Sunday, June 29, 2008

Making Millions While You Are Still Young

They're younger than 40, raking in more than $3 million a year in franchisor revenue and living the good life. They're three of today's youngest franchisors, and they've made it big by building businesses around some of life's basic necessities: health-care staffing, Buffalo wings and junk removal.

As youths armed with a vision, they wasted no time in tackling life--and business. Now, after years and even decades of dedication and commitment, they stand tall at the helms of their empires. Wise beyond their years, they're savvy, feisty and have overcome all obstacles to prove that they're forces to be reckoned with. And best of all, they let us take a look at how they grew their businesses into franchises and how they plan to continue making an impact in their respective industries. Success is sweet--especially when you're still young enough to enjoy it.

Shelly Sun, 37, and JD Sun, 38
BrightStar Healthcare Shelly Sun and her husband, JD, started BrightStar Healthcare in 2002 and began franchising less than three years ago, but already the Chicago-based, full-service health-care staffing agency has grown to 45 locations across the U.S. and is expected to have 400 locations by the end of 2010. In addition, Shelly adds nonchalantly, they will be entering Canada later this year, and they foresee expansion into Asia, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe in the near future.

Such aggressive growth plans right off the bat would throw some entrepreneurs off course, but major growth was always part of the company's plans. And because Shelly was already a franchisee of Choice Hotels and Carlton Hotels, franchising seemed like the most natural route to grow the business. So when the timing felt right, she and JD took the big leap. "We had the model perfected, we had put $1 million into our technology, and we had a patent filed on our technology," says Shelly, who expects franchisor revenue and company-owned unit sales to total $11 million this year. "Everything was foundationally in place to begin to expand."

The Suns still own their hotel franchises; however, the couple was inspired to start BrightStar Healthcare and provide assistance to the families of loved ones needing in-home care when JD's grandmother fell ill and they were unable to find a satisfactory service. Says Shelly, "It was through [the] very personal experience of seeing the quality out there and the challenges we went through looking for health care that we really got inspired to make a difference in people's lives, one family at a time."

To move the franchise forward in the best way possible, Shelly has assembled a board of advisors that includes several franchisors, a franchise attorney and a franchisee. Whether it was by tapping into the network of local franchisors, approaching individuals at a franchise function or targeting one of the speakers at an educational forum, Shelly handpicked who she wanted on her board and simply asked if they would be willing to help. They all accepted, and now they meet quarterly to discuss the direction of the franchise. She also talks to about 15 other mentors over the phone every month. "Every day, I learn something about being a great franchisor," says Shelly. "I learn because I ask. Find those you look up to, find those who say something at an International Franchise Association conference that you consider insightful and ask them if they'd be willing to spend a half hour a month with you on the phone until you've developed that level of confidence."

Matt Friedman, 37, and Adam Scott, 34
Wing Zone
There's no better place to test a Buffalo wing business concept than on a college campus. And there's probably no one more in tune with the product and the needs of its principal consumers than a couple of frat boys. In 1991, Matt Friedman and Adam Scott were attending the University of Florida when they came up with the idea for a Buffalo wing business. They themselves had nowhere to go to satisfy their Buffalo wing cravings and were willing to bet big that there were many other wing fans on campus.

Setting up operations in the kitchen of their fraternity house with $600 in startup capital, they established a late-night delivery service. But after just a couple of months, university authorities caught wind of it, and Friedman and Scott were forced to shut down--but it was enough to whet their appetites.

Still in school thanks to financial assistance from their parents, Friedman and Scott took a second shot and opened a storefront in Gainesville, Florida, in 1993. Before long, sales reached nearly $10,000 a week. "Our humble beginning was probably one of the keys to our long-term success," says Friedman.

By 1999, the duo was ready for the next challenge: franchising. They had opened six more locations in college markets around the Southeast and knew there were many more hungry mouths to feed. Alone, they figured they could only open one or two additional locations a year. But with franchisees on board, nationwide growth would be much faster. Today, they have nearly 100 franchise locations, four company-owned stores and projections of opening nearly 30 more locations by year-end. And with $3 million-plus projected in franchisor revenue for 2008, long gone are the days when they lived off meager $200-a-week salaries.

While the franchise is going strong, Friedman and Scott are the first to admit that it involved a huge learning curve--made even steeper by their ages. Not only did they have to learn how to be franchisors, but they had to work extra hard to convince others, namely landlords, that they had the experience to compensate for their youth. They overcame the struggle, but it has left a lasting impact on their corporate culture. "Our entire organization is on the young side. We try to make sure we don't discriminate based on others' ages [as we were discriminated against]," says Scott. "We had to work harder and be better because of our age. But it made us stronger."

And knowing that wisdom comes with age, they are always open to learning new things. "The day you take the approach that you know everything and have nothing to learn," says Scott, "is the day your struggles are going to come quicker."

Brian Scudamore, 38
When Brian Scudamore dropped out of high school, it wasn't because he was a delinquent, but because he had better things to do with his life--like remove other people's junk. In 1989, 19-year-old Scudamore was sitting in a McDonald's drive-thru when he saw a rubbish truck ahead of him. This brief sighting was enough to inspire him to withdraw all the money from his bank account, buy a pickup truck and start The Rubbish Boys, a junk removal venture. Scudamore soon found that a lot of people had a lot of trash. When he went to college, his revenue paid for his tuition--at least until he realized that he was learning more from the real world than from his business courses. At that point, he dropped out of college, too.

In 1997, Scudamore changed the name of his Vancouver, British Columbia-based business to 1-800-Got-Junk?, and in 1999, after growing the business to approximately $1 million in revenue and feeling secure that all the systems were in place, he decided to franchise his business. Scudamore sought advice from mentors who had grown their businesses through franchising, hired a franchise lawyer to make sure all the legal documentation was set, and created an operations manual to make the business easily replicable in other locations. Says Scudamore, "We wanted to have every component of our business detailed in writing so franchise partners knew what to do."

Today, thanks to the help of a network of franchisees, 1-800-Got-Junk? is in more than 340 locations in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Last year, systemwide revenue hit $125.7 million. But as far as Scuda-more is concerned, there's still a lot more junk to collect. He predicts hypergrowth for the company over the next five years, during which he hopes to get closer to his ultimate goal of turning 1-800-Got-Junk? into a $1 billion, globally admired brand. "We want to be in China, in Japan and throughout Europe one day," he says. "Everybody's got junk. And it's a simple business model we know we can scale throughout the world."

Having devoted a lifetime to his business, Scudamore remains as passionate about and involved in the company as he was in the early days when he was singlehandedly carting away the junk. And even though a lot has happened in the nearly two decades since he started the company, he rarely looks back at the path he has paved. At a recent event, though, Scudamore was forced to stop and reflect. Presented with the International Franchise Association's Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2008, Scudamore couldn't help but remember the people who helped along the way and the hurdles he had to overcome. Says Scudamore, "It felt very surreal."

Words Of Wisdom
Advice from the franchisors who've been there
Our young, successful franchisors may be lacking in years, but they're overflowing with knowledge. Here's the wisdom they have to share with other entrepreneurs who want to take on the world through franchising before they've even hit age 40.

Read a good book. Brian Scudamore, founder of 1-800-Got-Junk?, recommends reading The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber. "It [offers a] simple process of what a franchise organization should look like and what the systems should look like," says Scudamore. "[My] business wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for that book."
Be realistic about money. Both BrightStar Healthcare and Wing Zone's founders experienced growing pains to come out ahead. While Shelly Sun of BrightStar budgeted $300,000 to get the franchise underway and ended up spending $600,000 to $700,000, Matt Friedman and Adam Scott endured some lean years early on. Says Friedman, "It probably took us three years to be profitable as a franchise organization, so franchising is not a get-rich-quick type of plan."

Get involved with the International Franchise Association. "That partnership and affiliation is critical," says Shelly. "Six to 12 months before you even begin franchising, go to a conference and learn what it takes to become a good franchisor."

Pickup service for composting

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Money In Composting

Link of the day - Free $500 JC Penny Gift Card

Many Montrealers know that composting their organic waste could reduce the amount of garbage they send to the dump by about one-third.

And many of us are ready and willing to separate our food and garden waste from other garbage, but Montreal still does not offer an organic waste collection program. You can do it yourself, of course, but many residents don't have backyards and gardens in which to store the waste and spread the resulting compost.

That's why Stephen McLeod decided to take the organic matter into his own hands.

Last summer, McLeod started an organic waste pickup service, charging clients $5 a week to pick up and properly dispose of their table scraps and garden wastes. The service, called Compost Montreal, has almost 100 clients in St. Henri, the Plateau and Notre Dame de Grâce.

McLeod, who also runs an eco-friendly messenger service, realized there might be a demand for a composting service when he moved from Ontario to St. Henri and was looking for a way to dispose of his own organic waste. He found out there was a community compost bin at his neighbourhood Éco-quartier.

(Éco-quartiers are local environment groups commissioned by the city of Montreal to promote recycling, composting, lane cleanup operations and other embellishment campaigns. Several of them run small composting operations.)

But after making a few trips to the Louis Cyr Éco-quartier to dump his bucket of organic waste, McLeod realized it made no environmental or economic sense to have all these people driving their small quantities of waste to Éco-quartiers all around the city.

"I did that a few times before I said to myself, 'This is crazy. How many people are going to do this? I'm sure there are a lot of people who want to compost, but not very many who are willing to do this.' "

So McLeod asked around and quickly found several environmentally conscious neighbours willing to pay him $5 a week to cart off their compostable waste. McLeod bought himself a trailer for his bicycle and a big garbage can in which to collect the waste, and began his door-to-door pick-up service last July.

He got used food containers with sealable lids from the Dawson College cafeteria and distributed them to his customers, to whom he also gave compostable cornstarch bags to line the bins.

Within a few weeks, he had 18 customers, enough to fill his garbage can weekly. With winter coming and word getting out about the service, McLeod decided he had to expand his service. He got a partner and a pickup truck, and worked out an arrangement with the city's parks and horticultural department to dump organic waste at its compost facility in the Southwest borough.

Now he is looking into trading the pickup for a truck equipped to use diesel fuel, which can then be adapted to run on vegetable oil.

He's not making a lot of money with the business, but McLeod said he enjoys it and hopes he can make it work for a while, at least until the city gets a program going.

"It's a very pleasant kind of business because you are dealing with individuals who are doing this because they have an environmental conscience," he said.

"They feel responsible for disposing of the waste they create, and they're doing it happily. People are constantly saying thank you to us."

McLeod isn't doing this to embarrass the city administration, but if it puts pressure on them to get moving on the composting issue, all the better, he said.

Alan deSousa, the city of Montreal executive committee member responsible for environmental issues, applauds McLeod's initiative.

DeSousa says the city administration is chomping at the bit to get a compost collection program going, but a full-scale program costs a lot of money and takes time to plan.

The Montreal Metropolitan Community, the regional body responsible for waste management planning for Montreal, Laval, Longueuil and North and South Shore municipalities, has proposed a $170-million organic waste collection and composting program for the region. The region wants the province to cover 85 per cent of the cost, while municipalities pick up the rest.

Besides the cost, there is also the thorny question of where to build compost facilities.

"I can't launch into something for 400,000 people unless I know where (the waste) is going to go," DeSousa said.

He said the city has no problem with entrepreneurs filling the service gap in the meantime.

"When the city is ready to offer this service, it will do so, but in the meantime if this responds to people's needs and their concerns for the environment, it's fantastic," he said.

How Limiting Supplies Helps Profits

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Profiting From Your Naming Abilities

Profiting From Human Irrationality. 10 Must Read Books

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Janet Lau's attempt to keep files organized resulted in a paper clip evolution.

Link of the day - Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects

What: Paper clip with a sticky note
Who: Janet Lau of Clip-rite Inc.
Where: Hayward, California
When: Started in 2007
Startup costs: $100,000

For years, Janet Lau organized her papers with sticky notes and paper clips but was constantly frustrated by the messiness that would ensue. Then, in 2004, she decided to fuse the two office supplies together, and Clip-Tabs were born. "You think about it for days and months, and that's when it hits you and you wake up," recalls Lau of the moment her idea came to life.

Her brother Max, who was living in China at the time, was able to help her search for potential manufacturers while she lined up deals in the U.S. with buyers such as Office Depot, Office Max and Staples. The paper clips, which are attached to a durable, double-sided note and come in a variety of bright colors, hit stores last year and sell for about $3 a package.

Clip-rite Inc. isn't Lau's first entrepreneurial endeavor, however. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, with an engineering degree, she spent some time working at Intel before launching Ficcare, a line of high-end hair accessories that she still manages today.

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Profiting From Your Naming Abilities

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How Much Do You Make?

For those seeking a new job, honest information about salaries and workplaces can be near impossible to find. Taking a "give to get" approach to the problem, Glassdoor is a new site that aims to provide a thorough insider's look at what it's really like to work at a company, both financially and otherwise.

Launched into beta last week by two friends who worked together at Microsoft and Expedia (one of whom went on to found Zillow, which we've written about before), Glassdoor's operating philosophy is "You tell me yours, I'll tell you mine" as it gathers real-time reviews, ratings and salary details about specific jobs in specific companies. Users begin by anonymously contributing a review and/or salary survey for their current employer or any position they've held within the last three years. (All users must provide a verified email account, and all reviews are hand-inspected for authenticity by Glassdoor, it says.) In exchange, Glassdoor gives them free access to nearly 32,000 reviews and salary reports for more than 7,000 companies representing more than 80 countries around the world—and counting. Users providing feedback are asked to take a balanced approach—providing both pros and cons along with advice to senior management—as well as rating companies on a range of workplace culture factors, including work-life balance, fairness and respect, employee morale, and senior leadership. And unlike most salary services that report just aggregated information, Glassdoor provides details of salary, bonuses and other compensation for actual positions and titles at specific companies, letting users compare the earnings package paid to a software engineer at Google with that earned by one at Microsoft, for example. Glassdoor also aims to involve employers through an employer advisory panel, periodic surveys and focus groups for the site.

Glassdoor hopes to become the TripAdvisor of the workplace, it says, and it's currently allowing visitors to preview all available data for four “sneak peek” companies: Cisco, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!. Robert Hohman, cofounder and CEO for the California-based site, explains: "We've built Glassdoor to make it easier for anyone to peek inside the walls of a prospective employer—or even the next cubicle—to get information that will foster more productive conversations and lead to better career decisions. Glassdoor's employee-generated content provides a level of transparency in the two key drivers of employee motivation—compensation and culture—that is not available from any other source.”

For those who hadn't noticed, the era of transparency tyranny (and transparency triumph) has arrived. Yet another stone turned!

Becoming Antipreneur

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Monday, June 23, 2008

How To Become A Successful Antipreneur

Dirty tricks - how to get 4 roundrip airline tickets for free

Although some credit The New York Times media columnist Rob Walker with coining the term "antipreneur," Vancouver-based Kalle Lasn gives the movement much of its ideological weight. Lasn is co-founder of the magazine Adbusters, which analyzes the effects and pervasiveness of advertising by large corporations. He advocates "culture jamming," which he describes as the interruption of unconscious consumer behavior that favors buying over producing. One of culture jamming's techniques is the deconstruction of large companies' ad campaigns to expose what antipreneurs believe is their hypocrisy.

Lasn doesn't stop with advertising. "If you want to change the world, you have to change capitalism into a more grassroots phenomenon, and that means pulling down the megacorporations," he says, speaking with hints of his native Estonian. In the past decade, he says, "A whole new wave of small business is really strutting its stuff in a powerful way around the world, and it includes everything from ethical principles in running business to fair trade to a large and growing movement of people who just want to buy local." Lasn says this movement is gaining strength as people become exasperated with what he calls the traditional "complaint-based" politics of the left—whining lots and doing little. Antipreneurs, he says, actually make a difference by promoting products that have a low impact on the environment or are fairly produced.

Lasn is himself an antipreneur. In 2003 he took on sneaker manufacturer Nike (NKE) and its labor practices in Asia by launching Blackspot Shoes. One shoe is even called the "Unswoosher," a deliberate swipe at the Nike logo. Blackspot's logo is, naturally, a large white spot. "This is in the spirit of playful resistance that culture jamming is all about," Lasn says. "Why not befuddle a few people and force them, through cognitive dissonance, to figure out the contradiction? It's good for them."

Marketing experts see things a bit differently. "No logo is still a logo, and one your social-cultural tribe will recognize," says Michal Strahilevitz, a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. "It has the same effect of the Nike Swoosh, but it is the logo of a different tribe." This also explains why apparel is such fertile territory for antipreneurs: Antipreneurs appeal to consumers who want to buy products with a kind of reverse conspicuous consumption in mind. "It works better if it is publicly consumed, as that way others know you are an ethical consumer," she says. "You get points for being seen."

To date, Lasn's 13-person company has sold about 30,000 pairs of the $100 shoes, which are made in a union factory in Portugal. Lasn advertises only in his own magazine, although he says he's planning to run an MTV (VIA) spot with the tagline "Rethink Capitalism" within the next year or so.

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics

I liked this book. Michael Shermer argues that ideas from biology, particularly Darwinian evolution, apply to the financial markets. It's an interesting idea.

Shermer makes his living as a self-proclaimed skeptic. And he does have one of the marks of the skeptic -- careful analysis. Shermer rarely takes things at face value. Instead, he challenges ideas that others take for granted. That trademark Shermer approach makes this book interesting and thought-povoking. Few authors do that as well as Shermer.

One example -- the evolution of the QWERTY keyboard. How often do we hear that the QWERTY keyboard shows a pitfall of standards? People moan that the QWERTY keyboard is terribly inefficient. But it became locked in early on as a standard. So we are stuck with it. Right?

No. Shermer looks back at the history of the QWERTY keyboard. Turns out that the QWERTY keyboard is not so bad after all. In fact, it's actually pretty good. There may be a more efficient arrangement of a keyboard. But it is hard to say -- tests show there is not much difference in typing speed between QWERTY and its top competitors.

That's just an example of the way Shermer approaches his topic. He uses the QWERTY example to show that evolution in the product market tends to produce an optimum. According to Shermer, standards like the QWERTY keyboard and a Windows-like operating system become standards for a reason. They survive evolutionary forces because they work, and work well.

In this book, Shermer pulls together ideas from biology, psychology and neuroscience. He then uses them to analyze the modern capitalist economy. That gets him to some interesting conclusions. Thoughtful conclusions that make a lot of sense.

To sum up his conclusions very briefly, Shermer gives a good theoretical grounding in solid science for two powerful ideas: Market forces usually work. Government intervention in the market usually doesn't work.

So libertarians, take heart. Voters may not support you. But it looks like science does.

Cappuchino on wheels

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With style and business sense, 2 serial entrepreneurs fashion a handbag empire.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

A New Way To Sell A Book

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

There's no shortage of online booksellers, but a new UK-based store has come up with a novel way to keep users coming back. Shoppers at BookRabbit can upload photos of their bookshelves for viewing by the community at large, fostering comparison, interaction and—you guessed it—more shopping.

BookRabbit, which just went through its public launch in May, aims to be an online bookshop that "dynamically connects readers, authors and publishers through the books they own." It also claims to be cheaper than Amazon on the top 100,000 titles, and offers free delivery within the UK. More interesting, though, are the ways users of the site can share their passion for books, including creating their own personal bookcases and catalogues online and making recommendations to other readers. Each user is invited to upload a photo of his or her bookshelf—along with a user profile—and to tag the individual titles therein. Other users can then view all the bookshelves on the site, compare with their own and make connections with other readers based on the titles they have in common. More than 900 bookshelves have been uploaded so far, and they're viewable by "latest," "most connections" or "most discussed." The winner for most connections so far, for example, is a user named Glynis, who has more than 100 books in common with other readers.

Of course, in the process of viewing and comparing bookshelves, BookRabbit no doubt hopes users might get inspired to buy some new titles and expand their own collections. The site includes an affiliate programme that lets users put links on their sites or e-mails to show off their bookcases and earn a fee if anyone buys anything through them.

With the likes of to reckon with, there's no doubt BookRabbit has some formidable competition. On the other hand, there's something highly personal and compelling about the ability to view the bookshelves of others, as multiple groups on Flickr can attest. In addition to what they contain, it's interesting in an almost voyeuristic way to see how tidy the shelves are and what style of furniture they represent—not too hard to imagine this used in a localized way to foster dating connections among bookish singles, in fact. Alternatively, how about applying the same notion to other hobbyist product categories, such as a "my rucksack" photo section on a hiking supplier's site, or "my make-up bag" on one for cosmetics?" Build some real community this way—particularly if it's localized—and you may just stand a chance against your industry's Amazon.

Can I Have Your Attention? Barter Works Great When Economy Isn't

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can I Have Your Attention? Barter Works Great When Economy Isn't

Link of the day - Free $500 Southwest Airlines Gift Card

Let’s face it: 2007 wasn’t the best time to start a new business in Miami Beach. The real estate market had already crashed, and spiraling gas prices would soon dent the vital tourism industry.

So when Cleveland Cook, 40, found the need to hire an accountant for Can I Have Your Attention, his new advertising and branding agency, what he really wanted to know was, “Can I have a deal?”

Fortunately he found Claudia Peralta, a former corporate accountant who was just starting her own accounting practice around the same time. The two worked out an arrangement: Peralta would do all of Cook’s number-crunching in return for a logo, website, postcards and “Everything else she needed to kick-start her business.”

Now approaching $100,000 in sales, Can I Have Your Attention is establishing a reputation and a client base despite the slow economy. But the company still has to keep expenses down, so cashless trades with other professionals make sense.

“Especially in this economy, barter helps out because it keeps your overhead low,” Cook says. “At the end of the month, the money you save goes right to the bottom line.”

He’s not the only one who thinks so. As the cash economy cools, the cashless economy is heating up. These days, more entrepreneurs are experimenting with barter. Direct barter, however, requires serendipity. Both parties must be looking for just the right product or service at just the right time–and both must be willing to trade, rather than sell.

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The Craziest Way To Buy A Lobster

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Craziest Way To Buy A Lobster

Link of the day - Are you a person the world should know about?

For USD 2,995, consumers can own a Maine lobster trap and all the lobsters it catches for an entire year through the Premium Trap program from Catch a Piece of Maine. As "partners," as the company calls them, customers of the program are assigned a dedicated lobsterman who will fish their trap throughout the 32-week season.

Everything he catches is tracked with a colour-coded band placed on the lobsters' claws, and all data is recorded online so that the partner can view their trap's activity, manage their catch and schedule shipments from anywhere. As lobsters are caught by the trap, the partner's account grows; as lobsters are requested for shipment, it decreases again. Lobsters can be shipped in batches of four as soon as they are caught, or they can be saved for later (in which case the company will substitute one just caught for the original); either way, details are included on when, where and by whom they were obtained.

Catch a Piece of Maine guarantees at least 48 1.5 lb lobsters for each partner—totalling over 70bs.—and also 12 lbs. steamer clams, 12 lbs. mussels, and 48 servings of Maine-made desserts over the course of the year. All shipments are sent via FedEx overnight delivery throughout the continental U.S.; shipping costs are included in the fee. Partners are even invited to come aboard the company's lobster boat in Maine if they can, to meet the lobstermen and experience the harvest first-hand. Corporate gifts and single-meal orders are also available, and Catch a Piece of Maine donates 10 percent of its profits to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, educating 5th and 6th grade students about the Maine lobster industry.

At a time when local fishermen are struggling to make a living, Catch a Piece of Maine's partnership program allows lobstermen to receive a premium for their product while also preserving their sustainable fishing methods, the company says. No less significantly, it also gives consumers an active hand in what has typically been a hands-off business. Finally, it dovetails nicely with the still made here trend, giving consumers a geographical connection and a story to tell about the source of their food.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Meals on the Go for the Upscale Set

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

Forget Boston Market or the prepared-foods section of Jewel or Whole Foods. In Oak Park, there’s Perfect Dinner, a kitchen that prepares “home-style” take-out and delivered meals. The startup is aimed mostly at “El” riders, who can go online to scope out the shop’s menu of 8 to 10 daily entrées and order ahead before exiting Oak Station on the Green Line.

The business was founded by Karen Gruber, 48, who formerly handled the Kraft cheese account at ad agency J. Walter Thompson, and Jill Haas, 47, a onetime food scientist at Kraft Foods.

Perfect Dinner broke even with $500,000 in revenue last year—the average check is $41—and is looking at 8%-to-10% growth this year, Gruber says.

The pair, who started the venture with $250,000 from friends, family, and their own savings, is now trying to drum up $700,000 to open two more sites this fall.

How Limiting Supplies Helps Profits

The Million Dollar Purse Story

Profiting From Your Naming Abilities

Profiting From Human Irrationality. 10 Must Read Books

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How friendly media attention helped a Little Italy gelato shop move from being a restaurant supplier to a premium supermarket brand

Ciao Bella was once content to produce generic desserts. The maker of premium gelato and sorbet sold its wares mostly in bulk to restaurants that served them as unbranded "home-made" ice cream. Retail was just 10% of the company's business in 2000 and the least profitable part. The last thing Ciao Bella wanted to deal with was the logistics of shipping pints of frozen ice cream to far-flung stores. "We fought the growth of retail," says Deborah Holt, the company's vice-president for marketing.

But today Ciao Bella sells through 4,000 retailers accounting for half of its business. The 150-person Irvington (N.J.) company announced a private equity injection last month to expand its reach to consumers. How did the food service supplier transform itself into a premium consumer brand?

Founded in 1983 as a gelato shop in New York's Little Italy, Ciao Bella sold pints in local boutique grocers, but food service quickly became its core business as restaurateurs reached out. The company resisted expanding its lower-margin consumer business, says Charlie Apt, Ciao Bella's president and chief operating officer, until the demand became difficult to ignore. "Several of our retailers called up—and hit me over the head and said: 'You're crazy. Your product sells better than most. You've got terrible packaging but the product itself is wonderful," Apt says. So Ciao Bella hired New York branding firm Wallace Church to redesign its pint tubs in 2000.

"They had a very small consumer business, and the package at that point was a very, very dark blue, almost black-looking," says Stacey Kelley, a partner at the 40-person firm. The new version painted each flavor in a pair of bright, contrasting colors surrounding an iconic C-shaped swirl for gelato or a snowflake for sorbetto. "The colors are so intense that we wanted to really get that idea across through the packaging, that it's this really pure, intense, flavorful product," Kelley says.

The redesign came as Ciao Bella gained recognition in the food trade press and won awards at the semiannual Fancy Food Show. A positive industry response can be invaluable for a brand trying to move from the business-to-business market into the consumer arena, according to David Vinjamuri, author of Accidental Branding. "The implication is that you're really an expert because you've been satisfying other businesses already," Vinjamuri says. "The trick is to not start from scratch and to realize that you've built some credibility."

In the early 2000s, select Whole Foods shops and more specialty groceries started carrying Ciao Bella. Then, in 2004, Holt got a call from a TV producer at The Apprentice who wanted to do an episode in which contestants designed new flavors. Before the show aired, Ciao Bella added mail-order sales to its Web site. When the flood of traffic from Apprentice viewers crashed the site's servers, the company realized it was suddenly a hot consumer brand. "We didn't have a strategic plan to go consumer, but we realized the opportunity was there and we needed to adjust," Holt says.

By 2004 revenue grew to $9.6 million, up from $6.4 million in 2000. The following year Ciao Bella started distributing to Whole Foods nationwide, increased its reach into specialty food stores, and began entering conventional supermarkets as well. The company has focused its PR, once oriented around the food press, toward promoting the pint lines for consumers. It has also expanded the number of flavors offered in stores—now 22 of Ciao Bella's more than 100 flavors sell at retail.

If the Apprentice pickup was a bolt from the blue, lightning struck twice last year. Oprah chose Ciao Bella's Blood Orange Sorbetto as one of her favorite things. Just before the show aired on Nov. 20, the company redesigned its Web site to appeal to consumers rather than food industry buyers. And having learned from its prior experience on TV, Ciao Bella made sure the site's servers could handle the traffic. "We had a million hits from Oprah," Holt says. "The day before [the show], we had 16,000."

Half of the company's $15 million in sales came from retail in 2007 and Ciao Bella expects that share could grow to 70% in the coming years as it uses its new equity investment, which Apt says is between $10 million and $20 million, to expand. Ciao Bella is now trying to brand its food service business by adding gelato carts and display freezers, and giving restaurants incentives to sell the ice cream by the Ciao Bella name. The effort brings the company full circle from being a generic supplier to a consumer brand visible on shelves and in restaurants. For Ciao Bella, being branded is sweet.

The Million Dollar Purse Story

Profiting From Human Irrationality. 10 Must Read Books

Profiting From Your Naming Abilities

Just Junk Or Money Opportunity?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Profiting From Human Irrationality. 10 Must Read Books

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

1. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

Why is it so difficult to sell a plummeting stock or end a doomed relationship? Why do we listen to advice just because it came from someone “important”? Why are we more likely to fall in love when there’s danger involved? In Sway, renowned organizational thinker Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Rom Brafman, answer all these questions and more.

Sway introduces us to the Harvard Business School professor who got his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill, the head of airline safety whose disregard for his years of training led to the transformation of an entire industry, and the football coach who turned conventional strategy on its head to lead his team to victory. We also learn the curse of the NBA draft, discover why interviews are a terrible way to gauge future job performance, and go inside a session with the Supreme Court to see how the world’s most powerful justices avoid the dangers of group dynamics.

2. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

What Ariely has done here is shift a lot of the thinking developed by such pioneers as Kahneman & Tversky who worked in behavioural economics, and moved it into the everyday sphere. And he's done a great, insightful job. Where the behavioural economists are focused on financial decisions (why we buy high and sell low - and confound the assumptions of the classic economists who assume 'the rational man,) Ariely eschews the technical language and walks us through everyday examples of our often fuzzy and quite irrational decision-making.

3. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

I think "Paradox of Choice" does bring insight into shopping, but its range is actually much wider than that. Schwartz discusses people making difficult decisions about jobs, families, where to live, whether to have children, how to spend recreational time, choosing colleges, etc. He talks about why making these decisions today is much harder than it was 30 years ago, and he offers many practical suggestions for how to address decision-making so that it creates less stress and more happiness. He even discusses how so much additional choice affects children, and how parents can help make childhood (particularly young childhood) less stressful.

4. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

"Buy on apples, sell on cheese" is an old proverb among wine merchants. Taking a bite of an apple before tasting wine makes it easier to detect flaws in the wine, and the buyer who does so will not as easily make the mistake of paying more than the wine is worth. Cheese, on the other hand, pairs well with wine and enhances its flavor, so a seller who offers cheese may command a higher price for the wine (and may even deserve it, if the wine is intended to be drunk with cheese). The proverb captures important psychological nuances of choice. The same product - a bottle of wine or a risky medical procedure - may be perceived differently depending on its context, and it is often possible to arrange the context to influence a choice while still maintaining the decision maker's autonomy.

5. Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

Richard Wiseman is an experimental psychologist and professor of "public understanding of psychology." In this book, he discusses dozens of experiments performed by himself and other psychologists around the world over the course of the last hundred years. All these experiments have in common is unusual research methodology or amusing results.

Topics include studies of personal ads and pickup lines, determining which are most effective, how to detect liars, manifestations of prejudice and hypocrisy (are religious people or priests more honest or generous than others? it has been tested). Wiseman even ran tests to see which experiments in the book are the most interesting, to help the reader know what would be the best conversation starters at parties.

6. Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

Clinical psychologist Van Hecke has compiled a list of 10 mental glitches that have infiltrated contemporary society, afflicting even the smartest among us, limiting thought, success and relationships. Van Hecke devotes a chapter to each blind spot, including "Not stopping to think," "Not noticing," "Jumping to conclusions" and "Missing the big picture." Examining each in detail, Van Hecke details the root causes of these unconscious habits ("information overload," "our tendency to habituate") and tactics for overcoming them, using humorous anecdotes and other real-life examples to drive her points; the key is remaining open to new ideas and taking a step back from our busy lives in order to process information, situations and people. Filling in "the big picture" herself, Van Hecke demonstrates how embracing and understanding our weaknesses can not only improve personal and professional relationships, but also entire communities; this self-help is a welcome, highly readable first step.

7. Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind

In "Kluge," psychologist Gary Marcus looks to the many and varied foibles, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies of the human mind and concludes that our brains are not, in fact, models of brilliance and efficiency, but are rather cobbled-together systems, designed for one purpose and pressed into action for another - the classic definition of a kluge.

The most famous kluge is probably the case of the carbon scrubbers on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Crunched for time, engineers managed to create a system out of duct tape and socks (seriously) that worked adequately enough to clean the air on the space module- even though none of the materials they used were designed for, or optimal for, the job at hand. The result was ugly and inefficient - but it kept the astronauts alive. Likewise, Marcus argues, evolution has endowed humans with a hodgepodge of genetic material - the DNA equivalent of duct tape - with which to build all the sophisticated systems that supposedly set us apart from other creatures, like language, memory, and reason. The result is, for example in the case of language, "a vocal apparatus more byzantine than a bagpipe made up entirely of pipe cleaners and cardboard dowels."

8. The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

The author writes to the layman, making the language of statistics, probability, randomness a fascinating read. It's clear that he's well aware of the fallacies and delusions (and consequent harm) to which most of us are easy prey. But he leaves it to the reader to draw any philosophical-theological inferences about the need for greater humility. His immediate goal is to help the reader understand the distinction between 1. the "common-sense" logic employed by self-serving finite beings coping with problems in the material world and 2. a "scientific method" that takes nothing for granted in a universe of perpetual flux. More miraculous than either the accomplishments of the romantic hero or the intercessions of a supreme being (everyday stuff for most of us) is the rare discovery that two things (or "events" in the spatial-temporal order) suspected of being connected (a hypothesis) in fact cannot be shown "not" to have such a relationship (the proof).

9. Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin

Somehow, guessing at numbers is unsettling, even though I've done it all my life. John Adam is a professor of applied mathematics, with a degree in physics. Larry Weinstein is a nuclear physicist. Their book is devoted to proving that intelligent guessing is useful and fun. The book lays out some general principles but its great strength lies in the interesting problems, a series of hints to help you solve each problem, and an interesting discussion of the pitfalls and triumphs involved.

10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Cialdini believes that influence is a science. This idea attracted me. As a rhetorician, I have always thought of persuasion as more of an art. Cialdini, however, makes a first-rate case for the science point of view. But maybe most importantly, he makes his case in a well-written, intelligent, and entertaining manner. Not only is this an important book to read, it is a fun book to read too.

He introduces you to six principles of ethical persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. A chapter is devoted to each and you quickly see why Cialdini looks at influence as a science. Each principle is backed by social scientific testing and restesting. Each chapter is also filled with interesting examples that help you see how each principle can be applied. By the end of the book, I had little doubt that these are six important dimensions of human interaction.

Fart Gene Isolated. Now, That's A Breakthough!

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What Do People Do When Their Neighbors Win In Lottery?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Love blogging but hate typing? Alan Levy has just the thing for you.

Link of the day - Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

About two years ago, Alan Levy received the devastating news that his father's cancer had returned for the third time. As a way to keep his family and friends updated, Levy, 49, decided to start a blog. Levy was blown away by the size of the blogging community, which immediately got him thinking about better ways for users to engage with their audiences. With 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, he was ready for his next big venture: hosting radio shows online.

After months of planning, he launched BlogTalkRadio in August 2006. "By creating a platform, it empowers people to have their voices heard," says Levy. With no extra equipment required, any blogger can call in to BlogTalkRadio and become an internet radio host by simply using his or her computer as a dashboard to manage callers. The site now has more than 5,000 active hosts and covers topics from politics and current events to music and movies. Users can create a profile that gives them access to archived shows and podcasts and allows them to promote their own programs.

Since the site went live, more than 70,000 shows have been broadcast on BlogTalkRadio. Even celebrities are tuning in and testing their skills as hosts. Author Arianna Huffington used the radio show for an interview with actor Brad Pitt, and politicians John Kerry and John McCain have called in to talk politics.

Later this year, Levy hopes to grow internationally by making it easier to dial in from outside the U.S. With more than 13 million listeners in 2007, Levy is excited about the future. "Seeing the level of engagement from an idea that came from my dad's illness to this," he says, "is very gratifying."

Profiting From Your Naming Abilities

With style and business sense, 2 serial entrepreneurs fashion a handbag empire.

Babyproofing Dogs As A Business Niche

HotForWords.Com Is All The Rage

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blake Mycoskie found his inspiration in the needs of others and created a booming shoe business in the process.

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

By the age of 29, Blake Mycoskie had already started and run four companies. But on a trip to Argentina in 2006, he found the inspiration to start the company he says he'll work at the rest of his life.

Mycoskie is the 31-year-old founder of Toms Shoes, a company that donates one pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair it sells.

While in Argentina, Mycoskie met a group of children in a village he visited. Struck by their lack of shoes and the consequences they faced because of it (ranging from foot injuries and diseases to being ostracized), he decided he would provide footwear for these children and others like them around the world. While figuring out how to do it, Mycoskie decided he didn't want to create a charity. "I wanted it to be sustainable, and I didn't want the burden of fundraising year after year, so I created a business," he says.

Mycoskie modeled his first designs off the alpargata--a traditional Argentine shoe--but used higher-end materials to ensure comfort and durability. At a price point of $40, he's built in a big enough margin to pay for the extra pairs of shoes that will be donated. Within six months of opening for business in 2006, Toms Shoes had given away 10,000 pairs of shoes, far exceeding Mycoskie's projection of 250 pairs.

The growth of the company has relied primarily on word-of-mouth. Mycoskie says that he hasn't had to spend money on advertising because his customers are walking billboards. "When someone asks customers about [the shoes], they'll tell the whole story of the company. They feel good that a child somewhere is wearing shoes because they bought some," he explains.

Toms Shoes now sells in 200 boutiques across the country, as well as in Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and online at So far, the company has given away more than 63,000 pairs of shoes in both Argentina and South Africa. Mycoskie concedes that he'll never have the profit margins of other successful shoe companies, but nobody is more pleased about the business than he is. "I had no desire to get into shoes. It started as a philanthropic thing. But I have really fallen in love with the shoe and fashion business."

With style and business sense, 2 serial entrepreneurs fashion a handbag empire.

How two U.S. entrepreneurs cracked the Moroccan property market.

Babyproofing Dogs As A Business Niche

Just Junk Or Money Opportunity?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Good Money And Bad Money - Where Is The Difference?

Link of the day - Free $500 Southwest Airlines Gift Card

Link of the day - Free $500 Southwest Airlines Gift Card

For those who have read Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury, many of the themes in the current work will sound familiar. In this book, as well as American Theocracy, he reminds us that previous empires such a 17th century Spain, 18th century Holland, and the late 19th and early 20th century Britain all succumbed to financialization as their global power reached its peak. He argues the the United States is now in a similar position. In the last 30 years financial services have grown from 11% of GDP to 21%, and manufacturing has declined from 25% to 13%. A reversal of roles that Phillips sees as very unhealthy.

This huge growth of the financial sector was not without adverse consequences: in the last 20 years public and private debt has quadrupeled to $43 trillion. How this came about has been expertly explained in another book called The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles Morris. There was easy money as the Federal Reserve was lending money at less than the rate of inflation. Money was risk-free for the lender since they collected fees up front and sold the securitized loans to investors. When this process was repeated millions of times, one ends up with hard-to-value securitized debt throughout the global economy. Then when housing prices start to decline and homeowners start to default on their mortgages on a grand scale, you have a global crisis of American capitalism. (Bear Stearns alone was estimated to be holding $46 billion worth of bad money.)

As in American Theocracy, Phillips writes that the oil industry is another component of the current crisis. In the US oil production peaked in the 1970s, on a global level it is peaking right about now. And with the ravenous appetite for oil from newly industrialized countries such as China and India, prices will continue to go up. The US still gets "cheap" oil relative to Europe since oil is priced in dollars, but that advantage may soon disappear. The weakening dollar is forcing OPEC countries to move to Euros and other currencies. And some oil producing countries such as Iran and Venezuela are moving to other currencies for reasons other than economic.

The author began his career as a Republican strategist, but he has long since disavowed them. Having a monetary policy of free money, a fiscal policy of tax cuts and increased spending, and an ideology of unregulated market fundamentalism, the Republicans have lost most of their credibiltiy. This does not mean Phillips has gone over to the Democratic side. He believes that Bill Clinton was instrumental in the financialization of the economy, and that currently Hillary and Obama are beholden to investment bankers and hedge fund managers. What used to be the vital center in Washington is now the "venal center."

The conclusion of this volume is very gloomy. Phillips believes that we are at a pivotal moment in American history when the economy has been hollowed out, we are saddled with trillions of dollars of debt, and our political leaders are dishonest, incompetent, and negligent. Given that all that may currently be the case, it may be instructive to further meditate on the empires of the past. Spain, Holland, and Britain all managed to survive and even thrive, hopefully the US will do the same.

True Enough - The Sad Story Of Concept Of Truth In America And (Increasingly) Around The World

Peak Oil: Implications and Options

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How $4 Gas Became Profit Source For One Gas Pump Manufacturer

Link of the day - Free $500 Southwest Airlines Gift Card

Tom McGee's business is surging faster than the price of gasoline.

That's because PMP Corp. is one of the few places in the U.S. that gas stations can turn to when they need old-style gas pumps adapted to register prices over $4 a gallon. The mechanical dials on many vintage pumps can't register prices over $3.99 a gallon or ring up single sales north of $99.99, which helps explain why Mr. McGee held an emergency meeting at his company here May 21.

The brainstorming session, in a conference room at PMP, focused on how to increase output at the small factory in the face of a sudden surge of demand for its extremely specialized service. PMP takes the mechanical internal organs from old gas pumps and modifies them so they can tally higher numbers. Many small-town stations, especially in remote, rural areas, can't afford to buy new pumps, which can cost as much as $10,000 each. PMP's retrofits are between $600 and $800.

"Our business was relatively flat until the first week of March," says Mr. McGee, the company's president. "Then the price of fuel, mainly kerosene and diesel, went over $4" a gallon and the phone hasn't stopped ringing.

PMP has a 20-week backlog, up from three days in March, and Mr. McGee's 70 workers are doing maximum overtime. He has hired more temporary workers, but it is slow getting them up to speed. The labor-intensive work involves tasks such as printing new numbers on the spinning wheels that form the core of the pricing mechanisms. His suppliers are running out of crucial parts.

Only a handful of companies offer this retrofitting. The work is also done by pump manufacturers like Gilbarco Veeder-Root, part of industrial conglomerate Danaher Corp., of Washington, D.C. An estimated 8,500 of the nation's 170,000 gas stations have the old-style pumps, according to Bob Renkes, executive vice president of the Petroleum Equipment Institute. "Mostly they're mom-and-pops, in rural areas like the Dakotas, Mississippi," says Mr. Renkes.

Each state has its own rules for what stations have to do to adapt to higher prices. Some are allowing "half-gallon pricing" until the stations can have their equipment upgraded.

But that is against the law in Kentucky, which fears consumer confusion. Minnesota is more easygoing -- to a point. Stations can keep using the old pumps indefinitely, but must tape over the price gauge -- while leaving the gallon gauge visible. That way, buyers know how much fuel they have taken and can settle with the attendant, who presumably will become deft at using a calculator.

Mr. McGee is philosophical about his business: "We know this is a windfall and that it will eventually pass," he says. "And this isn't really a very profitable part of our business, so it's not like we're making tons of money on this."

PMP, founded in 1950 as Petroleum Meter & Gas, also renovates other gas-station devices, such as the small printers in modern digital gas pumps. The company, which is private, didn't disclose its sales.

Just Junk Or Money Opportunity?

Basics for Seasonal Business Owners

HotForWords.Com Is All The Rage

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

How To Make Great Money As Import/Export Spy

Link of the day - Free online poker tournament with real cash payouts

Importers have long wished for an easy way to keep tabs on the shipping and receiving activities of their competitors and suppliers, and two new services from ImportGenius give them instant access to such information in real time.

Import/export data is collected by US Customs each day, and it is already publicly available. What's been missing, however, is an easy way to search through it, rendering it virtually inaccessible. That's where Arizona-based ImportGenius comes in, with an interface that gives customers immediate information on shipments as they cross customs. The company's ImportScan service, priced at USD 399 per month, gives customers unlimited access to detailed information on every shipment entering the United States since 2006 for their industry vertical. Using ImportGenius's simple interface, they can search by product type, importer, exporter, date of entry, port of entry, loading port, importer's address, exporter's address and more. Results include contact information for both the exporter and importer of the shipment, revealing where competitors are sourcing their products overseas and where overseas suppliers are selling in the US.

For companies more interested in the activities of their suppliers, ImportGenius also offers SupplySpy, which monitors all shipments from a single supplier or importer. Priced at USD 199 per month, the service answers such questions as which competitors are doing business with a particular supplier, including their relative market position, and whether the supplier has been honoring exclusivity agreements.

ImportGenius's data is updated daily by US Customs, and real-time search results can be exported into Excel or CSV format. The result? In the company's own words, "ImportGenius immediately eliminates any competitive advantage your competitors have derived from their superior knowledge of overseas suppliers."

Link of the day - Free online poker tournament with real cash payouts

HotForWords.Com Is All The Rage

Bag Borrow or Steal Inc.

Cappuchino on wheels

Getting Customers To Sell For You

Making Money With Credit Card Art

Monday, June 02, 2008

Why One Startup? Start A Bunch.

Link of the day - Free online poker tournament with real cash payouts

If you're young and full of the energy it takes to start a business while still in college, why not start two--or even three? That's exactly what 21-year-old Jeremy Clarke did. He started his first business, a website design company called Vortex Web Solutions, while still in high school. After starting college at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2006, he launched, a web resource used as an assessment tool in classrooms and in homes. And last year, he launched, a directory of Indianapolis restaurants that includes menus, coupons and reviews. Together, his Middlebury, Indiana-based businesses bring in five-figure sales.

Clarke is full of ideas, and his entrepreneurial spirit is what drives him to launch new business concepts. "I'm really ambitious," he says. "I'm always looking for new opportunities. I want to dip my fingers into as much as possible."

Running more than one business while still in school is certainly a big challenge, but it can be done if the businesses complement each other or, as in Clarke's case, if they're based on similar technology platforms. In fact, the startup process is made easier by rapidly evolving technologies. "Today's entrepreneurs have Web 2.0 tools available to them that entrepreneurs even five years ago didn't have," says Alex DeNoble, professor of management and entrepreneurship at San Diego State University. Not only do these specialized tools enable entrepreneurs to manage technological processes more efficiently than in years past, but they also make it much easier for small startups to rapidly ascend to the global playing field, DeNoble says.

While time management is always a factor for successful college entrepreneurs, it becomes even more vital when managing more than one business. Clarke clearly lays out goals for every week, asking himself, "How much time do I want to give to each of my obligations? Some weeks I need to focus [more] on one business, but I always try to spend at least a few hours a week on each, just trying to plan for the future--and then studying when [I need to]."

Of course, starting a full-service coffeehouse and a baby-sitting service at the same time might not be as manageable. Labor-intensive gigs like those require more one-on-one attention than a web design or eBay business, which you can run even in the wee hours. But be sure to choose businesses you're passionate about. Once you start your first business, transitioning to a second one should be simple. For example, "website design is an easy entry point to give [student entrepreneurs] a taste of starting their own company," says DeNoble. "It gives them an entrée--practice dealing with customers, having to deliver to customers and meeting customer specs and requirements. Once they're in business, they can begin to branch out." While you shouldn't overextend yourself, college could be a great time to try your hand at more than one business--especially with all the great resources available on campus, from professors and fellow students to top-notch business centers. "Schools around the country are creating environments for students to start companies with a lot of support," says DeNoble. "It's a great time to be a young, 21st century entrepreneur."

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Japanese woman arrested after living undetected in man's closet for a year

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Look, The Economist Has No Clothes