Thursday, January 17, 2019

Student entrepreneurs showcase their business ideas - Monroe Evening News

Scrolling through Pinterest for many is a leisure activity.

Sifting through recipes, getting googly eyes for puppy photos and finding inspiration for arts and crafts projects is what the social media application company is all about. But could it be used to make money?

In Monroe Middle School teacher Holly VanKlingeren’s Generation E course, the popular app and others were used to spark a slew of moneymaking ideas among nearly 30 student teams who started their own businesses.

From sweet treats to clothing and accessories, the final products were up for sale Tuesday morning during the school’s second- annual entrepreneur showcase, where students set up shop to sell their wares to peers and teachers.

“Some students have really taken off with their businesses,” VanKingeren said.

As part of an 18-week course on entrepreneurship, students spend about half the time focusing on creating a potential business. Each student had to brainstorm an idea for a product, create a prototype and pitch their product to the class, VanKingeren said.

If the pitch went well, students had the option to move forward with their business. If they weren’t happy with their product, they had the option to scrap the idea and apply to another business to be interviewed as a potential partner.

Once each business was established, students were required to design a logo, print business cards, create fliers and outline costs, among other responsibilities.

“This class really did show me a lot about business,” said Julia Puruleski who sold handmade bracelets. “It was harder than I expected, but it was a great experience.”

A total of 42 eighth- graders from two classes joined to create 28 unique businesses. Products varied from snacks like popcorn and candy to self-care items like stress balls and bath bombs. Several students also sold T- shirts, key chains, lanyards and other accessories.

Those with artistic strengths sold jewelry, poster boards, art work, homemade lamps and tons of miscellaneous items.

One student business that was particularly successful was “Cookie Dough Bites” operated by Catie Lebeck and Allie Hall. The pair prepared homemade edible cookie dough bites that they sold individually, in groups of three or by the dozen.

Leading up to the business showcase, Catie and Allie already were filling orders.

“Students who wanted to participate had the opportunity to do a ‘holiday blitz’ sale to see what feedback they could get from their potential market,” said VanKlingeren. “Catie and Allie had already started taking orders ( before sale day).”

The girls created four types of cookie dough bites — original chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodle and sweet and salty sugar. They developed flavors based on a survey of their peers.

A single small cookie dough bite cost $1, three large bites were $5, a dozen small were $ 5 and a dozen large were $18. The pair sold six pre-orders and were slammed with sales during the showcase event.

“We wanted to make a sweet treat for everyone to enjoy without getting a stomach ache,” Allie said. “Figuring out our schedule and when we were going to meet has been the most challenging.”

Another student business was called Midtown Dog Toys, created by Ryan McCullough and Andrew Whited. The pair used Facebook to ask for jean donations from friends and family.

The jeans were cut, tied and braided to shape into toys for dogs. Both animal lovers, Ryan and Andrew said they tested the toys on their family dogs and they were a success.

By accepting donations to create their product, all sales were considered profit since they didn’t have to pay for materials. That was one of the team’s business strategies.

“Plus, the toys don’t hurt the environment because it’s using reusable materials instead of plastics,” Andrew said. After the showcase, VanKingeren said the classes will calculate a financial analysis to determine if they made a profit, broke even or lost money.

About 10 percent of their sales will be donated to a local charity of their choice.

How to Build Your Online Business -

Image credit:

You know you need to get your business online, but do you know where to start? Let's break it down into steps.

Anyone following my recent string of articles may have noted that I frequently write on subjects like e-commerce, m-commerce and digital enablement. This is because I feel businesses globally need to act quickly to establish themselves on the internet or face mass extinction. 

Many of the most valuable brands are either dot-com or technology companies. That says a lot about where we are today. Our once-disconnected global community is increasingly finding and establishing borderless communications and business channels.

Some of the readers and businesses I advise have reached out to me and asked something along these lines: "I understand that you've been voicing your opinions about going digital, and I'm sold to a certain extent, but I'm lost when it comes to the operational leg of this journey. How do I get my preferred domain? What is hosting, and why do I need it? Who designs my website? I have a basic brick-and-mortar business and don't know the first thing about taking my business digital – how can I make sure that I am building a future-proof e-commerce setup that won't disrupt my existing business?" 

To answer all these and other questions, here is the step-by-step journey to take your brand digital.

1. Research, research ... and research. 

The first thing to do when starting any new business is to understand your target audience. This is something I religiously follow for one simple reason: You need to know who you're selling to. 

A good targeting strategy to facilitate your online sales and marketing process will almost certainly ensure that the right audience lands on your platform, whether that's your e-commerce website or your social media pages. It's simple – you need to be where your customers are and have what they want. Because the digital market is borderless, you can use tools like Google Trends to review what global or local trends are being extensively searched over a period of time. This gives you good preliminary data to break down your product's popular regions and optimize your digital marketing strategy (including budgets, digital channels and vehicles). 

2. Establish your digital channels.

A lot of people ask me if a website is the only sales and marketing channel you need to set up your digital storefront. The answer isn't always simple. While I am a strong advocate for building and managing a digital presence through your website, I have to be honest – a lot of small businesses (such as home-based food and clothing sellers) operate just fine without websites, relying on social media to push their products. While a lot of them see organic results, many put money into promoting their brands online. 

Obviously, I endorse the need to create, manage and maintain your social media presence, but to all those businesses looking to grow and establish themselves online, I'll tell you that a website is a pivotal investment. This investment includes all of these components: 

Domain registration

The myth that building and maintaining a website is a costly affair should no longer apply in this day and age. The first thing you need to know when building a website for your business is that there are now multiple extensions you can purchase online. 


Once you've locked in a name for your website, it's important to understand what sort of domain hosting works for you. Simply put, your hosting is the space you require to keep your website up and online. A lot of things can damage your digital brand, and bad hosting decisions are one of them. Whenever I am choosing a hosting plan for any one of my digital assets, I rely a lot on research. Websites like Hosting Facts benchmark 30-plus hosting companies. This sort of information lets users understand the kind of hosting option that would facilitate their web traffic, as well as the costs and included support features. [Read related article: The Best Web and Cloud Hosting Services of 2019]

Website development

Building your website nowadays isn't about knowing programming languages, nor is it a costly affair for which you have to hire a customized development team or an agency. That's an option if you're looking to do groundbreaking stuff that requires a customized solution, but for your standard SMB, blog or services brand, you need to consider site builders that can quickly deploy a functional website at a fraction of the cost a normal developer might charge. Again, it is very important to compare website builders to decide which is best for you. According to a recent Hosting Facts study, 2 out of 10 website-building projects fail. This might be due to a lack of research and need analysis – I make it a point to first establish that the service I will use can scale with my business. 

Editor's note: Looking for a website builder for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

3. Focus on building winning content.

The next step after you've identified your target audience, market and digital channels is to write strong content. Some people say that this step should precede establishing your digital channels, but I feel one should focus on the tasks and not the order, and this approach has helped me focus the bulk of my time on developing content. 

This process involves all your online and offline assets; a key to understanding your content strategy is to build an omnichannel experience. These are the foundations of writing and publishing powerful content:

  • It should be focused on sales and conversions but should not oversell.
  • It should flow naturally and be accurate and engaging. 
  • You should follow a content schedule using a calendar. Small businesses can use services like Canva to create regular social media posts, web banners, etc.
  • You should update your website content regularly. You can use tools like Crazy Egg to set up heat maps that will audit your customer journeys and see which content works for you and which doesn't.
  • If your product is technical, you should offer educational materials for it, such as a FAQs page or YouTube explainer videos.

In conclusion

These three steps are what will get you in shape online. They serve as broad guidelines of what you should do as an offline brand or even as an online brand struggling to complete its transition. These tools and techniques are not absolute, but they are solutions I use to keep my digital brands relevant.

The internet has opened up huge potential to build future-proof digital businesses. This is the right time to do your research and take your brand online.

Moazzam Kamran

A veteran brand-builder with diverse experience of working with companies across consumer packaged goods, retail, telecom, and technology/software verticals. Currently working as the Global Head of Marketing at Avanza Innovations a multinational solutions powerhouse with products and on-ground implementations across key tech verticals like; Blockchain, AI, RPA, Smart City Enablement and Consumer Engagement. During his educational and professional duties he has gone through a rigorous learning, un-learning and re- learning regimen. This now enables him to look at brands as people, with personas and the need to socialise, express and communicate. With his diverse experience he helps brands across key disciplines like: Integrated Marketing Communications, Consumer Research and Behavior, Brand Asset Value Management and Development, Sales Strategy and Global Expansion. A visiting faculty at SZABIST for over 8 years and a writer who has appeared on various international blogs and publications including: Forbes-ME, Gulf Business, Dawn,, etc. He also takes time out to coach students on social citizenship and has helped deliver support/trainings to organisations like: Al Umeed Rehabilitation Association (AURA), TCF, Gills old age shelter and Manzil Educational Organization.

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Tax Tips for Online Business Entrepreneurs - CEOWORLD magazine

Three Initiatives That Can Help You Boost Your Online Business Performance Quickly - Forbes


Small businesses and startups are constantly challenged to capture the attention of their key stakeholders. With today’s abundant resources, it is cheaper than ever to self-fund a business. The challenge becomes differentiation and scalability.

In today’s digital age, good products and services are not enough to surpass the competition. Consumers are continuously presented with similar, better and alternative options that most potential buyers end up avoiding making a decision. Though there are many marketing strategies and tactics you could implement to attract your ideal customers, most of the time, especially for bootstrapped founders, the cost and time required don’t justify the investment.

Conditioned on the value of your solution, marketing comes down to building awareness and trust. A prospect typically goes through three phases before making a buying decision: awareness, trust, trial and then purchase. Marketing funnels are designed to help future customers successfully move from one phase to the other but the challenge remains in capturing people’s attention and curiosity.

Here are three projects you can start today that will significantly boost your business performance and exposure to a new audience without getting your wallet dry.

The idea behind this approach is that companies or organizations that offer complementary and supplementary products and services will be willing to promote your offer to their audience if they trust you and if the partnership makes sense to them. Joint ventures, collaborations or partnerships are an excellent awareness, trust and acquisition channel because as an entrepreneur or a brand, your customer acquisition job becomes a lot of easier since a big percentage of the awareness and trust building phase is done through your partner. If their customers and followers trust them, they’re more likely to trust you.

  1. Organize Co-Branded Trainings

You’d be surprised how big companies and small businesses sit on lists of thousands of qualified leads, whether it is through social media, email lists or even active website visitors. But only a small percentage pay for and use the product or service. You’d be surprised also how many paying customers never consume the product even though they have invested in it.

This initiative entails hosting co-branded training sessions to help leads convert and existing customers solve a problem. More importantly, it is an opportunity for your company to get exposed to a new audience and build a win-win.

  • List companies or solo founders that run businesses that offer complementary or supplementary products or services.
  • Invest in relationship building. Business is built on trust and your only focus in the beginning should be in building trust with decision makers. If you cannot meet in person, the best way to catch their attention is by seeking their interest in an interview. People like to be recognized for their accomplishments, an interview is the best start to a potential partnership.
  • Propose a one to two-day online or in-person training event to help both of your audiences accomplish a desired outcome.
  • Seek their commitment to promote the training to their list.

Through this simple and yet effective project, you will get an opportunity to help a new audience, educate them about the benefits of your products and services and more importantly, build trust and a relationship with them. The same goes for your partner in this initiative.

  1. Launch An Online Event

Online events are a variation of co-branded trainings. This initiative entails inviting experts in your field to share valuable insights with your existing and future customers. Thanks to your speakers’ promotion of the event, your brand will be introduced to thousands of new people, a percentage of which will convert into paying customers.

  • List experts in your industry with a big audience and loyal followers.
  • Seek their interest in an interview. The interview is your opportunity to connect with them at a personal level and get their commitment to promote.
  • Create an event page that includes the list of speakers, topics and expected outcomes from joining the event.
  • Be of value to attendees and feel free to offer your product or service as an added benefit to joining the event or an upsell. You may also continue to educate subscribers for future product launches.

An online event is an initiative with many benefits. In addition to the exposure, it’s an opportunity for you to connect with industry leaders, strengthen your personal or company brand, validate ideas and boost sales. Best of all, it can be done with a very small investment and within a few weeks.

  1. Launch Co-Branded Campaigns

You may have seen many social media influencers showing up in the same video or picture ad to combine their brands and reach each others’ audiences with a simple educational video, packaged product or service. The same idea can be applied to your solution with complementary and supplementary offers from other companies.

  • Focus on relationship building. Meeting at conferences, interviewing them and purchasing their product and emailing them with a detailed review is a great way to grab their attention.
  • Learn about their needs, priorities and objectives before you propose a collaboration. Timing plays a big role so always be connecting and building relationships.
  • Remove as much of the friction as you can especially if their audience is bigger than yours. You want to make their involvement simple and straightforward.

This initiative can be as simple as a guide written on your blog about a complementary product supplemented with an interview with the founder of the company and promoted to their list by them or through a shared social media ad.

Whether you’re funded or bootstrapped, the easiest way to be different nowadays is through personalization. Building key relationship and leveraging your indirect competitors’ audience in a win-win deal is a simple way to boost your business performance on strong foundations and without burning stages.

Nigerian Pastor Scams Lady With Recharge Card Business Proposal (Screenshots) - Concise News

Soybean pulp — the next superfood? | 2019-01-16 - Food Business News

SAN FRANCISCO — As the founder of an organic juice company, Claire Schlemme dreaded discarding so much fruit and vegetable pulp left over from production.

“We were taking such care to source all organic, mostly local produce ... and we were losing a lot of it,” she recalled.

That experience led her to launch Renewal Mill, a business committed to tackling food waste by transforming byproducts into nutritious, functional ingredients. At the Winter Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 13-15 in San Francisco, the company showcased okara flour, a versatile, high-fiber, gluten-free flour harvested from the pulp left over from soy milk processing.

Okara flour has more fiber, protein and calcium than white flour with fewer net carbohydrates, according to the company. Yet, the ingredient offers the same functionality, taste and price.

Oakland, Calif.-based Renewal Mill has partnered with a tofu manufacturer to install drying technology at the processing facilities, Ms. Schlemme said. Previously, the pulp leftover from soybean processing was used as animal feed.

Renewal Mill soybean pulp“It’s not a reliable or high-value way to use it,” Ms. Schlemme told Food Business News. “It’s certainly better than going to landfill, but given this is traditionally a human food ingredient in east Asian cooking, It definitely should be maintained as a human food ingredient.”

Traditionally, okara has been consumed in its wet form, often tossed into stir-fries or used as a binder in okonomiyaki, a vegetable pancake. Renewal Mill dries the ingredient on-site for easier handling and transport.

“These byproducts are very wet when they come off the processing line,” Ms. Schlemme said. “They’re prone to spoilage, and because they’re wet, they’re very heavy. One of the things that’s really important to us is it’s not just about reducing food waste, but it’s also about increasing supplies of affordable and accessible nutrition, because these are low-cost or no-cost streams of nutrition that we can bring back into the food supply chain. But when you talk about needing to move around heavy product like that, where you’re basically paying to ship water, you can very quickly lose the economics of having this work out.”

As proof of concept, Renewal Mill developed a line of individually packaged cookies made with okara flour for convenience stores and food service outlets.

“We realized we needed to take this two-pronged approach because it’s such a novel ingredient,” Ms. Schlemme said. “We wanted to be able to have a way to introduce it to people, have something we can build some education around, and then in addition to that, collect sales data around this so we can go to, for example, cookie companies and say, ‘We were outselling competitors six to one’…

“That’s a compelling way to start the conversation with the marketing departments at larger food companies.”

Okara flour may be added to grain-based food products to achieve a nutritional claim as a good source of fiber and protein without changing the appearance or taste, she said.

Renewal Mill upcycling process

“Another place we see value is as a nutritious gluten-free flour,” Ms. Schlemme said. “Gluten-free products that are really reliant on white rice flour don’t have a lot of nutrition. This a superior gluten-free flour that comes with all these extra nutrition benefits.”

Okara flour has subtle milky, nutty notes that add richness to flour-based products, she said.

“Interestingly when we’ve done taste tests with it, the results are either people can’t tell the difference, or there’s a slight preference for the one that has okara,” she added.

At the Institute of Food Technologists' annual meeting and food expo held last year in Chicago, Renewal Mill won the inaugural IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge. The company received a $25,000 cash prize and Future Food Disruptor of the Year award. The opportunity was “a door opener for us,” Ms. Schlemme said.

The company also recently began collaborating with Cargill through Techstars' Farm to Fork accelerator program to explore additional applications for okara flour, including extruded products.

“We found that there are some really cool applications in creating puffs,” Ms. Schlemme said. “This opens a whole other set of applications for us into cereals, puffed snacks, granola bars, things like that.”

Renewal Mill’s technology may be applied to a wide range of byproducts. Later this year, the company plans to introduce another ingredient from a byproduct of non-dairy milk production.

“We’re looking at the byproducts from almond milk, oat milk and pea milk,” she said.

“We see ourselves in five years’ time being a major player in the ingredients space with a variety of different ingredients and ingredient blends, where all of those ingredients are being sourced from byproducts,” Ms. Schlemme added. “They’re all upcycled and would have otherwise gone to waste. Partly what we’re excited about in terms of bringing on additional byproducts and doing that quickly is this idea of being able to create blends of different products from what’s out there, so it allows us to basically take different nutritional and functional benefits these byproducts have and put them together in ways that fit what big food companies are looking for in terms of responding to consumer demands and making formulation changes in their products.”

Business Highlights - ABC News


UK's May wins vote to keep job, Brexit chaos

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May's government has survived a no-confidence vote called after May's Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected by lawmakers. The House of Commons expressed confidence in the government by 325 votes to 306, meaning May can remain in office. Had the government lost, Britain would have faced an election within weeks while preparing to leave the European Union on March 29.


Sears staves off liquidation, stores to remain open

NEW YORK (AP) — Sears will live on— at least for now. The company's chairman and largest shareholder won a bankruptcy auction for Sears in New York, averting liquidation of the iconic chain, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The move, which still needs the approval of a bankruptcy judge, would allow Eddie Lampert to keep open roughly 400 stores and preserve tens of thousands of jobs that come with them.


From travel to IPOs, how shutdown is upsetting US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, projects that after growing for nearly 10 years, the economy might contract in this year's first quarter if the shutdown lasts through March. Other forecasts are less dire. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, thinks that if the shutdown extends that long, the economy would slow by 0.5 percentage point but would remain on solid footing.


Fed survey finds businesses worried by political uncertainty

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday business contacts in many regions of the country are expressing less optimism amid a host of adverse developments, from plunging stock prices to uncertainty about a widening trade war. In its latest report on economic conditions around the country, the Fed said that eight of its 12 regions reported the economy was expanding at a moderate pace as the new year began.


John Bogle, Vanguard founder, dies at 89

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (AP) — John Bogle, investing pioneer and founder of Vanguard Group, who brought index funds to millions of investors, dies at age 89, the company says. Bogle simplified investing for the masses by introducing the first index mutual fund for individual investors in 1976. Vanguard also shook up the industry by ending the company's reliance on outside brokers by directly marketing its funds to investors without charging upfront fees known as sales loads.


Hyundai, Kia recall vehicles due to increased fire risk

DETROIT (AP) — Despite a government shutdown, Hyundai and Kia are moving ahead with a recall of about 168,000 vehicles to fix a fuel pipe problem that can cause engine fires. The problem stems from improper repairs during previous recalls for engine failures. In addition, each automaker also will do a "product improvement campaign" covering a total of 3.7 million vehicles to install software that will alert drivers of possible engine failures.


Sinclair debuts streaming service for its local TV stations

NEW YORK (AP) — Sinclair Broadcast, the nation's largest owner of television stations, is launching a free, ad-supported streaming service. It will draw on local news, sports and other programs from the 191 TV stations it owns in 89 U.S. markets. The service will also have separate digital channels for movies, sports and even poker and NASA TV. The company joins an ever-growing list of streaming service players, including Netflix, Amazon and upcoming offerings from Disney and NBCUniversal.


Study: Top US firms are diversifying their boards faster

NEW YORK (AP) — A study has found that America's largest companies added women and minorities to their boards of directors at a faster pace over the past two years, a period when sexual harassment scandals thrust workplace equality into the spotlight. African-American and Asian women made the biggest gains, though their overall numbers remain small. That's according to the 2018 Board Diversity Census, released Wednesday by the Alliance for Board Diversity and the consulting firm Deloitte.


Big bank rally helps US stocks finish higher; Goldman soars

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks finish higher after Goldman Sachs had its best day in 10 years and Bank of America rose the most in seven years as banks and other financial companies report strong fourth-quarter results. Stocks were on track for larger gains before the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government may bring criminal charges against Chinese tech company Huawei, adding to U.S.-China trade tensions. U.K. stocks ticked lower after Parliament rejected Prime Minister May's Brexit deal.


The S&P 500 index gained 5.80 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,616.10. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 141.57 points, or 0.6 percent, to 24,207.16. The Nasdaq composite rose 10.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,034.69. The Russell 2000 index rose 9.48 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,454.70.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 0.4 percent to $52.31 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 0.1 percent to $61.37 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline edged up 0.3 percent to $1.42 a gallon and heating oil rose 1.2 percent to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3.3 percent to $3.38 per 1,000 cubic feet.