Thursday, February 27, 2014

From Bottle To A Shot Glass - Crazy Business Ideas

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Tucked in a warehouse a mile from the Las Vegas Strip, a handful of employees cut, grind, sand and polish glass — turning tourists' trash into treasure.

It's the business of bottles, and there's certainly no shortage in Las Vegas. The Strip's 24-hour party cycle sends scores of empty liquor, wine and beer bottles to the trash, much of it destined for burial at a landfill.

The demise of this perfectly good glass troubled Steve Cherry, founder of Bottles & Wood, a new Las Vegas-based company that repurposes discarded alcohol bottles.

"The last thing we should be doing with these bottles is crushing it and filling a landfill," he said. "That does nothing for anyone."

His business idea didn't start in Las Vegas, though. A Southern California native, Cherry began repurposing glass water bottles to make candleholders for a friend's restaurant. Customers approved of the new decor and asked where to buy it.

A sudden demand for the unique glassware got Cherry, a former software executive, thinking: Could this little side business be the start of something greater?

"I was like a shop guy when I was a kid," he said. "Never thought I was going to make a living at it."

Fast forward to July. That's when Cherry moved his burgeoning business into warehouse space with a view of the Strip on the west side of Interstate 15. He pays 40 cents a square foot to rent the space and, so far, employs a dozen people.

"There are more liquor bottles coming out of this one-mile Strip than in Southern California," Cherry said, explaining his rationale for moving to Las Vegas. "It's an enormous anomaly."

In a sense, his business model emulates the actual recycling process: He takes unwanted glass bottles from Las Vegas establishments, repurposes them and sells the new products back to wholesalers, tourists and locals. His glassware, ranging in price from $7.50 to $50 per piece, can be bought online or in gift shops.

Have a favorite liquor brand? There's probably a product made from it. Drinking glasses made from Grey Goose vodka bottles line one display shelf. Across the way, there's a light fixture featuring glass from a Jack Daniel's whiskey bottle. Other products include candleholders, candy bowls, wine tumblers and jewelry.

Cherry said his company was pursuing trademark licensing agreements with major liquor brands.

"We don't put any logos on anything we do," he said. " We just take existing product and repurpose it."

The "wood" part of the company name refers to a similar venture in California's wine country. The company's San Francisco factory takes old wine barrels and creates products, such as cheese trays and cutting boards.

In Las Vegas, Bottles & Wood has received discarded bottles from the Mob Bar, Bar + Bistro, Triple George and Krave, to name a few, Cherry said. He's working with Strip properties but can't yet disclose their names.

It's an opportunity Cherry calls a "win-win-win" for all involved. Bottles & Wood pays establishments 10 cents to 50 cents per bottle of liquor or specialty beer, he said.

"The hotels pay by the ton to have their glass hauled away," he said. "So if we take away a ton a week, it's less money they pay."

Cherry also views his new company as a way to make an impact in Nevada, a state known for its scarce environmental laws. He hopes to offer tours of the Las Vegas factory to school groups.

The 58-year-old admits his new venture is a far cry from software company boardrooms — and the ocean, for that matter. He's an avid sailor.

"I thought it was time for me to give back to the community," he said. "Doing software is horribly financially rewarding and empty in every other sense of job satisfaction."

Just don't ask about his favorite drink. It's water, he says, laughing as he looks at all the repurposed alcohol bottles surrounding him.

"I'm not a hard liquor drinker," he said. "I do enjoy my tequila once in a while."

[Via - Business Ideas Blog]

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

BigCommerce Coupons And Giveaway

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All venture capitalists have got startup business plans piling on their desks every single day. But how many of them are the breakthrough ideas worth investing in? Australian BigCommerce has proven right to the Massachusetts based venture capital firm General Catalyst. “We quickly signed up our first 1000 customers within three months,” says Eddie Machaalani, the co-funder and co-CEO of BigCommerce, “and now we’re about to hit 20,000 customers after just 17 months.

Mitchell Harper, the other co-founder and co-CEO, explains “you can set up your own online store in a few clicks. We’re growing so quickly because we’ve made it really easy to sell online.”

If you’ve got a product and you need an easy way to sell it and advertise it, BigCommerce might be exactly what you’re looking for. All the marketing tools have been built in and the list of features is countless which targets all potential kinds of client s.

There are e-commerce newbie’s looking for tools to start with: web-based control panel, automated email marketing and almost one hundred store designs. There are e-commerce owners hoping to update and refresh their software with push to Facebook and eBay, SEO and Google Website Optimizer. And there are website designers looking for a ready platform to work with; they’ll look into painless software updates, unlimited design flexibility and premium hosting. To cut the long story short, BigCommerce has got everything for everybody.

The company overview does sound like a cliché online success story. Two IT geeks, a brilliant idea, a lot of hard work, right place, right time, huge demand and a spot on investor. (General Catalyst have also believed in BigFish, airbnb, iWalk and many others). This is how Eddie Machaalani speaks of the beginnings of their cooperation. “When we made the decision to raise capital and did our U.S tour to pitc h different VC firms, General Catalyst had already done a ton of due diligence on the market opportunity, our company and our competitors. They were very eager to invest in the company.”

BigCommerce have recently announced $2M integration fund to follow the market developments and create new better features. The software has now got built-in Pinterest and Quickbooks integration, referral system, a live chat, abandoned cart plugin and many other improvements. They tent to release new features every two weeks.

The software seems to be ahead of its competition (Shopify, Zencart, Magento) according to various online discussions, blogs and comparisons and is only getting better and smarter. E-shopping cart is gaining the whole new meaning. And what does it mean to you? Only one way to find out. (Here is a link for $100 coupon or 30 day free trial provided by BigCommerce for our readers).

[Via - Madconomist.Com]

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ZankYou, ZankYou Very Much

The explosion of the Internet, including increasing mobility not only in socialization mediums and work options, has heralded vast communication and networking possibilities. This opening likewise heralded better opportunities for maintaining long-distance affairs. Through various social media like Facebook, WeChat, Instagram, Viber, Skype, Twitter, and others, meeting people from abroad and developing relationships even with individuals from separate areas of the globe and actually making such a relationship succeed holds more promise than ever.

However, marriage between, say, an American, while the partner, the partner’s family and friends are all the way in Chile, can be a wedding planning pain. What with the multiple cultural barriers to top off the basic language and monetary ones, organizing such an event and making it convenient for everyone from different nationalities involved can be a trying task to accomplish. In this, Javier Calleja and Guillermo Fernandez discovered a niche. After discussing their own international-marriage organizing woes, the management consultants formed their idea for their startup.

In February 2008, a few months after brainstorming and pooling their resources together totaling EUR 200,000 (USD 274,000), Calleja and Fernandez launched the marriage website, Zankyou. Zankyou offers an online wedding platform for planning, designing and organizing a gift registry or personal webpage for clients of various nationalities. The Madrid-based Zankyou is available in 10 languages and has been used by more than 250,000 couples in as many as 19 countries to organize their weddings.

The startup makes money by charging for creating an online registry where spouses-to-be have a central platform for all their loved ones and other wedding participants, bridging the gap between continents. Additional fees are also collected from services that allow guests to buy and send gifts or money to the marrying couple.

As convenient as this business idea is, it’s not the first to offer the same type of services. The founders confess that their biggest challenge has been to convert clients from already established wedding sites such as Wedding Wire and The key to their success, according to Fernandez, is their competitive pricing strategy.

In 2013, Zankyou was able to break even at EUR 1.5 million with revenues estimated to reach EUR 2.5 million this year, making the wedding site profitable.

Condoms with Motherly Advice, Momdoms Review

Coming of age is an eventual turning point in a child’s life. It’s the coming in wrong places and at wrong times that parents have to worry more about. This is where the dreaded sex talk supposedly comes in handy.

Due to the awkwardness ensued by the nature of this talk, either kids avoid it like the plague, or most parents delay sitting down to “educate” their kids until it’s too late. However, educating youngsters on the uses of contraception to avoid accidents resulting from various pubescent adventures, which will surely happen, is a responsibility that should not be ignored. But how to go about this business without spreading the awkward chill of this so-called sex ed talk?

Inspired by their nurse mother’s no-nonsense attitude about sex education, which no doubt helped them prevent accidents of their own, founders Kevin and Wayne Simpkins came up with an ingenuous idea for their startup, Momdoms, which gives a fresh take on the topic that young adults and parents are mostly uncomfortable to talk about.

Momdoms are condoms contained in creatively built tin boxes printed with cartoon illustrations and witty slogans that, taken in the right context, can pass for less awkward versions of “motherly advice” on safe sex. For USD 12 a can, users get a pack of six condoms and entertaining innuendo-laden quotes such as “Don’t make me come in there!”, “Protects against a fishy smell”, “Be careful of the crabs!”, “Let’s wrap it up, boys!”, and “Because I look too young to be a grandmother”.

Aside from the sheer impishness and creativity that the founders have already incorporated into a commonly used contraceptive, the Momdoms site also adds services for personalizing gift-giving by allowing buyers to upload their pictures. This feature results in having their face printed on the tin box alongside the “motherly advice”. Any well-meaning parent might just get a kick out of that, especially if they get to see their young one’s face after seeing the unexpected gift. Whether or not it’s effective in encouraging their kids to practice safe sex or just grossing them out, though, is another story.

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Friday, February 07, 2014

Free Smartsheet Alternatives To Consider

I have found awesome free SmartSheet alternative – Bitrix24. By free I mean free for small teams (up to 12 users) - you get all the premium features minus time tracking and records management. If you have more than 12 users, you have to pay, but you get unlimited users as well unlimited external users (extranet). Also, unlike with SmartSheet, you have a choice – you can either use the online cloud version or you host it on your own server, if you have cash to spare. And if you go with the self-hosted version you get source code and API, so you can modify it as you want and integrate pretty much with anything that has API. If you have PHP coding experience, you’ll love this. Now, let’s look at the features more closely. 

Essentially get all the features SmartSheet offers and then some. The approach, however, is quite different. Both in terms of service and design, SmartSheet tends to be very basic. For example, here’s file sharing and document collaboration in SmartSheet. And here's file sharing and collaboration in Bitrix24, not only it looks better, you get Bitrix24.Drive, ability to work with documents with no MS Office installed, online multiuser simultaneous editing, version history and so on. I mean, I can see an advantage of 'keep it simple stupid' approach, but I can't think of anyone other than Google who offers similar features for free, and free is a major turn on for me. It's essentially true for other features that SmartSheet and Bitrix24 share – tasks and project managementprivate and shared online calendarsmobile and so on. 
There are also several interesting features that Bitrix24 offers that SmartSheet does not come with. First, there's CRM with lead management, email marketing, invoicing and more. Certainly not a tool many teams use, unless they are in sales and it's not the best CRM I've come across, but having a free mobile CRM can come quite handy. 

Second, there's a HRIS module – that's human resources information system. It comes with org chart, time off management, absentee calendar, employee self-service portal, time management and more. Half of the features are available in the free edition and half you'd have to pay for. 
Third, there's a really cool communications hub inside Bitrix24 – enterprise messaging, group chat, video conferencing, web phone calls, screen sharing – all free with the exception of web phone calls. Personally, I never used video chat until I started working with distributed teams. For some reason, when you don’t see people face to face in your office daily, having an option to hear someone’s voice and see than becomes important to me.

There's something really seductive about SmartSheet familiar spreadsheet design, but just like very few people use command lines any longer when working with PC, I found the perfect free SmartSheet alternative that works for me. And, given how good SmartSheet is, that’s no easy task.