Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jet your profits.


William Herp needed several million dollars last year to expand his jet-taxi company. He wanted to buy a fleet of a new kind of small jet -- one that would transport businesspeople visiting clients, like a car service with wings.

With airports overflowing with weary travelers and interest in private planes on the rise, Mr. Herp believed the new jets' speed and access to smaller regional airports would lure small groups of business travelers and families who may have never chartered a plane. Instead of paying by the seat, groups could rent the planes by the hour.

But a new kind of jet for a new kind of business -- banks "would never touch it," says the president and chief executive of Concord, Mass.-based Linear Air, which was founded in 2004.

Lease With a Twist

So he began courting wealthy individuals to help finance his idea. His pitch: Buy the small planes -- classified as very light jets -- and lease them to Linear Air. The buyers would receive income from the lease and a sizable tax benefit from the plane's depreciation, plus the ego boost from saying they own a jet. Linear Air, in turn, would have access to the planes without taking on high-interest loans. And the planes' owners would likely become repeat paying customers.

While most small companies don't need to buy $1.7 million jets, Linear Air's solution, a twist on a sale-leaseback arrangement, could work for entrepreneurs who need capital but don't want to sell equity or take on debt.

Leasing, says Murray Low, an associate professor at Columbia Business School and the director of Columbia's Eugene M. Lang Center for Entrepreneurship, is a form of financing "entrepreneurs probably don't use enough. It's relatively low-cost financing without tying up the rest of the balance sheet."

Mr. Herp, 44, a former chief financial officer of a public company and a recreational pilot, knew the risks associated with buying planes -- expensive products that depreciate quickly. And he knew individuals would be more likely to take this kind of risk than most bankers, because banks prefer to lend to firms with a track record of success. Recent widespread troubles among traditional airlines have rendered bankers even more hesitant to finance a new kind of plane and a new kind of operation.

Linear Air, with 40 employees and $2.3 million in revenue last year, has six Cessna Caravans -- three leased and three that it owns. But Mr. Herp's dream was a fleet of very light jets. The four-passenger jet is about the same price as the Cessna but able to go farther and nearly twice as fast. Taking the plane, for example, from Boston to Elmira, N.Y., might cost $3,000. That's within reach for a group of four business travelers and less costly than a traditional charter flight.

The plan wasn't easy. The jets' manufacturer, Albuquerque, N.M., start-up Eclipse Aviation Corp., has run as much as a year behind on delivery, Mr. Herp says. And, the "air taxi" model, where planes rent by the hour, is still unproven.

Eclipse spokesman Andrew Broom says the production delays are due to normal "teething pains" for a start-up manufacturer.

"We learned from the experience buying the Caravans what criteria equipment-finance companies or banks use to lend money," Mr. Herp says, "and we realized quickly Eclipse wasn't going to meet that criteria."

Mr. Herp says several finance companies offered to lend him money to begin the purchases -- but nowhere close to the amount he needed to put down deposits on several planes. Sixty percent of the price of each plane is due six months ahead of its scheduled delivery.

"The pricing was unworkable," he says. Even with the loans, "we'd still have to go out and raise cash" by selling part of the business.

So, Mr. Herp and his investment bankers constructed a leasing arrangement. Under the agreement, wealthy individuals buy a plane from Eclipse and agree to lease it to Linear Air for a period of time. During that time, the owner gets a discount if he or she wants to use the plane and also can usually earn an accelerated depreciation write-off on his or her taxes.

Leasing is common for owners of corporate jets and other transportation equipment, says Rick Schroeder, a partner in commercial finance at law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle. Typically, the owner of a corporate jet will turn to an aviation-finance company, which will buy the aircraft and lease it back to that original owner. Linear Air's arrangement is a twist on that idea. In Linear's case, the company never owned the jets but persuaded investors to buy them instead. Those investors are then required to lease the jets to Linear.

While most industries don't deal with rapidly-depreciating assets like planes, lots of small companies can avoid taking on loans by leasing some of their equipment, says Prof. Low.

In the case of Linear Air's arrangement, the jet owners are also likely customers. Prof. Low notes that tapping into a potential customer base "is one of the most attractive sources of financing." When customers help finance the business, "it makes them vested" in the company's success, he says.

A Slow Beginning

Linear Air's plan appears to be working -- slowly. While several hundred potential jet owners have requested more information about the leasing program through the firm's Web site, only two deals have been completed.

That's partly because of manufacturing delays. Eclipse planned to deliver the first jet to Linear Air in August 2006, but now the plane isn't expected to arrive until August or September of this year. Because so much money is due prior to delivery, a handful of potential buyers balked after hearing of the delays. "They take a step back. They say the timing has changed, so there's no reason to do the deal now," Mr. Herp says.

One investor who has completed a deal is Chris Covington, founder of Boston boutique investment-banking firm Covington Associates, which does work for Linear. Mr. Covington, who also is a pilot, says he was attracted by the potential investment income as well as getting priority on flights. As someone who charters planes somewhat regularly -- he's been shuttling his teenage son on college visits -- he expects to reserve the Eclipse jet as often as once a month, especially if he's traveling to a city that's hard to reach directly on a commercial flight.

Mr. Covington's plane was to be delivered in May, but is now expected in September. While the delay is "regrettable," he says, "I want them to get it right."

ATM Rigged To Give Twenty Dollar Bills Instead Of Fives.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

How To Make $250,000 With Bike Rentals


The day starts at 7:30 a.m. for Wayne du Pied, when he arrives at his Salt Lake City EagleRiderlocation. The first order of business is inspecting his Harley-Davidsons, ATVs, snowmobiles and boats to make sure they're ready for renters.

When du Pied took over the franchise in 2006, he decided to move closer to the airport to make it easier for him to pick up his customers. After transporting them from the airport to EagleRider, he rents them their bikes and they go on their way--whether for just a few hours or a few weeks.

Then the real work begins. Du Pied, 40, gets calls about flat tires, breakdowns and bikes that customers have mistakenly filled up with diesel instead of gasoline. But all the mishaps seem worth it when the customers return at the end of the day. "It's the type of business that puts smiles on people's faces," du Pied says. "They come back and say, 'We had the best ride!'"

As an EagleRider franchisee, du Pied also offers tours, and customers who want to take a spin on their own can drop bikes off at any EagleRider location instead of returning them to his store. But the benefits of the franchise don't stop at his customers: Du Pied earned revenue of $250,000 in 2006 and projects a $100,000 increase this year. "The learning curve's a lot shorter," he says, "when you've got people [behind you] who've done it for years."

ATM Rigged To Give Twenty Dollar Bills Instead Of Fives

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

How To Make Millions, Taking Advantage Of Loopholes In Local Laws


Local laws here generally ban billboards in residential areas. But that hasn't stopped an outdoor advertising company called Van Wagner from plastering hip neighborhoods like Chelsea, Soho and the Meatpacking District with bare-chested pitchmen for Abercrombie & Fitch, dancing iPod users and other immense ads.

The catch: a loophole in the law that allows billboards in areas once zoned for manufacturing -- even though the factories are long gone.

"There are lots of gray areas," says a New York City spokeswoman about billboard laws.

Taking advantage of such loopholes has helped Van Wagner build itself from scratch over the last decade into the nation's fourth-biggest billboard business. In many big cities, the company has found legal wiggle room to expand a business that some civic leaders have been trying to tamp down for decades.

In New York, for example -- where billboards are largely restricted to commercial and manufacturing districts -- Van Wagner now owns more than 300 large-format displays intended for viewing from a distance of 50 feet or more.That kind of presence gives its nearest competitors, including CBS Corp.'s CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Communications Inc., a run for their money.

The space is increasingly precious. Outdoor advertising, a $4 billion industry in 1997, will hit nearly $7 billion this year. It is growing faster than any other advertising category besides the Internet. Advertisers like billboards because consumers are spending more time on the roads, and billboards are hard to avoid -- there's no way to turn the page or fast-forward through them.

With cities increasingly passing restrictions, the number of large format billboards -- 168,000 nationwide last year -- isn't keeping up with demand. As a result, rents are rising. A large billboard on the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx or on Tenth Avenue in Manhattan might go for around $21,000 a month today, compared with about $10,000 10 years ago.

With economics like that, Richard Schaps, Van Wagner's chairman and chief executive, couldn't resist getting back into the business. A wily former taxi driver with a tattered hack license to prove it, Mr. Schaps had made a name for himself thinking up innovative ways to carve new advertising space from the urban landscape. He founded an earlier outdoor-advertising company, also named Van Wagner, which pioneered much of the iconic advertising in New York's Times Square, such as Nissin's long gone steaming cup of noodles.

In 1997, he sold that company for $170 million to Outdoor Systems, now part of CBS Outdoor. But instead of retiring to the golf course, Mr. Schaps promptly started building a new outdoor business, with the same name, from scratch.

To rebuild his company and tap into the boom, Mr. Schaps had to think creatively. When New York City relaxed its rules for curbside phone kiosks, at one time dominated by Verizon predecessor Nynex, Mr. Schaps jumped in. He worked with independent phone companies like Telebeam Telecommunications Inc., financing their phone kiosks so he could sell the advertising on the sides. He eventually got the Verizon contract, and now controls some 3,000 Manhattan phone kiosks.

Mr. Schaps also hustled for spaces that other companies had overlooked. Federal government buildings, for example, often are exempt from many city restrictions on billboards. So Mr. Schaps now has a 60-feet-by-20-feet billboard on a post office on Ninth Avenue that rents for about $20,000 a month.

Van Wagner, which also operates in a handful of other cities including Los Angeles and Washington D.C., says it gets calls almost daily from landlords eager to make extra money by renting out billboard space on their buildings. The vast majority of the time, it doesn't work out, says Mark Johnston, the company's chief operating officer, because of intricate city rules on which districts may sport billboards and how far they must stand from parks, arterial highways and other sensitive spots. When the company thinks it has a likely spot, staffers experts comb through rules and maps to make sure the board will work, then negotiate with landlords for a billboard lease. Last, they apply for a city permit to put up the board.

Outdoor advertising companies frequently play cat and mouse games with city officials. In California, for example, a state law allows illegally erected billboards that manage to avoid citation for five years or more to stay up unless challenged by state officials in a lengthy, bureaucratic process. Legislation introduced in April is trying to close this loophole. In Los Angeles, some city officials believe that many boards either lack permits or have expanded beyond what their permit allows, for example, standing taller, wider or having two or three faces instead of just one. The city's building and safety department is taking inventory.

One Los Angeles-based company, Regency, repeatedly lands in hot water. On New Year's Eve 2004, a deputy manager for the city of West Hollywood caught company officials, led by co-owner Brian Kennedy, installing a large unpermitted billboard on the Sunset Strip.

Mr. Kennedy says the new billboard, with sturdy steel underpinnings, replaced an older, smaller one that had aging supports. Separately, a former employee testified in court that executives had bragged about poisoning and hacking down trees that blocked views of its boards at Los Angeles International Airport. Mr. Kennedy says a city report exonerated Regency for responsibility over the dead and disfigured trees.

Mr. Schaps says his company goes out of the way to work within the law, fearing tactics that are too aggressive would sully the reputation of the industry and potentially scare away clients. "It's not the way we should be acting," he says of the industry. At Van Wagner, "we're almost entirely legal."

Still, the company isn't free from controversy. A New York judge recently issued a temporary restraining order against Van Wagner, preventing an ad for a bidet-style contraption that featured bare buttocks from going up near a church.

And Van Wagner's signs aren't universally loved by neighbors.

Residents of the Meatpacking District have picketed, and restaurants have organized a boycott of the Hotel Gansevoort for renting out space to Van Wagner -- even refusing to take reservations from the hotel's concierge. Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, says he cringes every time he walks by them because they are so out of character with the neighborhood. "They're the size and scale you would see on the New Jersey Turnpike," he says.

Van Wagner says the two boards, currently advertising Jaguar XL and Peroni, the Italian beer, are "100% legal."

To help lure in customers, Mr. Schaps invites potential clients into a black Mercedes for a drive that takes in his advertising properties around Manhattan, a tour he calls "riding the boards." (Ever the cabbie, he sometimes drives himself.)

Last year, the company won a $58 million, 10-year contract to manage 150 New York City Transit Authority billboard displays on properties such as train overpasses and underpasses. The prior year, Van Wagner lost out to Spanish company Cemusa Inc., which won a $1.4 billion contract to manage city bus shelter advertising." I don't think I've ever tried harder for anything in my life," says Mr. Schaps. The revamped Van Wagner has revenue of around $200 million annually.

These days, as cities close loopholes and tighten regulations, Van Wagner executives say it's getting harder to find good spots. That's particularly true in New York, where several billboard companies, but not Van Wagner, are in a protracted court battle with the city over its enforcement of billboard laws. A few years ago, the company put up 15 to 25 new boards each year in Manhattan. These days, it's lucky to find one per year. "We used to say we are looking for needles in a haystack," says Van Wagner's Mr. Johnston. "Now we say there are no needles in the haystack."

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

How To Make Real Millions With Virtual Real Estate.


There's nothing real about Anshe Chung's real estate portfolio, but that hasn't stopped the virtual property magnate amassing a small fortune which she intends to turn into a much larger one.

In just 32 months, Chinese language teacher Ailin Graef has transformed an outlay of $US9.95 into virtual assets worth at least $US1 million in real money.

Graef has achieved this in a virtual world called Second Life where she is better known as Anshe Chung, the community's foremost property magnate.

Anshe's Second Life portfolio includes virtual property assets equivalent to 36 sq km in size. But there's nothing real about this real estate. It's actually a 3D simulation housed on 550 networked computers.

And, believe it or not, there are people willing to pay sums ranging from $US100 to $US1000-plus to own a plot of land in Second Life.

Taking a leaf out of the property developer's manual, Anshe buys large blocks of "land" which she improves, subdivides, and then either rents or sells the smaller plots.

Like real property developers, it's much better for the bottom line when there are a lot of people moving in to the neighbourhood.

And that's exactly what's been happening in Second Life which is experiencing a population explosion of epic proportions.

This time last year there were 70,000 members. Today there are 1.6 million participants who have downloaded the free software and created online personas called avatars through which they interact inside this 3D community.

Anshe, who appeared on the cover of the influential US magazine BusinessWeek in May, is arguably the world's most famous avatar. Now she is also its richest.

Over the weekend, she trumpeted her arrival in this exclusive club of one with a press release titled: "Anshe Chung Becomes First Virtual World Millionaire".

In addition to her real estate holdings, Anshe's fortune is made up of "cash", "shares", several "shopping malls", "chain stores" and "brands" - every iota of it a sequence of binary files residing in a computer's memory.

In Second Life, the local currency known is known as Linden Dollars (named after the company that created the platform). The Linden Dollars is in effect a convertible curreny, making it possible for entrepreneurs like Anshe to turn virtual profits into real money.

At the close of trading on Friday $US1 was worth $L274.5 (Linden Dollars).

Originally from China, Ailin Graef moved to Germany with her husband, Guntram Graef, in the mid-1990s where she took up a job teaching Chinese, English, and German.

She joined Linden Lab's Second Life in Mach 2004, paying $US9.95 to purchase an account - a requirement that is no longer mandatory.

Earlier this year, the Graef's branched out , opening an office in the Chinese city of Wuhan where 21 people are employed providing services and creating content for members and prospective members of the Second Life community.

Second Life, which is now run by San Francisco-based Linden Labs, was founded in 2003 by Philip Rosedale.

It's technically a so-called massively multi-player online (MMO) game which can be played by any number of people from anywhere at the same time. However, it differs from many other games in this genre in that there is no objective or goal.

In fact many of its player - called residents - merely use the platform to hang out, socialise and create, buy and sell virtual goods. Because the platform confers property rights, residents retain ownership of anything they create, buy or are given,

While Second Life's membership is much smaller than, for instance the World of Warcraft MMO game, it has developed a cult following. This has led to a rapid influx of corporate members, including retailers, hoteliers, car and computer companies which hope to influence the buying habits of the online puppeteers behind the avatars.

A number of real life performers have also appeared in Second Life. A few months ago, Suzanne Vega gave a small concert and last month, Ben Folds launched his new album inside the 3D world.

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ExxonMobil Sends Man 2,000 Credit Cards

Friday, July 27, 2007

How To Make Money With A Sales Pitch


Pitching the next great idea to prospective business partners, investors, service providers and fellow entrepreneurs just got easier with Vator.tv—a new venture that combines online video and networking. Based on the proverbial elevator pitch—the notion that you should be able to sum up a new business venture in the few minutes it takes to ride an elevator—Vator.tv is an online marketplace for new ideas. “Anyone, across all industries, at any stage, can share ideas, products, services and businesses with the rest of the world, mainly through video.”

Here's how it works: users sign up for a free account. They then create pitches for their ideas, projects or businesses in a rich media environment by uploading video, images, PPT or PDF files. They can choose to share their pitches with a personal network or with the entire Vator.tv community. Users build their networks by inviting friends to join or browsing through other ideas and connecting with like-minded people on the site. The website includes tips on creating compelling pitches, such as how to pack the most punch into a three-minute video clip.

Vator.tv’s revenue will likely stem from advertising and sponsorships. Launched in June 2007, Vator.tv has some big names behind it, including angel investors Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Richard Rosenblatt, former Chairman of MySpace, and Georges Harik, a former Google executive who helped build Google's AdSense technology. What's more, the company is already putting its money where it's mouth is by hiring a Pakistani group of web developers who won the business through their very own video pitch. Another promising application of video technology in a Web 2.0 environment, Vator.tv is one for entrepreneurs and investors to keep their eyes on.

Venture Capital Becomes Sexfriendly

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How To Make Hundreds Of Millions With A Knife


Portland, Ore. Long before holstered cellphones appeared on handymen's belts, another gadget won their hearts and hips: the Leatherman Pocket Survival Tool. Within three months of its first listing in a mail-order catalog, the multifunctional gizmo became essential for thousands of hikers, hunters, and knife enthusiasts. Since then, Leatherman tools have blasted into space with NASA astronauts, severed umbilical cords on newborns, and extracted shrapnel from American troops in Iraq.

As founder Tim Leatherman tells it, the idea behind his company grew out of a routine car breakdown. He and his wife spent most of 1975 touring Europe and Asia in a used Fiat. Its hoses leaked and the wiring failed constantly, and Leatherman's generic pocketknife lacked the means to fix them. Inspiration struck: Why not add pliers to a pocketknife? By the time the couple returned to the U.S., Leatherman had sketched out a design. A few weeks later he was using his brother-in-law's machining tools to construct the first prototype.

Today the 350-employee Leatherman Tool Group (leatherman.com) sells about 2.5 million units a year of 36 models in 80 countries, from Germany to Mongolia. By December the company plans to introduce five new products. At his headquarters in Portland, Tim Leatherman, 58, sat down with FSB to discuss how he persisted for more than eight years to convince customers that his seven-ounce invention was much more than a glorified Boy Scout knife.

My wife and I decided to travel abroad in 1975. We were young-it was one of those budget trips, and we bought an old Fiat in Amsterdam for $300. I was carrying a Boy Scout-type knife and used it for everything, from slicing bread to making adjustments to the car. But I kept wishing I had a pair of pliers! During the trip - it lasted almost nine months - I had a piece of paper in my pocket where I listed ideas for new products, things I might work on back in the U.S. It was in a hotel room in Tehran that I started sketching a pocketknife that contained pliers.

Once we got back to Portland, I asked my wife if I could build it - just one for me. I told her it would only take a month, and she got a job to support us. I set up shop in the garage and picked up a file and a hacksaw. (I have a degree in mechanical engineering but knew nothing about machining.) My brother-in-law was a machinist, and what he didn't teach me about metalworking, I had to figure out myself. My month turned into three years. I learned that I'm not a very good inventor. I don't have much foresight. You know Marconi, who built some of the first radios? I've heard that before he picked up a pencil, he had the entire model envisioned in his mind. I'm not that way. It took a few months just to visualize each part of the knife.

The first concept was a knife with a pair of regular pliers, and then a separate needle nose would swing over and be driven by the pliers. Then I got really ambitious and decided to add a feature that would lock the pliers, so that once I'd grab onto something, they would stay clamped. I wanted to put in a hacksaw, but they wear out pretty fast. I even tried to put in a can opener, a flat screwdriver, a leather punch, a pair of scissors, and a Phillips screwdriver. Eventually I ended up with two prototypes.

At that point I filed for a patent. I was hoping for an easy way out, that someone would pay me a million dollars for the patent rights. I thought my most likely prospects would be knife companies, so I brought my prototype to Gerber (gerbergear.com), a Portland, Ore., knife business. They looked it over and said, "This isn't a knife, it's a tool. We're not in the tool business." I still thought it was a knife, so I went to the major knife companies, but they all said no. I eventually got the message, and decided that if it's not a knife, it's a tool. I visited several tool companies, and they all said, "This isn't a tool, it's a gadget. Gadgets don't sell."

I found out that the New York Times ran a weekly column about new patents, and I called the writer to give him a heads-up when mine came through. He wrote about it, and I thought, "Wow, I'm going to get so many calls that I'd better go out and get an answering machine." I sat by my phone waiting for it to ring. I got one or two calls from crackpots.

Then my wife and I decided I should get a real job. I still had faith that I could sell the tool to some company, but in the off chance I didn't, I knew I'd have to go into business myself to sell it. I knew nothing about business. I had no idea what an invoice was or what accounts receivable were, and I didn't have any sales skills. So I took a welding-sales job I found in the want ads, which turned out to be a really good job for me. By day I sold welding products, and when calling on industrial accounts such as machine shops, I'd bring my product so I could learn more about manufacturing it. By night I was still trying to make contacts, get something going. This went on for about four years. Nothing happened, and I was ready to give up.

Steve Berliner, a friend from college, saved me. A business major who was working in his father's metalworking firm, he had tracked me the whole time. We became partners - 75% for me, 25% for Steve. He suggested that we should manufacture the tool ourselves but first find a customer to order a substantial number. His first thought was AT&T (before the breakup), which could use the tool for its fleet of repairmen. AT&T said no.

Then we tried the Army, thinking it could ship our tool to every soldier. We sent proposals to 23 government contacts and quickly received two "no's" and one "we acknowledge receiving it and will get back to you in due course." We still haven't heard back from the other 20.

Finally, we tried mail-order catalogs. We were so naive! We figured that if we made and sold 4,000 tools in our first year, we would break even and recover the cost of our investment. We would start production when a customer ordered 2,000. We created a mailing list, wrote a cover letter, and sent it to 250 catalogs. We drove up to Seattle to meet with one in person Early Winters. (The company changed its name to Sahalie in 2004.) The buyers looked at the prototype and asked us for a price. I came up with $40. "That means we'd have to sell it for $80," they said. "Sorry, don't think so."

But instead of closing the door completely, they asked us what we could to do make it less expensive and helped us brainstorm ideas. Steve and I went to work on a new prototype, taking out the clamping feature and a few other items. When we returned to Early Winters, we quoted the price of our tool at $24. They liked it but wouldn't commit to ordering 2,000.

We drove back to Portland and sent another letter out to the catalogs. One responded - Cabela's, the Nebraska hunting and fishing outfitter. It sent us a $12,000 purchase order for 500 tools. Steve and I shifted into production mode. One of the nice things about the mail-order business is the long lead time from when clients commit to the product to when it appears in the catalog. It was May of 1983, and our first order was for late December - plenty of time, we thought. Steve's dad let us use 1,000 square feet of his metal shop, his equipment, and some of his employees. Sometime after May, Early Winters called. It wanted 250 tools.

At that point - eight years after my first sketch - we started wondering about exactly who our customer was. If you envision a spectrum of knives and tools, Swiss Army knives sit on one side, and hand tools such as files and pliers sit on the other. Ours fit in the middle, and we named it the Pocket Survival Tool to appeal to the 20,000 survivalists that newspapers were writing about back then. We also targeted knife enthusiasts with ads in knife-trade publications, offering to sell directly to them. A few other orders trickled in, and in late December we got another call from Early Winters asking if its order was ready. We said we would be late-production wasn't quite as easy as we thought. "We need them badly," the buyers said, "because they've all been sold. And put us down for another 500." Three days later they ordered 750 more, and suddenly there was this market of customers calling us, folks who mentioned seeing us in catalogs. We sold about 30,000 tools in 1984 and 69,000 the next year. By 1993 we were selling more than one million units a year. I realized I had gotten lucky-initially, I failed to understand who my customer was. It was the catalogs that brought them to me.

Earlier this year I stepped down from my post as president, giving up one of my four positions. I'm still chairman, majority shareholder, and landlord. I think I've done a pretty good job of letting go, but it is important for me to come in every few weeks to meet with the CEO. Back when Steve and I were brainstorming company names, I told him we didn't need to name it after me. But he insisted, and I think he was pretty wise in doing so. Since my name is on every tool we make, I still feel a responsibility for the quality of each one we sell.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How To Make Money With Incremental Payments.


eLayaway.com is delivering the retail pay-as-you-go concept to online shoppers. "A lot of people are maxed out on their credit cards, others want to plan their purchases and some have no credit at all," says Sergio Pinon, 41, who, together with Matt Ryncarz, 25, launched eLayaway in August 2006.

For a flat 1.9 percent fee, eLayaway lets online customers make incremental payments until their purchases are paid off. The idea sprang from Ryncarz's former venture, which facilitated vacation planning through payroll deductions. Pinon saw the potential for a broader market in online sales, and eLayaway was born. "We had a fire under us because we wanted to be the first to get it to the market," Pinon says. Their premier position has paid off: The company is the layaway option at more than 30,000 online merchants. Tallahassee, Florida-based eLayaway reports 400 percent growth since January.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

How To Make $5 Million With A Board Game


Imagine turning an idea you hatched during your morning shower into a $5 million business--in just three years. That is precisely how Don McNeill, the Wilmington, Delaware, inventor of You've Been Sentenced, conceived of his now wildly popular board game for kids ages 8 and up, which uses a deck of 540 pentagon-shaped cards to come up with ingenious and hilarious sentences.

"I started with an idea, one investor and $50,000, which was just enough to pay the bills," says McNeill, 43. "My daughter drew the prototype on her computer, and I called people I knew from a 20-year career selling commercial printing and gave them one-quarter of 1 percent of the company to help me produce the game."

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

How To Make A Million Dollars As A Mover


Startup costs: $2,000

After college, Brian Altomare had several startup business ideas, from selling 1-800 numbers (which he learned was illegal) to starting an internet marketing company (which he ended up doing with three college buddies). While the internet marketing business didn't last, Altomare's memories of moving in and out of college dorms did--and they inspired him to start MadPackers in 2005.

Describing the experience of moving into his dorm with his father's help as "horrendous," Altomare saw a need for a company that simplified the college moving experience. After sitting on the idea for a year, he researched everything from couriers to price points before starting MadPackers as a one-employee, homebased operation. Altomare's business, which offers moving services for college students and provides packing supplies, now employs 55 people, and he envisions MadPackers evolving into an all-purpose company serving college students.

The company's sales for last year were $800,000, which Altomare says puts MadPackers on track to meet his sales projections of $1.5 million for 2007. One way MadPackers is reaching its target audience and building sales is by aligning itself with music entertainment. In March, the company launched its Door to Dorm concert tour, which visited 17 campuses and three festivals.

Altomare attributes much of the company's growth to its 2005 partnership with Universal Express Inc., a company offering luggage delivery and other services to travelers. Universal Express has not only invested in MadPackers, but it also provides customer service support, logistics and guidance to the company.

Still, Altomare says he has learned quite a few lessons on his own, from not hiring friends and family to making sure to pay interns and learning to take breaks. "At a certain point after you've developed the concept or the idea, remove yourself from the brand and the company," he recommends. "Take a break and go explore the world."

10+ Unusual Ways To Make Easy Money On The Internet If You Love Writing

How Bored MBA Student Came Up With A Million Dollar Idea

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nagtags Story


For Lindsay Holt, starting a business two years ago with her new husband already has paid off in an end run around maternal guilt.

For years, as a single mom working for a catalog company in the San Francisco Bay area, she used to leave for work before her daughter Danni, then in middle school, was awake. Holt helped Danni get moving in the morning by phone from the ferry as she commuted.

“That was just gut-wrenching,” Holt recalled.

It was on the sidelines of one of Danni’s soccer games that Holt was inspired to start the business that now allows her to make breakfast for her daughter and drive her to school. At the matches, Lindsay and her husband Tate noticed mothers complaining about having to run back home to fetch jerseys, shin guards and other items the kids forgot to pack.

After six months of research and patent searches, they launched Nagtags, electronic checklists that kids can attach to sports bags and backpacks. They put in $50,000 of their own money, excluding salary sacrifices, and raised about $575,000 from investors since incorporating in mid-2005.

The Money Eating Dog

Fart To Cash - THAT's A Very Creative Business Idea

Friday, July 20, 2007

Funky Camper Rentals


In keeping with today's mobile theme, Escape Rentals is a New Zealand camper rental company that sets itself apart by letting artists turn camper vans into art on wheels.

Taking something slightly dull – a camper – and turning it into something fresh, Escape Rentals is attracting travellers who are tired of mass tourism and looking for a more unique experience.

Each of their nearly 100 campers is given an aerosol overhaul by a New Zealand artist. Paint jobs draw from the whole spectrum of visual art and pop culture, from kiwiana to Far Side comics and Maurice Sendak to Pablo Picasso. Rental rates are competitive, at around NZD 59 (USD 37/EUR 29) per day, with optional extras like mobile phones and solar showers charged separately.

At much lower cost than building next generation supermarkets or movie theatres, this is yet another delightful example of innovation through design.

The Politics Of Good Advertising

How To Make Millions With Obscure Trade Associations

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Domain Names As A Business Niche


PickyDomains.Com is a perfect example of how to turn one’s talent into a profitable business. With ever expanding Internet and tens of millions existing websites, finding an available domain name that’s not already taken by cybersquatters can be a real nightmare.

But one man’s problem is another man’s solution. Rather than to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a domain name on the aftermarket, an increasing number of web entrepreneurs turn to professional “domain namers�?.

While most naming agencies charge a non-refundable fee that can be as high as $1500 for a corporate domain, one service that unites 17 professional domain namers from countries like United States, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, decided to offer a risk-free service that costs only 50 dollars per domain.

After 50 dollars are deposited, clients start getting a list of available domain names via e-mail for a period of 30 days. If they see a domain they like, they register it and notify the service about domain acquired. The individual, who came up with the name, gets $25, the other half going to the service. If no domain is registered, the money is refunded in full.

While the idea is brainlessly simple, it appears that PickyDomains.Com has no competition with its risk-free business model. But that is almost certain to change as more people find out that finding available domain names for other people can be a profitable business.

Rolling Stones get $50.5 million for private party

How To Make A Profit With Cat Poop Inventions

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How To Be Ethical Multimillionaire.


Indigenous Designs Corp. prides itself as a truly green supplier. Its women's clothing is made from all-natural, sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, silk and alpaca. It adheres to strict fair-trade manufacturing practices overseas, runs its U.S. corporate office on solar power and encourages employees to bike to work.

But all that feel-good stuff isn't what the Santa Rosa, Calif., company pushed when it met with executives from the Dillard's Inc. department-store chain at a trade show earlier this year. Instead, the apparel maker talked up fashion, design, and price -- mentioning the organic and fair-trade chit only as an extra bonus.

"It's all about the product, but P.S., there is this story behind it," says Scott Leonard, Indigenous Designs' chief executive and co-founder.

Subtle Message

This marketing strategy -- having a do-good message but not beating people over the head with it -- has helped Indigenous Designs to survive and segue into mainstream retail, while many of its green peers have languished in ecofriendly niches or gone out of business altogether.

These tactics and endurance highlight a sometimes overlooked truth in the fast-growing, much-ballyhooed green market: As much as consumers say they crave ecofriendly products, if those products don't look good, don't fit right, aren't durable or aren't priced competitively, then customers probably aren't going to buy them in droves.

"Companies that lead with green and ecofriendliness are in very dangerous territory because they are often not competitive on fashion or function and ask the consumer to make a compromise," says George Rosenbaum, chairman of Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, a Chicago consumer-research firm. "Retailers want green, but they won't let green stay in the store for long if it's not as good."

That's particularly true in fashion, Mr. Rosenbaum says, where appearance is everything. So to keep style at the forefront, Indigenous Designs employs five people on its design team and creates all clothing ideas in house. Advertising and marketing signage feature models and apparel prominently, with the organic/fair trade logo plugged more subtly. Fair trade allows for workers to receive a fair, living wages.

Founded in 1994, Indigenous Designs does business with more than 300 retailers nationwide, including Dillard's, Whole Foods Market Inc. and Eileen Fisher Inc. Revenue will jump to more than $4 million this year from $2 million last year, according to Mr. Leonard.

Mark Killingsworth, one of Dillard's general-merchandise managers, saw Indigenous Designs wares at a trade show in January and decided to carry the line based primarily on the design, fabrics and price -- which is precisely the order of criteria he thinks women use when shopping for clothes.

"It's a neat handle that something has the green thing attached to it, but I don't think we've embraced it as a strategy," he says. "It's still gotta be the right product at the right price." The organic hook, he adds, simply suggests that buying the garment is "also the right thing to do."

Indigenous Designs' wares will start hitting Dillard's shelves in September, initially rolling out to 60 of the company's 328 stores.

Putting the mission message second hasn't always been easy. Beyond the fields and farms of Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador and India where the clothing maker produces its wares, the company has steeped itself in green practices back home. About 20% of employees own and drive hybrid or biodiesel cars. Mr. Leonard also created a program called Green Steps to highlight other companies using green business tactics.

Net proceeds from the program will go toward purchasing wind credits, which offset 100% of the energy of the trade show. The purchase is designed to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, clean the air and help keep greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. Funds also go toward purchasing recycled materials for shows' aisle carpets and booths.

At times, straddling the two worlds has been a balancing act. At an early trade show, a sizable retailer called the Nature Company ordered some 6,000 units of clothes from Indigenous Designs, in large part because it was impressed by the company's social- responsibility efforts. But buyers from large boutiques in Chicago and New York also descended on the booth. Mr. Leonard says when he started to explain his company's mission, they cut him off, saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah -- whatever. I'll take 10 of that, 20 of that."

Mr. Leonard says he often errs on the side of being shy about his green props. And that's something most retailers appreciate. "You cannot sell clothing through guilt," says Courtney Fuchs, owner of It's Only Natural, a Kansas City, Mo., boutique that sells Indigenous Design clothes among others. "You don't want people to come in and feel beat up with facts and figures." Ms. Fuchs says she also has had a keep-it-to-herself attitude about her own green qualifications. "I didn't bring it up unless the customer asked."

Now that the green movement is booming even among mainstream consumers, companies like Indigenous Designs are faced with a new challenge: how to stay visible amid an onslaught of new competitors barking their ecofriendly credentials.

Among the rivals are companies that sell only a few products with ecofriendly attributes to enhance their green image with consumers -- a practice dubbed "greenwashing" among ecopurists.

To promote its own green stripes enough to stand out without abandoning it's product-first marketing strategy, Indigenous Designs is crafting new subtle clothing hang tags that will quantify exactly what percentage of the price a consumer is paying goes to the artisan in Peru, how much goes to certifying cotton is organic, etc. It's also creating ecoshop clothing displays for certain stores where "green" consumers are most likely to shop, like Whole Foods, while putting less obvious signage in more mainstream stores like Dillard's.

Mr. Leonard believes the shifting tide of popular opinion toward green products has given his company new longevity. The number of individual stores where Indigenous Designs clothing sells has jumped 75% in the past 18 months.

"If customers love [a product], and then they find out it is fair trade and organic," he says, "they will be a customer for life."

How To Make Millions With Obscure Trade Associations

Pizza Hut Waitress Gets $10000 Tip

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

When Smaller Is Better And More Profitable


Bucking the trend of ever-expanding dining portions, Chicago-based Minnies is out to prove that bigger isn't always better. Featuring a wide selection of bite-size gourmet burgers and sandwiches—including traditional favorites such as grilled cheese and Reubens, alongside the more inventive Mykonos (roast chicken, tzaziki sauce and kalamata tapenade) and Thanksgiving delight (roast turkey, cranberries and wild rice gravy)—Minnies applies nouvelle cuisine portions to casual dining. Besides serving waistline-minded eaters something to nibble on, the fifties-style diner gives hungrier customers the mix-and-match pleasure of tapas restaurants.

While other restaurants are starting to offer Lilliputian portions in response to consumer demand, serving miniatures-only is a niche concept that could definitely take off, much like dessert-only eateries. While Minnies isn't currently offering franchises, interested parties are encouraged to submit their contact information should they elect to do so in the future. In the meantime, this could be a fun one for budding restaurateurs to replicate in other regions.

World's Most Dangerous Jewelry Store

Price of machetes drops after elections

Monday, July 16, 2007

Branded Caskets? They Are Already Here.


In a lively new twist on what you might call a dead industry, Eternal Image is bringing licensing to the afterlife—through branded caskets and cremation urns. Now lifelong supporters of select sports teams and other brands have the option to take their loyalty all the way to their final resting spot.

Eternal Image has licensing agreements with 30 Major League Baseball teams (urns and caskets will available late 2007), the Vatican Library, Precious Moments—and there are even special urns licensed by the American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers Association to preserve the ashes of beloved pets. More than just a gimmick, Eternal Image products are made with high-quality rot-resistant composite materials and are designed to be tasteful representations of a person's interests. The company continues to seek new partners and expand its offerings to appeal to a broader audience.

While some may find it off-putting to take licensing to such an extreme, appealing to the varied interests of ageing baby boomers—many of whom are serious sports enthusiasts—could yield high returns. What's more, this is a fantastic example of applying new principles to an industry that hasn't changed much in many years, with the exception of eco-funerals and artistic urns. And while Eternal Image has a great start on collecting an impressive list of partners, there's still ample opportunity for rivalling entrepreneurs to compete for some big name licensing partnerships, including major sporting leagues worldwide.

If you have a "weird business" or "weird website" you want profiled here and on other blogs, do let us know. If you need a link from this blog, here is how you get one

How does this legendary adult webmaster drive more than a million unique visitors a day to his websites? I went to Las Vegas and inteviewed him to find out. For a VERY limited time you can get a free copy of the entire interview with this traffic legend by Clicking Here

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

How To Make $4000 A Week From A Silly Cat Picture


Eric Nakagawa, a software developer in Hawaii, posted a single photo of a fat, smiling cat he found on the Internet, with the caption, "I can has cheezburger?" in January, 2007, at a Web site he created. It was supposed to be a joke. Soon after he posted a few more images in the same vein: cute cats with funny captions written in a silly, invented hybrid of Internet shorthand and baby-talk. Then he turned the site into a blog, so that visitors could comment on the postings. What happened after that would have been hard for anyone to predict.

"We just thought, O.K., they're funny,"Nakagawa says. "Suddenly we started getting hits. I was like, where are these coming from?"

He saw traffic on the blog, I Can Has Cheezburger, which he runs with his partner, "Tofuburger" (she refuses to disclose her real name) double each month: 375,000 hits in March, 750,000 in April, 1.5 million in May. Cheezburger now gets 500,000 page views a day from between 100,000 and 200,000 unique visitors, according to Nakagawa. The cheapest ad costs $500 for a week. The most expensive goes for nearly $4,000. Nakagawa, an accidental entrepreneur who saw his successful business materialize out of the ether, quit his programming job at the end of May: "It made more sense to do this and see how big it could get."

Cheezburger's story is unusual in the upper reaches of the blogosphere in that the time between launching and reaching a critical mass of readers who sustain the site is so compressed. But many of the most popular bloggers have similar tales of starting out with a niche idea—an inside joke, a particular obsession—and watching it explode. Of course, most blogs linger in obscurity and are read by only a handful of people, and few ever reach the level Cheezburger has. What about a blog like Cheezburger lets it break away from the pack?

The initial appeal of the blog may have been a fluke, but its growth since then has been part of a tightly controlled experiment to help answer that question. Nakagawa and his partner constantly tweak the site to see what draws readers and what leaves them cold.

"We basically have a playground where people keep coming to play, so we're trying to create new games all the time,"Nakagawa says.

To drive traffic, they try to time their new posts with when people are most likely to be reading: in the mornings, on their lunch breaks, or in the evenings. Early on, when Nakagawa saw the site getting 1,000 page views a day, he added a widget that allows visitors to rate each post on a scale of one to five cheeseburgers. That helped boost traffic to 2,000.

Readers don't just rate or comment on the posts. They create them. Cheezburger depends on its fans to submit pictures, write funny captions, and send them in. Nakagawa has built a tool to let readers select a ready-made photo or upload their own, add and position captions, choose font styles, and submit a finished product. Any visitor can vote on the submissions, and the most popular ones make it to the main page. The function saves Nakagawa from having to find funny captions for photos, and it creates a lasting bond with readers.

That kind of interaction helps make I Can Has Cheezburger as much a community as a blog. A post by one user will inspire another to play off the theme, forming a narrative. "It's like you're creating a story supplied by people in the community, and then the people in the community supply the next part of the story,"Nakagawa says.

The idea of building a community around content supplied by users sustains several top blogs, and most put the idea of community ahead of making money. For Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, who lampoon celebrity fashion on their blog, Go Fug Yourself, the fact that ad sales on their blog now pay their salaries has not changed what they set out to do from Day One: have fun. "It was one of these inside jokes that we thought was going to just stay an inside joke,"says Cocks.

Part of it has to do with the nature of the medium: Blogging creates a direct connection between authors and readers, a conversation with distinct voices carried out in comments and e-mails and other blogs. Nakagawa wants to see how big that conversation—not to mention his business—can get. "It's kind of like, how far can you take it?" he says.

Read other stories from Millionaire Training Guide.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

How To Make 5 Million Dollars With A Microsite


Gerald Prolman launched OrganicBouquet.com in 2003 to sell sustainably grown flowers that are freshly picked and then gift-wrapped. But as the company grew, he needed a better way to meet the increasing demand from florists, event planners and other whole-salers. So in June, Prolman launched a microsite to make it easier for these customers to place orders.

A microsite lets you focus on a specific purpose, such as selling clearance or discounted items, selling products to businesses vs. consumers, promoting new merchandise, or trying out a new product line. Sometimes the design and navigation of a microsite differs from its parent site. “Unlike consumers, florists shop by variety and color, so the site is set up to help florists find what they need quickly,” says Prolman, 46, who projects 2006 sales of up to $5 million for his San Rafael, California, company.

So why didn’t Prolman just launch a separate section on his existing website to focus on wholesalers? Simple: to prevent consumers or future competitors from having easy access to the customized pricing available to wholesale customers. “The pricing is tailor-made for each customer based on volume,” says Prolman. “Once approved as a wholesale account, they will be given access to the site.”

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Gamefly - How To Make Money With Game Rentals


GameFly is a United States online video game rental subscription service that specializes in providing games for game consoles and handheld game consoles.

Similar to the DVD rental subscription service Netflix, Gamefly sends games to subscribers via the United States Postal Service in re-mailable, pre-paid mailers. (Non-US residents are ineligible for the service, as GameFly does not ship overseas.)

The subscriber then can keep the games for as long as desired while paying the monthly fee, although the number of games is limited by the type of subscription plan chosen by the subscriber. Additionally, the user can create a queue, known as the "GameQ", of up to 50 games. Upon returning the game to a GameFly distribution center, GameFly automatically ships out the next game in the "GameQ", making the process cyclical for as long as the user is a subscriber and updates his or her "GameQ". Customers typically expect delivery of their requested games within 2-5 days of shipment. If the received game disc or cartridge is damaged or unplayable for some reason, or if the wrong game was received, the customer can return it for a replacement or have the next item in their rental queue sent instead.

Of all the online game rental services available, Gamefly.com is probably one of the best. The two most important elements to consider when deciding if it's worth it to rent your games online through Gamefly are turn-around times (how long it takes you to receive your games from Gamefly), and selection.

* Turn-around time: Gamefly has decent turn-around time. While they are certainly slower than the DVD rental company Netflix, which pioneered this business model, they are fast enough to make it cost effective when compared to the prices at your local rental store. It takes 5 days to receive a new game after placing the old game in the mailbox for return to Gamefly. On the 2-game plan, you can keep each game for 5 days before sending it back and still play six games a month at $21.95. Renting locally, those same six would probably run about $42 dollars. That's assuming you don't come across a game you give up on after just ten minutes of play, or a game that you just can't give until 10 days down the road.

* Selection: Hands down, Gamefly has an excellent selection. Not only do they carry games for every major console system on the market today, including the handhelds like the GBA, Nintendo DS, and PSP, but they have nearly every game you could possibly want to play. Games become available either at or near launch, and while they maintain the right to delay sending certain games if the demand is too high, I've never encountered such a delay.

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$16,000 Found In Toilets Across Japan

Thursday, July 12, 2007

How To Make Money With Software For Babies


A few years ago, when the price of wireless airtime plummeted, wireless executives sometimes talked about customers who used pairs of mobile phones as baby monitors.

Now along comes Babble Soft, an upstart that can turn a number of so-called “smartphones” into a different sort of baby monitor. (Company founder Aruni Gunasegaram, a mother of two, prefers the term “baby manager.”) Gunasegaram has created a web-based application that helps new parents keep track of feedings, sleep schedules and other newborn activities and milestones that pediatricians often ask moms and dads to track. A mobile version of the application, available for many smartphones, such as the Treo, allows users to access their baby data on the go. Think Google Calendar for the diaperpail set.

Gunasegaram says she came up with the idea shortly after her son was born more than four years ago. She found herself keeping track of his feeding schedule on assorted scraps of paper. She and her husband scoured the Net for an online service that could help them. They couldn’t find one, and a business was born.

Now it isn’t clear to Browser exactly how many new parents, mom’s especially, will have the inclination (or presence of mind) to go online and enter data about baby’s every move. But Babblesoft’s product does have one nifty feature any new mom will love: It can provide tallys of how much time she’s spent taking care of her little bundle of joy. “Sometimes you think, ‘What have I done all day?’ ” Gunasegaram says. “You can look and say, ‘Oh, I spent five hours today nursing.’ “

Higher Price Or Lower Price?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Would you like to see the sheep your sweater was made of?


Flocks gives customers details about the individual animals that provided the wool for their sweaters and mittens.

Every item in young Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma’s collection can be traced back to its source. Since one sheep supplies exactly enough wool for one sweater, each sweater is tagged with a specific animal’s ID number, and comes with a certificate: the animal's passport. Information provided includes breed, weight, year and place of birth, and a picture of the sheep. Sweaters are priced from EUR 475.

So far, Meindertsma has only used non-dyed materials, sticking to the natural colours of sheep, rabbits, goats and alpacas. She's planning to use coloured yarn for upcoming collections, and provenance of colours will be included on separate labels. A blue scarf, for example, could be dyed with natural indigo, with information provided about the type of plant the dye was extracted from and where it was harvested.

All of this adds up to an appealing story — one that customers can share with friends, and one that (re)connects them with the source of the products they consume. Which makes Flocks a great example of the still made here trend: products that have a sense of place or provenance are coveted by consumers for a variety of reasons, from environmental concerns to shifting perceptions of what constitutes status. More on that in trendwatching.com’s still made here briefing.

What Do You Do When A Pornstar Uses YOUR Name?

Live By Google, Die By Google

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dirty Little Tricks To Winning Contests


Marc Rigby was at work when he got the call. He'd just won an $8,000 trip for two to Tokyo, including the flight, hotel and $400 in spending money. A year earlier, he won a weekend in Nashville to watch a taping of the Grand Ole Opry. Since then he's won scores of T-shirts, movie passes, free concerts, a jigsaw puzzle with his photo on it and a two-pound bag of candy. "Over the last three years," says the 37-year-old director of business development at a Toronto technology company, "I've won almost $20,000 worth of prizes."

So is Rigby the luckiest guy in Canada? Not at all. He's just better at entering contests than most people, and you could be too.

Rigby's life as a contest winner started when he realized that a $2 Lotto 6/49 ticket buys you only a 1 in 14,000,000 chance of winning the grand prize. In contrast, you can enter thousands of promotions such as the Electrasol Kitchen Appliance Makeover contest or the Samsung Ultimate Test Slide contest for free. The prizes may be smaller, but the odds you'll win are much higher. "Now I probably spend about two or three hours entering 40 or 50 contests a week, about as much time as you'd spend on any other hobby," he says. "I like the randomness of it. You can win tickets to movies that you might not have gone to see, and they all seem better when they're free."

To save time, Rigby says he uses websites such as ContestCanada.com and ContestHound.com, which list contests currently open to Canadians and link you directly to the entry forms. He also turns on the autofill function on his web browser, so that regularly-entered information is filled out automatically.

Carolyn Wilman, Canada's self-proclaimed contest queen, goes a few steps further. The promotions consultant from Oshawa, Ont., says she fills out about 50,000 contest ballots a year. She has won more than $100,000 worth of prizes over the past five years. Her wins have included trips to Los Angeles, New York, London (England), Venice, and a memorable three-day Molson Indy prize pack which included all the Maple Lodge Farms chicken products you can eat. "I spend an hour or two entering contests every day," she says. "I love it because sometimes you win things that you could buy, but they're not really in your budget — and other times you can win stuff that no amount of money can buy."

Wilman, who has self-published a book called You Can't Win If You Don't Enter (available at ContestQueen.com) has even enlisted a software program called RoboForm (Roboform.com) that allows her fill out 50 ballots an hour. She wins between 100 and 160 contests per year, or about one contest every three or four days.

Though Wilman says that positive thinking, Feng Shui and even her IMLUCKY license plate play a role in her winnings, her statistics confirm Rigby's assertion that it all comes down to the odds. Both Rigby and Wilman win more than 40 cents per ballot they fill out, which works out to something like $20 in prizes per hour they spend entering contests. In other words, you could make a living just by entering promotional contests — as long as you don't mind sitting down to an occasional dinner of two pounds of candy.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Build Your Own Telecom

Three Cool Giftcards You Can Get Free


It’s with a sense of pride that Matthew Riley announces his six-year-old telecoms company Daisy Communications boasted nearly £20m in turnover in 2006 and seven acquisitions in the past 12 months.

The firm buys communications services wholesale from network providers and repackages them for its customers, who are mainly small businesses, into a simple to understand bundle. Daisy’s customers then receive one online bill for their landline, mobile and broadband.

It’s a proposition that perhaps wouldn’t stand out from the crowd if Riley’s early business structure hadn’t laid the foundations for a model that competitors are struggling to crack.

Riley got local businesses – stationers, office equipment suppliers etc – to sell the Daisy package to all the businesses they already had on their books in return for a percentage of the customer’s bill. Riley describes the process as planting small acorns that have grown into large trees throughout the UK.

“Competitors have tried to use the same model and approached our business partners offering them an extra 5% commission, but the problem is, if they left us they’d loose the residual commission they’ve already built up with Daisy.”

Riley’s model is not the product of chance. Before setting up Daisy he’d already built and sold a recruitment company, a fibreoptic cabling firm and a telecoms consultancy.

Despite his experience of the industry, he still decided to go back-to-basics for some of his market research. “I literally knocked on the doors of some businesses and asked if they’d buy the kind of service Daisy would offer. I went back to all of those companies that had said ‘yes’ at the time – and every single one of them signed up.”

More than a little door knocking went into forming Daisy’s business plan, however. “It took three months and probably around £2-3,000 worth of man hours to put together,” says Riley.

Armed with his killer business plan and the £300,000 start-up capital he’d raised from savings and a loan secured against his home, Riley started Daisy at home in Nelson, East Lancashire in 2001. The firm then moved into a friend’s attic before making the leap into offices.

Riley has no intention to relocate. “It’s quite a run-down area – high unemployment, skills shortages. Finding the right staff was a struggle so we don’t want to loose them by moving away.”

Growth has been rapid, mainly due to the decision to reinvest profits back into the business. Not content with the past year’s seven acquisitions, Daisy is still on the lookout for similar telecoms firms to takeover.

Although Riley admits the acquisitions are a major factor in the company’s growth he stresses it wasn’t in the original business plan. “It’s just something that developed as the company grew.”

So why Daisy? Riley chose the name after a brainstorming session in the pub. “I just thought it was sounded fresh – not like traditional telecoms companies.” With an AIM stock market flotation in the pipeline for late this year, there’s still some blossoming for Daisy to do yet.

Three Cool Giftcards You Can Get Free

Saturday, July 07, 2007

How To Make Millions Buying And Selling Domains


It's another victory for Miller and Zapolin. Through their company, Internet Real Estate Group, they've made a career of buying underappreciated domain names on the cheap and turning them into multimillion-dollar properties. Instead of flooding a site with pay-per-click ads and flipping the domain for a quick profit, they're trying to develop real businesses that will sell for much more. They own 17 domains, ranging from software.com to relationship.com, with a closely guarded list of several others they would like to buy—if the price is right.

They work out of a brownstone on Boston's tony Newbury Street but prefer doing business at their local Brigham's ice cream shop. Miller describes himself as the aggressive one who's always hunting for the next big deal. Zapolin is more laid back and focuses on creatively expanding the sites. They met in the late 1980s as sales trainees at the ill-fated junk-bond house Drexel Burnham Lambert, getting together for gambling trips to Atlantic City and later teaming up to produce infomercials. One of their clients, The Grateful Dead, inspired them to get into the domain game with its success in using www.dead.net to sell merchandise and bring together fans.

They bought control of beer.com for $80,000 in 1998 and built an audience for the site by giving out free e-mail addresses and having fans rate different brews. Less than a year later, they sold it for $7 million to Interbrew, a beer company. The pair then bought creditcards.com for $100,000 in 2003, created a comparison site for credit-card offers, and sold it to a private equity buyer for $2.8 million in 2004. Now that it's valued by some at several hundred million dollars, they admit to selling too soon.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

DotSchools - How To Profit From EduBoom.

America is going through educational boom and DotSchools founders know it. Founded less then one year go, the website already matched over 1 million students with colleges, universities and trade schools. While the company does not disclose any numbers, the industry average is $15-$25 per match.

While student to school matching business has a number of more seasoned competitors, like DirectScholar.Com or ITT Technical, DotSchools found its niche, matching students with less traditional schools that offer courses on how to become a personal trainer, homeland security specialist or even internet marketer.

Another big difference is DotSchools web 2.0 design with tags on most popular searches that makes navigation brainlessly simple. If you are thinking about changing your career, make sure you check out DotSchools.

If you have a "weird business" or "weird website" you want profiled here and on other blogs, do let us know. If you need a link from this blog, here is how you get one

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

What Works Online And What Doesnt - My Personal Experience.

As a person who makes six figures online (and I don't have any offline income), it's time to talk about personal experience. I'm in the process of creating free closed membership site for people who register with my reflinks, where I can help people and where other members can exchange ideas. Ok, so what works and what doesn't work online?

1. Selling Software.

I've started selling software about three years ago and made close to 200K. You might have heard of my software store - Deprice.Com. If you'd like to make money selling software, here is how you start. See the screenshot with last month earnings below.

2. AdSense

You know, I was a huge AdSense fan, but I am no longer am. It does generate a few grand each year for me, but I am no longer all that excited about it, because there are easier ways to monetize traffic.

3. TLA

TLA works GREAT. I made 1K in less then two month. This screenshot is a bit outdated. By the way, John Chow is a big fan of TLA as well (here is how much he made with TLA last month)

4. Multiple Blogs

Multiple blogs generate a lot of income for me. Besides NicheGeek and Uncommon Business, I have one blog in Russian and multiple "weirdo blogs", like Best Free Documentaries, True Conspiracy, Weird Odd News, The Weird World Of Economics or Passed Out Drunk. I can't tell you the exact numbers (I don't know them myself), but multiple blogs work great as traffic generators.

5. Your Own Services.

I own PickyDomains.com. Services are AWESOME INCOME GENERATORS. I currently have 50 orders my contributors work on - multiply that by $50 per order ($25 of which is my pure income) - you get the picture.

6. CoProsper.com

It's my first month with CoProsper, I have not made much money with it yet ($330 as I am writing the post, the screenshot is outdated a bit), but the ROI is shocking, I've made over $330 in commissions on $27 invested in AdSense.

7. Google Cash Type Traffic Arbitrage

Basically, traffic arbitrage is when you buy traffic from Google for 1-5 cents and send it to places like CoProsper Or Copeac with 300-500% profit. It's not that easy (at first), but not all that difficult either. Get this course (I think it's free) if you want to find out more ways to make money with Google.

8. Referral Income From Copeac.com

I've already blogged about Copeac. The great thing about Copeac is that not only you can make a lot of money from the CPA side of this system (over $100 a day without much effort), the referral income is pretty good, too. Last month, for instance, I made close to $900 (see the screenshot)

9. Selling Ads Directly From Your Blogs

I'm no Shoemoney (he makes 6K a month from direct ad sales), but I do make around $500 a month selling ads from my blogs directly to advertisers.

10. ReviewMe.Com

Nothing to brag about, I've made only $200 with ReviewMe

11. Amazon.Com

I make around $150 a month with Amazon.Com, so it's basically a way to get $150 worth of free books each month. Here are books you should be reading.

12. Marketing Infoproducts.

There is a lot of HYPE in this niche. 'You can become a millionoaire, promoting my ebook' style. And I hate hype. I am a pretty good marketeter and a good tester. I'm just starting to understand this niche. What I can tell you is that sites that go after customer e-mail or contact info first (like this one or this one or this one) convert better than infoproducts that go for the sale right away (here is a good example)

I do highly recommend that you get a separate email account and enter your e-mail in every time an infoproduct strikes you as interesting. You'll learn A LOT about real world infoproduct marketing when you do this. Some of the sale pitches you'll get are golden. I belive that infomarketers are the best marketers around.

That's it for today.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tiny Helicopter Makes Huge Profits

Unless you live under a rock, you've seen Micro X Copter On TV (if you have not, watch this video)

Only 6 inches long and weighing a mere 3.5 ounces, this helicopter is so small it will fit in the palm of your hand. The ingenious Flight Stability System gives the Micro X-Copter extreme maneuverability and makes it easy to fly.

The perfect gift for the family, this product is ready-to-fly out of the box, no set up time required! It is safe to fly indoors and outdoors, because it is constructed from hi-tech polypropylene foam. It won't break anything in the home.

A full charge gives you 100 minutes of flying fun!

Product Features:

* Real Helicopter Performance:
* 360 Degrees (Full Function)
* Altitude and Rotor Speed Control
* Flight Stabilizing System
* Dual Propeller System
* Full Function 2 Ch Remote Controller
* Charging System
* Super Lightweight Airframe
* Factory Assembled
* Requires 6 AA Batteries (not included)

Anyhow, I've just read that the sales of this tiny copter exceeded $10 million (tem million dollars). Can you belive that?

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Paris Hilton's Trash Sells On eBay For $305

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How To Make Money Helping Others

Hey guys and gals. I need your help. And I will pay you, too. As you know (or don't know) I am the owner of PickyDomains.com. The site has gotten a lot of press over the weekend and, as a result, I am swamped with orders. Currently, me and my contributors work on about 50 orders all at once. That's a major overload.

Here is why I am writing about this. If you register as a contributor (it's free and instantaneous) and suggest a domain name that our client likes and decides to buy - you'll get $25 via PayPal. We have several contributors who make several hundred dollars each month doing just that.

If you are a creative type - you'll like this type of work and it takes only 20-40 minutes a day (you don't need to check domains for availability - our system does it automatically). So if you are good at coming up with domain names and want to make a few hundred dollars - I'd really appreciate your help. Go to PickyDomains.com register as a contributor.

I'm too busy right now, so there is not going to be a "weird business" story today, but you might want to read something from Madconomist.com

Do You Know How Much Lost Love Costs? $4802.

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409 People Click AdWord Ad That Offers To Infect Their PC With A Virus For Free.

Scientists say stay-at-home mom's work worth $138,095 a year

Monday, July 02, 2007

How To Say 'I Am Allergic To Peanuts' In 22 Languages

I hope you enjoyed lifehack that allows US businesses get free business cards. This is another card story, similar to dating cards we profiled last week.


Travellers with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, who don't want their diets to get in the way of enjoying international culture and cuisine, are now catered to by Canadian Allergy Translation Cards. The company's credit card-sized printouts can be customized to suit a person's dietary needs and travel destination—with information available on more than 175 food allergies and 11 special diets, which can be translated into 22 languages.

To get their cards, customers simply log on to Allergy Translation’s website and enter information about their particular food allergies or sensitivities. They can choose from a long list of common allergens, including nuts and seeds, shellfish, soy and berries. There also are options for special diets such as gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, halal, low-fat or low-carb. They then select the language of their destination, so the information can be translated for customers to share with restaurant staff, grocers and hosts. For $8 they can print as many copies as they like. It's an easy way to ensure that dietary restrictions are accurately communicated, without having to fumble through the pages of a foreign language dictionary. And since they can be printed instantly, spur-of-the-moment trips aren’t an issue.

A simple and practical way for food allergy sufferers to buy peace of mind, Allergy Translation Cards could be a smart investment for health insurance companies. The concept can also be replicated to other types of information. Cheat sheets for business travellers, for example, with customized translations of the phrases most relevant to their industry or travel purpose. While consumers might not be as likely to pay for information that isn’t potentially life-saving, offering free, relevant information to a narrowly targeted audience can bring in the ad dollars, yens and francs.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

How To Get Free Business Cards