Category Archives: Business

How to begin Craft Brewery

There are now more than 4,000 small breweries and brewpubs scattered across the U.S. But like any business, surviving long term can be a real challenge, particularly because the market has become so crowded over the past 20 years.

To compete, you’ll need to carefully evaluate your market and create a clear vision of what you have to offer that other direct competitors do not provide. There is still room in the market for businesses that offer niche products and in less-saturated local markets. You’ll have a better chance for success if you can create a solid vision of what you want to offer, not just with beer recipes, but also with branding.

This article covers these topics related to starting a craft-brewing business:

Do you have what it takes?

So you think you want to go into the beer industry. There are many questions you should ask yourself before pursuing this challenging and costly business adventure.

  • Do you love beer?
  • Can you clean all day long?
  • Are you able to work more than 40 hours per week?
  • Do you have sales and marketing skills?
  • Are you a good record-keeper?
  • Can you afford to work years without seeing a profit?
  • Do you have something to offer that no one else can?
  • Do you have good equipment-repair skills?
  • Are you comfortable asking for funding?

There is a lot more to the business than just brewing and drinking beer. Unless you are heavily funded and can hire a full crew right away, you may find yourself spending a large portion of every day cleaning, and then spending the rest of the day managing your books, sales, vendors and customers. And brewing beer never sleeps, so you may also be working nights and weekends. In fact, many small-brew business owners keep their day jobs and brew nights and weekends until they can afford to pay themselves a salary. However, despite the challenges most brewery owners say the effort is worth it.

Training and education

There is a lot to learn to become a successful brewer. Experts recommend that even seasoned home brewers spend some time working in a brewery before starting their own business. Entry-level work usually involves a lot of cleaning, sterilizing and other tedious tasks, but you’ll learn the daily routines of a busy brewery. After you put some time in, you can move up and learn additional job skills that pay more, but it’s worth your time to learn all the job positions in a productive brewery.

If you have the time and resources, formal training programs are also available, including university degrees. Certificates and four-year degrees are offered in states such as Michigan, California, Colorado, Oregon and Missouri. International schools are also available in places such as Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can find online courses and even free programs. Portland State University offers a certificate program specifically focused on the business portion of running a brewery, while CraftBeer.com offers free and low-cost educational opportunities.

Startup costs to consider

Your first plan of action will be to create a solid business plan. And then, according to many brewers, to prepare to pay out twice the amount you think it will cost to launch your business. A lot of unexpected expenses can pop up, such as additional contractor expenses for altering your building, or delays in acquiring permits that push out your production date. Depending on the size of your operation, the number of barrels and whether you plan on operating a brewpub or a stand-alone brewery, your costs can vary greatly. Most industry experts report a general range of $500,000 to $1 million to start a small brewery.

Some costs to consider include:

  1. Equipment: Kettles, boilers, kegs, cooling systems, storage tanks, fermentation tanks, filters, tubing, pipes, cleaning equipment, waste management systems, canning or bottling equipment.
  2. Building: Often includes the costs of reinforcing the floor and remodeling to accommodate equipment and pickup and deliveries, lease or rental fees, inspections, water system alterations, consider room for future expansion.
  3. Supplies: Hops, malt, yeast, bottles, labels, packaging.
  4. Utilities: Energy, water, internet, telephone.
  5. Insurance: Business, liability, unemployment, workers’ compensation, property and others as required.
  6. Licensing & Permits: Varies by area.
  7. Professional Services: Brewing industry consultant or mentor, accountant, marketing, legal services.
  8. Furniture: Varies, if restaurant or brewpub expenses will be more.
  9. Payroll & Ongoing Expenses: Hourly and salary payroll expenses, payroll taxes, sales tax, legal services.
  10. Electronical Equipment: Computers, phones, POS system, automated monitoring systems, mobile devices, security cameras, printers.
  11. Software & Services: Network security, alarm monitoring, inventory control system, accounting software, credit card processing, website URL and hosting.

Creating a business plan

Having a realistic and thorough business plan is absolutely necessary to your brewery’s long-term success. Investors want to see not just a general plan, but as many as three years of projected financials.  Even if you have capital saved, you’ll still benefit from a bulletproof financial plan. We recommend that you consult with a professional who can help you create your business plan plus provide financial advising, legal assistance and help with obtaining funding. These services are not free (often around $5,000) but worth the investment.

Before you meet with your consultant put together as much as you can, including your startup costs, expected ongoing costs and revenue projections, business vision and anything else you think of to help you and your consultant put together the best business plan possible.

If you are looking to build a new brewery, with all new equipment, and ask for large sums of investment or loan money, you’ll need to quantify your passion and present it in a way that your potential investors will understand.

Funding your microbrewery

Unless you already have a generous funding set aside, you’ll need to raise capital and plan for extra expenses. You’ll likely need to obtain funds from multiple sources. Consult with a professional about how best to obtain funding. Good credit, experience and collateral will help, but you may also want to obtain “letters of intent” from distributors who have agreed to purchase your product.

Here are a few ways to help with funding your brewery:

  1. SBA 7(a) Loans: These are government-backed business loans and the best place to start. Terms and rates are usually competitive and larger loans are available. The paperwork to apply for these loans is extensive, but worth your time since the loans offer good terms. You can learn more about these loans here.
  2. Local Banks: Sometimes your local bank may be interested in funding homegrown projects that benefit the community they operate in. Many have found more success with a local bank over a national bank that does not have direct ties to the community.
  3. Crowdfunding: This is basically receiving funds in advance from a lot of investors or donors. Some are all-or-nothing endeavors, so you set an amount and if you do not reach that goal you give the money back. Others allow you to accept the funds even if you do not reach your goal. Platforms include Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Fundable.
  4. Peer-to-Peer: This is a type of lending that may involve a large group of investors or individual investors. Your credit history and scores often factor into these kinds of loans. Usually these loans are not large enough to fund your entire project, but are worth investigating. Popular options include Lending Club, Prosper and Street Shares. Learn more about Peer-to-Peer lending here.
  5. Community Supported Brewing (CSB): Community Supported Brewing is a newer concept and involves taking funds from community members in advance in exchange for beer or merchandise later. For this to work, you’ll need excellent marketing, social and sales skills.
  6. Co-Op Breweries: These are democratic worker- or community-“owned” breweries. Often, there is a board that helps manage the business and members can contribute their ideas as well. They are often heavily integrated into the local community and seek environmental sustainability. These types of brewers usually involve multiple brewers who share the brewing equipment.
  7. Brewery Incubators: This model allows experienced and new brewers to share expenses. Often supported by someone already in the industry, a restaurant or an established brewer, they will assist new brewers in their first large-scale projects. Sometimes they may even offer contests in which the new brewer may earn a paid internship or other training opportunities. They may also charge the new brewers to use the facilities and for training. Every incubator is different, but they may provide inexperienced brewers a low-cost opportunity to brew their first large batches of beer.

It helps to get creative when you’re looking to start a brewery. Many entrepreneurs in the industry are fortunate enough to take over an existing brewery after the previous owners have moved along. Some have been able to partner with restaurants looking to add a brewpub. You may also be able to lower costs by purchasing used equipment or by leasing equipment. Eventually you should be able to afford your own equipment if you plan to increase your volume. Plus, it is easier to get funding once you can show what you are capable of doing, even if it is on leased equipment.

Don’t Require Employees On Your Business

Are you ready to start your own business, but not ready to hire employees? There are plenty of options for people who would prefer to be “solopreneurs” and keep their business operations simple.

Here are six ideas to inspire you to start working on your solo business plan right away:

Virtual Health Coaching

Are you educated in nutrition but are still looking to get your career to go in the right direction? Turn your healthy lifestyle choices and education into lucrative business decisions by becoming a virtual health coach. You’ll be aided in your efforts by the myriad new health-related apps and devices being developed to help clients keep track of fitness goals and weight loss.

Chore/Errand Service for Seniors

Anyone with aging loved ones knows how hard it can be to care for them without extra help. Elderly people living in their own homes need help with lots of routine chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and yard work. Why not start a business that offers senior citizens and their families the help they need to maintain their households without breaking their budgets? With word-of-mouth endorsements and social media targeted at the overworked baby-boomer set, you could get this business off the ground in no time. [See Related Story: Prefer Working Solo? 10 Franchises That Don’t Need Employees]

Microbrewery

Want to turn your love of beer into a viable occupation? Why not jump on the microbrewing bandwagon? With the popularity of craft beers on the rise in the U.S., the demand for innovative breweries is growing. Take a page from the successful owners of Brooklyn Brewery and start by focusing on branding and distribution of your beverages. With some thirsty investors and a few barrels of persistence, you could have your brewery up and running faster than you can say “cheers!” Learn more about starting your own craft brewery in this Business News Daily guide.

Personal Trainer

With employers and corporations looking to decrease health care costs and a greater awareness of diseases associated with obesity, America is looking to get fit. Freelance personal trainers make their own schedules and work for a diverse range of clients. If you’re a fitness guru with a head for business, this might just be the right idea for you.

Special Deliveries

Whether it’s a bouquet of flowers in celebration of a wedding anniversary or an ice cream cake delivery for a child’s birthday, there’s a need for businesses that carry out long-distance requests on behalf of those whose loved ones live far away. With the right website and a PayPal account, you could start building your reputation as a “special delivery” courier today.

Business Coach

Are you business-savvy with years of experience, and willing to pass that knowledge on to others? With the right marketing tactics, a strong personal network and a great website, it’s simple to become a business coach on your own. Work with small business owners or startup-hopefuls to carefully craft business plans, and advise those who need that extra motivation. If you know you can be a good motivator and not just a “yes man,” their investment in you will have great returns.

 

Couple business ideas

It’s not easy to run a business with your spouse or significant other. But for couples who have built up a solid foundation and who know how to handle conflict with each other, small business ownership could be a step toward financial independence and even a stronger relationship.

If you and your partner have made the decision to start a business together, you can choose from plenty of startups that are well suited for a two-person team. As with any partnership, these business ideas work best when you each take on roles that best fit your skills and strengths. An entrepreneurial relationship, like all business ventures, is truly a labor of love.

Catering

Some couples constantly fight over who has to cook dinner, but for others, preparing and sharing a meal together is an enjoyable bonding activity. If you and your partner fall into the latter category — and, of course, you’re actually good cooks — you may want to consider starting your own catering business. Let the resident gourmand take care of most of the food prep, while the other serves as customer service rep and sous chef.

Food truck vendors

For those foodies who also love to travel together, consider opening up shop as a food truck vendor. Whether its music festivals, block parties, or private events, food trucks are a great way to make some extra money while traveling and meeting new, interesting people. For many food truck vendors, the freedom of the open road and the appeal of their favorite activities has led them to strike out on their own; doing exactly that with the person you love might just be the best way to see the world together.

E-commerce retailers

Crafty couples who share a passion for DIY projects can launch a successful e-commerce business on platforms like Etsy or Zibbet. One of you can handle marketing; the other can handle customer service, and both of you can work together to fill your orders. Not only does e-commerce represent a money-making opportunity, it also offers you and your partner a chance to be creative together; what’s better than having fun while turning a profit? [See Related Story: Best E-Commerce Software for Small Businesses]

Fitness instruction

If you’re the type of couple that goes running and hits the gym together, launching a fitness business could be right for you. Whether you’re interested in personal training or class instruction, you can become certified through organizations like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and begin taking on clients. If you both specialize in the same area, you can double the number of sessions or classes you book. Alternatively, if one of you is a personal trainer and the other teaches a class, you can expand your client base through your service variety.

Home cleaning service

For working parents with long hours, cleaning the house can quickly fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Offer your weekends and evenings to these families, for everything from light housework like vacuuming and dusting to heavy-duty chores like cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. With you and your partner working as a team, you’ll be able to get these tasks done twice as quickly.

Pet sitting

Do you and your partner love animals? Spread the word to friends and neighbors that you’re available to watch their pets while the owners go on a vacation or weekend trip. Pet owners often feel more comfortable leaving their furry friends in the care of a trusted homeowner rather than placing pets in a boarding facility, so getting referrals shouldn’t be too difficult. Offering two caretakers also means more individualized attention for your clients’ pets, which can be a great selling point.

Tutoring

SAT prep and subject-help tutoring are just as in-demand as ever for students across the country. With strong teaching skills, a wealth of knowledge and great personalities, you and your partner can make extra money educating local students in your home. While self-employed tutors are usually solopreneurs, this business can be even more lucrative for a couple if both of you can tutor. Otherwise, one of you can do the actual tutoring, while the other focuses on marketing and spreading the word.

Yard and garden consulting

Are you and your partner master gardeners? Do you love spending time improving your yard and growing your own veggies? Take your talents on the road and help others do the same! If you have green-thumb, there are plenty of homeowners willing to pay for your advice on what crops to grow and where; help turn a hum-drum backyard garden into a real Eden. Beyond gardening, you can help homeowners create a more environmentally friendly backyard, by helping them install rain gardens, rain barrels, and compost piles. These types of services are becoming more and more popular as people increasingly become conscientious about their environmental footprint.

 

How to Fast Growing The Industries

Launching a business can be incredibly challenging, but there are ways to prepare yourself for the tough road ahead. If you do your research and enter an industry with a high annual growth rate, your startup will have a better chance of succeeding.

To help you get started, here are eight industries that are currently ripe for growth.

Artificial intelligence (AI) may have been the stuff of science fiction years ago, but today it’s used in everything from voice-recognition programs to virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana. Though it’s not a new concept, it’s continuing to boom in the current market. According to GoBankingRates, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report stated that AI analytical research will be a $70 billion market by 2020 (up from $8.2 billion in 2013).

The popularity of virtual reality (VR), which allows users to become immersed in a 3D digital world, is exploding. In fact, GoBankingRates reported that VR will be a $1 billion market by the end of 2016. Thanks to its variety of applications ranging from video games to health care, the industry will most likely continue to thrive.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, are making quite a landing in the business world. ABI Research predicts that more than 90 million consumer UAVs will ship during 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 30.4 percent. Moreover, research indicates that by 2025, consumer drone revenue may reach $4.6 billion. Learn more about the business applications of drones.

This fast-paced industry has grown significantly in popularity and accessibility in recent years. With the right technical skills and equipment, just about anything can be 3D printed, from auto parts to kitchenware. GoBankingRates reported that the 3D printing industry was valued at $5.165 billion in 2015. Learn more about 3D printing’s impact on the business world.

Pet Inspired Businesses Tips

Pets are a part of your family. They play with you, sleep in your bed and gleefully greet you after you’ve had a long day at work. Many pet owners are on the lookout for items to spoil their four-legged friends or that will make their pets’ lives easier. Here are just a few businesses offering unique products and services for your furry family members.

Cat Genie

Cats are capable of taking care of themselves for the most part, minus cleaning their litter boxes and getting fed (in some cases, however, they know how to break into that, too). But what if your cat could use a cat-size toilet? Dream no more. The Cat Genie, is a full-size cat box that looks, and operates, similarly to a toilet.

According to the site, Cat Genie is a full-size, automatic cat box that uses permanent Washable Granules. Unlike disposable cat litter, Cat Genie’s Washable Granules never need changing and are 100 percent dust-free, biodegradable and septic-safe. The self-cleaning product rids itself of liquid and solid cat waste without owners ever having to handle cat litter again.

The cleaning system will run you approximately $244 without the cost of additional supplies.

Kittyo

If leaving your felines alone while you go off to work every day makes you sad, Kittyo might be just the thing you need. Cat owners can use the device and app to interact with their furry friends even when they’re not in the same room.

The device, which retails for $249, allows users to speak to their cats, play with them, dispense treats to them and even watch what they do while the owners are gone. The product works by connecting to a smartphone app, which in turn allows you to control the device from anywhere, as long as you’ve got an internet connection. You can use the device to shine a laser around the room for your cat to play with and record videos with a few taps on your screen. With Kittyo, you don’t have to work from home to play with your cat on your lunch break.

Cuddle Clones

Do you love your pet so much you want an exact copy? Although actual cloning may not be an option, Cuddle Clones solves this problem by making custom stuffed animals that look identical to your fur baby.

Cuddle Clones creates one-of-a-kind plush replicas of your pets, based on photos and your chosen customization options. You can personalize everything from eye color and ear position to pose and tail position, so that your stuffed animal is as close to the real thing as possible. And yes, you can even get one that’s true to size. You’re not limited to dogs and cats, either; Cuddle Clones will replicate horses, turtles, rabbits, ferrets, birds, pigs and more.

Cuddle Clones also donates to animal-related causes, so while you’re getting a plush copy of your furry friend, you’re also helping Cuddle Clones give back and assist animals in need.

Rent The Chicken

The thought of having farm-fresh eggs at your disposal and an adorable feathered friend to call your own might be appealing to some, but not everyone is equipped to handle a hen. Rent The Chicken gives you the opportunity to see exactly what goes into raising chickens before you bring one into your home permanently.

So how does it work? According to the company’s website, Rent The Chicken provides you with everything you need, including two egg-laying hens, a portable chicken coop, food and water dishes, enough food (with a non-GMO option as well) for the length of your rental time, and instructions for everything. Rental periods are open from May to November, which is when chickens lay the most eggs.

And, of course, if you absolutely fall in love with your chickens, you can adopt them for a fee that includes their supplies.

DoodyCalls

DoodyCalls Credit: DoodyCalls.com

DoodyCalls says it’s “the nation’s trusted leader in pet-waste-removal services for homeowners and communities.” That’s right — DoodyCalls is the company you call to help pick up after your pets.

Providing dog-pooper-scooper services, cat-litter-box cleaning, patio and deck deodorizing, and dog-waste-station setup and maintenance, DoodyCalls helps keep your yard and community waste-free. According to the company’s FAQ page, DoodyCalls will scoop deer and goose poop, too: “We are happy to help keep any kind of poop off your lawn or off your community common areas.”

The Pet Loo

Sometimes, you just can’t get outside to take your dog for a walk, or can’t make it home in time to let your pets out to do their business. With The Pet Loo, you don’t need to worry; it brings the outdoors inside, so your dogs can relieve themselves without ruining your carpet.

The Pet Loo is a portable, square pet toilet that has a layer of synthetic grass to resemble the outdoors and drain urine into its base. It also contains a removable waste container for easy cleanup. According to its website, The Pet Loo is ideal for apartments and new puppies, and is a more convenient alternative to pee pads and midnight bathroom breaks. The company also sells cleaning products, odor-eliminating cat litter and more.

Doggles

Protect your pup’s eyes in a very cute way with Doggles: goggles for dogs. Doggles protect your dog’s eyes from foreign objects, wind and UV light, and come in two different styles that can fit dogs weighing from 3 to 250 lbs. The product features foam face-padding, shatterproof and anti-fog lenses, and adjustable head and chin straps to keep the goggles in place. And, of course, they’re adorable.

According to the website, the pup-friendly eyewear isn’t just for cosmetic purposes, but rather actual protection of the eyes. And Doggles are vet and vet ophthalmologist recommended.

The company also sells backpacks, flotation devices, toys, and other doggie necessities and accessories, as well as some products for cats.

We Rent Goats

We Rent Goats Credit: WeRentGoats.com

Want a more environmentally friendly way to manicure your lawn? We Rent Goats loans herds of goats to people who need to clear weeds from fields, pastures, embankments, golf courses, ravines and more. Herbicides leave behind unwanted chemicals and cost a lot of money, and other animals like cows and sheep can’t digest most weeds. But goats will eat just about anything, making them the perfect “green” way to get rid of pesky weeds.

We Rent Goats will come survey your property to estimate how much time the goat mowing will take, how many goats you will need and how much it will cost you. From there, the company will deliver the goats and everything the animals need, including water troughs and nutritional supplements. We Rent Goats also puts up fencing if necessary and will supervise the goats for you. The goat minimum is about 100, but according to the company’s website, no job is too big or too small.

Wiggles Dog Wigs

Wiggles Dog Wigs Credit: WigglesDogWigs.com

Wiggles Dog Wigs is all about making your pooch feel pretty. While it’s not entirely obvious why people would want wigs for their dogs, rest assured that Wiggles Dog Wigs provides dog owners with only the best in canine hair wear.

According to the website, the business was inspired by founder Ruth Regina’s niece. “The love of her art and her love of animals made an odd and unique coupling 20 years ago when [Regina’s] niece, Marlana, asked her to make a wig for her basset hound.”

Regina makes sure all her dog wigs are just as high-quality as the hair products she creates for her human customers, and has your pup’s comfort level at the top of her priority list.

 

Fashion Business Tips

If fashion is your passion, then there are plenty of ways to turn it into a career. You don’t have to be a model or a well-established designer to make fashion pay; the possibility of turning your fashion sense into entrepreneurship is far more real than you might think.

Only a select few will ever make it to the runway, but plenty of fashionable startup opportunities await. They all take hard work and a great eye for fashion, but most have very small startup budgets. Here are five startup ideas for the entrepreneurial fashionista.

Fashion event production

Putting on a fashion show is no easy feat. Fashion event producers works with designers and models to help put together a show, and may even help coach runway models.

“You would help the designer with runway show casting and have an understanding of how clothes should be portrayed on the body and how the models should carry themselves,” said Kerry Bannigan, founder of Nolcha, a New York-based fashion event production company.

While startup costs are minimal – you won’t need employees or even an office – you will need to do some heavy self-promotion. Relationships and referrals are key for this type of work, Bannigan said. Business cards and a user-friendly website showing an online portfolio are a mus,t as well as a printed portfolio. Networking through industry websites is also essential, she said.

Before you embark on this career, you should understand fashion shows, have the ability to work with the creative-minded people and be flexible enough to deal with diverse personalities, Bannigan said. Income potential is based on the number of clients you have and how big they are.

Fashion business coaching

This business is ideal for someone with a corporate background who wants to make a move into fashion. A fashion business coach helps guide design firms in all aspects of running their business – from growth plans to everyday tasks such as invoice collection and bookkeeping . It also can involve coaching the creative designer on how to perform and interact in different business settings, Bannigan said.

Startup costs for a fashion coaching business are minimal, but earning potential is significant.

“Research consultancy services with established businesses can make six-figure salaries with constant clientele,” Bannigan said.

Fashion blogging

It might be hard to believe, but influential websites such as the Sartorialist and Racked debuted as small fashion blogs. They’ve since come into their own as industry thought leaders, and they sell lots of advertising.

Not too much investment is needed in a fashion blog – website development and hosting can be quite inexpensive – but it will require lots of legwork. Whether you’re stalking the city streets in search of fashionable photo ops or following the moves of leading designers, you’ll need to be tracking changing trends at every moment.

On the plus side, a fashion blog can be a complement to your existing job, said Angie Wojak, director of career services at the School of Visual Arts.

“You can start a blog on your own while looking for job, and it doesn’t take a big outlay of cash,” Wojak said. [See Related Story: How to Turn Your Blog Into a Business]

Photo stylist

Photo stylists work with photographers to scout shoot locations, get clothing to shoots, buy furniture and accessories and generally make sure the photo shoot goes as planned. It requires a good sense of fashion, an understanding of fashion history, and the smarts to know where to source your products, according to Sara Petitt, coordinator of the fabric styling program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York.

Successful photo stylists can come from any background. They usually make their mark by doing a good job and gaining business through word of mouth. Photo stylists can be paid hourly or by the project.

public relations

Do you love to talk your favorite designer brands up to friends and family? Are you always searching for the latest fashion news and sample sales? If so, you might consider starting your own fashion public relations business. Fashion PR is a difficult field to break into, but with the right skill set and connections, you can help designers and other fashion businesses get noticed by the media and fashionistas.

In an article on PR Couture, entrepreneur Jonathan Leger writes that there are several key components to success as a fashion PR professional. You must first be able to create a strong brand for your clients to differentiate them from other designers. You must also know how to work with fashion editors to get magazine placements, and with models and celebrities to get your clients’ work in the public eye. You should also have a keen understanding of media trends and be able to prove the value of your work.

As with any PR job, Leger noted that fashion publicists have to be ready to put out fires and handle any crises that arise from unhappy clients, models or editors.

 

Strange Businesses But It’s All Right

There are millions of kinds of small businesses out there serving a wide variety of niche markets. If you can think of it, there’s probably someone who’s making a profit from it.

Whether they’re providing socks that come in threes, cuddle sessions or a mobile wedding chapel, these 10 companies prove that you can be successful running any type of business, even if it isn’t exactly conventional.

Sometimes you need the comfort of another person. There’s nothing like a good hug or a solid cuddle, but what if you don’t have the option of an embracing partner? This is where Cuddle Party comes in.

According to the company’s website, Cuddle Party is a “playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries, and affection.” These events are safe spaces where attendees can go to meet and talk to new people as well as to practice consent and asking for what they want, and yes, to just cuddle. Cuddling with strangers may sound like a strange concept, but there’s value in their mission to teach boundaries, consent, affection, communication and non-sexual touch. The company, which was founded in 2004, is actually a federally recognized non-profit education organization

A mystery marketplace Interested in something new but aren’t sure of what you want to get? SomethingStore can help. This retailer gives customers who love surprises the opportunity to purchase a brand new (never-used or refurbished) mystery item, or a “something” for $10.

According to the company’s website, “your ‘something’ may be a cool shiny gadget, rare book, party game, handmade necklace, reverse clock, box of gourmet chocolates, portable table tennis set, and so on. Anything goes, so long as it’s legal to trade in the United States and is worth at least $10. The company has sold more than 200,000 somethings since its inception in 2007.

If you’re having trouble getting your message across to someone, you can deliver it in the form of a potato with the help of Potato Parcel

According to the site, you can compose “all kinds of fun messages” in 15 words, including those with more colorful language. The company vets hateful, harmful, or threatening messages and will not process orders with messages that have wording like this, so keep your potato messages fun when using this service. Once you send it, the recipient will be delivered a package containing your Potato Parcel.

Doing the laundry is a part of life, no matter how boring it is. It’s risky, though: Somewhere in the journey from the hamper to the dresser, you could lose one of your favorite socks. And then what?

With Throx, you can reduce the chances of handling another lonely leftover sock. The company helps customers fight the infamous “sock monster” by selling socks in threes, not pairs. That way, when you lose one, you’ve still got a backup sock to keep the other company, so you can keep wearing your favorite pair and doing your laundry worry-free.

Throx’s socks are one-size-fits-all and range in price depending on the design, though most cost around $10.

Give Better Employee Performance Tips

images-15Conducting regular performance reviews is an important and constructive way to evaluate the contributions an employee is making to the company. But the traditional practice of sitting down once or twice a year to discuss what an employee has done well and needs to improve on simply isn’t cutting it anymore.

In a recent study, employee engagement company TINYpulse polled over 1,000 professionals to find out what they thought about their reviews. The results showed that employees are generally dissatisfied with traditional performance reviews: 37 percent said they think the process is outdated, and 42 percent said they think managers leave important elements out of their review due to bias. Nearly a quarter of respondents even said they “feared” their performance review, especially those in the millennial generation.

“Traditional annual performance reviews are inadequate,” said Matt Hulett, chief product officer of TINYpulse. “They’re biased towards recent work, goals aren’t communicated clearly, there’s misalignment in objectives between organizations and employees, and quite simply, the whole process just takes too long. With more and more … workers wanting change, the time for a performance review system upgrade is now.”

In a recent article for The Washington Post, Cliff Stevenson, a senior recent analyst for the Institute for Corporate Productivity, said that, to date, nearly 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have done away with annual employee performance reviews. Many large companies — such as The Gap, Adobe, Costco, GE and Microsoft, to name a few — have scrapped their traditional review programs in favor of systems that incorporate newer technology and immediate feedback to employees after assignments while still maintaining documentation of performance.

Here are some suggestions to follow their lead in revamping your company’s employee review process.

1. Embrace technology. There is an increasing trend in the development and use of employee engagement apps, such as TINYpulse, Impraise and Workday. These apps give employees and managers a chance to communicate regarding assignments daily, tracking progress, providing feedback and incorporating other business aspects so that each member of the team is on track and on the same page.

2. Institute performance-related pay increases. Sixty-four percent of the people polled by TINYpulse wanted pay increases tied to their performance reviews. Consider quarterly bonuses or increases to positively reinforce good work as well as the employee’s confidence that you value him or her as both an individual and a contributor.

3. Make reviews more frequent. With immediate feedback provided on social media sites like Facebook, people are increasingly used to hearing the good and bad on our thoughts and actions in real time. TINYpulse found that employees are in favor of more frequent reviews, so consider conducting evaluations at key milestones, such as at the end of a major project, or quarterly. These meetings do not have to be long, but they should highlight the highs and lows of the project or time frame. Such reviews give managers a chance to stay engaged with their direct reports, and also provide an opportunity for continuous improvement by receiving feedback from the employee on what could be improved for the next cycle.

“If you put this new generation in the box of the performance management we’ve used the last 30 years, you lose them,” Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme told The Washington Post. “People want to know on an ongoing basis, ‘Am I doing right? Am I moving in the right direction? Do you think I’m progressing?’ Nobody’s going to wait for an annual cycle to get that feedback.”

Insights Engine Tips

You need data to accomplish this. Yet having troves of data is of little value in and of itself. What increasingly separates the winners from the losers is the ability to transform data into insights about consumers’ motivations and to turn those insights into strategy. This alchemy requires innovative organizational capabilities that, collectively, we call the “insights engine.”

The vital role of the insights engine was revealed in a global market-research study led last year by the strategy consultancy Kantar Vermeer. The study, called Insights2020 (i2020), involved interviews and surveys of more than 10,000 business practitioners worldwide. Of the factors that were found to drive customer-centric growth, none mattered more than a firm’s insights engine, embodied in its insights and analytics function. (While these go by many names—including “I&A,” “consumer and market insights,” and “customer intelligence”—for simplicity we refer to them as insights functions here.)

About the Insights2020 Research

In this article we describe the elements of the insights engine and show how it works at consumer goods giant Unilever. The firm’s 400-plus brands, which include Dove, Knorr, and Axe, generated $60 billion in revenue in 2015, propelling underlying sales growth of 4.1% for the year. Performance at that level requires the full engagement of the company’s 169,000 employees, who span functions from supply chain and R&D to marketing and finance. But as we’ll show, it’s the insights engine, manifested in the firm’s Consumer and Market Insights (CMI) group, that underpins Unilever’s customer-centric strategy.

A New Strategy

When Unilever released its first-quarter results in April 2016, CFO Graeme Pitkethly, addressing analysts, announced a major new initiative to shift resources to local markets around the world. He noted that consumers are increasingly seeking brands and products that align with their cultural identity and lifestyle. The result is that local firms, particularly in emerging markets, are growing fast and strengthening their competitive positions. The new program, he explained, would clarify accountability and make Unilever’s marketing teams more agile both globally and locally.

Country business heads had recognized the rising popularity of local brands, and the implications were being discussed separately at many levels across the firm. A presentation to the operating board by CMI’s head, coauthor Stan Sthanunathan, drew on this intelligence and on CMI’s own review of what was happening. Sthanunathan walked the board members through an analysis of why local brands were growing, what threat this posed, and how Unilever could compete. The presentation focused attention, catalyzed the conversation about strategy, and ultimately led to changes in both organization and mindset.

Unilever’s new initiative showcases the type of high-level advisory role that leading insights functions are increasingly taking. A decade ago, this sort of strategic involvement by a customer intelligence operation was almost unheard of. The market research department typically was a reactive service unit reporting to the marketing function, fielding marketing requests, and producing performance management reports. Over time, however, market research departments have been shifting from merely supplying data to interpreting it—distilling insights about consumers’ motivations and needs on the basis of their behavior.

Driven by the imperative to become customer-centric, leading firms are now completing the transformation of market research groups into true insights engines with a fundamentally strategic role. At Unilever, CMI’s prominently communicated mission is “to inspire and provoke to enable transformational action.” Note that the word “insight” is missing—intentionally. That’s because insights merely provide a means to the desired end: action that drives business growth.

In the text that follows, we describe 10 characteristics of superior insights engines, gleaned from the i2020 research and our experience at Unilever. We divide these into two broad groups: operational characteristics, such as functional independence and experimental orientation, and people characteristics, such as business acumen and well-balanced analytic and creative thinking styles.

Operational Characteristics

Seven of the key characteristics relate to the way insights engines operate.

Data synthesis

Until recently, large firms had an advantage over smaller rivals simply because of the scale of their market research capability. Today research that once took months and cost millions can be done for a fraction of that price and in mere days. What matters now is not so much the quantity of data a firm can amass but its ability to connect the dots and extract value from the information. This capability differentiates successful organizations from less successful ones: According to the i2020 research, 67% of the executives at overperforming firms (those that outpaced competitors in revenue growth) said that their company was skilled at linking disparate data sources, whereas only 34% of the executives at underperformers made the same claim.

Top and Killer Business Tips

unduhan-11Whether you’ve lost a loved one, buried a family pet or had a near-death experience, death is simply a fact of life. And, as it turns out, the business of death can be quite lucrative.

From afterlife preparations to unique burial methods and memorials, it turns out that there are more businesses related to death than you might expect. Here are 10 businesses that are cashing in on the dearly departed.

Immortal ink

Just because you’re no longer alive doesn’t mean your tattoos can’t live on. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) hosts a website called Save My Ink, which is dedicaed to preserving tattoos of the deceased and leaving them in the care of their next of kin.

The tattoo preservation community isn’t just for the recently deceased; the living are so interested in the process that NAPSA is retooling to offer their services directly through funeral homes. The move comes just in time, as Americans are getting record number of tattoos. Will the future homes of millennials be commonly decorated with the ink once worn by their loved ones?

Murder scene maids

You’ve heard the expression, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” but what’s the consensus on spilled blood? If the idea of mopping up gore makes your eyes water (or worse), don’t worry: There’s a business you can call to tidy up even the bloodiest of messes.

Baxter Restoration, a cleaning and reconstruction company in Orlando, Florida, does something your average maid won’t: It cleans up after the Grim Reaper. Whether it’s a crime scene, the aftermath of a suicide or the remains of an exploded meth lab, Baxter will disinfect, decontaminate and leave things looking less macabre.

Industry insiders refer to such sluicing down of blood and brains as “biohazard” cleanup. And while this unusual service makes some people squirm, it’s reassuring to know that there’s someone you can call to perform this most unpleasant of chores.

An afterlife app

Leaving behind a hefty inheritance for family members to squabble over is a nice gesture. But what if you want to bequeath something more meaningful than money? There’s an app for that.

Your Last Will is an iPhone app developed by former video game publisher and entrepreneur Wolfgang Gabler. The app lets users prepare for the afterlife by recording a short video with a final message for those they’ll one day leave behind. Whatever your final words are, the app lets you record them in a 5-minute video, which is then uploaded to the company’s servers.

Your Last Will then generates a QR code for you to share with a trusted confidant who can sign in to your account after your demise and distribute your video to friends, family, archenemies, old flings and whomever else you choose to haunt. You can even make your will public and inspire (or sadden) the entire Internet.

Talking tombstones

A company that lets you send messages from beyond the grave is one thing, but a business that facilitates the sending of messages directly from your grave is quite another.

Invented and patented by Robert Barrows, president of an advertising and public relations firm in California, the “video-enhanced grave marker” is a tombstone for the modern age. Embedded with a remote-controlled video screen, this high-tech memorial caters to those unwilling to go quietly into the hereafter.

As Barrows explains on his website, the invention allows people to record messages for family, friends and even complete strangers before dying. Once the person is 6 feet under, these messages are broadcast right in the cemetery. Mourners can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Barrows envisions a future in which graveyard visitors will pay a fee (headset included) to wander from grave to grave, listening to the dark secrets and final advice of lost love ones, as well as dead strangers.

Compostable coffins

Sure, you eat organic apples and have sworn off plastic shopping bags, but will your green lifestyle die when you do? That’s the question this next business wants you to consider before it’s too late.

The Natural Burial Company is an online retail and consulting business that sells biodegradable coffins, caskets, urns and other funeral goodies for eco-conscious mortals. The business aims to facilitate the natural burial process for those who take the whole “dust to dust” thing literally.

To that end, the company sells goods like the “Everybody” Coffin Kit, a biodegradable cork coffin that you can put together in your living room. Talk about a fun do-it-yourself project! The company’s online retail store also features a line of products for pets, including a biodegradable urn in the shape of a yarn ball for the eco-minded (but aging) feline in your life.

Carbon-free cremation services

If you want to be cremated but aren’t sold on the idea of being hoisted onto a conveyor belt and pushed into a giant oven, then this next business is for you. Anderson McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg, Florida, specializes in a new kind of cremation that utilizes water, not fire, to dispose of human bodies.

The process is known as alkali hydrolysis, or “flameless cremation.” And while it sounds less scary than its fiery cousin, the end result is much the same. In this process, the body is soaked in a tub of water and alkali for a few hours. According to the company, the process results in 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than traditional cremation, and is marketed to those looking for a greener way to go.

The process is still in the early adoption phase and is only legal in a few states. However, legislation is pending in many states that could bring this bizarre alternative into the mainstream.

Aquatic afterlife

Lots of people want their ashes scattered across the surface of the sea, but those looking for a unique postmortem experience may want to consider permanently joining the seafloor instead.

Decatur, Georgia-based Eternal Reefs specializes in the construction of “memorial reefs.” The company mixes human remains into concrete, artificial reefs. The reefs are then lowered to the seafloor, where they play host to local sea life and help maintain marine diversity.

The company’s “reef balls” are designed to withstand even the strongest of ocean currents, so mourners don’t have to worry that a loved one’s remains will drift into unchartered waters. Each reef also features a bronze plaque bearing the name of the deceased person it’s made from, making this memorial much like an underwater tombstone.

Spacey send-off

If the deep blue sea isn’t your thing, you might want to consider sending your remains into deep space instead. Celestis, a company offering “memorial spaceflight services,” launches human remains into the dark corners of the universe.

Celestis’ Voyager Service, scheduled to launch for the first time in 2015, isn’t exactly the cheapest way to memorialize a loved one, but it might be the strangest. For $12,500, the company will strap 1 gram of the departed’s remains onto a spacecraft and launch it into outer space. Or, if you’d like to know just where your loved one is headed, you can opt for the company’s Luna Service, which rockets human remains directly to the surface of the moon.

For those with smaller budgets, Celestis’ Earth Rise Service (starting at $1,295) launches human remains into outer space for just a few minutes. After floating in zero gravity, your loved one will drift back down to Earth, where you’ll be reunited with their space-traveling remains.