Friday, February 29, 2008

Blending her passions for adventure and business, Alison Levine helps clients scale new heights.

Entrepreneur Alison Levine knows all about peaks and valleys. This San Franciscan led the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and she recently became the first North American to traverse 574 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole.

Her background, combined with her experience as an investment manager at Goldman Sachs, provided Levine with the platform to launch her own consulting firm, Daredevil Strategies. Levine, 41, is well-equipped to advise Fortune 500 clients like GE and Johnson & Johnson on the importance of risk taking, leadership and team building.

"Having those skills on a dangerous mountain trek is a matter of life or death," she says. "In a company, those same skills can mean the survival of the business."

Levine’s lessons resonate, and her billings have soared from $50,000 in 2004 to more than $1.1 million today. But Levine is most proud of starting the Climb High Foundation, a nonprofit that trains unemployed women in developing countries to become trekking guides and porters.

Growing iPod Repair Biz Founded By Students

Doggie Doo Pros Race to Scoop Poop

World's Most Profitable Blog Post

The Difference Between Cash and Happiness

GiftTRAP Success Story

Santa Claus As Business

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship

If Xavier Helgesen's sole concern were boosting his company's profits, the decision would have been easy. Helgesen's $17 million business, Better World Books in Mishawaka, Ind., collects textbooks donated by students at 1,000 colleges and resells them online. At first, the company gave 15% of its revenues to charities that combat illiteracy. But after a year or so, Helgesen knew it wasn't working. "We were recording losses," says the 29-year-old. And the company wasn't able to contribute to its employee profit-sharing plan, which Helgesen considered a vital part of Better World Books' compensation package.

Clearly, the company needed to keep more of its profits. But this was a social enterprise, one founded as much for its mission to do good as to make money. Helgesen eventually made a tough decision, cutting to 7.5% the share of revenues earmarked for most of the company's nonprofit partners, and funding the profit-sharing plan before splitting the remainder 50-50 with those partners.

The goals of making money and doing good are often at odds. But that is not stopping a growing number of entrepreneurs from starting hybrid businesses. These so-called double- or triple-bottom-line companies, which seek social or environmental returns as well as profits, and often all three, began popping up in the '70s and gathered steam in the '90s as organic food caught on and a new generation of entrepreneurs recoiled from corporate excesses. About 20,000 such companies—roughly four times as many as five years ago—now exist, according to Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab, a Berwyn (Pa.) nonprofit that rates social enterprises.

Born Rich - Full HBO Documentary

Affluenza Documentary (Watch It, It's Awesome)

Why Do Universities Charge You Over $100K During Your Course Of Studies, Yet Make You Go Through Application Process?

Britney Spear May Lose All Her Fortune, Estimated At $125 Million

Five Books About Getting Rich That Aren't Bullshit And Written By People Who Did Get Rich.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Online Price Comparison For Supermarkets

One of the big advantages supermarkets have long had over consumers lies in the sheer number of products they offer—with some priced higher and others priced lower than the competition, it's near impossible to say that one store offers consistently better (or worse) deals every time. Well, supermarkets, those protected days may be drawing to a close. A new UK-based site provides a central way for consumers to compare prices as they shop online and then place their order with the cheapest store.

mySupermarket is a free shopping and comparison website for supermarket shoppers that links the online portals of the UK's four main supermarket chains and compares prices on the fly. Consumers begin by choosing their favourite store—Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's or Ocada—and shopping through mySupermarket's lifelike online shelves. Grocery departments are displayed across the top of the screen, and clicking on any one reveals the shelves within. For each product, mySupermarket displays the weight or volume, price, special offers and price per unit; for foods and beverages, it shows the ingredients, number of calories, an overall traffic light rating, and detailed nutritional information. The best part is that as consumers shop, the site's Trolley Checker scans their trolley and displays its current total cost at each of the four supermarkets. The Price Checker, meanwhile, suggests swapping some products for others that are a better value, while the Health Checker makes suggestions for healthier substitutions. Once consumers settle on their product choices and store, they simply send their trolley for checkout at the supermarket of their choice.

Rumours suggest that a like-purposed site may be coming soon in the US from Once sites like these give consumers the long-desired ability to comparison-shop for groceries, there will be no turning back.

Selling Books By The Chapter

How To Make Money With Wedding Proposals

Dog Shit Millionaires

How To Become A Successful Minipreneur

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Here Is Why You Should Not Listen To People Who Tell You To Never Mix Alcohol

Cameron Hughes was mixing wines for fun at a dinner with friends when he experienced his eureka moment: Why not buy the surplus wine from high-end vineyards and, instead of blending them with cheap wines to make a mediocre brand, bottle them alone and offer luxury wines at an affordable cost to consumers online?

Hughes and his then-girlfriend Jessica Kogan threw their time and resources into creating Cameron Hughes Wine in 2001. What followed were years of debt, cramped quarters, and a sharp learning curve.

The pair stuck it out, got married, and now share two children as well as a wine brand stocked in select stores by national retailers Costco and Safeway. Sales topped $8 million in 2006 and doubled the next year.

Kogan's take on the key to success: "Respect and trust. Not from a romantic standpoint - will he cheat on you? - but from a business standpoint: Do you respect the other person's abilities and skills and do you trust that he will make good decisions on your behalf?"

Joe Sugarman's Triggers - The Snowmobile That Bit Me

Ecofriendly Tourism - One Entrepreneur's Travel From $10000 to $20 Million.

America's richest grease monkey

Affiliate Marketing Niches That Pay - Adult Dating

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Only 'Get Rich Quick' Books That You Should Read

1. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

Eker's claim to fame is that he took a $2,000 credit card loan, opened "one of the first fitness stores in North America," turned it into a chain of 10 within two and a half years and sold it in 1987 for a cool (but somewhat modest-seeming) $1.6 million. Now the Vancouver-based entrepreneur traverses the continent with his "Millionaire Mind Intensive Seminar," on which this debut motivational business manual is based. What sets it apart is Eker's focus on the way people think and feel about money and his canny, class-based analyses of broad differences among groups. In rat-a-tat, "Let me explain" seminar-speak, Eker asks readers to think back to their childhoods and pick apart the lessons they passively absorbed from parents and others about money. With such psychological nuggets as "Rich people focus on opportunities/ Poor people focus on obstacles," Eker puts a positive spin on stereotypes, arguing that poverty begins, or rather, is allowed to continue, in one's imagination first, with actual material life becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. To that end, Eker counsels for admiration and against resentment, for positivity, self-promotion and thinking big and against wallowing, self-abnegation and small-mindedness. While much of the advice is self-evident, Eker's contribution is permission to think of one's financial foibles as a kind of mental illness—one, he says, that has a ready set of cures.

2. Life's Missing Instruction Manual : The Guidebook You Should Have Been Given at Birth

Joe Vitale's life manual is packed with his highly personal brand of new-age wizardry and inscrutable passages from other modern day self-help philosophers. With aphorisms, maxims and fables on ideas and subjects ranging from sex, food and forgiveness to personal finance, taxes, purpose in life and how to handle death, he proffers a broad, mixed bag of advice - some he wrote and some he anthologizes - with a touch of humor and a dash of preachiness. Rather than presenting a singular world view or moral system, Vitale combs popular self-help best sellers, consults some sweeping religious concepts, and synthesizes their teachings with his own insight. The resulting book is at times quite sharp and smart, and at times simplistic and sentimental.

3. Getting Rich Your Own Way: Achieve All Your Financial Goals Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible

If you go around humming, "If I were a rich man" from "Fiddler on the Roof", it might be time to stop fiddling and go around reading instead. If wealth is your goal, man or woman, help yourself to a serving of some vintage Brian Tracy advice. He offers a tasty stew of maxims, aphorisms, anecdotes and general words of wisdom that will motivate you to become better at what you do, in order to become richer. Tracy is a walking oracle of motivation. If your desire to be wealthy seems like a pipe dream, wake up to the blend of information he has assembled. As the master of self-help books, Tracy offers practical advice, encouragement, motivation and effective techniques for self-improvement. In this book, he tells you how to help yourself to money. That's as good an invitation as we've seen anywhere. Now let's see if it works. In high hopes, we recommend Tracy's application of upbeat philosophy to the goal of accumulating wealth.

4. The One Minute Millionaire: The Enlightened Way to Wealth

First, this book is incredible! Offering both non fictional and fictional material, right and left sided to stimulate your right and left brains. I have long been a fan of Robert Allen and Mark Victor Hansen as well as Jack Canfield. Allen and Hansen have outdone themselves with this one.The other reason that I am impressed is only one negative review! WOW! Perhaps even the bashers are reading PMA and inspritional material and growing. Now that is impressive!Simply stated; if you want to be a success, read this book. It will create the right mental mindset.

5. Success Is Not an Accident: Change Your Choices; Change Your Life

I read this book about a year ago and was very happy with it. It's one of the few books that I have been interested enough in to stay with and finish within 2 days. I found myself unable to put it down. Now don't get me wrong - the information here is nothing earth shattering. A lot of it is tried and true principles that have been around for many hundreds of years. What makes this book work is the delivery and writing style. It presents goal setting in a clear, understandable and very useable fashion. If you are into goal setting I think you'll find yourself referring to this book again and again. I know I have and recommend it highly.

Oh So Simple

BoxMyDorm - How Three Students Started A Successful Business While In School

Space Jerky

As the mortgage-lending crisis spreads, business is booming firms specializing in "property preservation."

Selling Books By The Chapter

Sandra Boynton - The Woman Who Sold Half A Billion Cards

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lesley Hatfield got her idea for moisture-wicking sleep garments after talking to a client.

While working as a personal trainer in 2003, Lesley Hatfield, 37, came across her big idea when she noticed a female client struggling to keep up during a routine run. The woman complained she was tired because, suffering from menopausal night sweats, she had woken up three times the night before to change clothes.

"Off the cuff, I said, ‘Why don’t you try sleeping in your running clothes?’" recalls Hatfield. "That was the ‘aha’ moment."

Hatfield soon realized there were no sleepwear companies making pajamas with the same moisture-wicking technology used in workout clothes--and she decided to take advantage of the idea herself. "I knew how technology had revolutionized exercise--no one works out in plain old cotton T-shirts anymore--and I felt this type of fabrication would be ideal for women suffering from night sweats," explains Hatfield, an exercise physiologist for 11 years.

Striving to make her products functional yet fashionable, Hatfield looked to the closets of trendy relatives and clients for her research. "I asked every woman I knew what she liked and disliked about her pajamas and began to create styles that would appeal to these ladies," she says.

NiteSweatz hit stores in 2004, and although it was originally intended for menopausal baby boomers, the line of soft and feminine lace camisoles, tank tops and sleeping gowns soon became attractive to women of all ages.

With last year’s sales closing in on $1 million, Hatfield envisions the company becoming a household name and an international brand in the next five years--and encourages entrepreneurial hopefuls to take risks to find success. "So many great ideas [are] never acted on because of fear," she says. "If you have an idea, if it wakes you up at night, then you have a responsibility to yourself to act on it."

How To Turn $60 Into $1000 In Three Months With Domain Names

Joe Sugarman's Triggers - Brain Surgery for Dummies

Paul Graham - Why More And More Web 2.0 Startups Are Going To Crash

Content Syndication As A Business

The Ad That Sold Twenty Six Thousand Ties

The Paradox Of Choice - Why More Is Less

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BustedTees Success Story

Who: Ricky Van Veen, 26; Josh Abramson, 26; Zach Klein, 25; and Jacob Lodwick, 26
What: T-shirts with humorous, tongue-in-cheek sayings aimed at twentysomethings
Year Started: 2004
Startup Costs: $4,000 self-funded

Wearable Wit: What began as a fun side business for Ricky Van Veen, Josh Abramson, Zach Klein and Jacob Lodwick is now a successful company that has people wearing the friends' jokes. The team sat down in March 2004 to sketch out 10 shirt designs with the goal of selling the shirts on to fund the then-fledging site. The funny T-shirts were an instant hit with the CollegeHumor fan base.

Tees with 'Tude:BustedTee's shirts range from the topical--"Leave Lindsay A-Lohan"--to the old-school, with inside jokes only their targeted age demographic would understand. A picture of a Nintendo cartridge that says "Blow Me," for example, is only funny for those who owned a Nintendo and remember having to blow the dust out of the cartridges to make them work.

"Culturally speaking, our humor is very on point with our age demographic, which is 18 to 28," says Josh Mohrer, director of retail.

That sort of focused marketing is what makes BustedTees so successful--not to mention they're just plain funny.

Graduation: BustedTees now sells about 1,000 shirts a day and can be found in retail chains like Urban Outfitters. But it was the acquisition by IAC last year that really pushed the small side venture into a bona fide company.

The interactive conglomerate acquired a controlling share of Connected Ventures, the four-company group started by Van Veen and Abramson that includes CollegeHumor, BustedTees, video-sharing site Vimeo and a second T-shirt business called Defunker.

"Despite being owned by this big company, we've really retained our personality in a big way," says Mohrer. "This company has always been run by and for 20-year-olds, and to change that would be a mistake."

The T-Shirt Book

How to Print T-Shirts for Fun and Profit!

World's Most Profitable Blog Post

How TasteBook.Com Makes Money On Customized Cookbooks.

5 Reasons Why There Should Not Be Such Thing As ‘Starving Writer’

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Move Over iPhone - DIY Cellphones Are Coming

The lure of Apple's iPhone notwithstanding, most cell phones today are essentially variations on the same theme. Not so modu, a tiny, modular phone that is designed to be snapped into other devices.

Resembling a black and white domino, the modu is smaller than a credit card and weighs just 1.3 ounces. It can be used on its own as a fully functional mobile phone, or it can be snapped into a variety of interchangeable ‘sleeves’ that enhance the phone with other capabilities. By slipping a modu into the modu media mate, for example, users can download and share movie clips with their friends. Inserting it in the modu music slider, on the other hand, transforms it into a high-end music phone equipped with dedicated music functionality keys, high-quality loudspeaker and hidden camera. modu night mate lets users dock their phone next to their bed while it quietly displays their incoming SMS messages and calls. Through a partnership with Universal Music Group, a series of music jackets will include artist-specific attributes and access to preloaded content and music subscriptions. modu features 1GB of built-in memory and Bluetooth connectivity, and can also be used as a mass storage device. The first modu products are due in the fourth quarter of this year; prices, reportedly, will be USD 200 for the phone module bundled with two jackets, with additional jackets priced from USD 20 to USD 60 each.

Israeli modu was founded in 2007 by Dov Moran, founder and CEO of USB flash drive maker msystems, and the modu device was unveiled earlier this month. Strategic partners include leading mobile network operators including Telecom Italia’s mobile division TIM, BeeLine (VimpelCom) of Russia and Israel's Cellcom along with mainstream consumer electronics manufacturers including Blaupunkt, the company says. Opportunities include degrees of customization that were previously unthinkable. For anyone in wireless or consumer electronics, this is one to watch closely!

As the mortgage-lending crisis spreads, business is booming firms specializing in "property preservation."

The Startup Company Bible For Entrepreneurs: The Complete Guide For Building Successful Companies And Raising Venture Capital

Startup Guide to Guerrilla Marketing: A Simple Battle Plan for First-Time Marketers

For TreeGivers.Com, Money Does Grow On Trees

High Tech Start Up, Revised and Updated: The Complete Handbook For Creating Successful New High Tech Companies

Why “A loquacious Antartic fowl entered a libations establishment…” doesn’t pack the same punch as “A penguin walks into a bar…”

Monday, February 18, 2008

Selling Books By The Chapter

When Charles Dickens was writing his serialized novels, crowds used to gather at the docks in New York whenever a new chapter was due to arrive by boat. Today, Random House, the world’s largest publisher, has brought the practice back in electronic form, starting with the business communications bestseller ‘Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.’ Each chapter of the book, which had a hardcover print run of more than 200,000 copies, costs USD 2.99 and can be downloaded as an Adobe Digital Editions file, a format that is itself readable via a free download from Adobe.

Random House, a US subsidiary of German media giant Bertelsmann, explained that the chapter-by-chapter sale was intended for those who only need to glean one or two lessons from a book. The Wall Street Journal noted that the experiment follows the music industry’s success selling songs individually, and that it’s an attempt by the company to discover how modern consumers might want to receive publishing information, particularly at a time when cell phones, PDAs and other digital devices such as Amazon’s Kindle make it easier for them to read electronic documents anywhere and everywhere.

Other publishers have launched similar experiments with downloadable chapters. In January, for example, Springwise looked at DailyLit, which makes classic texts available free via email and RSS, and modern texts at prices roughly in line with those of paperbacks. Indeed, that relatively low-tech approach could be easily emulated by book-publishing entrepreneurs. Choosing the right content will be key, of course. And while the chapter-by-chapter niche might seem best suited to business books, irresistible fictional stories or tales or real-life scandal and intrigue might also become piecemeal best sellers of the future, bringing together crowds of readers, just as Dickens once did on those New York City docks.

The Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine -- and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It

Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors, Book Publicity through Social Networking

1001 Ways to Market Your Books

HappyWorker.Com - The Strangest Way To Make A Million Dollars

From 10 Hours a Week, $10 Million a Year

How To Make A Living Blogging - No BS, No Selling

Friday, February 15, 2008

How To Make Money With Wedding Proposals

Proposals are becoming increasingly elaborate and expensive, with proposal planners, proposal photographers and others getting into the act of helping men — and it is still overwhelmingly men who do the asking — create an over-the-top presentation.

This goes along with the growing tendency to turn every experience surrounding the marriage ritual into a spectacle, from rehearsal dinners to the ceremony itself.

“Weddings are culturally valorized as incredibly significant events in our lives,” said Cele Otnes, professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of “Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding” (University of California Press, 2003). “Upping the ante gives it legitimacy.”

Jenifour Jones, founder of Go Get It Events, said that during her busiest time, she can plan three or four proposals a week.

For one, she staged a fake show, which the bride-to-be assumed was real. The concierge of a hotel was in on it, as was a comedy troupe and 150 actors playing audience members.

When the time came to kiss the frog, the girlfriend was “chosen” to come on stage and, unbeknownst to her, her boyfriend was smuggled backstage. He changed into a frog suit and when she kissed him, he took off the costume and presented the ring, while the audience waved lanterns.

The average cost of her proposals is $5,000 to $15,000, Ms. Jones said, but something like the frog play can run more.

Ms. Jones’s typical client is in his 30s or 40s, and, she said, she has helped same-sex couples, too.

“People are older, they’re waiting longer, they have more disposable income,” Ms. Winikka said.

Richard Heyderman, who hired Ms. Jones to help him, is 41, and getting married for the second time on Valentine’s Day.

He knew that his fiancée, Tara Pokotilow, a teacher, loves the book “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans. So with Ms. Jones’s help, he rewrote the story as “Tara’s Greatest Adventure.”

“I had someone drop a clue at her door,” said Mr. Heyderman, who is president and chief executive of Multi Dimensional Resources. Then a character dressed as Madeline showed up.

During Ms. Pokotilow’s surprise day out, which included a shopping trip, a spa treatment and serenading with one of her favorite Broadway songs, she was given pages of the book, not knowing exactly what was going on.

The coup de grâce was when she was handed a first edition of “Madeline” with a love note inside “written by me,” Mr. Heyderman said — and taken on a helicopter ride to a sculpture garden in New Jersey, where he proposed.

Mr. Heyderman did not want to reveal how much he paid for the day, though he did confide that some of his friends later told him, “Rich you made our lives impossible, because how do we top that?”

Indeed, Ms. Winikka said one appeal of such proposals is the guy “wants bragging rights with his friends.”

Does the woman like it as much? Elaine Pursey of Berkshire, England, whose husband planned a day that culminated in a private proposal on the Wollman Rink in Central Park in Manhattan, loved it.

“He had been secretly taking skating lessons for months,” she said.

I can’t help being a little cynical about some of this because it seems to be one more effort by the $70 billion dollar wedding industry to get a piece of the pie, or wedding cake, as it were.

But Ms. Otnes said it was not clear which came first — the entrepreneurs or the grooms-to-be — or even if it stems from men or women.

She does see a few factors at play.

“There is an increasing fetishizing of luxury,” she said. In addition, wedding movies like “Runaway Bride,” or the newly released “27 Dresses,” magnify everything.

Proposal photographers are also an option. Terry Gruber, owner of Gruber Photographers in Manhattan, said he has done about 15 such shots and charges $750 for each one. But surreptitiously shooting the moment of asking without the woman knowing is not always the best idea, Mr. Gruber said.

“You don’t want the bride to think its creepy,” he said. It’s better to come up with a pretext, like ‘my mom wants pictures of you and me,’ ” he said. Then, when the photographer is snapping away, the man pops the question.

The marriage proposal is as ritualized as any tribal custom. A paper published last year in the journal Sex Roles found that people — or at least the 2,174 university students in the Midwest whom the researchers surveyed — associated more conventional proposals with stronger relationships.

If the hypothetical proposal adhered to a traditional script — the man asking the woman’s father first; the man asking the woman; the man getting down on one knee and giving a diamond ring — then the students thought that the relationship would be stronger, said Alicia D. Cast, associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University and a co-author of the study.

Nontraditional would be if the woman asked the man, there was no ring, a plain band or an alternative gem like a ruby or sapphire.

There was no statistical difference in answers between men and women.

This research helps demonstrate that participants in a ritual like a proposal want to convey a certain message, creating “in the minds of others that we are a legitimate and serious couple,” Ms. Cast said.

Often those who want elaborate proposals are entering their second marriage, perhaps in the hope that if they start this one right, it will last.

Both Ms. Pursey and her husband had been married before. How did the ice rink proposal compare with her first?

“I can’t remember it,” she said.

More Resources On Making Money With Weddings:

Start Your Own Wedding Consultant Business: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Success

Wedding Vendor Handbook: Get to the Top and Stay There

How to Start a Home-Based Event Planning Business

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dog Shit Millionaires

Matthew Osborn

Matt Boswell

The most noted pioneer in the poop-scooping business is Matthew Osborn, who runs He never knew that this business would one day make him a millionaire. Osborn got started back in 1987 when he opened Pet Butler in Columbus, Ohio. "I had been interested in small-business ideas since I was a kid," he says. "My friends thought it was an interesting but far-out idea, and many of them just couldn't grasp the concept. They all said, 'People aren't going to pay you for that.'"

At the time, Osborn was working two full-time jobs and making less than $6 per hour at each. He had a wife, a daughter and a son on the way, and was desperate to make some extra money. Osborn began doing research at the local library, studying the area's demographics and census data. He eventually contacted the county auditor and learned that there were about 100,000 dogs within 15 miles of his home."I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and got started with very little money," he says.

The business slowly took off, and despite the dirty work, Osborn says he enjoyed satisfying the customers and working outdoors in some of the nicest backyards in Ohio. However, it wasn't all fun and games. "I didn't enjoy driving around in my little Honda Civic with hundreds of pounds of dog poop in the back," he says. "It sort of gave me nightmares until I was able to buy pickup trucks for the business."

Eventually Osborn employed seven people and owned a fleet of six trucks serving about 700 regular customers. "I was making more money than ever before and spending most of my time with my family doing the things I enjoyed," he says. After a nearly 10-year run, Osborn sold his business in 1998 and started, which contains an international directory of pet waste removal businesses. His newest business venture is that of writer. He recently released a book, "The Professional Pooper-Scooper: How to Start Your Own Low-Cost, High-Profit Dog Waste Removal Service."

While Osborn may have put poop scooping on the map, Matt "Red" Boswell is taking it into the future. Boswell owns the Texas-based Pet Butler. He recently moved the business out of his house and into a 1,200-square-foot office just north of Dallas. Today, Pet Butler is the largest pet waste removal service in the country, and serves about 3,000 clients.

"Most of our customers are middle and upper-middle income," says Boswell. "But can you think of anyone who wants to clean up dog poop or cat poop?"

Boswell explains that at an average of just $10 per visit, nearly anyone can afford Pet Butler's services. "Rarely is Pet Butler considered a luxury service by those who use us," he says. "Most consider Pet Butler a mandatory and highly valued staple for their yard maintenance needs."

Boswell, 35, hasn't always been the poop-scoop king he is today. Back in 1997 he was near bankruptcy after his Internet start-up venture crashed and burned. After months of false starts and dead ends, his girlfriend suggested starting a poop-scooping business. "I was quite offended she thought I would even do it," Boswell says. But figuring he had nothing to lose, he launched Pet Butler in 1998. "It failed miserably," he says. "But I was done quitting. I didn't care if everybody on the planet thought I was an idiot. I dropped all pride. I was determined to make it happen."

Two years later Pet Butler was still struggling, but through relentless marketing, a little press, and word-of-mouth referrals, he finally started making some headway.

Boswell, who refers to himself as Pet Butler's "chief excrement officer," is quick to point out that he's not just some executive in a suit, but that he's paid his dues and gotten his hands dirty -- literally. "I have personally scooped over a million piles of poop," he says proudly. "I have had more than a few make me literally gag. Even the dogs wouldn't go near them."

The company has seven employees working in the field scooping poop, and six in the office who help run the day-to-day business operations. Boswell admits it's not what'd you call a glamorous job, and there are some occupational hazards.

"This job has caused some guys to lose more than their share of girlfriends," Boswell says.

And Boswell says that most of his "Fecal Matter Removal Technicians" have to occasionally deal with temperamental "clients." "Most technicians will normally get bitten sometime in their first six months because they get lazy and too trusting," he says. "Fortunately that is all it takes for the tech to never let it happen again."

Boswell is in the midst of launching Pet Butler Franchise Services Corp., and foresees Pet Butler franchises popping up all over the country. And despite his unorthodox and some would say unsavory career choice, Boswell says he has long gotten over any embarrassment he had over his job, and actually relishes the attention. "I love when people ask what I do for a living," he says. "People just can't get enough of the idea that we actually scoop poop for a living."

Of course, when your company is projected to gross over a million dollars and you have nearly 20 franchises sprouting up all over the country, including 10 in the Dallas/Forth Worth area, it helps ease the embarrassment. In fact it was Boswell's success story that landed him a gig as guest speaker at last year's Pooper Scooper Round-Up in Houston. Boswell was also awarded the Golden Shovel for winning the Turd Herding contest. However, there was some controversy over his technique. "He decided to forgo tools, and just grabbed the turds and stuffed them inside his slacks," says aPaws president Ewing, who came in second. "This is not a technique that is used in the field, so I protested his win, but the board voted against me."

Boswell says he's put the controversy behind him and is focusing on the future goals of Pet Butler. In fact they're posted on a big bulletin board in the new office above the printer: "By June 2010 Pet Butler will support at least 100 franchises across North America. We will serve more than 50,000 clients each week, and offer service to over 50 million people in North America and collect in excess of $500,000 each week and donate $100,000 to pet-friendly organizations each year."

"We've got some huge goals," Boswell says. "It's an industry that's untapped. We plan on becoming the Microsoft of dog poop."

101 Best Businesses for Pet Lovers

How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is

Which Franchises Do Best During Recessions?

What Your Asshole Neighbour Can Teach You About Marketing

10 Weird Books That Will Help You Become A Better Marketer

How To Turn $60 Into $1000 In Three Months With Domain Names

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How To Become A Successful Minipreneur

The wired population may be able to zap messages around the planet in an instant, but whether those messages are understood is another matter. Language barriers still exist, and that's where a new service called SpeakLike plans to make its mark.

SpeakLike bills itself as the first instant messaging service for accurate, real-time translation chat across multiple languages, making it possible for users to type text in their own language and have others see it in theirs, accurately and within seconds. Whereas most current translation options rely either on machines, which are notoriously inaccurate, or on human translators, which are costly and time-intensive, SpeakLike uses a combination of both to improve accuracy and reduce costs. Users begin by downloading some free software from the service. Then, when they send some text, a human translator for SpeakLike checks and corrects the machine translation of that text in real time, allowing those on the receiving end to see it in their own languages, quickly and correctly. While not accredited translators, SpeakLike's translation staff are bilingual and capable of conversation-quality translation, the company says; they are also bound by strict confidentiality agreements and a code of ethics.

New York-based SpeakLike was launched into beta at the end of January, and is currently still for use by invitation only. Its services are available only in English, Spanish and Simplified Chinese at the moment. More languages are coming soon, however, as is an option for users to get transcripts of their conversations. Premium, enterprise and integrated web services—including support for legal and medical translation specialties—will be added later, SpeakLike says. Following its beta period, SpeakLike's introductory pricing will start at USD 0.10 per short translated message.

Cultural homogenization notwithstanding, the world is not that small when there are barriers to communication. By breaking those barriers down, SpeakLike—and the many minipreneurs that may follow in its footsteps—stand to win.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

10 Economics Books That Aren't Boring AND Help You Understand The World Much Better

1. Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics

In Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets, Bonner and freelance journalist Lila Rajiva use literary economics to offer broader insights into mass behavior and its devastating effects on society. Why is it, they ask, that perfectly sane and responsible individuals can get together, and by some bizarre alchemy turn into an irrational mob? What makes them trust charlatans and demagogues who manipulate their worst instincts? Why do they abandon good sense, good behavior and good taste when an empty slogan is waved in front of them. Why is the road to hell paved with so many sterling intentions? Why is there a fool on every corner and a knave in every public office?

2. A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation

Why do markets keep crashing and why are financial crises greater than ever before? As the risk manager to some of the leading firms on Wall Street–from Morgan Stanley to Salomon and Citigroup–and a member of some of the world’s largest hedge funds, from Moore Capital to Ziff Brothers and FrontPoint Partners, Rick Bookstaber has seen the ghost inside the machine and vividly shows us a world that is even riskier than we think. The very things done to make markets safer, have, in fact, created a world that is far more dangerous. From the 1987 crash to Citigroup closing the Salomon Arb unit, from staggering losses at UBS to the demise of Long-Term Capital Management, Bookstaber gives readers a front row seat to the management decisions made by some of the most powerful financial figures in the world that led to catastrophe, and describes the impact of his own activities on markets and market crashes. Much of the innovation of the last 30 years has wreaked havoc on the markets and cost trillions of dollars.

3. Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product

Poop Culture is an excellent book about a topic that is largely (and unfairly) ignored. Perhaps the greatest asset and the greatest weakness of the book is its breadth. The author covers many different approaches to the topic--from the psycho-social elements of poop (i.e. shame) to the history of the toilet to cultural symbolism to poop in art to the economic/ecologic effects of the way we as a society deal with our poop. It's at once odd and heartwarming to see a diagram of the best way to poop (squatting) or talk of South Park in the same book that also contains theoretical musings on Jonathan Swift and Marcel Duchamp.

4. The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World

I think that I have read all of the recent "economics of everything" (Harford's phrase) books and this one is, in my view, the best. I also try to keep up with recent research in applied economics and found some gems in these pages that I had missed. The author alludes to about 200 papers and books from recent economics research and presents them in the most reader-friendly way, all in about 200 pages. I call that very efficient. Harford's summary is also a useful antidote to all the "behavioral economics" that the popular press has picked up. The idea that some of us depart from rational choice on occasion is hardly news. The point of this book, that the rational choice model, has amazing power range is worth reiterating.

5. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon warned that our minds are wired to deceive us. "Beware the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall--they are the real distorting prisms of human nature." Chief among them: "Assuming more order than exists in chaotic nature." Now consider the typical stock market report: "Today investors bid shares down out of concern over Iranian oil production." Sigh. We're still doing it.

6. The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas

The book indeed is like Freakonomics in that its purpose is to reveal the economic rational behind everyday matters. It is different from Freakonomics in that it follows a "top-down" approach: each of the book's chapters corresponds to a basic economic principle (for example supply and demand for a chapter, and signals and asymmetric information for another) that is explained via real world examples. So if one can say that the goal of Freakonomics was in reaching the bottom reason/motive of particular phenomena, it can also be said that the goal of The Economic Naturalist is to elicit fundamental economic principles through questions and answers. In this sense the book is more educational.

7. Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist

The book is full of fascinating stories in which psychology meets economics. The author applies the above concepts and ideas to a wide, wide variety of everyday situations, such as chess, doing the dishes, UN diplomat parking violations, bonuses in the workplace, petty crime, expercise programs, student drinking, tardiness, RSVP's, meetings, going to museums, buying paintings, reading, buying music, toilet seat positions (a very, very important topic), gift giving, pickup lines, personal ads, marriage, being tortured, recognizing liars, gym memberships, shopping, eating and restaurants and getting the best food, "The Seven Deadly Sins", sexual intercourse, beggars, charitable giving, and tipping. WHEW! WOW!

8. The Wisdom of Crowds

In 1906, Francis Galton, known for his work on statistics and heredity, came across a weight-judging contest at the West of England Fat Stock and Poultry Exhibition. This encounter was to challenge the foundations of his life's study. An ox was on display and for six-pence fair-goers could buy a stamped and numbered ticket, fill in their names and their guesses of the animal's weight after it had been slaughtered and dressed. The best guess received a prize. Eight hundred people tried their luck. They were diverse. Many had no knowledge of livestock; others were butchers and farmers. In Galton's mind this was a perfect analogy for democracy. He wanted to prove the average voter was capable of very little. Yet to his surprise, when he averaged the guesses, the total came to 1197 pounds. After the ox had been slaughtered, it weighted 1198. James Surowiecki takes Galton's counterintuitive notion and explores its ramification for business, government, science and the economy. It is a book about the world as it is. At the same time, it is a book about the world as it might be. Most of us believe that valuable nuggets of knowledge are concentrated in few minds. We believe the solution to our complex problems lies in finding the right person. When all we have to do, Surowiecki demonstrates over and over, is ask the gathered crowd.

9. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Like Thoreau and the band Devo, psychology professor Schwartz provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist. The conclusions Schwartz draws will be familiar to anyone who has flipped through 900 eerily similar channels of cable television only to find that nothing good is on. Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz, drawing extensively on his own work in the social sciences, shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us. We normally assume in America that more options ("easy fit" or "relaxed fit"?) will make us happier, but Schwartz shows the opposite is true, arguing that having all these choices actually goes so far as to erode our psychological well-being. Part research summary, part introductory social sciences tutorial, part self-help guide, this book offers concrete steps on how to reduce stress in decision making. Some will find Schwartz's conclusions too obvious, and others may disagree with his points or find them too repetitive, but to the average lay reader, Schwartz's accessible style and helpful tone is likely to aid the quietly desperate.

10. Crimes Against Logic

This book deserves the widest possible exposure in America, especially so close to the election, because it an excellent primer on how to guard yourself against the faulty reasoning that governs so much modern political discourse - and avoid adopting it yourself. I first heard about the book because one of its points was mentioned in an essay. The point was basically that just because someone has a motive to hold a certain position doesn't necessarily mean that the position is false. This seemed pretty obvious, but as I turned to the media I was amazed at how often politicians use this method, and how easily I had accepted their claims if they lined up with my political preferences.

New Business Ideas - Toys For Rent

After scouring the Internet to fill her house with only the best toys for her infant twin sons, Lori Pope hated to watch the clutter build as the boys lost interest.

If you can rent movies, video games and even handbags online, she thought, why not toys?

That's the idea behind Baby Plays, a Web-based company Pope launched in October that allows parents to receive four or six toys in the mail every month, assembled and ready for playtime.

Call it Netflix for the toddler set.

Baby Plays subscribers visit the company's Web site to browse among nearly 200 toys for newborns through preschoolers. Customers build a wish list of toys they'd like to rent, and Pope's staff ships them to their door.

"It's going to take a load off of moms," Pope said.

The program has been great for Heidi Borden, a financial analyst from the Houston suburb of Katy who used to dread shopping for toys with her now 11-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son.

"She wants to get on the floor and he's running down the aisle and I'm just stressed to pick out something really good really quick, get in and out," said Borden, 39. "It's just a lot nicer to be able to do this online and not worry about if it's something that they don't like."

As the co-owner of an oilfield supply business, Pope also didn't have a lot of time to shop. To save time, money and space, she searched the Internet for a toy rental company. When she couldn't find one, she decided to start her own.

Pope started with 10 customers, shipping toys out of spare office space in her business. Now she's got about 200 customers nationwide, including about 40 grandparents, and is preparing to move into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse next door.

She has spent $250,000 of the money she's made from her other business to get the company off the ground, from buying toys and hiring employees to subletting the office and storage space. She still pours about $12,000 a month into the company but hopes to begin turning a profit by this fall.

Customers pay $28.99 a month to get four toys a month for three months and $35.99 a month to get six toys a month for three months. Families willing to sign a yearlong contract can get six toys a month for $31.99.

Baby Plays' inventory includes popular toys by brands such as VTech, LeapFrog and Playskool as well as more obscure European manufacturers. Pope keeps at least seven of each kind of toy in stock so she can fulfill almost every request. She plans to double her inventory over the next two months.

Pope mainly stocks sturdy, easy-to-clean toys with few parts or parts that are easily replaced. She searches Web sites and catalogs for popular toys that are appropriate for small children and meet all European and American safety standards.

Once a new toy comes in, Pope invites Houston-area customers and their children to her office for some hands-on testing. If the kids love them, she'll order more. If they ignore the toy or lose interest just a few minutes, it's cut.

The toys are sanitized with Clorox wipes and loaded with fresh batteries before being shrink wrapped and boxed for shipment. The few toys that are too big to be shipped fully assembled are boxed with a screwdriver and instructions.

Families generally keep the toys for one month and then send them back in the box they came in, using a postage-paid return label the company includes with each shipment. Most parents know that's long enough for little kids to exhaust their interest.

But it's no big deal if the little one wants to hang on to a couple of toys for several months, Pope said. Parents can just exchange the toys they don't want, and new toys are shipped out as the old ones are returned.

Pope also keeps a close eye on the merchandise, yanking toys that are broken or more than "gently worn" and donating them to needy families nominated by her customers.

"If it has a little scratch on it, we're not going to take it out of the program," she said. But, "we're not going to ever send anybody anything that they're going to feel like is junk."

Each type of toy is also tested for lead paint when a new shipment arrives from the wholesaler, Pope said. She also avoids toys with small pieces that a child could break off and choke on.

The lead testing was a big selling point for Regina Rubin Cody, a Cleveland mother of 8-month-old twin girls.

"With the two babies it's kind of a handful," she said. "To be able to have one less thing to worry about offers kind of a real peace of mind."

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Parking Lot Dentistry

LAS VEGAS — Samantha Taube stepped out of the MGM Grand into the bright sun to walk to the parking lot. After a short distance, she approached a trailer, entered, sat in a dentist’s chair and had her teeth cleaned.

“If you know Las Vegas traffic these days, you know what a benefit this is,” said Ms. Taube, who trains employees in the huge casino’s slot machine operations. After 20 minutes, she was back at work.

Down on the Strip, Beverly Egan, a poker dealer at the Stardust Resort and Casino, sat in air-conditioned comfort, in another mobile dental office restfully decorated in pale blue amid menacing power drills and X-ray equipment. Ms. Egan had popped out to have X-rays taken before scheduled dental work. She, too, appreciated the convenience.

“I’d have to take three hours at least if I had to drive to an office,” she said. This visit took only 30 minutes.

The mobile units are courtesy of On-Site Dental, a Las Vegas company founded seven years ago by Chris Davenport, who is not a dentist but an entrepreneur. His company’s basic service combines technology, mobility and the American penchant for saving time.

On-Site Dental owns two trailers, each fitted with two dental offices in which dentists and hygienists see about 1,000 patients every Monday through Saturday in the parking lots of 11 casinos in Las Vegas. Most of the patients are employees covered by the casinos’ dental insurance plans, which pay up to 80 percent of the costs of most dentistry. Entertainment headliners and chorus line troupers, who may have the greatest need for dazzling smiles, are contract employees with their own insurance. No plans pay for cosmetic work, like veneers and tooth capping.

They are treated by eight dentists who work with On-Site, but are independent practitioners because under Nevada law a nonmedical person cannot employ them. On-Site’s management and leasing companies foot the bill for equipment and mobile units for those dental practices, and are paid rent out of the insurance reimbursements that the dentists take in — the “collect” as it’s called in the profession.

The amounts are not inconsiderable. “A fully equipped dental van can cost $450,000,” Mr. Davenport said. But with the large numbers of patients available at Las Vegas megacasinos — the MGM Grand alone has 9,000 employees — a van’s dental chairs get a lot of use.

In 2005, the total collect of On-Site’s dentists and hygienists amounted to $3 million, with Mr. Davenport’s management and leasing companies receiving almost $2 million of that. His companies cover equipment costs and salaries of 30 nonprofessional employees, who handle appointments and billing.

Mobile dentistry is not really a new idea — dental clinics working under government grants and contracts have traveled to schools and military bases for a couple of decades. Dentists on wheels got a boost in the early 1980’s when an engineer and dental equipment supplier named Tim Kitch developed a way to install the features of a dental office, from swirling water basins to oral surgery complexes, in Winnebago recreational vehicles.

“I figured they knew how to build trailers and I knew dental equipment,” said Mr. Kitch, whose company, American Dental Industries of Portland, Ore., is now manufacturing its 100th mobile dentistry.

Now, for-profit dentistry in corporate parking lots has become a growth industry in the Western states — once wide-open and now traffic-congested. And Mr. Davenport’s Las Vegas company is not the only one in the field or the largest.

ReachOut Healthcare America, is a company based in Phoenix that sends mobile dental clinics to schools and military posts in eight states. It is expanding a Dentist at Work program for corporate employees. And Onsite Dental Care, no relation to the similarly named Las Vegas company, started in 1996, catering to companies in Silicon Valley. It was started by a dentist, Dr. Arnold Keiles, who found that his patients had difficulty getting to appointments on time.

Today, the company is run by Joshua Perry, its president and an expert in medical and pension benefits, who has expanded to nine mobile units, two of them working in North Carolina and Texas, at branch sites ofCisco Systems, a major client.

“The appeal of this service for companies is that it prevents great losses of employee time, when driving and waiting in dentists’ offices can often consume half a day,” Mr. Perry said. He has had discussions about alliances with Mr. Davenport. “But,” Mr. Perry said, “we will continue to operate independently at this time.”

Mr. Davenport, meanwhile, is adding a noncasino corporate client to his company’s mix, looking to build beyond Las Vegas in the future. While his idea of mobile dentistry has caught on in Las Vegas, the entrepreneur’s road is seldom smooth.

Now 35, Mr. Davenport came to Las Vegas from Portland, Ore., in 1990, worked at a series of jobs and decided to get hygienist training back in his hometown. Then he returned to Nevada with the idea of starting his own business, using an American Dental Industries van he had financed to serve nursing homes with dentistry services.

But when “I couldn’t make enough to cover the costs on the van,” Mr. Davenport said, he hit upon two basic principles of his now successful business. First, a mobile dentistry that does not have government grants for treating schoolchildren, needs a lot of customers to make a profit. And second, the business needs, in addition to $200 fillings and $100 cleanings, some those customers who occasionally want tooth capping and veneer work at $1,000 a tooth and up.

“A good dentist can do six teeth in two hours, $6,000 for two hours of work,” Mr. Davenport said.

So to attract a potential customer base, Mr. Davenport applied to the casinos and got work initially at Prima Donna Resorts in Stateline, Nev., on the California border. Success there brought him back to Las Vegas and a contract to serveStation Casinos, which operates 14 gambling houses and 8 hotels in the city.

Mr. Davenport upgraded to two and then three mobile dental units and, seeing a need for greater expertise in finance and marketing, earned a master of business administration from theUniversity of California, Irvine, where he traveled on weekends.

But a dispute over costs with the Stations company, which self-insures its dental benefits, led On-Site to leave at the conclusion of its contract in 2005. Mr. Davenport scrambled. “I sold one van, took a second mortgage on my house, borrowed on credit lines,” he said. “And I went out and signed up to serve a lot of casinos.”

Today, On-Site Dental provides dentistry services at Caesar’s Palace, Circus Circus, Harrah’s and six other casinos in addition to MGM Grand and Stardust — and two new clients, MGM Mirage and Treasure Island. “Nobody likes to go to the dentist, but the convenience of the mobile unit makes it easier to get their dental work done,” said Jeff Ellis, chief financial officer of benefits at MGM Grand.

Mr. Davenport hopes to take dental services to casinos in other states and to nongambling customers like the Nevada Federal Credit Union in Las Vegas. “I’m in Year 2 of a three-year plan for Vegas,” Mr. Davenport said. “After that, I hope to expand beyond Nevada.”

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

How Snap Fitness Owner Built A Successful Mini-Empire On Mini-Gyms

For most of my career in the fitness industry, I ran "big box" gyms - giant facilities with amenities that ranged from child care to aerobics classes to walls for climbing - in my home state of Minnesota. These clubs tried to cram as many offerings into their spaces as possible, and at first I didn't question that philosophy.

I started operating my first gym when I was 21. While I was playing pro racquetball in Florida, the owners of a troubled large fitness center in Willmar, Minn., asked me to come back and turn the business around. Over the next five years I worked like crazy: I opened and closed the club myself, ran the front desk, and even painted the walls. Eventually I made the club profitable and bought out the owners. Later I leveraged the building to open five more gyms, all of them successful - and huge.

Running these big boxes took its toll. The gyms had huge overhead. It cost more than $1.5 million to buy the buildings, requiring me to take out significant loans. I also had to supervise about 200 employees and drive to each location daily to meet with managers, tour facilities, and monitor programs such as tiny-tot swim lessons. By the time I opened my fifth new gym in 2002, I saw my kids only twice a day - when they woke up and when they went to bed. That year I decided to sell the gyms.

Six months after I cashed out, a group of my former employees approached me about starting a new company. I missed the business but knew I had to do things differently - I was finished with 75-hour workweeks, and I didn't want to make a massive investment. I thought about my old business model: It required large memberships to generate cash flow for operations; it was hard to launch each gym; and many gym features sat idle, such as swimming pools and steam rooms.

I grabbed a pen and paper and listed all of the old gyms' amenities on the left side of the page. Reading my notes, I saw that my clients didn't need - or want - most of those features; many of them used to ask me if they could pay less and use only the basic equipment. I chose the essentials and wrote them on the right side of the page. That list became the blueprint for a smaller, more efficient gym - Snap Fitness.

My old fitness centers were 40,000 square feet; a Snap Fitness gym is less than 3,000. The buildings, which I lease instead of own, cost $150,000 to open - the big gyms had cost 12 times as much. Because of the low overhead, it takes fewer members to break even (and they pay, at most, $35 a month at Snap Fitness, compared with $50 to $80 monthly dues at the big box gyms). Operating the centers is a breeze: They require low maintenance, little insurance, and only ten days to open once the landlord hands me the key. It takes just one person to run the entire gym. Now I'm out the door by 6 P.M.

Initially other owners told me I was crazy to cut features like group fitness classes. But I soon disproved the naysayers. After opening my first Snap Fitness in 2004, I built 18 more by the end of the year. Today the chain has 160,000 members and 1,173 franchises in 45 states, and projects 2007 revenues of $16 million. Our success is a product of today's busy culture. Baby-boomers like me - those of us with full-time jobs who enjoy spending time with our families - want to be able to walk in, work out, and leave. It's a better, leaner business model, and it makes my life easier too.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Moonjar Moneybox Success Story

What's the best thing to do with money: Spend it, save it or give it away?

The ideal answer, says Eulalie Scandiuzzi, is to recognize the importance of all three. That's why she created colorful children's banks with three compartments: spend, save and share.

Too many families, she said, either don't talk about money at all or discuss it as an obstacle, the reason they can't do certain things.

"I wanted something that brought the conversation to the dinner table in a fun way, so money would became a 'yes' conversation rather than a 'no' conversation," said Scandiuzzi, executive director of a family foundation and a past director of Coyote Central, which offers life-skill experiences to middle-school students.

Since the bank's debut in 2002, more than 1 million Moonjars have been sold — credit unions, banks and charities give them away — and the product line continues to expand into books and games to spark family conversation.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

How To Become A Millionaire Sawing Stage Curtains

Megan Duckett, 35
Sew What? Inc.,Rancho Dominguez, California
Projected 2007 Sales: $4.6 million
Description: Manufacturer of custom theatrical draperies and distributor of flame-retardant fabrics

Finding her way: After immigrating to the U.S. at age 19, this native Australian found work as a technician for a concert production company--and started sewing in her spare time. Her first gig was sewing fabric coffin linings for a Halloween show. "I rented a [sewing machine] and lined 10 coffins," recalls Megan Duckett. "[I discovered] that I had a talent and an ability to manipulate the fabric in a craftlike way, and I really enjoyed it." Duckett worked evenings and weekends on her craft business, and in 1997 she quit her full-time job, rented a warehouse and officially incorporated.

Building Buzz: Not one to wait for the phone to ring, Duckett used every inexpensive marketing tool she could, such as mailers, fliers and handmade business cards. She also chatted up her company's services every chance she got. "Everyone was a potential customer," she says. That grass-roots marketing led to her making draperies for theater, concerts and special events worldwide.

Creative Coverings: Manufacturing the custom draperies for Rod Stewart's latest concert tour was a highlight for Duckett. "We made about 1,500 yards of the Stewart family tartan," she says. "We made it into this enormous design that would register onstage with the audience--it was totally unique." The work of Sew What? has also graced the tours of such legends as Gwen Stefani, Prince and Fleetwood Mac, to name a few. But despite a packed schedule, she still makes time to help the community: Duckett founded From Stages to Students, a program that provides free or low-cost draperies to school theater programs and community rehabilitation centers that teach sewing.

Follow Her Lead: Chat up your new business every chance you get, as you never know where leads will come from.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lice Squashing For Profit

Parents in the Houston area who are reluctant to deal with the pesky and all too common problem of head lice removal now have the option of outsourcing the tedious task. Contrary to popular belief, head lice do not discriminate based on personal hygiene or socio-economic status, though many families still find cases a bit embarrassing. The Texas Lice Squad offers professional and confidential in-home lice treatments for the whole family—with guaranteed results.

Founded by an experienced registered nurse and mother of two, The Texas Lice Squad provides a full range of services to help eliminate lice and prevent recurrences, beginning with individual and family inspection to determine the extent of infestation, priced at USD 65 for a family of four (USD 5 for each additional household member). In-home treatment and removal costs USD 60 per hour, with a two-hour minimum, which could be money well spent for families who feel that they've exhausted their own resources attempting to eradicate the critters themselves. After using a non-toxic product and professional combing to thoroughly remove all nits and lice, The Texas Lice Squad confirms in writing that a child is nit-free so that he or she can be readmitted to school or daycare.

With back-to-school season in full swing—playgrounds and classrooms being prime spots for sharing not just toys, but lice and germs, too—business is bound to pick up. And the Texas Lice Squad is ready for it, investing in their first storefront location. Could franchises and duplicates be around the corner? And for the bigger picture, entrepreneurs might want to ask themselves what other domestic tasks are ready to be outsourced.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The New Way To Do Direct Mail

Today's consumers may exhibit varying degrees of infolust for new products and services, but their interest doesn't often extend to direct mail. Enter Matter, which is taking an unconventional approach to direct marketing by sending out boxes of "interesting stuff" instead.

London-based Matter works with product manufacturers to compile collections of items carefully designed to please specific audiences, and it sends them out to consumers at no charge. Each participating company creates and contributes an item—something that explains what the company does, says something about its ideas or values, or can be tried out.

Matter then combines the items in a targeted fashion and sends them out so that they arrive on a Saturday—when consumers are more likely to spend some time with them. The pilot box, which just hit consumers' doorsteps on February 2nd, included items from Sony Ericsson, Stolichnaya, Nintendo, Nissan, Penguin and Virgin Atlantic, among others. Sony Ericsson's item, for example, was a small figurine of the Music Monster—a cultish figure intended to represent consumers' personal musical desires—packed in a straw-lined case complete with bite-marked brochure. Nissan's item was a set of "crayons" that are really soap—intended to send the message that the brand is not what consumers expect, according to the Matter blog. The next edition of Matter will be aimed at males aged 25-35 and is scheduled to ship out this summer.

Matter is a collaboration between Artomatic and Royal Mail, and it targets consumers in the UK only. One to experiment with in other parts of the world?

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Not Your Regular T-Shirt Business

One of the challenges for charitable organizations large and small is to get potential donors to feel the need for help in an immediate and personal way. By selling t-shirts imprinted with the stories of the specific individuals in need of assistance, Rosa Loves raises the necessary funds while also giving donors a tangible connection with the people they have helped.

Each Rosa Loves t-shirt is created to help a specific person, family or community, and 60 percent of its sales go directly to providing that assistance. The story of those in need is told on each t-shirt through not just a graphical design on the outside, but also a written description of that story on the shirt's inside, just over the wearer's heart. T-shirts are hand-numbered and created in limited runs; once the needed amount has been raised for a particular cause, Rosa Loves stops printing and selling the associated t-shirt. A series of t-shirts over the holidays, for example, was designed to provide holiday meals to 10 families in the St. Augustine, Florida, area, where Rosa Loves is based. In just two weeks, the shirts sold out and Rosa Loves had enough funds to supply the needed meals.

The site's founders explain: "It's usually thoughts like, 'those people over there,' that perpetuate a sense of complacency and lack of concern. Rosa Loves wants to shed light on the stories around us, to give them a real face, a real name."

Rosa Loves was founded in 2006, and is still operating with just a part-time staff. But there's no arguing with its success stories.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

With his plush word toys, one man discovered how to spell success.

Don Moody, 45, of WordWorld LLC in New York City
Company - A multiplatform media business focused on helping 3- to 5-year-olds develop literacy skills
Projected 2008 sales $26 million

Spelling It Out Bringing a business to life is an entrepreneur's gift. Bringing words to life and making a business out of it is Don Moody's gift. When Moody's wife became pregnant in 2000, inspiration for his word-based venture was born. In an effort to help battle children's illiteracy, Moody set out to create an animated world where actual words are craftily spelled out in the objects they represent. Recalls Moody, "I [thought], 'Wouldn't it be great if the word shark just turned into a shark and swam off the screen and the word ice turned into ice and broke?'"

In 2004, after years of research and a trip to China, Moody created a line of plush toy characters that form words but pull apart into individual letters. He arranged a small launch at FAO Schwartz in New York City, and the toys sold out in less than three days. Moody immediately retracted and spent the next few years raising money and developing a truly multiplatform business. "I wanted to build a big brand on the American landscape," he says, "and I wanted to hold true to my original plan, so I rolled it all back in and hid it away."

Moody resurfaced last September when his WordWorld TV series, featuring characters and objects made up of letters, premiered on PBS Kids. And as 2008 got underway, Target stores throughout the country launched a line of WordWorld plush toys and megablocks, which also connect to build words.

Moody's world of words, including more than 500 animate and inanimate objects, has taken on a bustling life of its own. And though every entrepreneur has a tale to tell, Moody is telling his story one word at a time.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

AeroGarden Review And How To Get One For Free

I was lamenting about only having frech lettuce, herbs, chives, and tomatoes from may garden during the long fall-winter-spring parts of the year. The refrigerated stuff from the grocery store goes bad right away and does not taste as good as the fresh stuff from the garden, either.

Then I saw a Time Magazine page on the new AeroGrow AeroGarden, and I just had to try it out. After reading the AeroGrow website before making the purchase, I realized that buying one garden would not work for me, as the tomatoes cannot be grown in the same garden as lettuce & herbs. This is partially due to the large amount of room taken up by the tomatoes, and also because the lamp/watering cycle is different and finally because the nutrients are different.

So, I bought two gardens, along with the Salad Greens seed kit and Cherry Tomato seed kit. Each garden comes with a mixed herb kit, so I figured to mix in a few herbs with the other seeds, and if they did not work, no big loss.

The products came quickly and the instructions for assembly were very clear and well written with excellent diagrams. I came to realize that this somewhat pricey product at least comes from a company that produces a classy product (a rare thing these days). I found a space on a shelf beside the basement stairs, and placed both assembled gardens there. I also bought and placed a digital thermometer with maximum/minimum temperature memory readouts ($10 at Radio Shack), because I was unsure of what temperature extremes the plants might experience in that location (68-72 as it turns out).

The seed kits contain pre-seeded planting pods. Each pod is basically a plastic cup shaped frame with two pieces of foam rubber inside the cup part, like two slices of bread with the seeds sandwiched between them. They simply insert into the seven holes in the top of the garden's water tank. The Salad Greens and Herbs come with seven pods per kit, while the Tomatos come with three pods plus four hole plugs-the plants are bigger so three of them take up thw whole space available. The hole plugs prevent evaporation of the water through the unoccupied holes.

The water tank holds exactly one gallon of regular drinking water. Well water is not recommended, presumably because of impurities, and since I am on a well I bought two one-gallon plastic jugs of 'drinking water' at the store for 50 cents each and filled the tanks with their contents. A pump in the tank takes water and pipes it to the rim of each of the seven holes in the tank's top, and here the trickle of water flows into the foam sandwich of each seed pod. The foam stays moist and the rest of the water drips back down into the tank. The garden's 'computer' cycles the water flow on and off according to the amount recommended for the type of plant being grown. A water level sensor turns on a flashing red light when it is time to add more water to the tank.

The top of the garden is a reflector with two compact-fluorescent lamps, of the variety that has the special ultraviolet (UV) coating that causes the emmitted light to resemble sunlight. The reflector rides on a vertical pole that extends up from the garden's base, so you can raise and lower the lamps as required to keep them the correct distance above the plants. The garden's 'computer' also turns the lamps on and off according to a schedule tailored to the type of plant. If using the gardens in a place where the light might be a problem at night, you can syncronize the computer so that the lights are on only during the daytime and off when you are trying to sleep.

The seed kits come with little clear plastic cups that cover each pod until the seeds have germinated, then you can dispose of them. The kits also come with a bag of nutrient tablets, which you add to the water tank when the computer prompts you to by flashing a red light. The nutrients are tailored to the type of plant being grown, and there are enough of them to feed the plants during their anticipated life span.

I planted one garden with five salad green (leaf lettuce) pods, plus one pod each from the Herb kit, chives and parsley. The other garden got the threee pods from the Cherry Tomato kit; two reds and one yellow variety.

Each seed pod has a label that tells you how many days to wait for plants to appear after germination. All of my plants appeared like clockwork.

I have had the gardens for about six weeks now, and have been enjoying salads containing lettuce, parsley and chives plus other odds and ends from the fridge, for the last two or three weeks. The lettuce and herbs are all beautiful, with no problems from bugs or too much/too little water, excessive temperatures, etc. No need to wash the plants or check for bugs or pick off bad spots, everything goes straight to the salad bowl. What a joy! Even with only five lettuce plants, I have to eat two meals including salad each day to keep up with the growth. This would easily feed two people, and if all seven salad green pods had been used, three people.

The tomatoes are all doing well ahnd have been pruned according to instructions. It will be some time yet before they produce flowers, and then fruit. But based on the health of the plants, I expect a good yield.

Each seed kit comes with a full color manual/booklet that covers all aspects of 'planting', germinating, feeding, pruning (if required) and then harvesting the plants. There are also photos of plants where things have gone wrong (leaves burned because the lamps were not raised up as the plants grew taller, etc) with clear instructions on how to recognize problems and correct them. Harvesting instructions clearly tell how much can be taken at a time without killing the plant, and so on.

The AeroGrow gardens are a well designed, well built product with excellent documentation. All my visitors are amazed at how well the product works, and many have gone out and bought their own. I anticipate years of improved eating because of this product.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

The Biography Of Tony Robbins

Robbins was born Anthony J. Mahavorick in North Hollywood, California. He was raised in Azusa, California, and he attended Glendora High School. His parents divorced when he was seven years old, and his mother later remarried twice. Tony took on the surname of Jim Robbins, his second stepfather. Inspired by motivational speaker Jim Rohn, Robbins began selling his own seminars. He then went on to study neurolinguistic programming and to establish his career. In 1989, Robbins saw success using infomercials to promote his products.

In 1994, a routine medical check revealed a tumor in Robbins' pituitary gland. According to his recounting in Personal Power the tumor was actually an adenoma that had infarcted several years prior. Due to the pressure of the adenoma on his pituitary gland, he had circulating levels of growth hormone several times higher than what would be normal for an adult his age. This had resulted in a subclinical manifestation of the disease known as acromegaly, which doctors told Robbins was responsible for his remarkable growth spurts as a teenager, as well as his large hands and feet (He is 6 feet 7 inches tall, or 201 cm). After consultation with a number of different physicians, Tony eventually decided not to have the adenoma resected, as it was not causing any clinical manifestations, such as organomegaly or heart valve defects.

In a CNN interview in 2001, Robbins said it was difficult to end his 15-year marriage to Becky Robbins, saying it was the toughest decision of his life. He said that he also knew if he stayed with her, he'd be ruining her life and his. Robbins reiterates similar comments about his previous relationship in his recent Ultimate Relationship Program (recorded with family therapist Dr. Cloe Mandanes and also Sage Robbins).

In the same year he married Bonnie Humphrey (now Sage Robbins).

Anthony Robbins calls himself a peak performance coach as opposed to a motivational speaker. Robbins says that he attempts to find out what people do when they are at their peak, and then help them access that peak state whenever necessary, and he believes what he does is more effective than providing a rousing half-time speech and temporary motivation.

Robbins started his career promoting seminars for Jim Rohn, and then started teaching neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) after learning it from NLP co-founder John Grinder, who encouraged him to look into the firewalking experience. In 1983, Robbins located Tolly Burkan and learned how to firewalk from him. Robbins then added firewalking to his seminars, which enabled him to gain media coverage and launch his celebrity status. Robbins later began to teach what he referred to as Neuro-Associative Conditioning (NAC), and recently collaborated with Dr. Cloe Madanes on what they call Human Needs Psychology.

In his Personal Power program, he says that the difference between NAC and NLP, lies in the use of the word 'conditioning' as opposed to 'programming'. Robbins says his use of the word 'conditioning' implies that the subject has greater responsibility for his or her own change, as opposed to being programmed by someone else. Some free products by Tony Robbins can be found here.

Robbins' techniques, theories, and business practices have been the subject of criticism.

In a 2002 newsletter for the James Randi Educational Foundation, Randi comments on some experiences recounted by a participant at a 2002 "Unleash the Power Within" seminar. The participant recalled some experiences that had him question the credibility of Robbins. For instance, the participant questions the basis for some of the assertions made about Robbins' healthy diet system. There was also a demonstration at the seminar by one of Robbins' associates that was intended to show that the EMF from a mobile phone can weaken an arm as part of the marketing of an EMF reduction device. James Randi calls the applied kinesiology used in the EMF demonstration as "scam."

Roes also relates that some participants arriving with their partners or spouses found themselves separated and paired with strangers, and then were directed to repeatedly massage and confide in these strangers. Some participants were surprised and uncomfortable with this.

The participant was also strongly encouraged to sign up for the next seminar, and then found that, for him, the time span in which he had the opportunity to cancel and obtain a refund was too short.

Freelance writer Steve Salerno in his book Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, states "NLP has shown up in many settings inside and outside SHAM" (his acronym for the Self-Help and Actualization Movement) but he particularly criticizes Anthony (Tony) Robbins, who he claims "made NLP his own, refining it and personalizing it into what he christened "neuroassociative conditioning" (a claim with which other proponents of NLP would disagree; see history section in NLP article). Salerno criticizes proponents of self-help, including Tony Robbins, stating it "actually fans the fires of discontent, making people feel impaired or somehow deficient as a prelude to (supposedly) curing them." Salerno opines that there are contradictions in Richard Bandler and John Grinder (the co-founders of NLP) ending up in court over who owned the rights to NLP given NLP's promotion in business for negotiations and conflict resolution and also in Tony Robbins having become divorced while marketing products for the "perfect marriage".

William T. Jarvis identifies what he believes are several flaws and misconceptions in the ideas, in particular about health and diet, in Robbins US national best seller, Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement. Robbins believes that deep breathing activates the lymphatic system, and likens the lymphatic system to the sewerage system of the body. Jarvis states that there is no evidence that different breathing makes long-lasting changes in the lymphatic system, but that any effects are temporary. Jarvis agrees with Robbins' encouraging participants to eat more fruit, but criticizes the way it is presented. According to Jarvis, Robbins incorrectly argues that fruit is the perfect food. In contrast Jarvis argues that milk is the closest to being the most complete food. Jarvis states that some of the information about drinking distilled water gives an inaccurate view of how the body metabolic wastes system functions. Jarvis believes that there are misconceptions about health benefits of food combining, which are supposedly based on Herbert Shelton's ideas, and that Robbins' evidence of a positive effect of undereating is flawed. Jarvis also writes that Robbins makes inaccurate claims about dietary protein requirements.

Robbins also recycles an oft-cited but unsubstantiated reference to the "Yale Study of Goals" in Unlimited Power as scientific evidence of the power of positive thought. The anecdote claims that a survey was taken of the 1953 graduating class at Yale, and only 3% of the class had written goals regarding their financial situations. Twenty years later the class was interviewed again, and the 3% of the class who had written goals were worth more than the other 97% of the students combined. This would have been strong evidence of the power of written goal setting, but the alleged Yale study appears to be an urban legend.

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