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Fashion tech startup raised funding round entirely over Zoom during Covid - Tech Insider

Fashion tech startup raised funding round entirely over Zoom during Covid - Tech InsiderFashion tech startup raised funding round entirely over Zoom during Covid - Tech InsiderPosted: 26 May 2020 03:30 AM PDT E-commerce platform Blackcart is set to launch later this month having raised $2 million in venture funding, solely over Zoom, during the coronavirus pandemic. The try-before-you-buy fashion startup has fast-tracked its launch process with Covid-19 closing physical clothes stores across North America."We were going to keep the platform in beta for a few more months, but then Covid came along," Blackcart founder and CEO Donny Ouyang told Business Insider in an interview. "We messaged all potential investors to fast-track the fundraising process to launch, it was five weeks of back and forth, 100s of emails and five or six meetings every day." Click here for more BI Prime stories.E-commerce platform Blackcart is set to launch later this month having raised $2 mil…

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Consumer, business confidence remain strong in state - Lincoln Journal Star

Posted: 01 Mar 2019 12:00 AM PST

Consumer and business confidence remained strong in Nebraska in February, according to the latest monthly surveys from the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Consumer confidence posted a reading of 103.2, just below the value of 104 in January, but still above the neutral level of 100.

Nebraska business confidence increased to 108.2 in February, up slightly from a reading of 107.4 in January.

"Health care costs are a common concern of Nebraska households," Eric Thompson, an economist who serves as Bureau director, said in a news release. Eighteen percent of responding households indicated that their top financial issue was health care costs, while 16 percent mentioned the general cost of living.

Businesses were concerned about finding labor, with 27 percent of responding businesses saying the quality and availability of labor was their top business issue.

Wealthy in TC: Privacy worth its weight in gold - Traverse City Business News

Posted: 01 Mar 2019 08:56 AM PST

Wealthy in TC: Privacy worth its weight in gold

The rich aren't so different from the rest of us. They're just more obsessed with privacy and time management.

That's the picture local business owners paint of their wealthy customers and clients, who are largely business owners, professionals and retirees. Very few are trust fund babies who spend their days sailing on the bay or skiing at area resorts.

"Trust is number one when it comes to privacy," said Eric Braund, founder and chief financial officer of Black Walnut Wealth Management in Traverse City. "Clients want to make sure you're going to take care of them and not talk about their finances somewhere else."

Braund's firm mostly serves clients with at least $1 million to invest. He said the majority of his clients are physicians and retired business owners.

His focus on trust and privacy is echoed by Amanda Danielson, a partner in Off the Map Hospitality, which owns Trattoria Stella and The Franklin restaurants. She also is an owner of the Blue Goat Wine and Provisions shop. All three businesses are located in Traverse City.

When asked what wealthy patrons of her restaurants and wine store value most, Danielson, a sommelier, responded via email one word: "Discretion."

It's a concept, she said, that is "not only the cornerstone of hospitality; it is also lost in this era of instant self-gratification."

Two Lear jets in one of ASI's 11,950 square-foot heated hangars.

High-income people also like to fly in private planes. But they're usually not jetting off to Manhattan for an extravagant lunch or a ski trip to Aspen. They primarily use these aircraft as a business tool, said Omer ErSelcuk, chief executive officer of  Air Services Inc. in Traverse City.

"About 90 percent of our trips are for business purposes," ErSelcuk said. "You can take a whole team of people for a business meeting and come home the same day. It's a productivity tool and a strategic advantage tool."

Air Services operates four aircraft — two propeller planes and two jets. A round-trip flight to Detroit for seven guests on its flagship Cessna CJ3 costs about $6,100, or $870 per person, according to an estimated price on the company's website.

"These folks are professionals in the legal, medical, technology and skilled trades fields," ErSelcuk said. "There is a high demand for their services. They don't have time to sit on the road for hours and hours."
By and large, they're not pretentious, overly demanding or mean, he said.

"They might like their coffee a certain way or want a specific sandwich on their flight, but nothing outrageous," ErSelcuk said. "We try to surprise and delight them."

ErSelcuk got into the business of serving high-income clients after seeing the need business people had for getting to locations, such as cities in the Upper Peninsula that are not served by commercial airlines and for trips outside of regularly scheduled flights.

Last year ErSelcuk and several other partners purchased Air Services, which was founded in 1994 by Roy Nichols. The company also provides management and maintenance services to other owners of private aircraft.

It's not just transportation the wealthy seek. They're also looking for privacy in their workouts.
Formative Fitness' downtown location and its emphasis on short workouts helped develop a niche in serving an upscale clientele. While the personal training studio serves people of all incomes, owner Sebastian Garbsch said more than half of his clients are wealthy, with incomes "heavily into the six figures."

"We wanted to be different with no memberships and really efficient half-hour workouts," he said. "That's largely because we wanted to be a premium brand without being pretentious."

That philosophy appeals to successful professionals and others who value their time as a precious commodity.

"They're very efficient with time and need us to be flexible," Garbsch said. "They'll say, 'I have to be out of here at 8:42 a.m.' not 8:45 a.m. "Those three minutes matter."

Shawn Schmidt Smith has been helping the wealthy buy and sell high-end homes for years in the Grand Traverse region. The local market is divided into luxury homes priced at between $500,000 and $1 million, and "hyper-luxury" homes priced at more than $1 million, Smith said.

Buyers in those segments tend to be sophisticated about the real estate market and know exactly what they're looking for in a home. The wealthiest among those buyers often have multiple homes in various states or countries.

"They're more educated and they know how the business works," said Smith, an associate broker at Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors. "It's not their first rodeo. That helps a lot [in finding homes for them.]'"

Smith, who works with clients of all income levels, said she was initially reluctant to get into the luxury market because of a perception that wealthy buyers are hard to please. But she said that hasn't been the case.

"It concerned me when I first got into this," she said. "But 98 percent of the people are just fine to work with. It's simply a matter of listening to what they want and finding it."

Other local business owners support that view. They say most of their clients are genuinely nice people who don't try to impress others with their wealth or project a holier-than-thou attitude.

"They're extremely nice people and humble. They don't flaunt their money," Braund said. "One of my wealthiest clients drives a beat-up Jeep Cherokee. That's really a big part of this area. They don't act like they have a lot of money because they know it's perceived as being bad."

Some business owners say they benefit beyond the fees they charge to transport their clients, manage their money and provide other goods and services.

"You're spending time with people who charge hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour for their services," ErSelcuk said. "A quick conversation with them can be meaningful for you, your life and your business."

Garbsch said a wealthy client he worked with at another studio before he started Formative Fitness helped him get his own business off the ground. Pressed for time, she asked him to design a workout she could do in 27 minutes instead of her regular 50-minute session. She liked it so much, she offered to give him a loan so he could start his own studio without him asking for the money.

Her offer, which he accepted, shows "just how caring and generous I've found the wealthy in our area to be," Garbsch said.

Signs of Growing Wealth in the GT Region

It's not Aspen or Palm Beach. But there are signs that the Grand Traverse region is becoming wealthier, driven in part by newcomers with high incomes and big investment portfolios.

In Grand Traverse County, four percent of tax filers had incomes of more than $200,000 in 2016, according to the latest Internal Revenue Service data compiled by University of Michigan economist Don Grimes. That's up from 2.6 percent in 2011.

In Leelanau County, the wealthiest in the region, 5.8 percent of tax filers had incomes of more than $200,000 in 2016, up from 3.8 percent in 2011. The IRS does not break out income brackets above $200,000, Grimes said.

But for those in Grand Traverse County with incomes above $200,000, the average adjusted gross income was $470,031 in 2016, up 5.6 percent from $445,029 in 2011.

The average adjusted gross income in Leelanau County among taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 was $517,010 in 2016, up a whopping 24 percent from $415,853 in 2011.

Benzie and Kalkaska counties had smaller percentages of their populations earning more than $200,000 a year than in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties.

Grimes said the IRS figures are not adjusted for inflation, which could account for much of the increase in incomes. But business owners who provide services to wealthy clients say they're seeing more of them flocking to the area.

Shawn Schmidt Smith, an associate broker at Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors, said she's dealing with more wealthy clients from other parts of the country and the world, including England and Asia, looking for homes in the region.

"A lot of them have ties to the area," she said. "They might have family here or remember a family vacation."

The market for luxury homes costing more than $500,000, while still small, is growing at a strong pace. Data provided by Smith from the Traverse Area Association of Realtors show that the market share of luxury home sales in the five-county Grand Traverse region jumped from 7.4 percent of total homes sold in 2014 to 10.7 percent last year.

Those counties are Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse and Leelanau. The most expensive home sold in the region last year was on Glen Lake in Leelanau County and went for $2.75 million, Smith said. In Grand Traverse County alone, the market share of luxury home sales nearly doubled, from 4.8 percent in 2014 to 8.2 percent in 2018.

Eric Braund, founder of Black Walnut Wealth Management in Traverse City, said in the past two years about half of his new clients have been retirees new to the area or those who moved here a few years ago, anticipating retirement.

He also said a large share of his clients are physicians, a mostly high-income group whose ranks have grown with the expansion of Munson Medical Center over the past decade. While exact figures weren't available, Munson estimates that its medical staff has expanded by about four percent over the past five years, spokesman Dale Killingbeck said.

Incomes in Grand Traverse County have been among the fastest growing in the country since 2007, according to data from StatsAmerica, a research service at Indiana University, and provided by Networks Northwest.

Per capita income in the county jumped 39 percent, from $33,942 in 2007 to $47,165 in 2017. Grand Traverse County ranked 12th among U.S. counties in the percentage rate of income growth during that period, according to StatsAmerica.

Signs of the growing wealth can be glimpsed throughout the region, from fancier waterfront homes to the burst of new wineries on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas.

Sebastian Garbsch sees it up close in his downtown Traverse City personal fitness training studio, where he estimates 60 percent of his clients have six-figure incomes.

"There are definitely more affluent people in this town," said Garbsch, the owner of Formative Fitness. "But they're not ultra-rich. I'd say 75 percent are still in the workforce. The wealthy here are more first generation. They're self-made."



Hostess upbeat about coming year | 2019-02-28 - Food Business News

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 08:23 AM PST

KANSAS CITY — While adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter of 2018 were flat, Andrew P. Callahan, president and chief executive officer of Hostess Brands, Inc., expressed satisfaction with the final three months of the year.

"We are pleased with our solid finish to the year," he said. "The team executed on our plan to advance our business in a dynamic operating environment. Our achievements have created a strong foundation for Hostess to build on in the future. We are excited to be celebrating Hostess' 100-year anniversary and the iconic brand strength we bring to market with our entrepreneurial spirit, energy and enthusiasm. As we move forward into 2019, we are confident that our enhanced capabilities, strategic insights and capital investments will drive future innovation, sustainable growth and increased shareholder value."

In early NASDAQ trading Feb. 28, Hostess shares jumped 9%, to $12.39.

Net income at Hostess in the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, was $62,895,000, equal to 63c per share on the common stock, down 72% from $223,897,000, or $2.26 per share. Sales were $850,389,000, up 10% from $776,188,000 in 2017.

In the fourth quarter, net income was $11,830,000, or 12c per share, down sharply from $179,686,000, or $1.80, in the same quarter in 2017. Sales were $214,815,000, up 9% from $196,221,000.

Results in 2017 included a one-time tax gain of $163.1 million. The company said fourth quarter earnings per share were about unchanged from the same period in 2017. The sales gain of $18.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 was more than entirely accounted for by a $20 million contribution from Cloverhill Bakery, acquired early in 2018.

Hostess said organic sales to mass merchandisers declined slightly while dollar, club, small format and grocery channels rose. Gross profits were $66.3 million, down 15% from $78.4 million.  Gross margins fell to 32.6% from 42.3%. Accounting for the decline, Hostess said, were the "negligible margins" of the Cloverhill business.

The anticipation of better results from Cloverhill in 2019 is central to optimism about overall results. In a conference call with investment analysts Feb. 27, Mr. Callahan referenced the "integrated and transformed Cloverhill, which is fueling better access and capability in breakfast."

"The Cloverhill business completed the installation of core capital improvements setting us up for accretive revenue and EBITDA growth for years to come, a great corporate milestone," he said. "In 2019, we expect the Cloverhill business profitability to continue to improve as the year progresses."

More broadly, he said Hostess is better positioned to participate in the promising snacks category with the company's "iconic brands and loyal consumers."

"To support this growth, Hostess has developed a scalable infrastructure with an efficient operating model, differentiated capabilities that support collaborative customer partnerships, robust innovation and significant cash flow that we believe sets us apart from our peers, and positions Hostess to create value for all stakeholders."

The statement encompassed many of the five pillars he listed during the call as central to future growth — the company's core business, innovation, agility and efficiency, the cultivation of talent and capabilities and leveraging the company's strong cash flow.

He said the company is in the midst of a "proactive evaluation" of its stock-keeping units to optimize its portfolio, in line with consumer preference and to maximize growth.

Innovation opportunities include the breakfast category, where Hostess sees potential for a $100 million business as its "fair share." Beyond breakfast, the company is focusing on premium products aimed at attracting newer consumers willing to buy products at higher price points.

"Hostess' Totally Nutty peanut butter wafer bars and our new Hostess Danish are great examples of this," he said. "We believe breakfast and premium innovations such as Bakery Petites are key platforms of growth over the next few years. They are both highly incremental to our business and expandable."

At the same time, he said the company is exploring opportunities with its "value portfolio," expecting to gain access to new channels through Cloverhill and utilizing the Dolly Madison brand.

Having made considerable progress with its Cloverhill business, Mr. Callahan said additional opportunities for heightened efficiency have been identified and will be pursued in 2019. Additionally, the company's cash flow gives Hostess "the flexibility to pursue a range of strategic options."

Gross profit of the Hostess Sweet Baked Goods segment was $66.3 million, or 32.6% of net revenue, which compared with $78.4 million, or 42.3% of net revenue. The decline primarily was attributed by Hostess Brands to the addition of revenue from the Cloverhill business "at negligible margins" as well as other inflationary pressures.

Gross profit of the In-Store Bakery segment was $2.5 million in 2018, versus $2.4 million the year before. Net revenue was $11.7 million, up 7% from $10.9 million on the fourth quarter. Gross margins narrowed to 21.3% from 22.4%, reflecting the effects of higher transportation costs.

"The company recognized impairment charges of $3.3 million to the goodwill and intangible assets within the In-Store Bakery reporting unit," he said. "These charges reflect the impact of the decision to discontinue the Hostess Bake Shop product line as compared to expectations when the In-Store Bakery reporting unit was remeasured during the Hostess business combination. Based on the company's impairment assessment, the fair value of the In-Store Bakery reporting unit continues to be well in excess of the initial cash purchase price of the Superior on Main business acquired in 2016."

Capital improvements in the fourth quarter of 2018 are expected to boost efficiency and profitability in 2019, Hostess said.

Higher inflationary pressures, including increasing customer allowances, were blamed for an overall narrowing by 320 basis points in adjusted gross margins in the fourth quarter.

"The company is implementing multi-faceted pricing actions along with bakery efficiency programs to partially offset inflation while maintaining the company's growth potential," Hostess said.

Hostess executives earlier in the year said prices would be raised and were asked by analysts about timing and perhaps challenges experienced effecting price increases. Mr. Callahan said the company has done its research and was confident.

"As we've mentioned, we did a lot of research on the analytics and elasticities across our portfolio," he said. "We priced the balance of recovery of the inflation and margin, but while maintaining growth. And therefore, we did price across select areas of the portfolio, mostly around single-serve, and then took other initiatives related to rolling out our Hostess Partnership Program, some downsizing and some other initiatives across the rest of the portfolio. So most of the list price increasing was within the single-serve and some areas within our value channel."

For 2019, Hostess projected "revenue growth well above the sweet baked foods category, predicting that innovation in breakfast products, other core products, expanded distribution and improved merchandising execution will help. EBITDA guidance in the new year is $200 million to $210 million, up 7% to 13% from 2018, "driven by strong operating cash flows." Earnings per share are forecast to grow 6% to 15% in 2019.

Stocks under pressure | Trump cuts summit short | GDP data set - CNBC

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 03:55 AM PST

Futures were lower this morning after the U.S.-North Korean summit ended without an agreement. The Nasdaq managed to eke out a small gain yesterday and finished at its highest since November 7. The Dow and S&P 500 were lower for a second straight day. (CNBC)

* South Korean stocks and won sell off (CNBC)
* Cramer explains the six things going right in the economy that are helping him sleep at night (CNBC)

On the data front this morning, the shutdown-delayed first look at fourth quarter GDP will be out at 8:30 a.m. ET. At the same time, the Labor Department will issue its weekly look at initial jobless claims. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index is out at 9:45 a.m. ET. (CNBC)

* Fourth quarter growth expected to fall back to slower trend, hit by trade (CNBC)

Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan all have public appearances during the trading day. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Fed Chairman Jay Powell attend events that take place after the market close. (CNBC)

J.C. Penney (JCP), (JD), Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP), Nielsen Holdings (NLSN), Party City (PRTY) and PG&E (PCG), are among the quarterly earnings this morning, while Autodesk (ADSK), Gap (GPS) and Marriott (MAR) are among the companies out with their numbers after today's closing bell. (CNBC)

* Tech stocks take a beating Wednesday on disappointing earnings reports (CNBC)

President Donald Trump said he cut short his nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because the two sides could not agree on sanctions. A previously planned joint signing ceremony was cancelled. (CNBC)

Trump said accusations by his former lawyer Michael Cohen were "inaccurate," called the congressional hearing "fake" and insisted that there wasn't any collusion between his campaign and Russia during the last election. (CNBC)

* Stormy Daniels tells Cohen: 'I'm proud of you' (CNBC)
* Cohen brings Trump's net worth statements to hearing. How to read them (CNBC)

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been receiving regular briefings from executives at digital and social media companies in order to learn strategies for appealing to young voters if he were to run for president again. (CNBC)

House Democrats introduced a plan to insure all Americans through Medicare, as the push for a sweeping shift to universal health coverage gains more traction ahead of pivotal elections next year. (CNBC)

* Health care spending more than just the parts you see (Axios)

A political firestorm surrounding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has became more damaging.Trudeau's former justice minister accused his top aides of pressuring her to drop the prosecution of a global engineering firm. (WSJ)

Southwest Airlines (LUV) got approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly to Hawaii from the West Coast. It had to show regulators its ability to fly its jets over water for extended periods of time away from diversion airports. (CNBC)

CNBC has learned that Amazon (AMZN) has tapped 14-year company veteran Nader Kabbani to run its new pharmacy business, including the team that came in through last year's acquisition of PillPack.

* Amazon reportedly pulls out of Seattle office tower after abandoning NYC HQ2 (CNBC)

The Food and Drug Administration will hold its first public hearings on CBD in April as the agency weighs rules allowing companies to add the popular cannabis-based compound to food, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced. (CNBC)

Celgene (CELG) shares are under pressure after major Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) shareholder Wellington Management said it would not support the acquisition. Wellington said it thinks Bristol-Myers shareholders are accepting too much risk and that Celgene shareholders are getting the drug maker's shares at well below implied asset value. Bristol-Myers said it believed the acquisition was taking place at an attractive price, and that it was an important opportunity to create sustainable value.

HP Inc. (HPQ) earned an adjusted 52 cents per share for its latest quarter, matching Wall Street forecasts. However, the computer and printer maker did see revenue miss estimates amid weakness in printer supply sales. HP said its market share and pricing for those supplies came under pressure during the quarter.

Box (BOX) reported adjusted quarterly profit of six cents per share, beating the consensus estimate of two cents. The cloud storage firm, however, did see revenue fall below forecasts, as was its forward guidance.

Square (SQ) beat estimates by a penny with adjusted quarterly earnings of 14 cents per share, while the digital payment company's revenue also beat forecasts. However, Square's current quarter outlook is below some analyst forecasts.

Booking Holdings (BKNG) earned $22.49 per share for its latest quarter, compared to a consensus estimate of $19.42. The operator of Priceline and other travel websites did see revenue fall below estimates, and its current quarter guidance was below consensus as well.

L Brands (LB) came in seven cents above estimates with adjusted quarterly profit of $2.14 per share, while the fashion retailer's revenue fell below forecasts on declining sales at its Victoria's Secret brand. IT also issued weaker than expected full year guidance.

Tesla (TSLA) was designated as a "Fresh Pick" at Baird, which also reiterated an "outperform" rating. Baird said pessimism on Model 3 demand is overblown, and that weak Q1 delivery expectations are already priced into the stock.

Fitbit (FIT) earned 14 cents per share for the fourth-quarter, double what Wall Street was expecting, and the fitness device maker's revenue also beat estimates. However, revenue and profit guidance for the current quarter is weaker than expected, with Fitbit saying it expected an increase in devices sold but a decline in the average selling price.

Smartphone innovation has plateaued in offering must-have features, so consumers aren't spending lots of money to upgrade anymore. The Galaxy S10+ is no exception. CNBC's Todd Haselton reviews the Samsung Galaxy S10+.

Business Live: Tesla shares down 8% - BBC News

Posted: 28 Feb 2019 05:00 PM PST

Business Live: Tesla shares down 8% - BBC News


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