Broke? You Can Still Start a Business

Man behind counter of convenience store

Starting your own business without capital can be done.
Image: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr CC

Starting a business can be difficult and, above all, expensive. For people who want to be entrepreneurs but lack startup capital, getting a business going can be daunting. But there are a lot of tricks that allow you to get a business underway without needing a significant next egg. Starting a business, whether you have capital or not, begins at the same place: finding something you can offer.

The easiest place to start is to think of a problem that you can help address. Whether that’s a serious issue like testing water for contaminants or a “first world problem” like finding somebody to walk your dog at the last minute, there are a myriad of issues out there that people need help with–and they’re willing to pay other people for that help. Once you know what problem you’re trying to address or what product you want to create, take a step back and think about ways that you can approach that problem using the skills and resources you have at hand.

Maybe you can start by walking dogs, using a website and flyers to generate business before you try to develop a mobile phone app. Maybe you’re a great editor who can freelance while you figure out how to turn that into a business. The key here is to use the tools you already have in order to get your business ideas rolling. As you work in whatever field you’ve chosen, you’ll be able to find out what niches there are within that field that you can try to fill with a subsequent business model or product.

It also gives you more experience in the field in question, which will be more impressive to potential investors. Whether you seek out crowdfunding or more traditional investments, people are going to want to know that you have a good idea of what you’re doing before they give you their money.

Are Video Games Finally Starting to Reflect Their Audience?

Woman with video game controller

Video game producers are becoming more aware of their audience, including women both playing video games and those in them.
Image: Flickr CC

The video game industry hasn’t done a great job with women, either in the audience or in the games themselves. The sexualization of female characters is pretty well documented, but it’s actually trending down, at least for playable characters. A recent poll found that games featuring playable women characters–not secondary or background characters–are treating those women as characters and not as sex objects. They looked at games published between 1983 and 2014 and found that sexualized playable women peaked in the 1990s, the hey-day of the old Tomb Raider games, and has been declining since 2007. The recent Tomb Raider games, in which Lara Croft isn’t treated as a sex symbol, are an excellent example of this.

So what difference does this make? Well for one, it’s probably pushing sales. Women make up about half of the game buying market, a fact which makes the near constant marketing of games to young, straight white men ludicrous. A move toward more realistic and well-rounded women characters is bound to draw in more women to buy those games, especially if they’re tired of playing grizzled white men, which are pretty much the default protagonists in mainstream video games.

The study didn’t find that women who aren’t playable, whether they’re allies, enemies, or damsels in distress, are any less sexualized, though, and that’s not going to help sell those games to women. The Grand Theft Auto franchise, for example, includes plenty of strippers and prostitutes, but has yet to include a single playable woman character. Fighting games like Dead or Alive or Street Fighter remain the bastion of sexualized playable characters, with an audience that seems to be predominantly male, but probably isn’t in reality.

As the reality of audience demographics finally sinks in for various publishers, chances are the industry will continue to take note and continue taking steps toward games that appeal to a wider portion of their audience.

Clinton Appoints Small Business Advisor

Businessmen talking in front of window

Hillary Clinton has hired Rhett Buttle as a Business Outreach Director focusing on small businesses.
Image: Flickr CC

Most organizations that focus on small business, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Business, tend to be on the conservative side, and usually throw their lot in with Republican candidates and policies. However, considering Trump’s record in dealing with small businesses and the economic mess Mike Pence dragged Indiana into, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if more small businesses turned away from the Republican Party.

For those that do, they’ll have Hillary Clinton to turn to instead. Last year, Clinton said she wanted to be a small business president, and she has since outlined a few modest steps toward improving the lot of small business, like forcing large corporations to pay smaller suppliers promptly.

Recently, she appointed a Business Outreach Director who will focus on small business: Rhett Buttle, who has spent some time as the Small Business Majority’s President and their Managing Director. Small Business Majority is a liberal answer to the usually conservative organizations that aim to promote small business. They also don’t have a member base because, according to their founder, John Arensmeyer, that would result in their being beholden to certain businesses over others, and their goal is to help small business overall. To that end they’ve run numerous webinars and other events to work with local businesses and business organizations. To date they’ve worked with over 6,000 organizations and 15,000 businesses, which are some pretty impressive figures for a group that’s only about a decade old.

It’s unclear if Buttle will continue to serve under Clinton if she gets elected, but it is safe to say that in a Clinton presidency, Small Business Majority would likely have significantly more pull and reach than they have in the past, and that could provide a nice counterpoint to the overwhelming pull that large corporations have with the government.

Technological Highlights of the 90s

Desk with Mac computer, keyboard, and tablet

The tech development in the 90s has brought us to today, when business and tech are even more intertwined.
Image: Unsplash

The tech industry is known for developing businesses that rise incredibly fast.

In the 1990s, there was an economic boom that saw billions of dollars in venture capital poured into technology companies in hopes of finding the “next big thing.” It was a time when the world witnessed some of the greatest scientific findings and technological inventions.

Fast-forward to 2016, and we now have advanced computers, mobile phones, satellite mapping, advanced software, and more.  The scope of technological advancement has significantly increased and remains exponential.

What were some of the major technological highlights of the 1990s? Let’s take a trip down memory lane:

Revival of electric cars
The American government enforced the Clean Air Act in 1990, which requested automobile companies to create cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars. The energy crisis and environmental concerns regarding pollution in the 1970s resulted in the revival of public interest in electric cars. Electric cars came into existence in the mid 1990s and continue to gain popularity. The 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show marked a milestone in the electric car industry.

The rise of Yahoo! and Google
Founded by David Filo and Jerry Yang in 1994, Yahoo! started as a collection of informative web pages, later becoming an online searchable directory. Led by Thom Weisel, Montgomery Securities, one of the largest investment firms at that time, helped manage Yahoo’s IPOs during the rise of tech stocks. During the dot-com bubble, the company’s stock price skyrocketed to an all-time high of $118.75 USD in 2000.

Considered one of the biggest inventions of all time, Google happened in 1998. Started as a research project by two scholars at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced the concept of page rankings in search engines. Google served over 10,000 search queries a day and quickly gained a reputation as a trustworthy source of information. By 1999, it was serving 500,000 queries a day.

Apple’s iMac
The iMac was launched in 1998 and was known for its innovative computer experience and unique design. During that time, personal computers were dull beige boxes involving minimal artistry. Apple took this opportunity to reinvent the computer with bold designs and outlandish colors.

Apple’s vision for computers hasn’t changed in the last 30 years, when the first Mac ads told people to “try the computer you already know how to use.”

Bluetooth 1.0
Mobile wireless file sharing was introduced in 1999 with the invention of Bluetooth technology, allowing electronic devices to communicate wirelessly. Portable personal computers and laptops were the first devices to use Bluetooth technology; it’s now a standard feature in all smartphones.

The tech industry continues to impress and innovate today with a constant stream of impressive new items designed to make our lives simpler and more plugged in. Since the 1990s, the technology sector has been a great place for a business to be. What will they think of in the next 30-odd years…?

Herbalife Settles, Isn’t Officially a Pyramid Scheme

Herbalife building front

Herbalife is settling a lawsuit against it which called the company a pyramid scheme.
Image: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

A pyramid scheme is generally recognized as being a system wherein you are rewarded more for bringing in additional distributors than you are for selling products. So you buy products and get more people to buy products and work as distributors rather than selling the products yourself. People lose money on these schemes, and whoever is running the scam makes a mint.

This is pretty much how Herbalife has been running their business for years, but the term “pyramid scheme” wasn’t used in the recent lawsuits against the company. Two years ago, an investor accused Herbalife of running what amounts to a pyramid scheme, which caught the FTC’s attention. While the FTC didn’t term the business model a pyramid scheme, which would have made Herbalife illegal, they did label the compensation system as unfair.

The investigation just closed with an agreement by Herbalife to pay $200 million to reimburse consumers and to change its business practices. Among those changes is paying for an independent observer for the next seven years. They also have the compensate their “members” for products sold, not for distributors recruited.

Herbalife, of course, is happy to see the investigation end and more than willing to pay the settlements in order to make the bad press go away. They have not, however, admitted to any wrongdoing, instead claiming that their business model is solid and legal and that the settlements somehow prove that. That solid business model, however, is going to be undergoing some rather significant changes.

But for investors it’s good news because their shares are going back up. That would have been a lot harder, had the FTC actually charged them with running a pyramid scheme.

Is Trump’s Running Mate Bad for Business?

Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and their families

Could Trump’s running mate Mike Pence be bad for business?
Image: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

Donald Trump has made a name for himself as a businessman, but he’s had a lot of failures and even declared bankruptcy a few times. All of this is well-known information that has come to light again, thanks to his presidential run. Now he’s made another problematic business decision: he has chosen Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate.

You may remember Pence as the governor who helped push though the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March of 2015, which allowed businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians because of “religious belief.” You also probably remember the resulting uproar, as many saw that move as simply a way to enshrine homophobic discrimination. In the end, many businesses pulled out of the state, including Elli Lily & Co. and Cummins Inc. The state’s largest employers argued that they needed to attract new workers to Indiana, but that they wouldn’t be able to, since the state banned same-sex marriage and had legalized discrimination. Moody’s Investors Services announced that Pence’s choices threatened the health of the Indiana economy, in particular tourism.

Pence went on to fail in stopping United Technologies Electronic Controls and Carrier Corp. from removing 2,100 jobs from the state, further weakening the economy. His decision to back the Religious Freedom Restoration Act also resulted in Salesforce.com cancelling its upcoming events in the state. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, unsurprisingly, cancelled their events as well.

“The decision by Salesforce.com to cancel events in Indiana reveals how detrimental these laws can be to state economies,” said NGLCC co-founder and President Justin Nelson.”Companies will have very tough decisions when determining if it is feasible to do business in states such as Indiana, where employees are subject to discrimination.” The NGLCC event alone accounted for $1.4 million in economic impact for the state.

But it’s not 2004 anymore, and running on an explicitly homophobic platform isn’t a surefire way to win. Business has changed the way it looks at the LGBTQ+ community, and while you can still find politicians and preachers who are eager to tell you about the evils of homosexuality or transgender people, finding voters to support them is becoming more difficult.

Discrimination has been shown to be bad for business, which makes Trump’s choice of running mate problematic, to say the least.

T-Mobile Giving Free Data to Pokémon Go Players

Person playing Pokemon Go in a field

T-Mobile will run a contest to offer its users free data when playing Pokemon Go tomorrow.
Image: Wachiwit / Shutterstock.com

Pokémon Go just became a lot cheaper for T-Mobile users. On July 19, the cell phone provider will be giving customers free data to play Pokémon Go for an entire year as part of their T-Mobile Tuesday promotion (a weekly offering of rotating deals and free products). It’s also giving away $100 in PokéCoins to 250 people and a Pokémon Go hunting trip-for-two (good anywhere in the U.S.) to five lucky winners.

CEO John Legere Tweeted some very impressive numbers, saying that in one week T-Mobile’s number of active users doubled and the amount of data usage on its network quadrupled. Legere said this is the reason his company decided to give its customers a break.

“With the carriers’ shared data schemes, players could easily burn up the family’s data bucket – and then, hello, overages!” exclaimed Legere. “At T-Mobile, we’re unleashing Pokémon Go so our customers can play free for a year. It’s gonna be a fantastic T-Mobile Tuesday!”

T-Mobile has been the go-to carrier for many who don’t want to pay exorbitant costs for cell phone coverage, and with Pokémon Go hitting ubiquitous status in just one week, it’s not that shocking to see a company take advantage of a good thing. But not everyone thinks the free data is worth switching to T-Mobile, even for Pokémon enthusiasts.

Many news outlets are reporting that Pokémon Go is making up less than one percent of network traffic, or 5 to 10 megabytes per hour. A spokesman for Verizon says that you would have to be playing 40 hours a week for it to hit 2 gigabytes, the standard data plan for individual users. So unless multiple people are sharing a minimal amount of data, there is no real reason for hard core players to worry about going over their allotted data.

T-Mobile Tuesday is also offering free Lyft rides to new PokéStops, free Wendy’s frosties, and 50 percent off select accessories – mainly portable chargers – so you won’t have any interruptions to your game.

3 Videos to Inspire Collaboration and Teamwork

Group of people brainstorming on table with Post-its

These 3 videos encapsulate what it means to collaborate in business.
Image: Shutterstock

Teams at work are expected to produce results, but performance is often restricted when team members don’t work well together. A collaborative team environment is fundamental for success.

To help build a collaborative work environment, team members must develop and practice certain skills, especially if the work is being done on a long-term basis. Collaboration and teamwork require a combination of problem solving, interpersonal, and communication skills needed for a group to work together towards achieving a common goal.

Need some inspiration in creating a collaborative and effective teamwork environment? Check out these three videos:

1. Thom Weisel – Montgomery Securities

Thom Weisel founded Montgomery Securities in 1978. It was one of the largest investment firms in operation during that time. Montgomery Securities was an organization that valued and encouraged team collaboration, commitment, and communication. The finance giant helped launch Weisel’s long career of entrepreneurship and leadership in finance and investment banking.

In this 11-minute video, Weisel and the Montgomery Securities team discuss the teamwork, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit that inspire their business.

2. Tom Wujec: Build a tower, build a team

In this 6-minute video, Tom Wujec presents some deep research on the “marshmallow challenge,” a teambuilding exercise that involves one yard of tape, dry spaghetti, and a marshmallow. The concept sounds simple, but his study gives us great insight into the nature of collaboration.

Who can build the tallest tower with just these ingredients?

This exercise is a great way to illustrate that jockeying for power can disrupt teamwork. It also demonstrates that sometimes the best way to see if something works is trial and error.

3. Jon Petz – Levitating People

Jon Petz is a high-energy keynote speaker who inspires people with his enthusiasm and humor. In addition to engaging his audiences at events, he also re-engages them in their own lives, careers, and goals. The spirited, motivational, and entertaining video illustrates the importance of each team member’s contribution and the power of team support.

A Tiny, Robotic Stingray

Robotic arm

A stingray made using soft tissue robotics is setting the stage for more technological growth.
Image: Shutterstock

Scientists have created a robotic stingray–or a cyborg stingray might be a better way to put it. The little robot is only 16 millimeters long and was designed to test out soft tissue robotics ideas. The fins of the stingray are controlled by cardiomyocytes, which are muscle cells–in this case from rats. The cells are triggered by light, and the robot can store excess energy created by the cells. Triggering the cells makes them contract and flap the fins down, and they go back up when the cells relax. The robot can be controlled with light well enough to navigate an obstacle course.

Inspiration from science fiction aside, what impact will this robot have? Its importance is that it will provide more data about soft-tissue robotics, and doing so will allow us to work on more elaborate projects. Figuring out ways to create smaller robots is a big step in making them more useful, as the big ones that build cars aren’t as useful in, say, surgery.

By finding ways to combine natural and artificial materials (this stingray is made of gold in addition to rat cells, this experiment could allow us to make more unique robots. Soft-tissue robotics also allows for robots that are more flexible, which means they don’t face the same kinds of issues that fully metal and electronic robots might face. This tiny ray, for example, can move around in water without its controllers having to worry about shorts or rust.

In the future, as robots become more mainstream and we start to see more useful robots coming the market, changing the ways we work, we should expect to see more novel robots like this stingray.

Wall Street Shows Recovery After Brexit

Word "BREXIT", US dollar, British pound, and red arrow pointing down

Brexit has definitely hit the worldwide economy hard, but Wall Street at least shows signs of recovering.
Image: Shutterstock

As pretty much everyone knows, during the “Brexit,” vote wherein a small majority of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union, the British pound plummeted to a 31-year low and took the stock market with it. Wall Street didn’t suffer as hard a blow, but there was still a pretty significant drop of stock values. The Bank of England is bracing for whatever comes next as the United Kingdom decides how to handle leaving the EU. Chances are no matter what they do, it’s going to hurt their economy, and the global economy, in the long run.

In the days following the initial slump, though, Wall Street reported gains that have taken back some of the ground lost following the vote. The campaign to leave, though it did claim some economic advancements, was quite obviously a political one, and the reality of the resulting economic issues weren’t put forth.

It’ll take some time to recover. Recovery will likely be slow until the “divorce” is finalized, and even then, things might not go all that well. It’s too early to know. But it’s not too early to start planning for the future, and there’s one simple rule that everybody needs to remember: don’t panic!

Don’t dump your stocks, or bail on the market, or buy a ton of gold and hide it around your property. That sort of activity is what made the Great Depression hit so hard so fast, making recovery that much harder. This is a different situation. The economy likely won’t hit nearly as hard. But Brexit will have an impact on the global economy, and cutting and running will only start a chain reaction that exacerbates the problem. Be wise with you investments, as always, but don’t overhaul your entire portfolio or your strategy because of this. Keep calm and carry on, as the British are fond of saying.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 526 other followers

%d bloggers like this: