Category: General (Page 1 of 4)

Hipster packaging is #lucrative

What do you think when you see a twenty-something Instagramming their food? Social media-obsessed millennial? Guilty self-reflection?

If you’re Brooklyn-based ice cream maker, Van Leeuwen, you see one thing: CASH. MONEY.

You eat with your eyes first

Just by switching their packaging from standard to, let’s call it, hipster-crayon, the 9-year old company managed to boost their sales 50% in 6 months.

The success is all due to their pints being what experts at design firm Pentagram, call “very Instagrammable.” Actually what they said, not a joke. And that ‘grammability is how Leeuwen gets away with charging $20 friggin’ bucks a pint.

The devil is in the details

Remarketing junk food as “artisanal” isn’t a new phenomenon, but we’re constantly surprised at just how lucrative it can be.

Trendy sweets vendor, Maman, claims they attract 80% of their new customers from Instagram. And let’s not forget the mustachioed Mast Brothers who made an international empire charging $10 for pedestrian, remelted chocolate because it was wrapped in fancy paper.

Not to say Van Leeuwen’s frozen hipster milk isn’t worth it — for all we know it’s fantastic. But at $20 a pint, we’ll stick with our Cherry Garcia.

My favorite Gary Vaynerchuk quote

When asked about his weaknesses, Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of an 820-person company, said the following:

“The funny part is I think I kind of suck at everything… I’m a terrible student, I don’t think I’m very educated… My grammar sucks,” he said. “But I surround myself with people who don’t.”

He continued, “What I really preach a lot these days more and more is focusing more on what you’re good at instead of what you’re not good at; you tend to have a much better long-term result that way.”
Let Upwork handle your weaknesses

Website development, customer support, design, there are thousands millions who can do the things your company needs help with. stinks at. So, instead of worrying about your weaknesses, focus on what you’re good at: selling, storytelling, leading, and strategizing.

Upwork is a freelancer marketplace with +3,500 skills that cover pretty much every type of work that can be done online/remotely. Used by Airbnb, Zendesk, and Dropbox, UpWork even lets you post a job and view quality freelancers for free.

And, because they love you, Upwork’s giving you $100 off your first $500 hire.

Math class heroes

It’s not often we see a story about teachers coming out on top financially, but some educators are making millions by selling their lesson plans and craft projects to others on the web, under aliases like “Miss Kindergarten” and “Lovin Lit.”

Turns out the macaroni necklace market is booming

Sites like Teachers Pay Teachers now feature 2.4m resources and have 80k “teacher-authors” who sell products from free flash cards to year-long math units for $120.

In fact, contributors on TPT collectively made $100m last year (at least a dozen of whom are millionaires), thanks to teachers’ readiness to pay out of their own pockets for tried-and-true classroom materials.

For teachers, it’s totally worth it

Why spend your entire weekend putting together a popsicle stick craft project, when you could buy one that’s equally good, and get to leave your house on Saturdays?

TPT authors set their own prices and get 40% commissions on sales from users with free subscriptions (15% from premium members) and resources are relatively affordable, typically running from $1-15.

So, students are getting A+ lesson plans and teachers’ lives are better… seems like a win-win.

“It’s not the money, it’s the principle.” — The Principal

Some educators claim monetizing lessons stifles the practice of teachers freely sharing ideas, while others raise legal questions about whether teachers actually own the lessons they’re selling.

According to the school, lessons are the property of the district if they’re created within the scope of their employment. Problem is, most teachers already create materials for their classes on “their own time,” so that’s pretty tough to police.

Can we let teachers have this one thing?

They’re already making next to nothing for wrangling hyperactive kids all day.

And, the sad reality of the education system means that for teachers, paying out of pocket is less expensive and more accessible than asking the district for new textbooks and resources.

So maybe we just let them have this one, right?

“Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes…”

“Got a few minutes to chat?”, your boss asks as you were about to start working on that big project you keep pushing back.

But you know it’ll take take more than a “few minutes.” It always does.

Turns out, scheduling out your daily tasks like you would for a meeting can help you realize how much time you actually spend on projects and helps other people understand when you don’t have time for office “side quests.”

It’s a method called “time blocking”

Here’s how to do it, according to time management expert Kevin Kruse:

  • Consider the “Friday effect”: Most people typically work slower at the end of the day or week, so don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re going to knock out a 10-page white paper at 4pm on Friday.
  • Give yourself a buffer: Add blocks of extra time between tasks so, when you go over time, it doesn’t blow your whole schedule.
  • Treat it like a power hour: That means putting your phone on “Do not disturb,” and giving a project your undivided attention. If you think of a new task that needs to get done, make a note and address it when time’s up.
  • Flex a little: Don’t beat yourself up when your best laid plans go awry. The point of time blocking is to be more cognizant about how you use your time, not to maintain a rigid system.

Remember, there’s no silver bullet for productivity but this is an easy way to keep a level head and not stress over growing to-do lists. Or at least justify that 2-hour post-lunch nap.

Lest we forget…

Every once in awhile it’s nice to take a step back and remind ourselves of the larger picture in business. A corporate reality check of sorts.

On Monday, we got just that, with market-research group, NPD’s, awkwardly-named “Checkout Penetration Index,” showing where US consumers spend their hard-earned bacon, based off millions of online and offline receipts.

And if you were expecting a ticker tape parade for Jeff Bezos, save the confetti.

Brick and mortar is still dominating the market

95% of shoppers had purchased something from Walmart in 2016, followed by McDonald’s (89%), Target (84%), Walgreens (77%) and Dollar Tree (71%).

Meanwhile, Amazon clocked in at a surprisingly pedestrian 42%, snuggled right between KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts. Basically, all the places you’d find at your [insert local strip mall here].

Wait, so what does that mean?

For one, the largest retailer in the world (Walmart), is still dominant, employing 2.3m “associates” around the world and bringing in almost $500B in annual revenue — more than Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft combined.

Second, as much as we talk about the newest innovations, drone deliveries, and big-time acquisitions, we’d be remiss to forget the impact of core American businesses that we all know and (mostly) love in our daily lives.

T-Mobile outbids itself

After a year of talks, the FCC announced that T-Mobile won their $8B bid for 1,500 wireless licenses in the 600MHz frequency range that we know as LTE.

Which would be a big deal… if Verizon and AT&T hadn’t already had this coverage for years.

In fact, the big 2 didn’t even really participate in the auction, since they’re already eyeing the juicy 5G technology looming in the near future. So this is pretty much just T-Mobile’s attempt to hang with the big dogs.

But, their upgrades don’t fully kick in until 2020, so they’re still not 100% caught up. Slow clap for participation.

It’s all about handing over the keys to the kingdom

The auction was a pretty interesting maneuver by the FCC.

To transfer TV broadcast frequencies to other industries in need of sweet, sweet bandwidth, they first bought unused spectrum from 175 TV stations in a reverse auction (where the sellers bids to the buyer).

Then, they solicited bids for waves, raising $10B for the stations… and $7.3B towards the national debt.

So all in all, a pretty smart way for the government to skim a little off the top, while helping folks stream more junk in more places than ever before.

Twitter Cheat Sheet

What happens in Vegas…

Gets the heck out of Vegas. At least if it’s money from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s utopian pipe-dream.

Five years ago, fresh off a $1.2B acquisition by Amazon, Hsieh immediately poured $350m of his net worth into an initiative called Downtown Project.

The goal: To turn downtown Las Vegas into “the most community-focused large city in the world” through $50m+ investments in startups, real estate, the arts, and a giant praying mantis that shoots fire from its antennae.

Too much Burning Man, not enough City Planner Man

Apart from being an undoubtedly successful startup leader, Hsieh is also an avid festival-goer. In fact, out of their total $86.6m recurring annual impact, $77.7m comes from their 3-day Life is Beautiful festival.

But, based on Downtown Project’s newly released economic impact report, the estimated $500m they’ve invested thus far has created fewer than 2k jobs.

Not exactly great news for the impact of the other 362 days.

Still, dreamers gotta dream…

And you can’t knock the vision or the dedication to the community. Heck, Hsieh even moved from a luxury apartment to a trailer park with his 2 pet alpacas to “maximize serendipity and randomness in [his] life.”

Revitalizing a city, however, takes a lot more than investing a bunch of money and hoping everyone is down with “PLUR.”

Venture… environmentalist

Patagonia’s VC fund (named Tin Shed Ventures after the company’s humble beginnings), is looking to invest $75m in companies that can replicate their success.

Now, they’re sticking with their roots. Not just in name, but by weighing a company’s environmental impact over short-term profit.

Yes, those really are their roots

It’s not just feel-good marketing. Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, started selling mountain climbing gear out of a tin shack.

Then, right in the midst of a business boom, he changed his core product to be less damaging to the mountain, despite it costing him almost 70% in sales.

And, 40 years later, it’s certainly paid off — Patagonia’s currently doing $800m in annual revenue.

And since it worked before…

They’re betting it’ll work again. The VC fund is investing in companies with transparent supply chains, and tracking metrics like “toxins averted,” and CO2 reduced, not just returns.

Tin Shed estimate their investments in things like buffalo ranches and textile companies saved the planet 13k tons of CO2 just this year.

But how about those returns?

The rock hugging firm hasn’t released valuations for its investments, so there’s no way of knowing if it’s working out like they hoped.

However, the fund’s managing director says their portfolio companies have a 100% survival rate, and have seen double-digit increases in valuations.

Smithfield’s using the whole animal

Last week, Smithfield Foods the world’s largest pork producer (valued at $14B), announced that it will explore a new business angle: Using its pigs for medical purposes like organ transplants.

So instead of putting their pork in hot dogs…

They’re putting it in people

Wait, that came out wrong. New genetic breakthroughs (i.e., CRISPR) could make it possible to use pig organs, like hearts or lungs, for human transplant.

Which sounds weird and gross, but would be a literal lifesaver for the 118k patients waiting months or even years for an available organ in the US.

Smithfield maintains that they are a food company first but, as of this month, they’ve also launched a separate segment, Smithfield Bioscience, to oversee all things medical.

They’re also part of a “public-private-tissue-engineering consortium” with $80m in grant funding from the US Department of Defense.

It isn’t just some PR bologna — it’s a lucrative market

The market for pork byproducts used for non-food purposes is already $100B in the US alone, not factoring in the potential for xenotransplants (animal-to-human).

And, since researchers and healthcare companies currently buy parts through third parties, Smithfield stands to do pretty well for themselves if they start selling direct from their farms.

That is, if someone like George Church, a leading xenoplant researcher, doesn’t do it first. His company eGenesis Bio just raised $38m in venture funding for the sole purpose of growing pig organs for human transplant.

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