Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MissPoop.Com Success Story

Link of the day - The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need


When someone is trying to think of a potential business to launch, it is unlikely that poop would be the first think they’d think of. For Miriam that was an idea, and it turned out to be a profitable one.

Since MissPoop launched a couple years ago it has grown at extraordinary rates. By keeping her service area local, making smart choices, and through positive word of mouth advertising, she has continued to profit through the recession, too.

If you ever wondered whether the pooper scooper business could do well, MissPoop has the answer.

Tell us a little bit about MissPoop.

MissPoop- Dog Waste Management is basically a pooper scooper service. We visit our clients yards one to two times a week and pick up the dog feces. Once wrapped up in a brightly colored plastic bag, we leave the “package” by the owner’s garage or garbage. In addition to poop scooping, we do keep an eye out on your dogs feces to look for signs of ill-health, foreign objects and other danger signals.

How’d you manage to stumble into this kind of business?

MissPoop was started seven and a half years ago. I had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry, left during a downsizing with a healthy package and my retirement saving and invested EVERYTHING into another business with a person who I knew socially and professionally. Our business grew, however she was stealing money from the business. When I discovered the losses, she offered to buy me out. To make a very long, bloody story short, she did not buy me out, she stole more money and while I was waiting for the court to figure this out, I went back to the pharmaceutical word. Bored out of my mind and frustrated beyond belief, I knew I had to start another business. So I did some soul searching and decided that any thing I did have to involve five criteria. It has to:

* be financially responsible so I could support myself and my future.
* involve me creatively in some manner every day.
* be emotionally rewarding and stabilizing (no bullshit politics etc).
* involve outdoor, physical activity every day since I knew I needed to stay healthy.
* be spiritually fulfilling. I wasn’t even sure I know what that meant to me at the time, but I knew I needed good, clean energy and people or dogs around me.

My boyfriend said to me one night as I was trying to brainstorm complicate business ideas, why don’t you pick up dog poop? I was mortified that he would even suggest such a thing, but I went to my computer, looked it up and called a few of the early pooper scoopers and asked for advice. They were all extremely helpful and within a week, I had written a brief business plan, bought minimal supplies, printed up business cards, created flyers and started. I practiced my “technique” in my backyard.

Where are your services located?

MissPoop covers a ten mile radius area outside of Valley Forge Park, Pennsylvania. We focus on several types of neighborhoods and contrary to popular opinion; our client base is not just the wealthy, but all income levels.

Has the recession had any effect on your business?

I have been extremely fortunate. Throughout the past several years I have done several things to insure customer loyalty and it has paid off in a variety of ways. I have not added fuel taxes or increase, but tightened up my route so that we worked smarter. I offer discounts for solid referrals and we offer great service. MissPoop continues to grow every year, and in the past three years, I have added MissBehave - Dog Training to our repertoire of services. We also pet sit and specialize in fun, active, home-like pet sitting so we are always busy.

What goals would you like to achieve for your business over the next year?

I would like to continue to grow MissPoop by another 25% so that I can keep two part time staff well funded, which also allows me more time to focus on the MissBehave part of the business. MissBehave is the area where I am targeting significant growth for 2009. MissStep, a new dog walking service we started this year is also expected to grow by 50% this year.

Since it’s launch, what kind of growth has it seen?

The first several years I grew by 100% each year. Currently we average a 10-15% growth. We do not advertise at all. I have a webpage, facebook, blog, car signs, business cards and call on all sorts of pet industry suppliers - groomers, lawn services, veterinarians, dog walkers, etc. I network like crazy and it pays off.

What lessons have you learned from your experiences as an entrepreneur?

To stay focused, motivated and keep a schedule. Don’t let things slide and always maintain a professional manner no matter what sort of business you are in. Part of my success is that I present myself and my business as if it were the most honorable profession and respect it for the valuable service it offers to my clients.

What does your business have that helps separate it from the competition?

Most of my competition is pretty good and very professional. While understanding that we are all competitors, we work hard to create an atmosphere of cooperation and referrals. If one of us gets a call in an area we don’t frequent we take all the information, call the other pooper scooper and give them the lead. We also follow-up with the customer to make sure their needs have been met. I love it that my competition and I work that way. It is hard to not get greedy and want to do all the business, but it is just not possible to do it all well if you are spread too thin. I believe our customers appreciate that we go out of the way to get the right service provider to their front door.

How do you maintain balance between your life and your business?

I am not sure that I do that very well. My life revolves around MissPoop, MissBehave and Ben’s Bed and Biscuit. I do take drawing classes, write for both my businesses, and pursue very un-dog like related activities on occasion. For the most part, however, you could say my life has gone to the dogs!

If you could sum up your business pitch into one sentence, what would you say?

My logo has a dog on the toilet, reading the paper. The pitch is as follows: “Until Then, Call Us.” It works very well.

Peter Schiff Talks About The Coming Economic Collapse In US (2006 Video In 8 Parts)

They Sell WHAT On Amazon.Com?

25 Weirdest Collections

Monday, April 27, 2009

10 Books You Have To Read If You Believe Humans Are Rational

Link of the day - I will pay you $25, if you come up with a cool domain name for me.

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.

More curious stuff:

Einstein's Biggest Blunder

Blood Diamonds Documentary


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ShortTask.Com Success Story

Link of the day - I will pay you $25, if you come up with a cool domain name for me.


There are countless employment sites out there that help companies fill full- and part-time jobs. Not included in most, however, are all the extra little tasks businesses often need to get done, but that aren't enough to justify hiring another regular employee. Targeting those small—yet important—jobs comes ShortTask, which aims to connect qualified workers with companies in need of such short-term help.

Now in beta, ShortTask is essentially a community that focuses on connecting what it calls "seekers"—companies or individuals who need various tasks accomplished without hiring in-house staff—and "solvers," or workers who can complete those tasks virtually from home. Seekers begin by listing the tasks they need done, such as transcribing audio or video recordings, identifying objects in a photograph or creating written content. They also create an escrow account for payment and indicate for each task how much they're willing to pay, along with its deadline. Solvers then visit the site and choose the tasks they'd like to complete. Once the work is done and the seeker approves it, they get paid in US dollars via PayPal from the seeker's account; ShortTask, meanwhile, takes a commission of 10 percent. There are currently more than 50,000 tasks listed on the site, including finding articles and commenting on Amazon.com (price: USD 1), for example, or asking questions on a forum (paying USD 0.15). Solvers from around the world are allowed to find jobs through the site.

Similar to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, California-based ShortTask gives companies a more flexible way to get work done and allows consumers to earn some extra money during tough times. One to emulate on a localized or niche basis?

Murder Inc Documentary

Inside The Mafia

MS-13 Documentary From History Channel

Monday, April 20, 2009

America's Most Promising Startups - Batter Blaster

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


Sean O'Connor opened his first restaurant in San Francisco shortly before the dot-com bust. As business tanked, O'Connor, who had grown up in a restaurant family and studied hospitality management, retooled his concept, turning the full-service establishment into a bar and laying off most of his staff. For fun, he spent a lot of time in the kitchen, playing around with various gizmos.

A failed experiment making beignets with a whipped-cream charger sparked an idea: Why not put pancake batter in spray cans and market them to consumers? In 2005, he teamed up with Nate Steck, a food manufacturing wizard, and raised $1.5 million to create the line and buy manufacturing equipment. Last year, San Francisco's Batter Blaster and its 16 employees squeezed out $9 million in sales, retailing the cans for $5 a pop in over 10,000 stores across the country, including Costco and Whole Foods. O'Connor, 37, and Steck, 40, plan to reinvest the 30% of their gross revenue into marketing and hope to double sales in 2009.

A startup uses science to catch pooper-scooper scofflaws.

How To Avoid Deadbeat Clients

How To Track Your Sex Life Online

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Arrived OK Success Story

Link of the day - The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life


Travelling by air is fraught with uncertainties, from delays to cancellations to lost bags. Savvy travellers can already use Delaycast to assess their chances of having to wait longer than they'd planned, and now another brand-new service helps them notify the people who matter to them once they finally land safely on the ground.

ArrivedOK, a new service from Texas-based Eyeline Communications, lets air travellers automatically alert others that they've arrived at their destination. Users of the service, which just entered public beta, begin by scheduling their flight with the destination airport and expected arrival time, along with the phone numbers or emails of the contacts they'd like to be notified once they arrive. They can also compose personalized messages to be sent to different groups of recipients. They turn off their mobile phone during the trip, as generally required; then, when their plane lands and they turn it back on, ArrivedOK tracks their cell phone in the mobile network and instantly sends those tailored ‘Arrived OK’ messages to the designated recipients via SMS, email, Twitter or the user's blog. (Recipients must subscribe to a GSM/UMTS network for phone notification.) ArriveOK's technology is even smart enough to discern when a user turns on their phone much earlier than expected—indicating a problem—or when they turn it on in a country other than the one that was planned; in both cases, recipients are not notified, and the user receives an error message instead. The overall result? Not just a simpler and easier process on the traveller's part, but also a much less expensive one, since ArrivedOK alerts are three to eight times cheaper than calling or texting from abroad, Eyeline says.

ArrivedOK is being beta-tested in 10 countries—Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Spain—through the end of May, and is free during that time. One to try out, partner with, or otherwise get involved in?

During This Recession, Expect To Be Put On Hold

No Love For The Wedding Industry During Recession.

Man Charged With Killing Hawk To Help Squirrel

The Business Of Grease

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Socks-by-Mail Hits the U.S.

BlackSocks.jpgForget all that business about Twitter, BlackBerry apps, and the Palm Pre: the real news is that BlackSocks.com, which has sold over a million socks through the mail in Europe, has come to the U.S. For the not-too-bad price of $89 annually, you can get three pairs of men's calf-length socks mailed to you every four months.

That's not all the company sells. You can get a subscription for knee-length socks for $115, cashmere calf-length socks for $229, and ankle socks for $89. The company is locked into only selling black socks by a URL that probably seems a little limiting to them now. However, the site also sells Euro-style underwear by subscription, as well. You can order a "trial pack" of any items from the site, if you're not ready for the commitment of a year's subscription.

During This Recession, Expect To Be Put On Hold

No Love For The Wedding Industry During Recession.

Man Charged With Killing Hawk To Help Squirrel

The Business Of Grease

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

With people seeking comfort and security, an ex-stockbroker makes millions playing the pajama game.

Link of the day - Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else


When consumers get cold feet, what's an entrepreneur to do? Sell them footed pajamas: a grown-up version of Dr. Denton's kiddie sleepwear.

Four years ago Valerie Johnson started Big Feet Pajama Co. from the basement of her Las Vegas home. The former stockbroker, who says she can't even sew a straight seam, sold $360,000 worth of pajamas in 2005; revenues hit $2 million in 2008. Despite the recession, she expects to top $2.5 million this year, thanks to strong advance orders for next winter's holiday season.

"Fleece and flannel mean comfort and security," she says. "My pajamas are a small, practical indulgence when all the fun has been squeezed out of the family budget."

Johnson, 40, knew little about the apparel business when she plunged in with an initial investment of $50,000 and began selling her wares online, in catalogues and in specialty retail stores. "I know how to sell," she says. "Everything else I outsource."

Like most startups, Big Feet has stumbled a few times, but Johnson has managed to keep her balance.

"One of the first shipments she sent us was delayed when the truck ran into a snowstorm in Pennsylvania," says Ellie Badanes, CEO of the Pajama Store, an online boutique. "She called us with hourly reports. It meant a lot to me that she would be so concerned about my business." Now Badanes orders $100,000 worth of pj's from Johnson each year.

And after Big Feet pajamas were chosen as celebrity gifts for the 2007 Oscars, the stars began to come out. Whoopi Goldberg bought them for everyone on her Christmas list, including the Clintons, Elton John and Robin Williams. Actress Eva Longoria ordered them for a staff slumber party.

"People want to wear what Eva Longoria is wearing," Johnson says cheerfully. "Especially if they can get it for just $44."

Badconomy - Economics Of The Bad Times

As America Crumles, It’s Pay Day For Pawnshops

The Day The Credit Died. How Americans Will Have To Live Without Visas And MasterCards

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Novelty Telegram Service


There's no doubt the internet has transformed the way people communicate; what's less clear is that people are willing to let the old methods disappear. We've already seen companies that transform emails into paper letters; now, an Australian contender has resurrected none other than the classic telegram.

Focusing on the role telegrams have long played as historical records documenting significant events, Telegram Stop provides novelty telegrams with a classic look and feel that's designed for posterity. Users simply type their message online—up to 400 characters are allowed—and then preview the resulting telegram, which includes the traditional "stop" in place of periods. Both domestic and international service is available for a single, set price of USD 4.70; delivery takes 4 to 6 business days.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they say—particularly when consumers are willing to pay a price for nostalgia. One to emulate on a niche basis, such as birth announcements or wedding invitations....?

Boiling Mad: Crabs Feel Pain

The Big Five Budgeting Sins

The Death Of American Middle Class

Words To Profit