Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How To Make 3000% Profit, Selling Pearls

http://pearlparadise.com/

Jeremy Shepherd didn't expect to discover a multimillion-dollar business while working the skies as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines.

But on a layover in Beijing, he bought a set of freshwater pearl jewelry at a local market -- earrings, a bracelet, and a necklace -- for $20. He gave the pearls to his girlfriend in the U.S. for Christmas, and she had them appraised: the value, $600, or 30 times what he had paid.

Mr. Shepherd was in business.

Now, about nine years later, he presides over PearlParadise.com, an online purveyor of the lustrous objects -- offering a wide line of jewelry from the popular akoya pearls to the more exotic Tahitian and South Sea varieties. The Santa Monica, Calif., company logged $5 million in sales last year, supplying the jewelry to 13 other Web sites that sell pearls around the globe.

Building a luxury business online isn't easy, especially when you're asking people to spend big dollars for something they can't even touch. It can be especially tough for a small company, which doesn't have a brand name that people will instinctively trust. But by courting both customers and suppliers, Mr. Shepherd found a formula that has worked.

"Building that trust can be difficult and all new sites have to break that barrier when they start," the 31-year-old Mr. Shepherd says. "That's the most difficult thing to overcome because so much of it is based on reputation and your name. Referrals and repeat business are a huge percentage of our customers."

So how did he do it? For one thing, blanketing the Web site with educational materials on how pearls are produced and on the different varietals helped put customers at ease, he says, as did prominently displaying the company's membership with organizations like the Better Business Bureau and the Safe Shopping Network.

Providing customers with assurances about selections helps, too. All pieces are accompanied by a 90-day money-back guarantee, and an appraisal, while high-resolution pictures serve as a substitute for being able to actually touch the real thing. Nearly all pieces also come with a second-appraisal guarantee: If a customer has the jewelry appraised on their own, the company assures them that it will be valued for at least five times the price the customer paid PealParadise.

And, when customers do call or email, their questions are handled by knowledgeable staff, all of whom received pearl certificates from the Gemological Institute of America, a trade and industry group based in Carlsbad, Calif.

But the biggest boost to credibility comes from the satisfied customers. "Word of mouth is a very strong tool," Mr. Shepherd says. "Having a happy customer has been the core of this business. They do tell people. It gets to a point where you reach a critical mass and you really start to expand, and that's why so much of our business has been referral and repeat business."

To keep his customers talking, Mr. Shepherd plans events that appeal to them directly. Twice a year -- before Mother's Day and Christmas -- he invites clients to a special Web page built just for them, featuring items practically at his cost. Last Christmas's event -- one of the items included strands of exotic Tahitian pearls -- yielded $100,000 in sales.

"People tend to buy more than those special pieces," Mr. Shepherd says. "The sales on those days are just astronomical."

In his latest marketing pitch, he hopes to strengthen his business's credibility further by sending past and new customers a documentary on pearling, which he narrates and which was shot at one of his suppliers' pearl farms in China.

Pounds of Pearls

Mr. Shepherd travels to Asia each month -- making stops in Japan, Hong Kong, and the Guangdong Province in China -- carrying back two sacks of pearls that together weigh more than he does. After extensive research -- and facing increased competition online -- he decided to find and deal with the pearl farmers directly, cutting out the middleman and enabling him to sell the pearls at a lower price than his competitors.

His proclivity for languages also helped: Already fluent in Japanese, he zipped through Berlitz's Mandarin course, spending the last few months on the art of negotiation using pearls as a discussion point; now, he talks with his suppliers in their native language, enabling him to forge closer relationships.

Oscar Baskets

Mr. Shepherd's depth of knowledge also has won him fans in Hollywood, yet another facet of his marketing strategy. After donating sets of black freshwater pearls for about 110 gift baskets for the 2004 Oscar nominees, this year he provided gift certificates instead. That required celebrity recipients to make an appointment to pick up their strands of baroque Tahitians at a showroom the company maintains at its Santa Monica headquarters.

"A lot of them have come back, and a lot have sent their friends," he says. "People buy from our Web site specifically because we gave [pearls] away at the Oscars." Inclusion in the bag also won PearlParadise snippets on television news shows, and next year Mr. Shepherd wants to have celebrities actually wearing their baubles down the red carpet.

PearlParadise's most visible marketers, however, have been its Web site resellers, which now account for about half of its annual sales. In 1997, PealParadise's online sales and sales to Internet resellers were about $8,000; they jumped to $250,000 in 2002, more than $3 million in 2003, and $5 million last year.

PearlParadise has three other major Internet resellers in the U.S., with the remainder in Europe and Canada. Each of the sites -- which operate much like franchises but with different names -- have somewhat different offerings, from special diamond clasps to cuff links, which Mr. Shepherd supplies to them exclusively.

"I try to give them as much control as possible because they all have their own marketing ideas and want to differentiate themselves," he says. "They all find their own little niche and exploit it."

PearlParadise is venturing into higher-end waters, as well, with pearls from French Polynesia and the South Sea. Mr. Shepherd has been selling several gem-quality Tahitian necklaces each week, ranging from $2,600 to $4,000. The largest sale booked so far was a $43,250 golden South Sea pearl necklace.

But the traditional, more affordable akoya strands remain his top sellers. "When we started, our motto was 'making the beauty of pearls available to everyone,' " he says. "And that is where our core customer still is -- the man who wants to buy a necklace for his wife, but knows it's $2,500 in a store but $350 on PearlParadise."

Pearls: A Natural History

Britney collapses in New Year stupor

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Incredible Story Of French Scooter Taxi


http://www.city-bird.com/

As a tourist in Thailand and the Dominican Republic, Cyril Masson hopped on unlicensed motorcycle taxis to get around. Back home, the 33-year-old Parisian and two friends hit on a business idea that some might consider just as crazy: running a two-wheel-taxi operation in one of the world's most genteel cities.

Motorcycle taxis are the developing world's limos. Scooters, mopeds and motorcycles offer a fast, cheap and risky way around snarled traffic and scarce mass transit. Mr. Masson, who ran sales to French Internet companies for Britain's Cable & Wireless PLC, had also faced clogged streets and a shortage of traditional taxis in Paris, and he realized it offered an opportunity for taxi-bikes, which can squeeze through jams.

What he didn't expect were hurdles faced by entrepreneurs world-wide: the complexity of executing a simple idea, and of translating a business concept from one culture to another. Many overseas franchisees of successful U.S. companies, for instance, have failed because they didn't adapt the American model to local habits.

High-End Challenge

Mr. Masson knew that positioning his high-end service would be tough: The motorcycle taxi could suffer from its association with the less-developed countries, poverty and reckless drivers. Lining up insurance and finding qualified drivers proved surprisingly difficult. Protecting passengers in natty business attire from rain and cold posed additional challenges, as did little details, like how to keep the passenger's helmet clean from one rider to the next.

In December 2002, Mr. Masson and two friends pulled together €165,000 ($200,244 at current exchange rates) of their own and from friends and family, quit their safe jobs and started planning their company, Citybird. "There were many people who thought we were crazy," Mr. Masson recalls.

Citybird works like any radio-taxi service -- except that instead of a black sedan arriving on call, a sporty motor scooter pulls up. The company today employs 11 people and expects revenue of around €420,000 for the year ending March 31, up from €175,000 in its latest fiscal year. Mr. Masson expects an operating profit this year, after Citybird's current fleet of nine scooters reaches 15, around midyear. Managers hope to increase the fleet to 25 in 2007 and eventually operate as many as 200 bikes.

Mr. Masson and his friends weren't the first to try taxi bikes in a developed nation. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group whisks celebrities and executives around London on nine fat red Yamaha motorcycle taxis. At least one other company operates in Paris, where thousands of locals already zip around the city on their own motorcycles and Vespa-type scooters.

From the start, Citybird's target customers were an upscale crowd, like Mr. Masson and his co-founders, Guillaume Raif, then a banker at Sociйtй Gйnйrale, and Emmanuel Pery, who worked in advertising and communications. They believed taxi-bikes would appeal to harried executives who can't waste time stuck inside a limo. To hone their concept, the partners quizzed managers at Virgin Limo Bikes in London and studied other small motorcycle-taxi services. One tip they gleaned: They'd have to have a supply of disposable paper helmet liners.

A quick analysis also indicated that large motorcycles were too big to squeeze through traffic jams and too costly to operate. Instead, they selected top-of-the-line Piaggio and Suzuki motor scooters, which are cushier than the compact and classic Vespa. The models use about half the fuel of a large motorcycle and offer lots of storage space for bags. And the partners figured that for most trips, it wouldn't matter that scooters don't move as fast as motorcycles.

"Traffic is so dense that we don't need to go very fast to gain a lot of time" over a regular taxi, Mr. Masson says, sitting in Citybird's storefront office not far from the Eiffel Tower.

Citybird's founders also knew that to woo serious professionals as customers, they needed equally serious drivers. Lots of motorcyclists applied for the job, and they whittled the pool down to a handful of former police motorcycle instructors, Tour de France camera-crew drivers and similar specialists.

But obtaining insurance for their service created big headaches. French law doesn't mention two-wheeled taxis, so the founders faced a legal vacuum. Most underwriters rejected Citybird because they equated the service with motorcycle couriers, "who crash around 10 times a year," Mr. Masson recalls. Finally, the specialized insurer that covers Paris taxis consented, but at rates five times those of normal motorcycle insurance.

Both Mr. Masson and managers at Virgin Limo Bikes say they get calls from U.S. entrepreneurs who want to start similar services. But high U.S. insurance rates, extreme weather, and strict American traffic laws that forbid motorcycles from overtaking cars in slow traffic have thwarted many of those efforts, the Europeans say.

Foul-Weather Gear

Paris rarely faces blizzards or torrential downpours, but light rain is a frequent nuisance for two-wheelers. So Citybird managers spent a long time finding the best gear to protect passengers. Each scooter carries riding gloves, boots to cover nice shoes, a loose-fitting jacket that can slide comfortably over a business suit, and a waterproof leg wrap to protect against splashes.

The first bikes rolled in September 2003, promoted by targeted ads, brochures and direct mailings touting the service at flat rates of €20 for rides inside Paris and €45 to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

"It was difficult at first," recalls Mr. Masson. But by targeting people most likely to accept the concept, especially in less conservative media circles, word spread and early customers became regulars. The main appeal: guaranteed punctuality and significantly shorter trips. During rush hour, Citybird promises it can slash the travel time between central Paris and the airport from around 90 minutes to 30 minutes.

Within a year, business was picking up. One early customer was Patrick Malval, commercial manager in France for British Airways, who liked the service because of its speed and punctuality. After a tough audit of safety and service quality, Mr. Malval struck a deal in early 2004 for Citybird to carry the airline's passengers to and from the airport. "At first we thought it would be a niche service," Mr. Malval recalls. Today, he says, demand is taking off and those who try the service are hooked.

As business grew, Citybird moved to expand. Tapping a circle of successful Internet entrepreneurs whom Mr. Masson knew from his previous career, the founders in 2004 raised 300,000 euros to build their fleet. The company even landed a second insurer.

Today Citybird has around 2,500 clients and adds more than 150 each month, Mr. Masson says. Its bikes total around 70 trips each day.

Down the road, Mr. Masson figures Citybird and its growing field of smaller rivals could equal around 4% of the total Paris taxi market. He wants to maintain Citybird's 50% share of the taxi-bike market. "In a few years we could have 200 motor scooters," he predicts.

How to Start & Manage a Wheelchair Transportation Business

How To Make Money With Small Online Clubs

Inflating Executive Pay

Monday, January 01, 2007

How To Run A Multimillion Dollar Massage Franchise

http://www.massageenvy.com/

David and Anne Glover, 48 and 46, respectively, recently opened their fourth Massage Envy establishment in Houston.

Beginnings: The Glovers met when they were both working at the accounting firm Arthur Andersen in the early 1980s. David and Anne fell in love, got married, had two children and assumed the traditional roles of married life. David eventually became part owner of a commercial real estate investment firm, while Anne was the primary caregiver for their children. She calls herself “the volunteer champion of the world--school, community, church, junior league. I enjoyed orchestrating high-level events. It was good practice for organizing multiple franchises.”

When David retired from his business in his 40s, he didn’t want to retire for good, so he and Anne looked into purchasing a franchise. “We could have gone into real estate, but the prices were so outrageous,” says David, “and we wanted to have a business that had cash flow right away--something that was a quick startup.”

Next Steps: “We went through business brokers,” says Anne, “and looked at a lot of franchises, some that were brand new and others that were kind of scary.” In their case, scary did not necessarily mean bad. Anne had been interested in a sandwich franchise, but once she saw all the food inventory and thought about having teenage employees, she changed her mind. The couple considered a gym franchise but figured it would be clobbered by bigger gym and fitness center franchises, and then they considered a tutoring center. “But we would have gone head-to-head with [competing] learning centers,” Anne points out. “I kept thinking, ‘Where is the niche?’”

They had similar feelings about a hair salon franchise they were considering. “It wasn’t a new business concept or model,” says David. “Basically, people are already getting their hair cut somewhere.”

Then they found out about Massage Envy, a massage clinic that operates similar to a gym--customers pay a monthly membership fee and make regular appointments or impromptu ones, usually getting massages the same day they request them, which is a rare occurrence in the industry.

Some risk-averse people would run, of course. It’s still a fairly new business, but the Glovers liked that aspect of it. “It was the only game in town,” says Anne.

And it has certainly worked out. Their three initial Massage Envy establishments alone bring in nearly $3.6 million a year.

Getting the Digits: The benefits of massages are not what the Glovers have to sell people on. The idea that the average person can afford to get massages routinely is. So, they were a little nervous about whether the numbers were there: Were there enough people clamoring for massages to make a full-fledged business out of it? “That was something we had to weigh carefully,” Anne says. “Do we want to get in on this young franchise? And we were jumping into the highest-rent district in Houston.”

But it’s in the high-rent districts that a massage franchise is likely to do well, and after a visit to the company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they looked at figures such as the number of customers and the number of massages given every month, Anne and David were convinced the numbers were there. Says Anne, “We thought, ‘This is almost too good to be true.’ So we went with the assumption tha if we build it, they will come.”

And they did.

Of course, there’s also something to be said for running a franchise where you can get your own massage whenever you please. It may be the most relaxing sort of business you could ever own.

What No One Ever Tells You About Franchising: Real-Life Franchising Advice from 101 Successful Franchisors and Franchisees

Saturday, December 30, 2006

U Star Novels

http://www.ustarnovels.com/

Like so many great business ideas Katie Olver’s eureka moment came to her out of a desire to buy something that didn’t exist. She was on the look-out for a personalised novel as a present for a friend, but the only ones she could find were for children.

After doing some research, she discovered that while personalised books for adults existed in the US, nobody had thought to bring the idea across the pond.

With a little persuasion, she convinced her partner of seven years, Jon Reader, to help her turn the idea into a business, and got to work on setting up U Star Novels, a series of personalised romance novels where the reader is the protagonist.

In October the first U Star book went on sale, selling 100 copies in its first week.

Olver says U Star is expecting to recover its £15,000 start-up costs by Christmas, a mere two months after launching. Next year’s turnover is expected to be somewhere in the region of £80,000, based on an estimated sale of 3,000 books, 75% of which Olver says will probably be sold around Valentine’s day.

Olver’s idea is simple. A choice of romance novels, all set abroad. The customer enters his or her details into an online form, and the personalised details are added to a pre-written novel of their choice, which is then sent to the printer.

Olver says the only major costs in getting the business up and running went on commissioning the writers of the novels, and getting the website set up.

However, the creation of the website ended up costing far more than just a design fee. “We initially wanted to launch on Valentine’s Day 2006, but we hired some designers that didn’t get the job done on time, and in the end did such a bad job we had to take them to court.”

However, the pair sought legal help and were advised that because they were a start-up company, it would be difficult to prove their forecasted sales if they wanted to claim compensation. Olver and Reader eventually settled out of court, recovering some of their legal costs.

Getting the company recognised through winning awards was a big part of U Star’s marketing strategy, according to Olver. The company also targeted the women’s monthlies and national papers, as well as approaching gift websites so it could sell the books through them as well as its own site.

At present, U Star consists only of Olver and Reader. The outsourcing of the printing and website up-keep means U Star can tick along without other staff, although Olver says they are considering hiring someone to look after admin next year.

Although Olver admits it can be quite stressful running a business with a romantic partner, she says there is no-one else that would give her as much support and confidence.

U Star is the pair’s second joint business venture. The couple ran a PR firm called Momentous for four and a half years before entering the world of books. As with U Star, Reader took care of the financial side of the company while Olver used her PR background to attract clients such as Samsung.

Olver says some of that experience has helped with setting up U Star. Writing press releases and manipulating the media came naturally to her, but she admits neither her or Reader had any real publishing knowledge when they started U Star.

Nevertheless the pair are clearly unfazed by the prospect of trying their hand at new projects. Not content with Momentous and U Star, the couple are already coming up with ideas for other business ventures. It seems as though Olver and Reader have caught the entrepreneurial bug, and there is no cure in sight.

The Book of Myself: A Do-It-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions

Friday, December 29, 2006

Greasy Money

http://www.filtafry.com

Roger Coughenour quit a job that paid almost $80,000 a year, put a second mortgage on his house, cashed out his 401(k) retirement account and borrowed money from family members to start a local franchise of a business many didn't even know existed.

Roger Coughenour Sr., left, and son Roger plan on adding a second van to the business soon.

For a while he wondered if he was crazy.

"It was a huge risk," Coughenour said. "But I know from being in business, nobody ever became wealthy and successful in business without taking any risks. I thought I could either work hard to make someone else wealthy or work hard to make myself wealthy."

In January, Coughenour, his wife, Casey, and father, Roger Sr., started up a local franchise of FiltaFry, a business specializing in mobile cleaning of deep fryers and fryer-oil recycling.

The business, which now services about 30 commercial customers -- mostly restaurants with some hospitals and cafeterias -- is growing; there are plans to add a second van soon.

But Coughenour Jr., 31, said he still gets blank expressions when pitching his business to potential clients. He said at first most people think he is selling a deep fryer or a filter instead of servicing their existing equipment. Unlike other business ventures, FiltaFry does not dispose of commercial kitchens' used cooking oils.

FiltaFry was founded in England in 1996 and has more than 100 U.S. franchises in 37 states. The company vacuum cleans and scrubs deep fryers and uses a micro-filtration system to extend the life of cooking oils. Testing and calibrating of fryer thermostats is also included in the service.

"There's nothing like it," said Coughenour, who said FiltaFry's equipment gets fryers cleaner than those who clean their own equipment. "There's no competition."

He said most commercial kitchens just wait until cooking oil turns black and starts to smell before changing the oil in their deep fryers.

Londa Anderson, the manager of Wood'ys Grill and Bar on Truxtun Extension, said the service cuts down on fryer maintenance and has doubled the life of the restaurant's oil without a noticeable difference in the taste of its food.

She said the service saves Wood'ys at least $400 a month in reduced oil purchases and oil pickup expenses and less salaries paid to cooks to clean fryers after closing time. Anderson said the savings includes paying off the $80 a week Wood'ys pays to have its three fryers serviced.

"It's been a great service," she said. "Any restaurant could use this."

Coughenour said most of FiltaFry's local clients are serviced once a week and pay an average of $50 a visit for two fryers.

He said most clients save at least enough by using FiltaFry to pay for the service, which he said doubles the life of most clients' cooking oils.

But he said the concessions area and kitchen at Rabobank Arena, Theater and Convention Center now discards its oil after about every 20 events, instead of every two events like it did before signing up for the service.

Coughenour said he was working as general manager of the Iron Skillet on Interstate 5 dreaming of opening his own restaurant when he came across a posting on an Internet site advertising FiltaFry franchise opportunities. Coughenour, who has worked in the restaurant industry since starting as a dishwasher at 16, thought the idea fit "a perfect niche."

He said the business is bringing in about $7,000 a month in sales, enough for him to make a living after he finishes paying off initial start-up costs of about $7,500. But Coughenour expects his business, which owns Kern County franchise rights, to grow exponentially, adding vans and eventually getting national accounts through FiltaFry.

"We feel there's a whole lot of potential," Coughenour said, "and we're just scratching the surface."

Successful Franchising

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A landscaping franchise bloomed into a livelihood for this grad.

http://www.uslawns.com

Being an entrepreneur was the furthest thing from Michael Carlo's mind when he graduated from college with an interest in computer programming. Now, 14 years later, Carlo, 37, is the quintessential entrepreneur. He's co-owner of six U.S. Lawns franchises and expects to gross $6.3 million this year alone--and he can't imagine working for anyone else but himself.

It all started in 1990, when Carlo's sister and brother-in-law asked him to invest some sweat equity in a franchise by running it for them. Carlo had never been interested in running his own business, but all it took was some sisterly persuasion to convince him that running a franchise would be a great opportunity. The family researched many different companies before discovering U.S. Lawns, a landscape maintenance franchise. It sounded like exactly what they were looking for: U.S. Lawns offered room for growth, low overhead costs, and a good year-round business in the warm Florida weather.

Fresh out of college, Carlo began running his family's franchise in Port St. Lucy, Florida. He built a clientele by knocking on doors and cold-calling potential customers for the first six months. Though his first year's salary was meager, business picked up steadily, and the franchise nearly doubled its business every year for the following three years. Eventually, Carlo invested $20,000 in the business and became the sole owner.

Carlo sold that first franchise in 1995 and purchased another one in Sarasota, Florida, before deciding to merge with longtime friend and fellow U.S. Lawns franchisee Todd Moerchen in 1998. Carlo met Moerchen, 40, during his initial franchise training, and they developed a close camaraderie. "It can get lonely and tough sometimes," Carlo says of being a business owner. "[It's helpful to be able to] get on the phone or visit a franchisee who's going through the same thing you are."

Together, Carlo and Moerchen own five franchises in Florida and one in Lexington, Kentucky. They are now the longest-running U.S. Lawns franchise owners and expect continued growth and success. "I'm very happy with the company," Carlo says. "They teach you the right way to do things, and I've never been denied help when I needed it. When I [have] raised my hand, they've always been there."

How to Make Big Money Mowing Small Lawns

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Zen Baby Story

http://www.zen-baby.com/

Yes, 2001 was an unforgettable year for Nicole Evenhuis, Miki Shaler and Kirsten Taylor Hall, all 35 and close friends for more than a decade. That year, Shaler returned home from the Peace Corps, and Evenhuis and Taylor Hall became new mothers. It was also the year they decided to create Zen Baby, a video that inspires, relaxes, and captures the simple beauty of infants interacting with nature. Evenhuis, Taylor Hall and Shaler--a producer, a director/cinematographer and a marketing expert, respectively--had the perfect mixture of creativity and talent to realize their idea. Says Evenhuis, "We set out to create something we felt celebrated the beauty in the world around us and created a feeling of peace and well-being in the home that both child and parent could enjoy."

By working at home and pooling their money, they were able to self-fund their project. The result was a 30-minute video that features children as they experience their first year of life. The video also reminds parents of simple ways to incite their children's curiosity. "Go look for shapes in the clouds, crunch leaves, touch sand," says Shaler, "very basic things, because as we get taller, we lose our connection with the Earth."

The video made its debut on their website, www.zen-baby.com, and Amazon.com. As orders increased, so did the number of honors, including Amazon.com Top Seller and iParenting Media Award for Best of the Best 2004. The trio recently partnered with a distributor and has plans for two more videos and possibly ancillary products, including books, which will push sales to $250,000. "Zen Baby was what I like to call an elegant idea," says Taylor Hall. "It came out very truthfully and cleanly, and it's never really wavered."

Watch Zen Baby DVD

Wine investing: buyers, cellars and liquid assets

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How Customusing Purses Lead To A Multimillion Dollar Business


http://www.1154lill.com/

Some women are notorious for having a bag to match every outfit. Jennifer Velarde, on the other hand, has a bag to match nearly every friend. Each design in her line of custom-made handbags is named for a friend, a family member or an employee of her company, 1154 Lill Studio. Andi, the hobo bag, was inspired by a close friend. Pamela, a versatile tote, is named for her mother.

Velarde's background as an interior designer specializing in corporate offices helped her implement the idea, which she came up with as a way to gain independence from her job. "It seemed natural to give [each] handbag a personality, and who better to name them after than friends and family?" Velarde says. "The hard part is when you have to discontinue one."

The unique line of handbags, which Velarde, 32, launched from her apartment in 1999, capitalizes on the customization trend. Whether online, at a store or at an in-home handbag party, customers can choose from 25 different styles of bags and an extensive collection of fabrics. At the store, customers can buy premade bags or place orders that can either be picked up or shipped to them later.

A few accessories have been added to the product line, such as the Joey photo album and the Nathalie belt, but Velarde wants to concentrate on fabric handbags. "Having a focus helped direct the growth so we could make the business bigger," she says. "Our focus is still on what we do best--having an unparalleled variety of fabrics that keeps our line fresh."

In addition to a growing product line and increased sales--$5 million projected for 2006--Velarde opened 1154 Lill Studios in Boston and Kansas City, Missouri, in 2004 and currently has 32 representatives in 28 cities across the country. As part of the Local Lill program, these reps extend Lill's products to customers nation-wide by providing all the materials necessary for group bag-making parties and handling party sales. The program caters to cities without retail locations and is popular for bridal parties and business networking. Says Velarde, "The Local Lill program gets our product out there and gives us a good feel for where the next store would make sense."

No matter where 1154 Lill takes her, at least Velarde knows friends and family are along for the ride.

The Fashion Designer Survival Guide: An Insider's Look at Starting and Running Your Own Fashion Business

What Offers Work Best In Direct Mail Campaigns

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dating Over 50 As A Marketing Niche

http://www.fiftyplusconnect.com

After reading an article about internet dating, Miriam Hipsh decided she wanted to find out more. But when she attempted to create a profile on one site, Hipsh, 59, got to a question about body art and realized the site was clearly not targeting a mature audience.

"It wasn't speaking to me," says Hipsh. Instead of discouraging her, this realization piqued her entrepreneurial interest.

After some research, Hipsh discovered that there weren't many dating sites targeting her age group, and she knew from talking with friends that there was a market for such a site. In March 2005, after a year of researching and developing her idea, she launched FiftyPlusConnect.com, a dating website tailored to the over-50 demographic.

"I don't want people to feel that by the time they hit a certain age, it's over," says Hipsh, who became a single mother at 48 when she adopted a 6-month-old baby.

Hipsh financed the startup costs of her business--approximately $30,000--using personal investments and the help of friends and family. She gave up her job as a reading tutor to work full time on the website from home. She also hired a webmaster, who built and designed the site, and now maintains it. Hipsh describes FiftyPlusConnect.com as a "quiet site," mean-ing it's inviting and warm, not flashy or busy. With large fonts and soothing colors such as beige and blue, the site's design is simple and user-friendly.

By early 2006, over 5,000 people had joined at no cost. In March, Hipsh started charging $18 a month for a subscription to the site and projects 2006 sales to reach the low six figures. In the future, she plans to add reader content, diversify the chat rooms and possibly retail FiftyPlusConnect.com items.

Most important, Hipsh wants to continue encouraging people to seek out love and happiness at any age. "I embrace my age, and I embrace experience," says Hipsh. "I love life."

Middle Aged and Dating Again

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Diet Pottery Business


http://www.studiopanepinto.com

In the months before her wedding, Jennifer Panepinto adopted portion-control dieting and found herself counting every calorie and measur-ing every serving, even eating many meals out of measuring cups. As a design student at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Panepinto decided to take her dieting a step further. For her thesis project, she designed a six-piece set of ceramic bowls of varying measurements to aid portion-control dieters. Her teacher, Brian Collins, who is also an executive creative director at international advertising and PR agency Ogilvy & Mather, agreed to purchase 100 sets if she took the product to market. So she found a manufacturer in China, self-funded the first round of production and sold her professor 600 bowls, which he gave to family, friends and people he knew in the industry.

The buzz created by those first 100 sets of Mesü bowls led Panepinto, 30, to marketing experts Elizabeth Talerman and Gina Paoloni, both 42. From there, “the press came fast and furious,” Paoloni says. Mesü bowls were featured on Extra and the Today show, in Real Simple and various publications, and offered contracts with QVC and Target.com.

Paoloni attributes some of Mesü’s success to the popular-ity of portion-control diets. “There’s so much research that shows portion control is the only true way to lose weight and keep it off,” she says. “Everybody is on a diet at some point, so [the bowls] are just a great idea.”

As avid Mesü users themselves, Panepinto and Paoloni can attest to this. “After using them for so long,” says Panepinto, “I really have a conscious awareness of how much food I’m eating.” Since its inception, Studio Panepinto, which projects 2006 sales between $335,000 and $350,000, has sold approximately 15,000 sets. Future products include a plastic version of the bowls and additions to the company’s current line.

The Two Finger Diet: How the Media Has Duped Women into Hating Themselves

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Scratch-Hating Millionaire Story

http://www.shieldzone.com/

It all started for Phillip Chipping with a new watch. In early 2005, after receiving the watch for Christmas, Chipping began looking for something that would keep his brand-new gift looking brand-new for years to come. “I just didn’t want it to get scratched,” says Chipping, 30. Luckily, he stumbled upon a urethane film that had originally been developed to protect military helicopter blades. He got a sample and managed to cut out a crude shape to apply over his watch’s crystal face. “It worked incredibly well,” Chipping says.

That March, Chipping decided to take $5,000 from his tax refund and start his business online, selling pre-cut pieces of the film to outdoor enthusiasts looking to protect their GPS devices. The product, called InvisibleShield, features adhesive on one side that leaves no residue when removed. Using his home computer and relying on his background in design, Chipping made shapes to fit specific devices such as iPods, cell phones and PDAs.

When iPod Nano users began to complain about their device’s susceptibility to scratches, Chipping suddenly found his InvisibleShield films in high demand. “Overnight, it just exploded,” Chipping says.

His operation quickly moved out of his backyard and took over part of his father’s electrical contracting shop. Chipping recruited friends and neighbors to help keep up. The iPod Nano’s flaw took his sales to a new level, and the InvisibleShield went from being sold online to being sold in more than 100 retail locations nationwide, as well as in stores in Canada and Europe. With online sales alone projected at more than $2 million this year, Chipping is looking to open his own ShieldZone stores later this year.

How to Start Your Own Business

The Self Destructing Email

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Branded Ice?


www.icerocks.com/

Ice Rocks is a high-end spring-water ice cube line made by Miami-based Water Bank of America Inc. Experts expect the ice cubes to capture a niche in the luxury end of the American bottled water market--which Beverage Marketing Corp. estimated at $9.8 billion in 2005.

“I think they will become expected in first-class hotels and restaurants,” Dickerson says of Ice Rocks. “They’ll give them to you in the case, and you’ll pop them in your glass.” Water Bank was founded in 2002 by three Canadian brothers, Michel Pelletier, 41, Jean-Jean Pelletier, 37, and Robert Pelletier, 34, who’ve raised over $6 million to fund their efforts. Water Bank purchased the Ice Rocks company from a French firm in 2004.

Last year, the trio was planning a mid-November 2006 launch for Ice Rocks in luxury resorts and hotels in California, Chicago, Miami and New York. One test-marketing program in Europe distributed 300,000 four-packs of the cubes paired with bottles of Chivas Regal; that angle, marketed as Scotch Rocks, has a planned early ’07 rollout. With a 48-cube pack of Ice Rocks selling for about $4.99, the company estimates first-year sales could top $10 million. According to Jean-Jean, “We’re hearing from a lot of airlines and alcohol companies.”

Technology of Bottled Water

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How To Become A Millionaire Bartender


http://www.stirrings.com/


Projected 2007 sales More than $35 million

Friends since infancy, Bill Creelman and Gil MacLean are inseparable to this day. Their close friendship has inspired a line of innovative cocktail products ranging from rimmers (appealing garnishes that add the perfect final touch) to mixers that enhance the flavor of the actual cocktail. Made with all-natural ingredients including fresh juice, purified water and cane sugar, their line of products has breathed new spirit into a market dominated by what MacLean describes as bastardized, highly artificial cocktail mixes.

Creelman and MacLean have come a long way since they were both bartenders in college. Now they work out of a 35,000-square-foot space, fully equipped with a 20-foot bar, an innovation center, a couple of food scientists and a staff topping 70. During their weekly staff cocktail parties, the drinks--and the ideas--flow freely. “We have fun, energetic, inspired employees who are all on the same ride we are and are now as much the engine for what’s happening as we are,” says Creelman. “There’s a lot of free exchange.”

Available at thousands of bars, restaurants and retailers, including Cost Plus World Markets, Sur La Table and Whole Foods Market, Stirrings couldn’t be doing better. It has already crossed into Canada and the United Kingdom and will soon be expanding into the rest of Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Last May, the company went sky-high by providing cocktail mixes on Delta flights over 400 miles; it introduced a line of highly carbonated cocktail sodas last August. “There’s an old cliché: If you’re not moving forward, you’re not moving,” says MacLean. “We constantly want to test the boundaries of product innovation. We think it’s one of the things we do particularly well.”

Start and Run a Money-Making Bar

Business Heros - Bob Parsons

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How To Profit From Used Seatbelts


http://www.recycledseatbelts.com/

Betty Funk's purses, made from used seatbelts, are so strong you can pull a truck with one, as a customer found out when a tow rope proved too short.

The purses are so strong, you could whack a purse snatcher into next Tuesday. The strap won't rip, either, if you get into a tug-of-war with a pilferer.

After all, the purses are made from material designed to save your life.

"They are indestructible except for burning and cutting," said Funk, co-entrepreneur with her son, Trevor Kehler, of Unlimited Supplies from Everyone's Discards (USED). "I tell ladies they'll have to will their handbag to somebody."

Funk has had to buckle up for the ride -- and buckle down for the sewing -- since USED was launched two years ago. The bags sell as quickly as she makes them in Morden, about 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

You can also lengthen the strap so purses can be worn in front like a crossbow while shopping. "A lot of women leave their bags in their carts when shopping and guys just steal them," Funk said. Handbags can be converted into shoulder bags, too.

Handbags are USED's most popular product, but she and Trevor also make school bags, sports bags, diaper bags, belts, money belts, guitar straps and hammock hangers.

Maybe because the bags have something to do with cars, guys buy them, too. The bigger bags come with seatbelt buckles -- GM has its logo on its buckle, and Ford has a sunburst pattern. "A lot of guys I've sold to, they just love their bag," said Funk.

Production is very labour-intensive. It starts with going out to wrecking yards and cutting out the nylon seatbelts. The average car provides about two pounds of nylon belt, not including the buckles.

They sew the belts into sheets using ultra-strong fish line before making them into bags.

Some people balk at the prices, which range from $40 to $130, depending on the size of the bag, and can rise to $160 for custom-made bags. "People will ask why I don't send the concept to China and have it sewed there," Betty said.

But that runs counter to USED's raison d'être: to be a small voice against a throwaway society. Cheap goods compound in landfills. Funk believes the chickens will come home to roost one day. "I think it's just awful. One day that cheap foreign labour won't be there, and we'll be lost," she said.

Trevor operates out of Revelstoke, B.C., but was working in the oil fields in northern Alberta at the time of the interview, trying to raise money for two more sewing machines and to hire staff.

Initially, Trevor made sandals out of old tires and seatbelts, but it didn't work out. "My son has always been into world recycling," said Funk.

While having a few beers with friends, and pondering what to do with all his leftover seatbelts, a friend suggested he make him a chalk bag for mountain climbing (containing chalk to keep hands dry). One thing led to another.

"All the colours of the seatbelts got me thinking about bags, and how girls like bags, and how all the stripes (of the seatbelts) looked kind of retro," said Trevor, interviewed on his cellphone near Grand Prairie, Alta. He's also made seatbelts into saddle bags for horses and motorcycles, and lawn chairs.

Funk describes Trevor, 32, as a free spirit who's into mountain climbing and back-country skiing. "I have tried so hard to get this son of mine to get a regular job," she said. So when he approached her about helping him make the purses, she agreed only because she was certain the venture would fail and then she would nag him into getting a real job.

His plan worked, hers didn't. Funk quit her job as driver of the Modern Community Handivan earlier this year to work full-time sewing seatbelt bags. Leading up to Christmas, she is sewing until 9 p.m. many nights.

"I've never regretted it. I'm having a blast," she said, adding she also gets help from her husband, dad, sister and a neighbour across the street.

The seatbelts come caked with grime. Funk soaks the belts in a concentration of bleach for close to a day, then washes them on high heat in the washing machine. Lengths for various types of bags are marked out in felt marker on top of the white chest freezer, where she makes her measurements before cutting. USED has sold close to 1,000 bags so far.

Class Warfare: The Rich Vs The Super Rich

Handbags: A Peek Inside a Woman's Most Trusted Accessory

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weird Franchises Part I

http://www.paretolaw.co.uk/

Like the idea of owning your own graduate recruitment and sales training franchise from the company that secures the very best pre-screened candidates and then offers you both immediate commissions plus revenue share for life on sales of training modules? That's the formula that has attracted five new regional franchisees in the last 12 months and, according to founders Jonathan Fitchew and Andrew Sawer, they have only just scratched the surface.

You may be wondering about the name. Pareto Law has nothing to do with solicitors. The company takes its name from the economist Vilfredo Pareto who first coined the 80/20 rule that, in today's business context, says that 80 per cent of a company's revenue comes from 20 per cent of the sales force. Pareto Law aims to give organisations in a whole range of market sectors those top 20 per cent performers by a combination of rigorous assessment, selection and training - taking the gamble out of recruitment in sales and marketing.

As the first five franchisees have already found, revenue from placement of graduates is high margin and good cash flow. Pareto Law clients tend to be blue chip companies, offering repeat business and healthy finances. The real joy of owning a Pareto Law franchise is the ability to sell additional services such as sales training programmes, which have the potential to grow as you develop your relationship with your clients.

With a portfolio of graduate recruitment and sales support and training products that add depth and value to all your client relationships you can build a business that has real long-term value rather than one that goes back to square one at the start of the next month.

How do you find all these top graduates? You don't. Pareto Law looks after all the headache of advertising, interviews, assessment and selection. Pareto Law also delivers, on your behalf, the graduate training that is integral to the value proposition.

As a franchisee, you benefit from a recruitment and selection machine that has proved its worth over time, with high levels of repeat business. You also benefit from Pareto Law's £1 million investment in training facilities and specialist trainers in London and Manchester - all available to help develop your business.

Prospective franchisees will be required to invest £37,000 initially and have available up to £32,000 start-up and working capital provision for one franchised territory.

But in return, you will be able to select two recently-trained Pareto Law graduates to form part of the initial team, as well as receiving training on all aspects of running a franchise through a detailed Operations Manual which is yours for the duration of your trading licence.

The best franchisees will be those who are prepared to grow the business and reputation within their territory and attain excellent service levels. That's how your wealth will grow, with realistic £100,000 plus earnings and almost limitless growth potential. The secret formula? A very effective combination of your determination and effort, and our systems and support. It's a Partnership for Permanent Profit.

Tips & Traps When Buying a Franchise

Friday, December 15, 2006

How To Make Money Selling Oversized Bows



Lynda King Story

http://www.kingsizebows.com/

Whether it be a luxury Lexus or clunker from the classifieds, the gift of a car just isn't the same without a big bow on top of the hood. That was Lynda King's thinking when she started King Size Bows five years ago, after she was unable to find a bow for a car she bought for her teenage daughter's birthday.

"People always ask about it," King said. "People always wonder about it, where they come from. It's every wife's fantasy to run outside and find a new car with a big bow on it."

The idea stayed in the back of King's mind for a while, and after consulting with some of her area car dealers, she began developing a bow that would ship and assemble easily. This year, she expects her Newport Beach, Calif.-business to sell about 15,000 to 20,000 bows, which sell for $48 each and come in a variety of designs.

Many of the bows go to car dealerships, especially Lexus dealers, which feature even larger bows in their holiday advertising.

The company also sells the bows to real estate agents, who put them on doors of homes before handing the keys over to new owners, and big screen TV stores. Individuals can also order the bows through the company's Web site, http://www.kingsizebows.com, she said.

Start and Run a Gift Basket Business

Man in Germany stops Brazil robbery via Internet

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How To Get Rich Writing Custom Lovesongs

Brian Alex Story

http://www.customlovesongs.com

Alex, 38, grew up in Peabody, the son of a musician who loved jazz and classical piano. His mother plays piano, too. ''She sounds like Edith Bunker when she sings," he says.

At Peabody High, Alex sang and played guitar with a group called Obsession. When he graduated, he joined various bands, even playing and singing gospel for a while, then joined Entrain, a jam band based on Martha's Vineyard. But island living got old, and a few years ago he left the group, moved to Watertown, and started his business, Custom Love Songs. He advertises in publications such as Wedding Style, Avenue, and the upscale Robb Report, a magazine that focuses on luxury lifestyles.

''Finding it hard to put your love into words? Ever think of putting it to music?" This was the ad that caught the eye of a wealthy Saudi Arabian man. He wanted a song that would include a marriage proposal to his girlfriend. The result was ''Reemi," which chronicles the love the man has for a woman he first spotted in a cafe. ''In a cafe we had met though not a word was spoken yet, I had seen your eyes and could not get you off my mind," the song begins. (''Yes, she accepted his proposal," Alex says.)

Then there was the anniversary song. Neil Auricchio from Princeton, N.J., wanted the perfect evening for his fifth wedding anniversary. ''I said, how can I possibly show my love for her? I could get her this or that, but it just doesn't cut it. I thought maybe one in 10 million people would do a song," says Auricchio, a real estate consultant and investor.

There was one problem: He can't sing. Nor can he write songs. Enter Brian Alex. The two spent hours on the phone, working out the details. Alex sent a rough cut; Auricchio liked it but wanted more of a Smokey Robinson-type ending. Finally, ''The Most Beautiful Gift" was finished.

The couple was going to spend the weekend at a hotel in Richmond. Their anniversary dinner was in a private room filled with roses. At the end of the meal, the husband popped a CD in a player. The song came on, detailing their romance. It included a prayer for his wife; the two are born-again Christians. ''Lord, I just want to thank you right now for giving me the most beautiful gift any man could ever hope for."

After the song played -- several times -- Auricchio took his teary wife up to a suite filled with 100 lit candles and rose petals scattered throughout. There were chocolates on the bed and champagne by the Jacuzzi. And there was Brian Alex himself, singing the song.

''I cried off and on for three days," says Lisa Auricchio. ''Brian was like a stethoscope to my husband's heart. I was able to hear what was inside him, things I probably never would have heard. A car or a diamond would pale in comparison to this."

The Business of Getting More Gigs as a Professional Musician

Did you know you can make 200% profit melting US coins?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Santas With Real Beards

Richard Christie Story

http://santaforhire.com/

Richard Christie, a 73-year-old retiree in Sunland, Calif., was struck by the idea of becoming Santa Claus seven years ago while vacationing in Big Sur.

"I was walking on the pier when I saw a man dressed all in red with a full beard, and I watched children flock to him and talk to him as Santa," recalls Mr. Christie, who had retired from Sears, Roebuck & Co. several years before and was looking for something "noble to do where I could interact with children."

The Santa who would become his mentor, Bill Gibson, told Mr. Christie -- who already sported a small beard -- that he could find work as Santa, too.

Mr. Christie never shaved again.

Within two years, the transformation was complete. He found an agent who helped him land work at corporate events, private parties, malls and even in television commercials. Last year, he flew to Shenzhen, China, where he greeted thousands of guests in a chalet set up in the lobby of a five-star hotel -- and pulled down a paycheck in "the mid-five-figures" for two hours of work a day, six days a week, for about a month.

About two weeks ago, Mr. Christie returned to Asia. This season, he is listening to wishes of girls and boys at Pacific Place, one of Hong Kong's most popular shopping malls.

He also markets a line of leather belts, buckles and other accessories, some costing nearly $300. Others, finding themselves with too much work to handle on their own, have become agents for fellow Santas. And a few of the sagest St. Nicks have written and published instruction manuals for the business and hold regular Santa workshops -- turning out trainees rather than toys.

How to Make Money as an Artist

Cool Geeky Gifts, Part I

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bridal Business

Daniela Simon Story

http://www.daniellasimon.com

2006 Projected Sales - approximately $1.8 million

Seven years ago, Simon, a corporate attorney, couldn’t find any “bridal underwear” that appealed to someone her age. “I was a young bride, looking for something young, flirtatious, classy and a little sexy,” she says. “I couldn’t find anything like that.” After her own wedding, Simon started designing daywear and lingerie as wedding shower gifts for friends. “Before I knew it, I was getting orders from friends and friends of friends from across the country,” she says. “I then realized I had something special, so I called the buyer at Bloomingdale’s.” She did a trunk show at Bloomingdale’s, exhibited at her first trade show and quit her job to focus on her new business full time. In January 2006, Simon appeared on QVC with eight styles--the first of which sold out in 10 minutes.

Though Simon is good at drawing and sketching, her background in law didn’t completely transfer to design and fashion. “What I can’t do well, I delegate,” she says. “Part of knowing how to make a business succeed is knowing your strengths and weaknesses.”

“I found a tiny niche to get into: bridal lingerie for young brides,” Simon says. “Once I got into the niche, I expanded.” Her initial designs included tank tops and cotton panties embellished with the words bride, just married and the bride’s name in rhinestones. Next, Simon branched out to pajamas and maternity and nursing apparel.

Simon was thrilled when she got into 15 Marshall Field’s stores, but shortly after, the retailer was acquired and closed many of its locations. Because Simon had already been focusing on selling to boutiques, she didn’t consider it a big setback. “Don’t put all your eggs in one distribution basket,” she says. Today, Simon’s line is in more than 500 boutiques nationwide.

The Business of Bridal Beauty

How To Market Your Products At Craigslist

Sunday, December 10, 2006

How To Make Money With Mobile Pet Grooming

Dennis Gnetz Story

http://www.wagntails.com/

For Dennis Gnetz, president and owner of Wag'n Tails, a mobile pet grooming unit manufacturer that sells converted RVs outfitted with pet bathing, shampooing, and drying facilities, being in the pet care business is quickly becoming a family tradition. His parents owned a brick-and-mortar groomer in the 1970s, and they even started a school to train others in their techniques. Since Wag'n Tails launched in 1997 (Gnetz joined two years later), the business has sold more than 1,000 mobile grooming units, each containing a power generator, water tanks, heating and cooling, and hot water.

The business works like a franchise, encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to become professional groomers, buy the vehicles, and turn them into their mobile business. The main difference is that there are no franchise fees or royalty fees. And becoming a Wag’n Tails operator has relatively low entry costs: $5,000 for grooming school training and a $5,000 down payment on a mobile unit. Gnetz says owner/operators can net between $50,000 to $100,000 per year. The company has grown exponentially in the past six years, and about 30% year-on-year for the past two years, he says.

The Business Guide to Pet Grooming

How To Scam-Proof Your Life

Saturday, December 09, 2006

How To Profit From Divorce Rings.


Harold Tompson Story

http://www.divorcedjewelryco.com

Life was dark for Harold Thompson in 2001. Corning laid him off. He got divorced from his second wife. And he was working at Wal-Mart off of Market Street to make ends meet.

That was when former Corning co-worker Mary Burden came in to shop. She had been laid off, too, and they got to talking. At some point, she suggested: "You know, there are rings for high school football, anniversaries, rings to show you're single or married. But there are no rings for a divorce."

In 60 seconds, Thompson said, a ring design formed in his head. That night, he went home to draw what would become the Divorced Ring.

Like the Irish Clannagh ring, the right hand ring or the pinky ring, the $330 Divorced Ring is pegged as a matter-of-fact way for people to announce their status in life.

"It's not promoting divorce," Thompson said, "but if you're in a situation, whether dating or married, and it's not a good situation, then you need to get out of it."

The design is simple: a thick gold band with a break in the center and three bands of white gold on one side. One band for the year you met your ex. One band for the year you married. One band for the year of the divorce.

Thompson wears his Divorced Ring on his left middle finger.

Thompson and Burden said they started their new Web business, Divorced Jewelry Company, to put a positive spin on the heartbreak of divorce. (In 2003, Burden separated from her husband and is now widowed.) Their slogan: Building self-esteem one person at a time. The Web site, www.divorcedjewelryco.com, also sells Divorced Jewelry Company hats and shirts.

"We wanted a name that would make people go, 'What?'" Burden said, laughing. "Most everybody asks us to repeat it."

The company hired a Philadelphia jeweler to make the ring, and the patent for the Divorced Ring just arrived a few weeks ago. Now, the business partners are trying to market it to jewelry stores while working swing shifts as fiber processing associates back at Corning, where they were re-hired in 2003. (Thompson, who vows not to marry again, hasn't told his ex-wives about his new business venture yet.)

The potential market for divorce jewelry is substantial, though the overall divorce rate in the country has dropped from the oft-reported 50 percent to 41 percent, as reported in an April New York Times story. The National Center for Health Statistics put the divorce rate in 2005 at 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people.

Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life

Friday, December 08, 2006

How To Pay For Your Meal With A Cell Phone

Noah Glass Story

http://www.gomobo.com/

Before he finished his political science degree at Yale, Noah Glass had already worked at Shutterfly, Amnesty International, Braun Consulting, and been accepted to Harvard Business School. But he deferred admission to pursue an opportunity at Endeavor, a non-profit organization supporting high-growth entrepreneurs in developing countries. After interviewing more than 150 entrepreneurs in South Africa, Glass found that the entrepreneurial bug had bit him, too.

Tired of waiting in long lines for coffee in his hometown of New York City-and assuming that others felt the same way, Glass invented Mobo, a mobile ordering system where customers order and pay for takeout meals from restaurants on their cell phones. The service, which launched in June, 2005, alerts users with text messages when their meals are ready, and is quickly catching on, neighborhood by Manhattan neighborhood.

So far, Glass says restaurants that use the service report a surge in business, since it saves them time by improving kitchen efficiency and gets people in and out faster, reducing lines. Restaurants pay Mobo 10% of each sale generated through the service. And although the service is easily scalable, Glass says he's trying to grow relatively slowly—New York this year and into Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London by the end of 2007. But Glass isn't just interested in food. He says Mobo could extend into movie-ticket ordering and parking-meter payments, for starters. Eventually, Glass visualizes a GPS-aided taxi service that customers can preorder, forgoing waits and rainy-night frustration. Until then, the company is poised for serious growth, with 2007 revenues expected to top $1.8 million.

The Last Days Of The Dollar

Thursday, December 07, 2006

How To Make Money On Phonecalls From Prison.

Brian Prins Story

http://www.outsideconnectioninc.net/

Brian Prins is an affable salesman who touts the benefits of his prepaid collect-calling service in a distinct Long Island accent. He's also an ex-con who served five years in a Pennsylvania state prison for aggravated assault and possession of stolen car parts, so when he explains that he's simply helping families stay in touch, stay together, and stay out of debt, you might want to listen.

"I know how much phone calls from prison cost, and how much an inmate needs to talk to his family and friends," says Prins, who himself racked up $1,000 in monthly phone bills from behind bars.

Upon his release in 2002, Prins founded Outside Connection in a bid to undercut the collect-calling services that contract with prisons. Those contracts create virtual monopolies that charge a big premium - as much as four times the standard rate for collect calls.

With Outside Connection, family members and friends buy discounted phone time, and prisoners are given a direct-dial local number that routes calls straight to a family's chosen phone. Calls can also be sent to cell or Internet phones, which isn't possible with traditional collect calls.

Because it's a prepaid service, Outside Connection is never stuck with the bill, avoiding one of the major reasons traditional services charge inmates exorbitant rates. Inmate calls are a $1 billion market, so wresting just a small portion of that business from the major providers could give Prins's 12-person shop a solid payday.

Although Prins won't reveal his current revenue, he says his customer base has grown 100 percent a year for the past two years, mainly through word of mouth: "If you're helping these families, the inmates are going to pass the word around."

Prison, Inc.: A Convict Exposes Life Inside a Private Prison

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Brain Behind TheMillionDollarHomepage.Com Launches A New Site

Alex Tew Story

http://www.milliondollarhomepage.com/
http://www.pixelotto.com

It took this 21-year-old student just 20 minutes to come up with an idea which made him a million dollars in four months. So what did he do next?

Alex Tew completed just one term of his three-year business degree before deciding he'd do just fine without it. If the $1m in his bank account is anything to go by, he's right.

The 21-year-old student started the Million Dollar Homepage to help pay his university fees, but it ended up making him a dollar millionaire in just four months.

The site sold pixels, the dots which make up a computer screen, as advertising space, costing a dollar a dot. The minimum purchase was $100 for a 10x10 pixel square to hold the buyer's logo or design. Clicking on that space takes readers to the buyer's website.

Alex invested £50 setting up the site. Friends and family bought the first $1,000 worth of pixels. The proceeds of the first sale of ad space went on putting out a press release, which brought the site to the media's attention.

From there it snowballed. As he made money, more people talked about it and the more people talked about it, the more money he made. At its most popular, the Million Dollar Homepage got 863,000 unique users in one day, it still gets about 7,000 a day even though every pixel has been sold.

Ideas machine

But what has happened to Alex since the last pixel was sold in January?

He'd completed just one term at Nottingham University before deferring his degree when the site took off. He thought of going back and completing it but decided to work on his business ideas.

"I'm not good at studying in the traditional sense anyway," he says. "I have a short attention span. I'm always thinking about something new, I have lots of ideas."

He's bought a car with his earnings, but that's about the extent of his big purchases. He's moved to London from his family home in Cricklade, Wiltshire, but is renting a flat instead of buying one.

"Obviously the money has changed my life in some ways but it hasn't in others," he says. "I don't get recognised in the street or anything like that. I pretty much see the same people I used to and do the same things."

After the success of the site, job offers and investment opportunities from around the world flooded in. Some were very attractive, but in the end he turned them all down in favour of doing his own thing.

His mother is still his PA, but he has employed two other people, one to look after his sites and one to look after customers.

"I like to think of it as a internet time capsule," he says. "I want it to sit there for as long as possible, for decades."

Could be you

Most of his time has gone into coming up with a new business idea. The Million Dollar Homepage was a one-off but Alex knew the concept still had legs and could be developed. He came up with Pixelotto, which goes live on Tuesday.

His new venture will turn one lucky web surfer into a millionaire. Again he will sell a million pixels as advertising space, but this time for $2 each.

He will get $1m and the other million will be given to one random visitor. One month after the final pixel is sold, a draw will select one of the site's adverts at random.

Someone who clicked on that particular advert will be picked via a second random draw. The next round of Pixelotto will then begin, giving someone else the chance to become a millionaire. The winner can also nominate a charity to receive a $100,000 donation.

"This idea has longevity," he says. "I don't know anyone who doesn't want to win $1m dollars, so I can keep doing it again and again."

But what about in the long-term future? Even if his latest venture is a success, he says he will still move on to something new.

"I don't think I will be running this company for 25 years. I always want to do new things, I have a very short attention span."

Multiple Streams of Internet Income: How Ordinary People Make Extraordinary Money Online

Internet Riches: The Simple Money-making Secrets of Online Millionaires

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

eBay Success Stories - Visibility Unlimited

(By the way, if you are into eBay, here is a $49.95 software package that you can get absolutely free. I believe the offer is available to US residents exclusively.)

http://www.visibilityunlimited.com/

Cathy is a smart businesswoman. She started out as a travel agent who just loved to SCUBA dive. She used her knowledge of diving to book recreational vacations for fellow divers-and boy, did word spread. Adding to her SCUBA vacation business, Cathy opened Visibility Unlimited, specializing in equipment for everything H20-from SCUBA wetsuits, kayaks and other watersports goods.

But then the economy took a sharp downturn and Cathy realized that no matter how professional and full-service Visibility Unlimited was, that the Chicago suburbs she served simply couldn't provide her the business she needed to keep her doors open.

Within a few months of selling, Cathy started reading the eBay Store boards. "That's when I realized that an eBay Store was really a branded website within the eBay community. The potential was just huge."

Cathy was further tempted because there's so little risk in opening an eBay Store- far less than what she's already lived through with her brick-and-mortar store. She did a little quick math-and figured out that a Basic eBay Store would cost as little as $15.95 per month and a Featured Store would cost only $49.95 a month. She opened the eBay version of her brick-and-mortar store, Visibilities Unlimited, on eBay in 2004.

"I'm not 25 years old, you know. I didn't know any HTML," quipped Cathy, between answering the live questions of customers in her store and packing up eBay orders. In order to design the eBay version of Visibility Unlimited, Cathy was going to need some help. She was thrilled by easy-to-use Macromedia Contribute 3, available to eBay Stores merchants at $50 off retail value for $99.

But Cathy quickly fell in love with how easy she could customize-and re-customize-her eBay Store's interface. "I change my eBay Store every day, as many times as I want, without costing me any more money," says Cathy, who also notes that she constantly rearranges items in her brick-and-mortar store, too.

We're excited to point out that Cathy, an HTML novice, was one of the finalists in the Best Looking Store category in eBay's Best in Stores!2005 Contest.

But it's not just about the pretty package to Cathy. She also takes full advantage of other eBay Stores features, especially to market her store. Each week, Cathy notifies her customer base as to new products. Plus, Cathy enjoys becoming a more skilled eBay Stores merchant through business intelligence tools that help her discern repeat buyers, what merchandise is moving and more. "Traffic reports keep me focused on which direction my customers are moving," says Cathy. "I can also figure out my busiest days, hours and seasons with eBay Stores tools."

In the year since opening her eBay Store, Cathy has experience unprecedented sales and worldwide growth. "I'm so overwhelmed by the response," says Cathy, who divides her time between her eBay Store and the brick-and-mortar shop. "I just can't believe it."

Before opening her eBay Store, Cathy was content to sell products to the greater Chicagoland area, but because of eBay's worldwide reach, she's opened up her market. "I realized that the dollar was weak abroad," notes Cathy, "and that if I drew traffic to my store from the U.K., people there would buy more product. And they do! I say, 'God Save the Queen!'" She has sold items to buyers all over the Middle East, Europe and North America.

Just how much has having an eBay Store meant for Cathy's business? She's watched her sales increase each month. Cathy is doing so well that she plans to bring in a few assistants in order to keep service levels high. "On eBay, you can't afford to lose your feedback. So I'm increasing and decreasing the number of items in my eBay Store as I have the bandwidth to deal with orders." Quality of service is especially important to Cathy, who sells 500 items per month, many to repeat customers and referrals.

Overall, Cathy says that although she'll never give up her brick-and-mortar store, her eBay Store is more successful. She's selling more items-and much quicker.

eBay Income: How Anyone of Any Age, Location, and/or Background Can Build a Highly Profitable Online Business with eBay

Monday, December 04, 2006

eBay Success Story

Judith Isaacson
http://www.mauricegoldman.com/

Combining career and family is a tricky business. Often we need to
change our direction for the different stages of family life. There are no perfect solutions, but thinking out of the box helps.

When we moved 6000 miles away from our families 22 years ago, I
certainly never imagined I would be working in the business my grandfather established way back when. Way back when ... there was no internet, no low cost international telephone service, no e-mail, and no digital photography.

My children are grown up now, and I could theoretically leave the house
and find outside employment, but I have chosen not to take that path. This time the decision is a calculated one. Throughout my family's childhood and teen years, I solved the ``where to be first issue'' by working from home. My hard-earned M.Sc. degree in Human Resource Administration was shelved -- although I would like to think I applied some of the key principles to running our in-house human resources. As a fluent English speaker in a foreign country, armed with the latest computer equipment in my own home when computers were fairly new even in offices, I opened an English-language word processing business out of a corner of my living room.

My clients came from the nearby academic centers and new hi-tech industry park. As word processing became more sophisticated, I moved on to desktop publishing and was soon creating books, brochures, and journals. I attended seminars, read the literature and soon expanded my services to offer copywriting and marketing communication. Over the years my portfolio grew and I felt a special frisson whenever I saw a company with my marketing material succeed. All the while, the children were growing up, and although often pressured from the deadlines and demands of not one boss, but many -- as is the plight of the independent business person -- I was able to be there for them and participate in school and club events.

Over the years, I co-authored a book, established, published and wrote an online magazine with two women partners, and with them also built an online business. Simultaneously, and all too quickly, my children graduated high school, served in the army, traveled abroad, returned, left home, returned, had a baby, worked abroad, returned, got a girlfriend (who knows? he doesn't tell me anything...), and we built a house. Now I have a fabulous corner office looking out on the garden and my husband has his own sanctuary upstairs.

And then my father surprised me during a routine touch-base telephone call, which he later backed up with an e-mail note. ``I've been thinking... Maybe you see a way to use the internet for our business? Is there a way you could direct something like that?''

Well, blow me away. I just happened to be at a crossroads. My husband was preparing to set out on a two-week long male-bonding trek in the Himalayas, I was recuperating from a torn miniscus operation, my son was nearing the end of his army duty, the downturn in high tech and in tourism had negatively effected my bottom line, I cherished drop in visits to my little granddaughter, and I needed an opportunity I could sink my teeth into.

When Joel headed east to trek, I headed west to create a new interface to a 90-year-old family business, Maurice Goldman Fine Jewelry .

Over the last eight months, the learning curve has been steep. Within 2 weeks of opening our eBay store, the fraudsters were running rampant.

David Bloom wrote in from Cremona, Italy, with ready cash for a $20,000 sapphire ring, and a strong recommendation that we use an escrow service to protect him from losing his hard earned cash. It's true that he never spoke about protecting us from losing our hard earned merchandise. At the eleventh hour, well, actually at 8 AM in my pajamas in front of the computer screen, with the aid of my calm, dependable and analytical husband, I avoided our first theft in the virtual world. We learned that not all escrow sites are created equal, and that the one our ``customer'' ``recommended'' was a fraud. In his last e-mail note to me, Mr. Bloom lamented that the site was phony, and that he had just suffered a loss of $20,000. Couldn't we have told him sooner?(!)

Other would-be sales included stolen credit cards (this is apparent when the buyer suggests that you take more money than you the posted sales price to cover charges), more fraudulent escrow sites, money transfer deals, and a bank check swindle. As Joel points out, the crooks are always a step ahead.

My work vocabulary has grown exponentially, as has my respect for the business world in general, and my father in particular. Our business issues are the same: to source new products, to market and sell to a growing customer base, and to avoid theft and fraud. But whereas my Dad deals with the real world, my business is virtual. I find the global reach of the virtual world tremendously satisfying and very neat. Customers tell us that our online presence means they can acquire goods otherwise unavailable in their small towns.

So here I am in Israel, promoting and selling jewelry that is in New York, to customers around the world, without leaving the house. The process of building and handling the internet extension of our family business, and combining family, home and business brings me full circle. My cup runneth over.

(By the way, if you are into eBay, here is a $49.95 software package that you can get absolutely free. I believe the offer is available to US residents exclusively.)

eBay Income: How Anyone of Any Age, Location, and/or Background Can Build a Highly Profitable Online Business with eBay

The High Cost of Too Good to Be True