody told me when I got my dog was that border collies make lousy pets. Now we had this highly intelligent working breed dog with nothing to do. She was driving me crazy. She was chasing squirrels, rabbits, golf balls, etc. Once I had a little irrigation break on a green, and she was being difficult, more so that particular day, so I put her in my office. I left for 20 minutes, and went down to the golf course and checked on the problem. When I came back, she ate my office - I mean literally -- my desk, the chair, the garbage can, and three sets of computer cables."
While some may have gotten rid of the dog, David thought otherwise. "I know she was a great dog; but she just needed to be kept busy."

What David did next laid the ground for Geese Police. He offered the services of his dog to herd away the geese in neighboring golf courses, with no charge for the service. After all, it was simply a way to keep his dog busy.

"I asked the neighboring golf course if they had any problems with geese. So I brought my dog and introduced her, and asked if I could possibly stop by every morning before work, during lunch and after work to herd the geese off the golf course. They agreed. So that's what I did. Everyday, I dropped by before going to work, then came back during lunch break and after work and herd the geese off another golf course."

Four to six weeks later, the neighboring golf course didn't have any geese on their property. So David was back to square one. His dog had again nothing to do. "She was being a menace and I have to look around for something for her to do."

Word about David and his dog started to spread among golf course operators in Connecticut. Another superintendent was playing in the neighboring golf course that David and his dog serviced. With the noticeable absence of geese, he asked the superintendent whatever happened to the geese. The superintendent replied, as David recalls, "Oh you've got to see it. This kid comes down and he has this dog. They come down here and drive away the geese."

The guy called up David and said, "I'd pay you to chase the geese off my golf course." That started Geese Police.

While Geese Police started in the golf course sector, David says that, "Golf courses are now just about 5% of my business. The majority of my business now, about 90%, are corporate parks and playgrounds - corporate and township properties."

David continued working as a golf course superintendent, while squeezing in his business on the side. Word soon spread about his services, "Next thing you know, word got out; I never advertised." He was soon doing 3 or 4 golf courses. However, he was faced with the difficulty in balancing his work with the responsibility to his customers.

"What was happening was that I couldn't get to all of them during my lunch break. Sometimes in the morning, it was taking me too long to get through them and I didn't want to be late for my job. So what I started to do was I hired a retired old guy who used to come in the middle of the day and come take my dog for my jobs - going before work and after work."

Dave then moved down to New Jersey, working in the county park system for the next three years while doing Geese Police on the side. He then had three employees. During this time, the business has been operating without a formal legal structure.
Until someone asked him for insurance.

"I was doing a job at that time for Bell Telephones and someone asked me for an insurance certificate. I said, "Why do I need insurance? I've got a dog; I run around your yard."

David realized that he needed to establish the legal entity of his business and all the attendant requirements including insurance, if he wants to continue tapping big companies as his clientele.

"That's when it all became a little bit more serious and it became The Geese Police, the company. After several years, I just went from Geese Police the company to Geese Police Incorporated on the advice of lawyers and accountants. Things started picking up, and they advised me that I should really incorporate. So it changed into a corporation."

Fourteen years after, Geese Police has remained at the forefront of the industry that it pioneered. David proudly announces, "Right now, we have 27 trucks on the road. We own 32 dogs. We service throughout the state of New Jersey and parts of New York -- and that's just for my main office here. We also have franchise offices now in Chicago, Virginia and Maryland, and an affiliated office in Seattle, Washington."

P.S. Business App Of The Day - Acronis True Image

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Single Mom From Pennsylvania Makes A Living Selling Bookmarks Online

Diane Waltman story

My business is designing and laminating bookmarks for wedding favors, business promotions, nonprofit organizations, holidays and other special occasions or projects. I design them on my computer, depending on what the customer wants. Then I print and laminate them.

I came up with the idea of a bookmark business because it was a fun way to express my creativity and would require a low investment. Extensive foot surgery forced me to quit my office job a few years ago, and my doctors told me I would be out of work for more than three years. I knew I had to do something while recuperating, so I decided to look into an online business. I researched my competition and found only one Website selling handmade bookmarks.

Within a week, in March 1999, I had started a business. After I researched my idea on the Web, I went to a local business supply company and bought most of my supplies -- a laminating machine, sheets of laminate and paper, ink and special software. Then I got going on my Website. I also checked my state regulations to see what forms I needed to file to make my business legal.

I researched Web design and learned how to build my own site, found a Web host and lined up a merchant account so I could accept credit cards. Then I was ready to market my online business -- probably the most important step.

I began by targeting some likely markets. I knew that my bookmarks would make great wedding favors, so I contacted bridal Websites and had a few list my business in exchange for a free ad in my weekly newsletter or a free link on my Website. I also advertised online in the classifieds and in newsletters from other sites and registered with the search engines. Search engine placement is very important. Offline, I designed fliers to post in local bridal shops. Most of my marketing efforts were free.

P.S. Business App Of The Day - East-Tec Eraser 2006

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How Sigmund Freud Helped A Man Sell Couches Worth Thousands Of Dollars

Psychoanalysis, the treatment originated by Sigmund Freud more than a century ago that requires patients to lie on a couch and say whatever comes to mind, has been battered in recent years by everything from antidepressants to skepticism to managed care that doesn't pay for such long-term therapy.

So who in his right mind would want to launch a company that makes psychoanalytic couches?

It takes an entrepreneur who believes that businesses considered antiquated are underserved niches with perhaps more staying power than trendier enterprises. Randall Scott Thomas, a Seattle furniture maker, knows psychoanalysts are a minority among mental health counselors these days. But thousands are either in training or in practice, and many have trouble finding the appropriate couch.

Mr. Thomas, who makes contemporary home and office furniture, has never undergone analysis himself and didn't know what a classic analytic couch looked like until a few years ago. He was approached by Doene Rising, a Seattle analyst who was starting a private practice and couldn't find a couch to her liking at any furniture store. She was familiar with his work and showed him a picture of one that she had found in a magazine -- an armless, backless, chaise-like bench, with a built-in headrest, designed for reclining, not sitting. She told him she wanted something similar. Instead of traditional leather, she wanted cloth upholstery, and chose a deep blue fabric.

"Leather can be cold, and I wanted something inviting, but something classic that said to my patients, 'This isn't for sleeping on, it's for reflecting on,' " Dr. Rising says. She and other analysts believe that when their patients recline and the therapist is sitting out of sight behind them, patients feel freer to explore their fantasies and talk about their deepest, darkest desires and fears. (The technique, of course, has sparked numerous cartoons of analysts asleep in their chairs, while their patients drone on.)

For the 47-year-old Mr. Thomas, the biggest design challenge was refining the angle of the headrest. "You don't need lumbar support when you're lying down, but you do need your shoulders and head supported well," he says. "And you need to be propped up enough that you don't fall asleep or roll over -- or sink into a too-soft cushion."

The completed couch was a hit with Dr. Rising as well as several of her analyst colleagues, who placed orders with Mr. Thomas. Since then, he has designed five styles, ranging in price from $1,550 to $3,080. Most have the same measurement (29 inches wide by 80 inches long) but different upholstery and leg styles.

The recent launch of his Analytic Couch Co. coincides with the biannual meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, which starts tomorrow in Seattle. Recognizing a sales and marketing opportunity, Mr. Thomas persuaded the association, which expects about one-third of its 3,300 members to attend, to allow him to exhibit his couches. Until now the association has limited displays at its meetings to books for purchase, "but I thought we should tell our members about more products and services they need, so it seemed like a good idea," says Dean Stein, the group's new executive director.

Mr. Thomas faces some competition. Prestige Furniture & Design Group in New York City's Queens borough, for one, has been making analytic couches for more than 50 years. During the heyday of psychoanalysis in the 1960s and 1970s, when most residents in psychiatry received some analytic training, Prestige sold thousands of couches to medical-supply companies, which in turn sold them to hospitals and psychiatrists. "We had a factory devoted just to this," says 75-year-old Fred Brafman, one of the company's founders.

Prestige still makes six analytic couch models, some of which have been used as props in theater productions and movies. They range in price from $900 to about $6,000, and must be custom ordered. "The demand isn't what it used to be," Mr. Brafman says.

He also has a list of what design features to avoid. Loud or busily designed upholstery, he notes, can distract patients. "One analyst returned a couch once because a patient was seeing faces of animals in the upholstery," Mr. Brafman says. Prestige also no longer makes couches with buttons, "because anxious patients rip them out," he says, or an adjustable headrest model, because the up-and-down lever mechanism broke frequently.

Unlike Analytic Couch, whose designs are more contemporary, Prestige doesn't have a Web site for online orders and it doesn't advertise much. Many analysts say they haven't known where to shop for a couch when furnishing their offices. "We can help analysts find office space and even patients, but it's hard to know where to send them for a couch -- and we get inquiries about this all the time," says Matthew von Umwerth, the librarian at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute who is in training to become an analyst.

Sigmund Freud's famous leather couch, which he draped in colorful Persian carpets, remains the standard bearer -- and it is on display at the Freud Museum in London. He didn't have to shop for it, however, since it was a gift from a patient. His use of it stemmed from his early method of hypnotizing patients. While he thought patients who reclined on a couch would more readily confront their repressed anxieties, he admitted he had a "personal motive....I cannot put up with being stared at by other people for eight hours a day (or more)," he wrote. "Since while I am listening to the patient, I, too, give myself over to...unconscious thoughts, I do not wish my influence what the patient tells me."

A couch is just a couch for some analysts, who say they would rather use an ordinary living-room model. When Prudy Gourguechon, a Northfield, Ill., analyst, purchased a custom-designed analytic couch a few years ago, "my patients wouldn't go near it," she says. "It was way too formal, and they missed my ratty old sofa that had a back and made them feel enclosed." She ultimately gave away the classic couch and purchased a standard living-room leather sofa at a department store.

However much they mull what couch to purchase, a bigger decision involves the chair analysts themselves sit in. Anticipating this need, Mr. Thomas has designed a leather armchair that retails for $1,899 and offers, he says, solid back and neck support. "You're sitting all day long, so you better find something very comfortable," says Leon Hoffman, a New York analyst.

P.S. Business App Of The Day - TypingMaster Pro

Friday, March 10, 2006

How Unknown Designer Tricked Stars Into Taking Her Purses To Oscar.

Make Easy Money Online
Lauren Merkin Story

It was Friday afternoon, two days before the Oscars, and Lauren Merkin, a little-known New York handbag designer, waited inside her room at the swank Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel, hoping that the $31,000 she had invested in producing a collection of 65 one-of-a-kind "Red Carpet" bags for Hollywood's biggest evening was about to pay off.

Her dream: that a big-name star or her stylist would breeze through the hotel room and select a bag to carry for the Academy Awards.
Bagging a celebrity endorsement is a marketing coup for any business, but a small shop like Ms. Merkin's can be catapulted to the major leagues if a star is photographed wearing the merchandise. In the frenzy of Oscar week, however, dozens of hopefuls -- from tiny shops to designers who are celebrities in their own right -- jostle each other for attention in hopes that a star will deign to wear one of their creations to one of the parties and events.

Breaking into this world costs money: Of the $31,000 Ms. Merkin spent, $13,500 included a fee to have her handbags at a "freebie" gift lounge for celebrities at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before the Oscars. An additional $9,000 went to production of the Red Carpet clutches -- she decided to make a special line of unique bags just for this event; Ms. Merkin's travel and hotel expenses ate up $3,500 and a publicist's travel expenses cost $5,000.

For a small company with roughly $1.4 million in revenue and a staff of four, this was no small investment -- and one that was a gamble. Even if a celebrity or her stylist took one of Ms. Merkin's bags, there was no guarantee she would actually end up toting it Oscar weekend as stars are notorious for being fickle. And even if someone did carry one, they might inadvertently tuck it behind their back or hand it to a publicist to hold while cameras were snapping.

Ms. Merkin was aware of the risks. "If they have your item and are photographed in conjunction with the Oscars, you can't even put a price on that," she said before the awards. And if not? "I'm trying not to think about it."

At 31 years old, Ms. Merkin, who earned an M.B.A. from Columbia University in New York, already has achieved some success with her basic $165 to $575 bags in silk, lambskin, snakeskin and calf hair. The bags are sold on and at Bergdorf Goodman, and in some 200 smaller boutiques such as Searle.

She got one of her first tastes of how powerful the celebrity connection can be after singer Jessica Simpson was photographed in August carrying one of her leather totes and the image appeared on a fashion Web site crediting Ms. Merkin. The photo was a surprise to Ms. Merkin -- her company hadn't given the bag to Ms. Simpson. Afterward, "we were getting emails from women around the country wanting to know how to get the bag," Ms. Merkin says. "It puts you on the map in a different way."

The business of courting celebrities has grown to the point where some vendors now pay stars to endorse an item -- a luxury Ms. Merkin says is "out of the realm" of what she can afford as a small business. Yet rather than simply doling out her regular bags, she did opt to create a cadre of unique Oscar handbags with fabrics such as organza and antique hand-beaded lace that she hand-picked in Manhattan's garment district.

Having unique bags was a bid to satisfy celebrities' desire to stand out -- and something that bigger designers do as well. This season, for example, Dockers created customized khakis for each presenter at the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards, the edgier sister show to the Oscars that occurs the day before. Shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, meantime, designed footwear adorned with jewels owned by Rita Hayworth for Kathleen York, a best song nominee for "Crash."

Producing a special collection was "a super smart move on Lauren's part," says stylist Robert Verdi, who, among other stars, dresses Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" and who knows Ms. Merkin's work. "When you get the best things for nothing, the next thing you want is an original great thing for nothing."
Ms. Merkin isn't completely new to Hollywood. Mr. Verdi gave one of her bags to Ms. Longoria to wear at the recent Golden Globes awards. Despite the exposure, Ms. Merkin decided the Oscars would be an even greater promotional stage.

The special-edition clutches were the angle Ms. Merkin's publicity firm, Keri Levitt Communications, pushed in the weeks before the Oscars with stylists who guided, or outright decided, what outfits their clients wore that weekend. Ms. Merkin's main publicist, Jill Snowden, sent one of her regular bags to 15 of the top stylists, along with a personal note letting them know about her Oscar collection and hotel room in Los Angeles.

Just picking the right hotel is critical as celebrities and stylists have limited time to canvas all the designers' suites and gift lounges set up around town. At the last minute, Ms. Merkin's team switched to the Peninsula after learning there would be a plethora of stars staying there as well as a "Luxury Lounge" suite offering high-end goods and spa services to celebs, even though her bags weren't included in this particular lounge.

It was a calculated decision that paid off. Soon after arriving at the hotel on Thursday, Ms. Snowden and Ms. Merkin visited Luxury Lounge to chat up representatives from luxury-goods makers who were giving free products to celebrities. One of these representatives offered to direct any celebrities needing a handbag up to Ms. Merkin's suite.

The next day, the two women were talking with a stylist when an unexpected visitor directed from the Luxury Lounge walked in: it was "Desperate Housewives" star Nicollette Sheridan who plays the hit TV show's serial divorcee vixen, Edie Britt. The star, clad in an all-white pantsuit with her young stylist in tow, described her Oscar weekend attire -- a red dress with silver shoes and white gold cuff bracelet, which she planned to wear, among other places, to Elton John's popular party Sunday night.

After a few moments of mulling the creations sprawled across Ms. Merkin's bed, she took one of the designer's favorite, and most expensive, bags in grey/taupe lace. "It's beautiful and antique and chic and different," Ms. Sheridan pronounced.

Even as Ms. Merkin hurriedly packaged the handbag, the anxious stylist was already at the door. "Come on, my sweet," he sang to Ms. Sheridan. "Your broomstick is double-parked." The whole exchange took less thaan 10 minutes but Ms. Merkin and Ms. Snowden were optimistic: landing this "Housewife" would be huge even though they had no guarantee Ms. Sheridan would actually use the bag.

By day's end, four major stylists had visited Ms. Merkin's room and 31 bags had been doled out -- a good start. The most promising Oscar contender: Amy Adams, nominated for best supporting actress in "Junebug," whose stylist stopped by and picked up several bags, though made no promises. While many stylists will borrow and return bags, if a top celebrity wants to keep theirs, the matter of price will be forgotten -- and deducted as a marketing expense.

Saturday morning, the designer and her publicist headed to the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, where Ms. Merkin's regular handbags, and few Red Carpet ones, were offered free to celebrity award presenters.

The event was a boon for Ms. Merkin, who managed to get her bags into the hands of numerous celebrities, including Naomi Watts, Lisa Kudrow, Rosie Perez and Sienna Miller, as well as several men. Willem Dafoe and Billy Baldwin each snagged one for their wives; Terrence Howard, nominee for best actor in "Hustle & Flow," picked up one for his young daughter.

Every chance she got, Ms. Snowden ensured a photo was snapped, knowing the images could later be sent to the media or posted on the designer's Web site. The biggest coup came when the Independent Spirit Awards' host, comedian Sarah Silverman, was photographed with one of the "Red Carpet" bags.

On Sunday morning, Ms. Merkin and Ms. Snowden flew back to New York to watch the Oscars -- and wait. They were disappointed that Ms. Adams of "Junebug" didn't carry Ms. Merkin's bag. But not long after, Ms. Merkin found an image online of Ms. Sheridan carrying the grey/taupe tote at the Elton John party. Actress Gabrielle Union also was photographed carrying a Merkin bag to the Vanity Fair party.

Total Academy Awards tally: three big names photographed at Oscar-related events with the bags and some 30 other stars given free bags at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Ms. Merkin has no plans to sell the leftover Red Carpet bags, although at retail, they would go for $600 to $1,100. Instead, she will use them as a marketing tool, showing them to retailers to interest them in possibly ordering up a new special collection.

The next step is parlaying the Oscar weekend work into real business. Ms. Merkin will use the celebrity photos to court new retailers. Her public relations firm, meantime, will phone and email their contacts at magazines such as Entertainment Weekly to make them aware of the Oscar images and encourage citations in any post-Oscar packages. The images will also go up on Ms. Merkin's Web site.

"Giving away so much seemed a little out of hand at first," she says. But based on the exposure to celebrities and stylists, "I definitely got my money's worth."

P.S. Business App Of The Day - Ideal Calendar

Monday, March 06, 2006

How A Lady Stumpled Upon A $100000 A Year Business Working On Sundays.

Debra Cohen Story

After buying their first home, Debra Cohen and her husband faced the unenviable chore of finding reliable home improvement contractors. Fed up with blindly picking names from the Yellow Pages and waiting for contractors who didn't show up, it occurred to Cohen that if she and her husband were having trouble finding contractors, other homeowners in their community must be facing a similar predicament. This bleak reality sparked the creation of a unique service that has since expanded into a profitable cottage industry across the U.S. and internationally.

After extensive conversations with lawyers, business consultants, contractors and insurance agents, Cohen, 38, started Hewlett, New York-based Home Remedies of NY Inc. from her home in February 1997. This stay-at-home mom used a $5,000 loan, a computer and a refurbished fax machine to launch her part-time business. Right away, the response from homeowners was tremendous, and after three months in business, she repaid her loan. Her gross earnings in the first year were almost $30,000.

Today, Home Remedies is a contractor referral service that matches home-owners with reliable home-repair workers. The appeal to customers is that the company takes on the time-consuming task of locating and screening qualified contractors, checking to make sure they're adequately insured and licensed, and serving as a liaison between the contractor and the homeowner throughout the course of a job. Home Remedies provides a win-win situation for both parties: Services are provided free of charge to the homeowner, and contractors represented by Home Remedies only pay a commission for any work they secure.

At first, Cohen worked approximately 15 hours to 20 hours per week; she now works about 30 hours per week. Last year, sales for Home Remedies exceeded $100,000. Cohen earns additional income by selling manuals and packages on how to get started in the referral business.

P.S. Business App Of The Day - Cute Reminder

How Michael Senoff Makes Up To $1000 A Day Selling Used Seminar Tapes On eBay

Michael Senoff’s Story.

I first learned about Jay Abraham from a video by Tony Robbins. Jay was speaking at one of Tony's expensive Life Mastery seminars. I was totally blown away by Jay's ideas. Immediately, I started looking for his seminar products.

The first item I was looking for was a set of tapes of the famous Jay Abraham $20,000 protégé mentor training seminar from 1990. You read that right: $20,000. That's how much it cost to attend. The press called it: "The world's most expensive seminar". The students were there to learn how to become a master marketing wizard just like Jay Abraham.

I wanted to be a marketing wizard too, but I did not want to spend $20,000. Anyone that attended the seminar received a copy of the entire program on a set of audiotapes. I knew If I could just find someone who attended the seminar, I might be able to borrow their tapes. If so, I could get a $20,000 Jay Abraham marketing education for free.

I did some digging and managed to find a guy from Northern California who had attended the seminar. I asked to buy his tapes. He said no but agreed to fax me the names of all the people who went to the seminar in Southern California. I found a lady on the list who lived in San Diego. I called her and told her I was looking for a set of the tapes from the Jay Abraham seminars. She said she had them and I negotiated a price of $50. I got the complete $20,000 seminar for only $50.

I studied these marketing materials day and night for six months. I was listening to Jay Abraham while I was jogging, while I was driving, and while I was doing yard work. I would even go to sleep with a Walkman on my head literally dreaming about marketing. That is how powerful and addictive these marketing materials and tapes are.

Along with the 55 audiotape seminar, there was a list of 900 protégés who had trained under Jay Abraham in four previous seminar sessions. The list was intended to be a tool for the seminar attendees to network with each other. When I saw this list, I knew I had hit pay dirt. More on that in a minute.
You see, like a lot of guys, I loved to barbecue outdoors. I was shopping for a new grill and one hot summer day in July I came across the most extraordinary barbecue grill I had ever seen. It is called a "Kamado" and it was billed as the world's finest ceramic smoker-grill.

Well, I knew I had to have one. There was only one little problem. This gorgeous Blue ceramic tiled Kamado grill sells for $1895 plus shipping.

Now I knew there was no way my wife was going to let me spend this kind of money on "a grill", so I told my wife I was going to sell my Jay Abraham tapes and use the money to buy my blue Kamado grill!

The original set of Jay Abraham protégé tapes that I had bought for $50 sold right away for $1700 on my very first marketing effort. I was stunned! I had made a killing the first time out of the gate.

To make sure this was not a one-time fluke, I promoted another less expensive set of Jay Abraham boot camp tapes the next day. This set sold very quickly for $900.

After these two sales, I have enough profits to become the proud owner of a brand-new blue Kamado ceramic smoker, and there was not a thing my wife could do or say about it.

Convinced that I had a hungry market, I went right to work. I still had the list that I mentioned earlier of the 900 Jay Abraham protégés who possessed all of these valuable Jay Abraham products. All I had to do is track them down.

Finding people from a ten-year-old list was no easy task. Most of the phone numbers were wrong. Many of the people no longer had the seminar materials. But one out of ten people I made contact with did. Usually, it was as neatly packed away as it was the day they brought it home from the seminar. Many tapes had never been used, not even once and the printed materials were in pristine condition.

As I continued to contact these people, I made another discovery: A person who pays $20,000 for a seminar is considered a gold mine to marketing information sellers like Jay Abraham, Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy, and Ted Nicholas. These marketing gurus will spend thousands of dollars to locate and have a chance to sell to this type of buyer who they refer to as 'Big Fish'.

These sellers get together to enter into joint venture partnerships. They refer and endorse each other's marketing materials to these same hot buyers using all their in-house customer lists.

Because of this, when I found a person who had attended the $20,000 Jay Abraham seminar, they would usually have tons of other marketing materials from all the other great marketing promoters as well.

All the materials I sell are purchased from the original owners. Many have even mortgaged their homes and maxed out their credit cards just to get their hands on this critical information. I make these packages available to you at huge discounts.

Isn’t it a great business idea?

P.S. Business App Of The Day - StickyNote

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