Friday, November 30, 2007

The Good News

After living for several years as an expat in the UK, you would think that I would be immune to the perpetual critique of the US and Americans that goes on. But I am not. Not even when I agree or can clearly see the truth in what is said. But this also inspires in me a need to represent the good people I know who are trying to make a difference day-to-day. Most people I know are not Hummer-driving, junk-food guzzling, paper-towel-wasting, supporters of ne'er-do-wells in the world. So,as usual came home from a trip to the UK feeling the need for a little good news, and after a few futile attempts returned to The Good News Network to see if in fact there was any good news. Well, sometimes these things can backfire, because the good news can seem so anemic compared to the bad news...but! If there is good news to be had, they will find it - and I am pleased to read that Google is trying to help develop clean energy to offset it's use of electricity and that healthy school lunches are not more expensive and are enjoyable to the children who eat them. If that doesn't pick you up, you can watch the Dave Matthews song "Everyday' which will bring tears to your eyes - in a good way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shop 'til you drop

How goes your holiday gift shopping? As usual, I'm planning to make far more gifts than I will actually finish, and vowing to avoid the mall. We'll see how I do...

Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine offers some interesting holiday-shopping related articles. Here's a few:

Affluent Shoppers Buy Half of Holiday Gifts

Apparently, households with annual incomes less than $75,000 are expected to spend 7.6 percent less on gifts than last year, while households with more than $75,000 in income are projected to spend 3.1 percent more. The top 30 percent of households will spend almost the same as the bottom 70 percent.

Gold, Geese, Milkmaids Drive Rising “12 Days” Price Tag

Have an extra $19,507 ? You could buy your true love the items from the 12 days of Christmas.

Black Friday Shoppers to Buy Before 10 a.m.

According to Mastercard, 1/3 of "Black Friday" purchases are made before 10 am. Electronics and appliance retailers see their busiest hour between 7 and 8 am.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

WiFi for Customers

When it comes to businesses promoting their location as having free WiFi access, I think primarily of bookstores, coffeehouses, and hotels.

However, WiFi access is something that any small business can promote. In today's New York Times, there's an article called "In-Store Wi-Fi Is Free, but Not Commercial-Free". It features a company called AnchorFree, which "has introduced a service that lets merchants of any size — from a large bookstore chain to a mom-and-pop restaurant — offer free advertising-supported Wi-Fi to customers on the store premises. People who are shopping or eating in an AnchorFree location will see banner ads on their screens or short video spots or both before their browsing session."

The article also mentions JiWire as a company that "has a similar system, though a different technological approach."

If you have a client whose customer base includes the techno-literate, this is a service that they might want to consider.

Hey, Jones: You're Number 5

Frequently Occurring Surnames From Census 2000

Tabulations of all surnames occurring 100 or more times in the Census 2000 returns are provided in the files at the link above. The first link there explains the methodology used for identifying and editing names data. The second link provides an Excel file of the top 1000 surnames. The third link provides zipped Excel and CSV (comma separated) files of the complete list of 151,671 names occurring 100 or more times. These charts are broken down by race and Hispanic origin.

The top ten surnames are:

NAME Number of occurrences

Smith 2,376,206
Johnson 1,857,160
Williams 1,534,042
Brown 1,380,145
Jones 1,362,755
Miller 1,127,803
Davis 1,072,335
Garcia 858,289
Rodriguez 804,240
Wilson 783,051

Green is 37th with 413,477.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Going Green" Resources

There's no shortage of information about green business and environmental issues. But its not always easy to find on the web.

Here's a pleasant directory of "Going Green" resources put together by the librarians at the Middletown Thrall Library in Middletown, NY.

Topics include organic food, energy and fuels, and home improvement - areas many of our clients seem to be particularly interested in.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

For Non-Profits

Based on SBA guidelines, SBDCs at one time couldn't really assist not-for-profit organizations. Now, however, they can. One of my favorite resources is Guidestar.com. The October and November issues featured the article "20 Biggest Fundraising Mistakes", some of which apply to for-profit businesses as well, such as Failing to Set a Realistic Goal and Failing to Have Deadlines.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Entrepreneur's Source

In late 2005, I was part of an SBDC meeting where we heard from a director of The Entrepreneur's Source. This company provides coaching/counseling services to people interested in owning a business, with a specialization in franchises. Theoretically, they help the budding business owner in finding the franchise opportunity that best suits his/her personality, lifestyle, etc. They are not brokers, nor do they represent any particular franchisor.

We often get questions from advisors with clients who want to own a business, but aren't sure what type is best for them. If, during discussions with them, you & your client can't seem to find that industry perfectly suited to them (and the client is interested in running a franchise), then keep this site in mind.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Read! Share! Explore!

Shelfari

Like most things that are working well online - you can always find more than one version of it - social networking - take your pick - there are so many out there. Well, we are now using LibraryThing to share our catalog with you all but naturally there are other similar tools out there. I have always liked the idea of having a way to keep track of everything I've read. For people like my own mother who doesn't remember she has read something until she's halfway through it for a second time, it is pretty useful and timesaving. I was invited to join Shelfari which another personal library tool where you can list what books you've read, have but haven't yet read, and a wish list. It links to Amazon.com so you can double check titles and write a commentary on each. It's not as big as LibraryThing but it's prettier and I a little more user-friendly. You can discuss, find like-souls and maybe figure out what to read next.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cell phones vs. landlines from the CDC

Sometimes helpful resources come from unexpected places.

Take this report on "wireless substitution," ie households that rely on cell phones rather than landlines, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) .

You might ask, "Why does the CDC care about who has cell phones and no landline?" The answer doesn't seem to be because they are tracking brain cancer from cell phones (Phew...) It turns out that when the agency conducts the National Health Interview Survey, they ask for a phone number for follow-up purposes. And they ask if this number is a landline, and if anyone in the household has a cell phone.

These questions yield some interesting answers, showing the rise of the wireless-only household, particularly in young adults renting with a non-related roommate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2007 Economic Census is Coming

The Economic Census forms will be sent out in December 2007 and are due back on February 12, 2008. Virtually all large and medium-sized businesses are surveyed. A large sampling of small businesses, covering all industries, will receive a form. This tally is done once every five years.

The forms ask for basic information like business location, employment, payroll, and sales by type of product or service. Businesses that receive a form are required by law (Title 13, U.S. Code) to respond. The individual information is confidential, and Census will suppress any information that would identify a particular business, e.g., the sales information for the only jewelry store in town will not be published.

Businesses, communities, and governments use Economic Census data for planning and market development. Statistics are published for more than a thousand industries as well as for states, counties, cities and metropolitan areas at business.census.gov.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has called this census "indispensable to understanding America's economy."

When the form comes, please enccourage your clients to fill it out. If the forms aren't returned by the February 12 deadline, the Census will commission people call or visit to follow up, an additional cost to taxpayers.

In summary, the Economic Survey is:
* mandatory to answer
* confidential
* important for data users

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fixing Stuff

Over the weekend, I had to bring a lawnmower AND a DVD player to be repaired. In both cases, I fear that the cost will be dangerously close to simply buying a new one. Not a very environmentally-friendly deal.

Which is why I liked this article from the Nov. 8th New York Times so much. It reveals a number of websites where you can go and get ready advice on repairing an iPod (CrunchGear.com), a Mac (macfixit.com), home theatres (avsforum.com), gaming systems (fixya.com), copiers, PDAs . . . and all the other toys of life. In many cases, you'll get a variety of options, specific instructions, and the means to save a bunch of money vis a vis replacement parts.

As an extension of the Third Place post I wrote a while ago, it's clear that these online repair forums are a replacement for local repair shops (which the article laments as a near-extinct species). Here at the library, we frequently visit online forums to get answers to questions relating to the software we use. I don't think manuals written by the publisher can anticipate every last need of their customers, so these websites are invaluable.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rollyo

Roll your own search engine
Create search engines using the sources you trust.

Works the way the personalized pages on Google or Yahoo! work but this time with the purpose of searching those sites. They also have a toolbar so that you can limit to your favorite sources wherever you happen to be. So if you want to the New York Times, Answers.com and Amazon.com in a drop down or radio button, there it is. They have a popular set of sources but you can also design your own - list all the sites you like and then label the group - what they call a "searchroll" You can also look at others' searchrolls. So if you like Rosario Dawson, then you can have a look at her Latino Issues roll which lists about a dozen sites of interest. Steve Rubel, marketing strategist, has created the Interactive Marketing roll which includes many really good marketing sites.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making music & money

Have you heard about Radiohead’s new album? The band has made “In Rainbows” available for online download with users allowed to pay as much or as little as they’d like for the music.

There’s been much discussion of how the average person has paid (“more than half pay nothing” or “the band isn’t telling, so we don’t know”, but the bottom line is that without a record label taking a hefty share of sales, the band is likely to do very well.

Here’s another alternative to the major record labels - SellaBand.
The company offers this description of its model: “Artists and fans have one goal. Make music and money together. Artists upload their music and profile. Fans find artists they like and believe in. $10 (plus transaction costs) buys them a piece of the action. $50,000 gets the artist in the studio. Fans get an exclusive CD send to their homes. Artists make their dream come true. From now on bands and believers are in business together. You are the record company!”

More on how it works here: http://www.sellaband.com/site/how-it-works.html

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Intuit Free Stuff

Intuit has now made their "Simple Start" version of QuickBooks (formerly $99) free, recommended for very small or one-person businesses.

Entrepreneurs can also enter Intuit’s contest to win $50,000 ($40,000 cash and $10,000 in products and services). Get contest details and download a free copy of Simple Start here.

These activities are tied into Intuit's "Just Start" campaign, including a series of exciting live events featuring Rhonda Abrams, small business advice columnist and expert, as the "expert-in-residence." She'll be available one-on-one to answer questions about business.

People who meet Rhonda will receive one of her books (free and personally autographed), get free Simple Start software, and enter Intuit’s "Just Start" contest for a chance to win $50,000 for their business.
New York – Thurs & Friday, November 8-9, 11 am – 2 pm
Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall

Boston – Tues & Weds, November 13-14, 11 am – 2 pm
South Station

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Didn't Know This Dept.

Mary Ellen Bates is a respected information consultant. I receive an e-newsletter from her, and this month's issue had this bit that I think is pretty cool:

"If you are based in the US, you can search for local companies through your cell phone, regardless of whether or not your phone has web capability. If you call 1-800-GOOG411 (1-800-466-4411), you will be asked to say the city and state you want information on - Boulder, Colorado, for example - then you say the type of business or specific business name you want - for example, "book store" or "Barnes and Noble". A text-to-speech program will read you the top eight results from its local search (http://local.google.com/). If you want, Google can automatically dial any of the first eight businesses' phone number, or you can ask to have the address and phone number read to you."

(From Bates Information Services, www.BatesInfo.com/tip.html)

A visit to the Google website for this service repeatedly states that this service is completely free. (Play the YouTube clip - it's goofy, but informative.) Web-enabled phones have other cool features that they can tap into.

And if you knew this already, then you're hipper than me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Real Applications of the Social Network/Auction

Lending and Borrowing from the General Public
YOUR MONEY
Person-To-Person Lending Flourishes on Web
by Jessica Smith
Morning Edition, NPR, November 2, 2007
“Welcome to the era of coffee shop money lending.”
I read this story on NPR.org about person-to-person lending on the Internet which just seemed like an amazing idea. It is fascinating that this exists and that it seems to work.
The idea is that a person writes a profile of how much they want to borrow and for what and what their top limit on the interest they are willing to pay and then people bid on the loan request. The borrower is vouched for by friends, colleagues or family and the amount raised from various lenders is consolidated by Prosper.com and then the money is distributed. These are not small loans either- they can run from $50 to $25,000. It seems a risky proposition but interesting to see how people will take things into their own hands.

Prosper.com
"Prosper generates revenue by collecting a one-time 1% or 2% fee on funded loans from borrowers, and assessing a 0.5% or 1% per annum loan servicing fee to lenders. Backed by Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Fidelity Ventures, Meritech Capital Partners, and Omidyar Network, Prosper has raised $40 million. Prosper's marketplace platform is patent pending."