Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mint.Com Success Story

Wherever money is transacted, tracked or traded, there is a profit to be made. It's a fundamental principle of markets from Wall Street to eBay. Now Web 2.0 entrepreneur Aaron Patzer, 27, is putting that principle to work. Patzer was tired of spending hours at his PC entering expense details into financial programs like Quicken. That's when he created Mint, an online application that tells you how you're spending your money by instantly aggregating financial information from your online bank and credit card accounts.

Although the service is free for the site's 430,000 users, there are several hooks in place to ensure that Mint will make a mint for Patzer and his investors. Primarily, since Mint knows where you bank and how you spend, the site engages in suggestive upselling, nudging users toward banking and brokerage partners, or suggesting new mortgages and credit cards.

As for advertising revenue, Mint sells quality over quantity: Since the service already knows where you shop and what you buy, ads are more targeted--and more profitable. "The only ads you'll ever see on Mint are those calculated to save [the user] at least $50," says Patzer, who's already raised $17 million in funding for his Mountain View, California-based company. "We'll soon offer cash back and coupons for the places you shop most often."

Young Millionaires - Sticks And Stones Success Story

Young Millionaires - Anne Pawsat-Dressler

How a pet project became a money-making business

Mom Turns Love For Making Brownies into $1 Million Dessert Gifts Company

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Freeshipping.Org Success Story

Link of the day - Free $50 Costco Gift Card

n today's society, many husbands and wives are also married to their careers, which can make it difficult to maintain a healthy and happy marriage. Other married couples, like Luke and Maisie Knowles, combine work life and home life as husband-and-wife entrepreneurs.

The co-founders of, a one-stop destination for consumers to find online retailers that offer free shipping deals, the Knowles have what they call an added challenge and benefit that most husband-and-wife entrepreneurs don't share. They work from a home office - side by side - just a few feet away from each other. And they have an infant daughter, Isabelle.

"We have friends who are married and work from home, but they have offices in two separate bedrooms," Maisie Knowles said with a grin. "Luke and I find it more productive to work in the same room because when we need to ask each other a question, all we have to do is speak up. That way, we don't have to keep getting up and walking back and forth."

Concocting the ideal recipe to combine a thriving business and a successful marriage is not easy, Luke and Maisie agree, especially when you work together at home, but it can be done with understanding.

"As a married couple, when you move from conventional office jobs to working together in your own business, you go from not having much time together to being around each other most of the day everyday," Luke said. "It can be a challenge to define life as husband and wife, and life as business partners, because it's hard to separate the two. Still, we would rather work together in our own business than go our separate ways in the morning working for someone else."

Before launching, Luke and Maisie started Kinoli, an interactive design company. Maisie left a full-time office job to help get the company off the ground and Luke joined her full time a year later. The couple debuted last December. The site includes more than 800 name-brand stores such as JCPenney, Target, Bloomingdale's, Kohl's, Sears, Best Buy, Old Navy, Nordstrom and Macy's.

"We reached a point in our careers where we felt that it would be better to invest our knowledge and abilities in our own business than for someone else," Luke explained. "That is a risky step. If you want to work for yourself, though, it's a step you must take."

Working together from a home office saves Luke and Maisie time, money (since they do not have a commute) and the aggravation of being stuck in traffic. They also do not need to pay for child care and have more family time.

"Typically, one spouse remains at home with the child while the other works long hours and doesn't spend as much time with the family as he or she would like," Maisie said. "I am able to continue working while caring for Isabelle, and Luke is able to spend more time with us."

Husband-and-wife entrepreneurs must love their partner and love their work to have a healthy business and marriage. Here are some other tips for married couples who are thinking about opening a home-based business:

Establish "Me Time" If You Can

As husband and wife, and business partners, you spend much of your time together. Because of this, it is beneficial to schedule time for yourself.

"Couples who work traditional office jobs just share a few tidbits about their work day when they get home," Maisie said. "When you work together - and out of a home office - your business occupies a tremendous part of your life."

"It's important to take time for yourself and away from each other," Maisie added. "Take the dog to the park. Go to the gym. 'Me' time is valuable for both the husband and the wife."

And Also Set "Couples Time" Away From Work

When you are married and building a business outside of your house, it is difficult to leave work at the office. That issue is compounded when the office is a converted spare bedroom at home.

"It is ideal to set office hours and stick to them. Sometimes that is difficult, especially when you work at home, but it is good for your mental well-being," Luke said. "We try to take off weekends and spend them together, not talking about work. Sometimes, that is easier said than done."

Have a Plan, and Make Sure You Like Each Other

Obviously, before you start your own business, you need to have an idea you are confident will be successful. Before moving forward on that idea, make sure you are also confident enough that you will enjoy being together in a home and work relationship.

"Not every couple is suited for working together," Maisie said. "You have to respect each other's feelings and beliefs, and feel comfortable with each person's responsibilities."

Just like a typical 8-to-5 job in an office, when you work at home there are good days and bad days. Even on the worst of days, Luke and Maisie agree that they would rather work side by side shaping their own destiny than toiling in an office outside of their home."

"Simply put, we couldn"t imagine working in a traditional office setting again," Luke said. "We get to spend time with each other, and our daughter, and we are working as a team to build our business."

"Working together when you are married is not for everyone," Luke added. "But for us, the pros far outweigh the cons."

Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family

Young Millionaires Success Stories

Brand You

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family

Link of the day - Who Is Shawn Casey? Is He For Real?

One of the most ominous events of modern history is quietly unfolding. Social scientists and economists agree - we are headed toward a demographic winter which threatens to have catastrophic social and economic consequences. The effects will be severe and long lasting and are already becoming manifest in much of Europe. A groundbreaking film, Demographic Winter: Decline of the Human Family, reveals in chilling soberness how societies with diminished family influence are now grimly seen as being in social and economic jeopardy. Demographic Winter draws upon experts from all around the world - demographers, economists, sociologists, psychologists, civic and religious leaders, parliamentarians and diplomats. Together, they reveal the dangers facing society and the world’s economies, dangers far more imminent than global warming and at least as severe. It may be too late to avoid some very severe consequences, but with effort we may be able to preclude calamity. Demographic Winter lays out a forthright province of discussion. The warning voices in this film need to be heard before a silent, portentous fall turns into a long, hard winter.

More on this subject:

The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm

The Leisure Economy: How Changing Demographics, Economics, and Generational Attitudes Will Reshape Our Lives and Our Industries

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Young Millionaires Success Stories

Link of the day - How Changed The Domain Game For Good

Projected 2008 sales: $21 million
Description: Manufacturer of natural pet treats that have functional properties Natural order: Fresh out of business school and with a brief stint producing functional beverages under his belt, Marco Giannini came up with the idea of creating dog treats infused with nutrients to help pets maintain healthy bodies. Giannini invested $30,000 of his own money to manufacture and package his first truckload of the product. "I went around to about 100 [independent] pet stores in Northern California and 100 in Southern California," he says. "I got about $35,000 in revenue in our first month."
Growing strong: Customers loved the idea of functional pet snacks, and Dogswell has seen more than 100 percent growth each year since its launch in 2004. Thanks to earning sales of $500,000 his first full year in business, Giannini never had to seek venture funding. "That was a big key to me--managing my own destiny," he says.
People mover: Building a staff that can handle quick growth was a priority for Giannini, who now has 25 employees. From closing the office early on Fridays during the summer to planning trips to Cancún when the company meets its goals, Giannini is determined to create a healthy, happy working environment.
Future focus: Giving out more than 160,000 full-size samples to pet stores each month helps get the Dogswell--and now Catswell--line of treats noticed by pet lovers. In the works: a plan to launch a line of organic pet food.
Follow his lead: Widen your reach and customer base by letting people try your product for free.

How a pet project became a money-making business

Amish Business

Mom Turns Love For Making Brownies into $1 Million Dessert Gifts Company

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brand You

Link of the day - Free $50 Costco Gift Card

Friends, family and online pals aren't objective enough, so who can they turn to for an honest image appraisal? German consumers can now upload a few pictures to, and have impartial strangers evaluate their appearance, solving dilemmas like: "My wife says I look boring, I think I look professional and modern." "My boss says I come across as cool and distant. I think I look reliable and friendly." "Does my long, red hair look good on me, or would I look better with a short, blond cut?" The website points out that just as brands routinely use focus groups to test a product's image and appeal, anyone can benefit from an honest appraisal by a crowd of strangers. offers a variety of test options. Every month, it offers one free trial question. Users can upload their photo and have 30 people answer a question. This month, it's "Do I look naive?", and next month they can enlist strangers to answer the all-important "Do I look intelligent?" Those willing to pay for the service can choose from a Basic Check (EUR 25 for 50 image testers answering 10 standard questions), an Optimal Check (EUR 49 for 50 testers answering 20 questions that the customer selects from a database), and a Business Check (EUR 490 for 1,000 testers answering questions defined by the customer).

Once the pre-selected number of testers have responded, clients can log on to for a full report. To ensure a good mix of ages and well-balanced male/female ratio, the company asks its (German) testers for personal details when they sign up. And since the results are only visible to clients, the appraisals are private and don't turn into "hot or not" contests, which would likely be the case in a more open and transparent set-up. is currently German-only, but the concept is ripe for international expansion!

How a pet project became a money-making business

Amish Business

Mom Turns Love For Making Brownies into $1 Million Dessert Gifts Company

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mom Turns Love For Making Brownies into $1 Million Dessert Gifts Company

Link of the day - Free $500 Trader Joes Gift Card

Lisa Rothstein began baking brownies as a hobby while working as an elementary school teacher. She and a sorority sister started a business called Brownie Points baking brownies in their apartment.

Soon their business took off and they moved it to a manufacturing facility in Cleveland.

Unfortunately, Lisa had to move to Colombus, Ohio because of her husband’s job. Growing tired of the commute and the time it took away from her family she decided to sell out.

Soon after going through a divorce, Lisa realized that her true passion was her brownie business. She contacted the new owners and they offered her a position at the company but Lisa wanted to take the company back. Eventually the new owners agreed and she once again was the owner of Brownie Points.

From there, Lisa has taken the company to a whole new level. Lisa never compromised the quality of her product, she made an effort to always put out the best. The company is now in a 5,000 square foot facility in Columbus, Ohio and it has a fabulous online presence.

Her line of brownies feature flavors like, cookies and cream, cappuccino fudge, original kitchen sink, rasberry caramel fudge, to name a few.

She has now merged her company with her new husbands gourmet popcorn business and features extraordinary flavors like black rasberry, vanilla butternut, cinnamon spice, and gingerbread.

Brownie Points has been featured on CNN’s “Business Unusual”; Food Networks “Best Of”; The Secret Life Of… Brownies , NBC’s The Today Show as “The Perfect Brownie”; as well as Rachael Ray and the winner of Entrepreneur Magazines “Name to Fame Contest”.

Friends' Unusual Birthday Card Idea Sticks With Customers

New Site Sells Sick Notes

The hidden flaws of 'green' products

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Urban Farming Is Becoming And Increasingly Hot Niche

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

When we wrote about San Francisco-based My Farm earlier this summer, we noted that Oregon-based Your Backyard Farmer had reportedly been doing something similar for a few years already. Sure enough, turns out the two-woman company began installing organic gardens throughout the Portland, Milwaukie and Lake Oswego areas of Oregon back in 2006.

Your Backyard Farmer requires just a plot of land big enough to feed the mouths involved—10 by 10 square feet is about the minimum for an individual or a family of two—along with six hours of direct sunlight a day and an outdoor water source. In exchange, the farming team will provide clients with an organic vegetable farm right outside their door, customized to their family's size and dining choices. Customers get to choose the produce they want grown from a seasonal list of summer and fall crops. Your Backyard Farmer both installs and visits the garden once a week to weed, harvest and do any additional plantings necessary. Each time they leave, a basket of freshly harvested vegetables is left behind that's cleaned and ready to be cooked or eaten. Weekly costs for a garden big enough to feed a family of four are roughly USD 40. For those who want to learn to do it themselves, Your Backyard Farmer also offers a consulting program that runs from March through November, including about 2 hours a month of on-site consultation on topics including soils, pest, disease, garden planning, crop rotation, succession planting, trellising, weeds, transplants verses seeding, cover cropping and more.

All of which is further evidence that consumers really do want more control over their food. Help them become urban farmers, and help yourself to a rewarding new business!

New Site Sells Sick Notes

The hidden flaws of 'green' products

Programmers Jockey for iPhone Users at Apple Site

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Joe Barter Hits It Big

Link of the day - How Changed The Domain Game For Good

Thomas Daley had been helping friends swap sports tickets for golf course green fees and concert tickets as a sideline. But on the advice of a friend, he set up an online trading site, Joe Barter L.L.C., two years ago where college students could trade textbooks, small companies could trade equipment and accountants, and plumbers, business consultants and others could advertise their services.

“I was told our site should be for the average Joe, so Joe Barter, get it?” said Mr. Daley, 36.

The company is still struggling to make its mark, he acknowledged in an interview, though he said he hoped an upgrade for the Web site, scheduled for August, along with a stepped-up marketing effort would significantly expand the membership.

The site has 2,500 individual members, who pay nothing to join the network, and 400 business-to-business members who pay fees for consultations and referrals in connection with transactions. Last year, the company’s revenue totaled about $80,000.

Whatever its prospects for success, Joe Barter is tapping into one of the largest “little” industries of small companies in America, the barter or trade exchange business. It is a business for “the little guys,” said Robert Meyer, a onetime pitcher for the New York Yankees who since 1979 has published Barter News, a magazine and online site that reports on more than 500 trade exchanges in the United States.

Mr. Meyer said about 450,000 companies do business in bartering’s many networks of retailers, services and manufacturers.

The barter business has developed broadly since 1982, he said, when federal law regularized the tax reporting of barter transactions by requiring them to be denominated in dollars for the Internal Revenue Service. More recently, the Internet has spurred the growth of barter.

Still, Mr. Meyer said, “the largest barter companies are relatively small, about $14 million each in revenue per year.” And the commercial barter business pales beside the decade-old development of eBay. Last year, that company took in more revenue from commissions — $7.7 billion — than the whole barter industry handled in transactions.

And the classified ad site Craigslist reaches 450 cities in 50 countries and receives 30 million new advertisements a month.

But one of the biggest advantages of bartering, said Steven White, chief executive of the Itex Corporation of Bellevue, Wash., one of the biggest barter companies, is “that it conserves cash for a small business and it brings in customers.”

The company, a trade exchange that has 24,000 small-business members who pay registration fees and commissions on transactions, illustrates how the business works with a hypothetical example.

A dentist provides dental work for a lawyer or accountant who also belongs to the Itex network and thus earns value, denominated in special barter dollars, in her account. She may then use those barter dollars to pay a decorator to work on her offices.

“In a small business, you have to pay cash for your mortgage and insurance and other necessities,” Mr. White said. “But barter helps you conserve that scarce resource.”

Now 50, Mr. White has led Itex since 2003, but he said he has been in the barter business since 1982, when he founded Cascade Trade Association, a company he eventually sold in 2000.

With Itex, he said, he is intent on expanding the trading network by working through brokers and 90 Itex franchises and by acquiring other barter companies.

In the last four years, Itex has grown by about a third to $14.1 million in fees and commissions in 2007. Its exchange processed $270 million in business transactions in 2007. “Distribution is the key to the business, expanding the member network so we can offer more services,” Mr. White said.

The barter business is growing, but slowly. In 2007, the total value of commercial barter transactions reached $6.5 billion, up slightly from the previous year, said Krista Vardabash, investor relations director for International Monetary Systems Ltd. of New Berlin, Wis., also one of the biggest bartering businesses.

The company has been growing much faster than that, reaching $14.2 million in revenue last year on $110 million in transactions, up from $3.9 million in revenue five years ago. Acquisitions of other trading sites have propelled some of that growth.

Donald F. Mardak, 71, founded what is now International Monetary Systems in 1985 after building a chain of piano and organ retail stores in Milwaukee and other cities. In 1989, he raised $8 million in a public stock offering, and he has driven the company’s expansion by acquiring barter exchanges in 16 states. The company now has 18,000 business members.

“The idea for the barter business hit me when I traded one of my Baldwin pianos for a Mercury Cougar,” Mr. Mardak said in an interview. “The two were comparably priced, but I had paid wholesale for the piano and got retail value for it. So there is leverage in the barter business, and that is one of its attractions.”

Mr. Mardak said he, too, planned to continue expanding. “Some of our employees are brokers,” Mr. Mardak said. “We tell them to drum up business. Trading doesn’t happen unless you make it happen.”

He dismisses the idea that trading Web sites like eBay are competition for International Monetary Systems. EBay is “more of an exchange for liquidating, not trading,” Mr. Mardak said. As for smaller companies, like Joe Barter and other exchanges that have fewer business members, he said, “They’re only swap sites; they have no supplier network.”

Mr. Daley of Joe Barter says he thinks the spread of Internet commerce supports his business vision. He plans to avoid using special barter dollars in transactions, relying on Internet trading enhanced by new technology. “I want to keep it simple,” he said. His company is intended to earn its way through business referral fees and online advertising.

“The evolving technology works for us,” Mr. Daley said. “We can target more specific groups; I’m going to hire people to market across the country.”

The barter industry is also aware of evolution. “The Internet is a two-edged sword,” Ms. Vardabash of International Monetary Systems said. “It facilitates spreading the trading community, but it also brings in competitors of every stripe.”

New Site Sells Sick Notes

The hidden flaws of 'green' products

Programmers Jockey for iPhone Users at Apple Site

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wigadoo.Com Success Story

Link of the day - Free $500 Trader Joes Gift Card

Planning outings with friends is always tricky, what with scheduling challenges and the politics of splitting costs. A new, UK-based site called Wigadoo, however, aims to make the logistical end easier so friends can get together more often.

Users of Wigadoo can begin the process by browsing the site's Find Ideas section for possible outings, with inspiration from examples, information on deals and promotions, and a directory of UK activities. "London theatre trip" and "Surfing in Wales" are among the examples provided on the site. With one or a few ideas in mind, they can then start a vote to see when their friends are free and what they want to do. To accomplish that, they first fill in a simple form with the questions to be voted on; Wigadoo then creates a vote page and emails a link to everyone involved. The page tracks everyone's responses, eliminating the hundreds of e-mails it would take otherwise. After the voting process—or instead, if there's already a set idea—users can propose a plan, including costs and the deadline for committing. Again, Wigadoo sets up a page and emails links to everyone invited, asking them to commit to attending and pledge with a debit or credit card. Wigadoo not only lets each invitee see who has pledged so far, it even has a feature called "I'm In If You're In," allowing them to secretly sign up to go if, and only if, a friend that they name does.

Once enough people have committed to coming—and only then—Wigadoo collects the pledged funds and puts them into an online event account. That account, in turn, comes with a Wigadoo Virtual Prepaid MasterCard that can be used to book or pay for everything for the group, either online or by phone. Organizing through Wigadoo is free for the organizer, but participants pay a small fee when they pledge: GBP 1.50 if they use a debit card or if the amount being collected is less than GBP 50, or—if they use credit to make a pledge over that amount—3 percent of the amount being collected.

Still in beta, Wigadoo is backed by a number of high-profile angel investors, it says, most of them internet entrepreneurs from the travel and leisure space. It currently serves just the UK, but plans to expand beyond that when its beta period ends. One to partner with or emulate in other parts of the world!

Peter Schiff On The Coming Economic Collapse

Mob Tours

Your Brownie Connection