Following the success of Netflix, two girlfriends from college started the fashion version. Rent The Runway lets you rent fashions from A List designers at reasonable prices. It’s a membership driven site. where you subscribe, pick your fashions, your size and colour! It’s as easy as that. No travelling and no boutiques. It’s also about 10% cheaper than normal boutique prices. Check it out renttherunway.com
Archive for March, 2010
As we have reported before, twitter has become an integral tool for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Twitter can be used effectively to promote a product, brand, sale or reply to customer service inquiries. The key is consistent engagement. Make your tweets personable and timely. Don’t have your replies on an automatic setting. If that’s done you will lose your audience and it will be very difficult to get them back.
A great service to use is tweetbeep.com an email application that will alert you when someone tweets about a subject that interests you. You can then tweet a response and begin the relationship process. Twitter is an evolving communication tool that entrepreneur’s will have to stay on top on. It can be extremely useful if done properly.
Twitter represents a gold mine of marketing possibilities, but the vast majority of firms haven’t figured out how to transform those 140-character tweets into sales.
One exception is mega-brand Dunkin’ Donuts, which has started to track dollars flowing from Twitter by tallying the number of people who click through from a “Win Free Coffee for a Year Offer” on Twitter. Users who enroll in the “DD Perks” program are entered into a company database. The company has a quantitative value for database members, although it will not disclose that number or the Twitter click-through rate.
Yet while Dunkin’ has become a dominant brand on Twitter with over 46,000 followers, most firms are in the early stages of puzzling out how best to monetize a website whose passionate users crank out an average of 50 million tweets each day.
Still, a growing number of companies are seeking out Twitter for marketing purposes: 35 percent or 173 of Fortune 500 companies have active Twitter accounts, according to a recent study about corporate Twitter usage in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research. The study called company growth on Twitter “explosive.”
A relatively early adopter of Twitter, David “Dunkin’ Dave” Puner has been tweeting for the chain since October 2008. Puner tweets about deals on coffee, munchkins, and breakfast sandwiches, the company’s “create your own donut contest,” and also replies to dozens of requests and comments daily.
Puner notes that Dunkin’s irreverent brand personality lends itself to Twitter and looks to its thousands of followers as proof that the company’s time spent tweeting is worth something. Although Puner notes Dunkin’ is still “figuring out Twitter,” he also said: “It’s a great place to get that real-time feedback and to find out what consumers want from you as a brand.”
Still, the majority of companies are somewhat clueless about Twitter’s business impact. Corporate Twitter strategies are “all over the map” ranging from hyper-engaged companies skilled at building trust with followers down to firms that play it safe, sending out lackluster tidbits of information, said Emily Riley, analyst and research director at Forrester Research Inc.
“In truth, relatively few companies are doing any of this well,” said Riley in an email.
But companies like Staples Inc., which has a “Tweet team” of five staffers and has amassed more than 31,000 followers, are passionate about mastering the art of “microblogging.” The company started using the site late last year and tweets mainly about deals and customer service.
Even at a sophisticated company, figuring out the ROI of social media “is the million-dollar question,” said Michelle Ormes, Staples’ director of corporate branding. “Right now…we value the number of our followers and how engaged they are.”
Business-to-business firms are also placing increased importance on social media and Twitter. Forrester predicts that B-to-B firms will increase spending on social media from a total of $11 million in 2009 to $54 million in 2014.
A prime example is EMC Corp., which, with more than 3,777 followers, views Twitter as a valid channel for one-on-one customer conversations. And with 400-plus EMC employees with personal Twitter accounts monitoring mentions of the technology company, there’s plenty of opportunity for that back-and-forth. While the company has chatted on Twitter with potential customers, according to EMC’s director of digital strategy Len Devanna, the company doesn’t use the channel for sales.
“But I’d be lying if I said sales wasn’t on our radar,” said Devanna.
Small businesses have also found followers, although dubious proof of sales, on Twitter. Somerville, Massachusetts-based Kickasscupcakes owner Sara Ross has attracted more than 800 followers and tries to give her cupcake fans behind-the-scene glimpses of her business by posting videos. But, Ross thinks her Mini Cooper, which is decked out with her store’s branding, has gotten her the best free publicity.
Not all companies are convinced that tweeting is a necessity, even ones that believe in social media. Car-sharing firm Zipcar has some 30,000 fans on Facebook, but does not actively tweet, although company spokeswoman Nancy Scott says the company “listens” on Twitter. Zipcar’s inactive Twitter page has close to 1,000 followers.While many companies are still simply engaging with followers on Twitter, Mike Schneider, digital chief at Watertown, Massachusetts-based Allen & Gerritsen, says his agency encourages clients to use Twitter as part of larger marketing strategies. Corporate social-media strategies that are only focused on engagement are “shortsighted,” said Schneider. “If you push, we feel like you can ask for permission to sell something.”
From the Wallstreet Journal:
Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, remembers the first time he saw the Internet – in a research laboratory at the University of Minnesota, circa 1990 – and likens the moment to the California Gold Rush. By 1994, the former computer-science student had dropped out, turned a side job repairing PCs into Geek Squad, and was sending employees dressed in nerdy ensembles (too-short dark pants, white socks) to fix computer glitches at local companies or homes. Eight years later, the Richfield, Minn., company that Stephens started with $200 was acquired by Best Buy for about $3 million. Today it has 20,000 employees in 1,038 Best Buy stores and seven stand-alone Geek Squad locations. Stephens, 40 years old, has stayed on as a vice president and retains his original Geek Squad title: Chief Inspector.
Edited interview excerpts follow:
What made you drop out to start a business?
A. In the early ’90s, a degree in computer science could really only get you a job in a large corporation. Lots of people were leaving college with a lot of debt. If you take that on, then you’re screwed. There’s no way to break out of the cycle. I didn’t want to have to worry about paying off student loans. And it’s easier to do a start-up in your 20s, because you can be selfish – you don’t have a family yet.
Q. Did you really start the company with $200?
A. Yeah. I had a mountain bike and a cell phone. I was still a student at the time, but once I realized it was a potential business my grade-point average started to drop.
Q. You grew Geek Squad without taking on debt. How?
A. It was very easy. If you think about it, the reason that most service companies stink is that you don’t need much money to get into them. All I needed was business cards and a phone number. If I did a good job, if I worked enough hours, if people liked me, I’d get referrals. I grew it one step at a time, one employee at a time. Then I was making enough profit to expand to other cities. In Los Angeles, I didn’t need an office – I drove the Geekmobile [one of the company's logo-emblazoned vehicles] myself all the way there, that’s 23 hours if you don’t sleep — and found that if you keep buying a coffee in the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge, you can make all your calls. Once you’ve hired agents [the company's "geeks"], they can be dispatched by cell phone.
Q.What’s the best part about running your own business?
A. You can call yourself whatever you want. My title is Chief Inspector. Calling myself “CEO” of a one-person start-up after taking the bus to register my articles of incorporation felt a bit arrogant.
Q. Why did you sell your business to Best Buy?
A. Start-ups are more nimble and can be more innovative, but they lack the one thing that big companies have – and that’s leverage. When I came to Best Buy, I acquired their leverage. I had looked at other ways to grow, like franchising, but decided against it. You can franchise donuts and hot dogs, but even that’s not easy. I also didn’t want to take on investors; they just want to cash out. Best Buy was the best choice. At the time, we started to see Starbucks go inside Barnes & Noble and Target, and we began to see one brand could live in another, in harmony. I could envision Geek Squad right next to Best Buy’s electronics. It was kind of a match made in heaven.
Q. Most founders leave when they sell their business – why have you stayed?
A. I’m basically still there out of spite. (Laughs.) Why don’t founders stay? They usually lose control. If I’m so damn smart, I should be able to convince Best Buy of the best strategies for the company. I’ll leave when I feel it’s done – but frankly, I think it’s all just starting. You can argue that Geek Squad is still in its early stages.
Q. Any advice for other entrepreneurs hoping to make it big?
A. Starve yourself. Don’t take the money. Do it yourself. I recommend a diet of ramen noodles and very little sleep. If you don’t love your business, someone else will love it more than you, and do it better and be more creative. I have an irrational love of technology. I don’t care how much I get paid.
Q. What’s the next hot area for technology?
A. If I were to tell any kid what to get into, I would say mobile phone screens. Normal people are becoming geekified. Ever go to a cocktail party, and people whip out their cell phones to check Wikipedia and say “aha Sonny Bono was elected in 1987.” It’s almost like the invasion of the iPhone snatchers.
Q. Any projects down the road?
A. I plan to create a global conglomerate called Massive Corporation. Check out the site, www.massivecorporation.com. I intend to acquire companies that I find interesting, and rebrand them with a sense of humor. If I can glamorize computer support, wait til I get into garbage disposal and plumbing.
By Collen Debaise
With the explosion of the iPhone as well new entrants from Google. The App market has exploded within the last 18 months. As we reported in the past, most app developers haven’t made any real revenue from their products. Yet that hasn’t stopped the explosion of new games and apps each day. The question is how will the market grow over the next few years? The app market has created thousands of new entrepreneurs, but how many can succeed? On the one hand it is growing fast and there is the potential for really powerful apps that could change of the nature of computing. On the other hand, there are a growing number of critics who are suggesting that the market is a bubble an over hyped. A lot will happen once the iPad launches. Many see the iPad, with its iPhone-like appearance but much larger screen, as the ultimate vehicle for running apps.
Marketers have long been giddy about the prospect of sending ads to consumers’ cell phones, but consumers haven’t always been too keen on the idea, reports Inc.com.
That, however, is starting to change. Though cell-phone owners still seem resistant to the idea of advertisers randomly pinging their phones, a recent survey by HipCricket, a mobile advertising firm, found that 37 percent of consumers would be interested in participating in a mobile customer-loyalty program.
In fact, as coupon usage has experienced an upswing during the recession, more and more shoppers have signed up to receive special offers through third-party cell-phone applications and text-message programs.
New free mobile applications, such as Yowza, MobiQpons, and Cellfire, allow consumers to check for nearby businesses offering special deals. Phones that have built-in GPS capabilities, such as the iPhone and T-Mobile G1, can usually pinpoint a customer’s location down to the city block.
In many cases, a customer simply shows his or her cell phone at the register, where the cashier scans a bar code on the phone’s screen. Although most of these applications have been around only for a few months, millions of people have downloaded the software to their phones.
Because mobile coupons target customers who are near a store’s location, the redemption rates can exceed those of paper coupons.
Shopping and commerce have always worked well online and two sites Grouper and Livingsocial, have proven that. Each site has received millions of dollars in investments for their group buying sites. Livingsocial.com has raised $25 in funding for their site alone. These sites provide daily deals with a particular business within a city that they operate in. Once a user purchases an item, they can automatically share what they purchased on Facebook or Twitter.
If they can encourage other people to purchase that particular item, they can then get their item for free. The sites make their money from a cut of the transactions from the retailer they partnered with that day. These sites are expanding quickly to cities across North America. How long will it take until they get to Canada.
From Reuters: Check them ou
When Barack Obama merely mentioned how much he liked his BlackBerry, the unofficial endorsement was said to be worth as much as $50 million. While not in the same stratosphere, a small comic book startup is using caricatures of the president, First Lady Michelle Obama and other big names to drive up sales.
Blue Water Productions has tapped a vein of mass appeal, capitalizing on the star power of public figures. Besides the Obamas, co-founder Darren Davis has profiled Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Caroline Kennedy, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, George W. Bush and Lady Gaga to name a few.
“I’m not the most political person in the world,” said Davis, whose unauthorized biographical comics have become the lifeblood of the fledgling Portland, Ore.-based company. Davis said Blue Water’s 2009 revenues were close to $1 million and expects that could double this year.
“There are so many markets that this hits,” he said. “People just curious about the subject, people collecting biography comics, political collectors, women and kids.”
Blue Water’s titles sell for $3.99 in comic book stores. Davis also hawks them in non-traditional places, such as the specialty retail chain Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts.
The short biographies aim to provide unbiased factual accounts of their subjects’ lives, replete with the ample sarcasm and stylized graphic appeal that characterize the comic genre. Even the Obamas’ household pooch has his own comic tome — “Bo Obama, the White House Tails” — targeted to a younger audience.
“Any time you’ve got a small business that can tie into a celebrity, it can do phenomenal things for your brand,” said Jay Jessup, a brand publicist and co-author of “Fame 101″, who counts Blue Water among a clientele that includes soap opera star Jonathan Jackson (“General Hospital”) and noted stem-cell scientist and author Christian Drapeau.
Jessup said Blue Water’s biographies have gained enough recognition that celebrities are actually honored to be chosen for comic rendering.
Davis said Barbara Walters proudly displayed her copy on “The View” and also called to personally thank him. In addition, his Sarah Palin comic, now in its fourth printing, found its way onto CNN’s Larry King Live and Davis said his Michelle Obama book has sold more than 60,000 copies.
Despite all the hoopla, the cost of riffing on fame does have a downside: Davis conceded Blue Water has been derided as a “bottom feeder” within his comic book fraternity. Undeterred by the criticism, Davis intends to continue to hitch his wagon to the stars, noting the biographies now account for the lion’s share of his profits.
Davis honed his promotional skills as a marketer for E! Entertainment and USA Network. Shifting to the comics industry — his long-time passion — he eventually represented big-name artists such as Joe Madureira, known for his work on “Uncanny X-Men” and “Battle Chasers.” After several years with comic book publisher Wildstorm, which was taken over by DC Comics, Davis struck out on his own and eventually founded Blue Water in 2005.
“One thing I learned when I worked at E! is that celebrities are royal families,” he said.
Celebrity tie-ins have always been important for the company. Before the biographies, Blue Water inked a deal with Star Trek legend William Shatner to produce comic spinoffs from Shatner’s 1989 sci-fi novel “TekWar,” with “The Tek War Chronicles.” Davis also had a deal with the estate of horror-film legend Vincent Price, creating comics ahead of the 100-year anniversary of the actor’s birth.
During the 2008 presidential election, Davis’s business partner, Jason Schultz, spotted an opening they couldn’t ignore. Rival publishers, including industry behemoth Marvel Comics, had begun releasing Barack Obama-themed comic books to feed a growing demand for election memorabilia. Schultz wondered why they couldn’t produce similar books focused on powerful women.
“These things took off like gangbusters,” said Davis. “As soon as we announced that we had the Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin books coming out, we had CNN knocking on our door.”
Even so, Blue Water is still just a niche player in a market dominated by heavyweights Marvel, a division of Disney, and DC Comics, which is owned by Time Warner. According to data from ICv2.com, a Web site that covers the comics industry, sales of comic books totaled $320 million in 2008, down from $330 million in 2007.
Biographical comics are not a new genre, but date back several generations, having covered a celebrity roster that includes Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis, among others, according to comics’ historian John Jackson Miller, founder of the Comics Chronicles, a resource for information about the industry.
What’s different about Blue Water, he said, is how tenacious the firm has been in sticking to the theme and taking advantage of media opportunities when they arise. Even so, gauging the public’s appetite for celebrities is always a guessing game, said Miller.
Blue Water only had one book charting in the top 300 titles as tracked by Diamond Comic Distributors, the industry’s leading supplier, for the month of January, Miller said. That compares to last October, when they had three books in the top 300.
“It’s a nice little niche,” he said. “If they do enough of these things, they could raise their market share considerably.”
Fortune Magazine) — My first venture was a door-to-door laundry business for students that I started while on a partial tennis scholarship at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I wanted to do something that didn’t depend on my hands to create value.
My father is a doctor, so when he’s playing golf, he’s losing money. When I came out of a business class and saw my trucks picking up laundry, I thought, I’m in class and making money at the same time
After we expanded EZ Laundry to four colleges, I sold my share. I moved to Nashville to start an outdoor-media company that Clear Channel scooped up three years later.
In 2002 my sister and I teamed up to compete on the CBS reality show The Amazing Race. We didn’t win, but my travels during the show led me back to Argentina in 2006. On my visit I saw lots of kids with no shoes who were suffering from injuries to their feet.
I decided a business would be the most sustainable way to help, so I founded TOMS [in Santa Monica], which is short for a “better tomorrow.” For each pair of shoes sold — TOMS are based on the classic alpargata style worn in Argentina — we donate a pair to a child in need.
AT&T found the story so compelling that it decided to feature us in a television campaign last year. Today TOMS can be found online and in stores like Whole Foods and Nordstrom , and on the feet of more than 400,000 kids in countries like Argentina and Ethiopia.
Secrets of my success
Storytelling is the new marketing. I think that’s why AT&T called me to appear in its commercial, because stories get shared and spread much more than a message or a product.
Beware experts bearing gifts
As entrepreneurs we often get pressured into hiring an industry executive. While it’s good to hire people with experience, it can also be a stumbling block because they think about the business the same way everyone else does.
No clock punchers
Walk away from anyone who is unduly focused on vacation and compensation. It’s a sign of potential trouble. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t really want to work at TOMS, you’ll never work out here.
Instead of squirreling away your earnings early in your career, spend on experiences that will enrich your life — like diving with great white sharks. It can expose you to influential people who could open doors for you.
From Bnet.com. Visit their site to read the full story.
Keeping employees motivated and loyal is one of the hardest parts of any manager’s job. No matter what faze your company is in, a motivated and loyal team is absolutely essential to the success of your firm. Here are 7 useful tips;
1. Take the Pulse of Your Team
How do they feel about their jobs? The direction of their project and or company?
2. Create Great Jobs
Create meaningful positions that are interactive and achievable. Make sure these positions align with their own personal goals.
3. Create Great Careers
Work with your direct reports to develop an extended career plan for them — even if that plan means the individual must leave the business to achieve a certain professional goal.
4. Re balance The Blame Culture
Most people don’t leave their company, they leave you — their boss, says entrepreneur and author Jo Owen, author of “The Death of Modern Management.” “If you want engagement, you must show that you care, delegating more than just the rubbish that you don’t want to do.”
5. Makes Meetings Optional
Make meetings shorter and more focused.
6. Acknowledge Individuals
Be positive and acknowledge your team on regular basis.
7. Put Employees Into The Bigger Picture
Employees look to team leaders to remind them why their work is important in the big picture, and to create excitement about what the company is doing.