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Monthly Archives: February 2017

7 Business Ideas for Food Lovers

Farm-to-table restaurateur

If you’re an avid home chef, you know fresh ingredients make the best meals. Nothing says fresh, healthy and local like a farm-to-table restaurant. What’s more, owning a successful farm-to-table restaurant helps support local farmers, thereby strengthening your community through the love of healthy, fresh foods.

Bakery

If you frequently find yourself whipping up a batch of cookies to stave off boredom, why not get paid for it by opening a bakery? Pull out grandma’s old recipes (or create your own) and find desserts that you can replicate perfectly every time. Of course, retail space and equipment can cost a small fortune, so if you want to launch your bakery sooner rather than later, accept orders online and deliver or ship to local areas. This is a great business to run in your spare time, as you can fill orders during evenings and weekends. The best part about being in the baked goods business? You’ll never find any shortage of volunteers to help you eat your mistakes.

Catering

Have you ever hosted a dinner party or holiday meal and found yourself barely able to enjoy it because of all the preparation? If you’re a skilled home cook that can create delicious meals for a large group of people, you can help alleviate the stress of planning and preparing food for parties as a caterer. While bigger events like weddings and Sweet 16s might be hard to handle without a team, you could likely handle smaller home gatherings by yourself or with a business partner. Make sure you have enough kitchen space to prepare the meals and the means to transport the food to your clients. Go the extra mile and offer to help clean up after the party for great customer service (not to mention the fact that you’ll probably earn a nice tip).

Bartender-for-hire

Is liquid food more your speed? Consider launching a bartender-for-hire service. If you love mixing up cocktails and serving parched patrons the drinks of their choice, this just might be the gig for you. Offer to work events or parties to help bring that extra level of luxury and professionalism to your clients shindigs. With a low overhead and a slight learning curve — if you aren’t already a master mixologist — you can get your bartender business up and running in no time.

Food truck

Want to open a restaurant without paying for retail space and tons of kitchen equipment? With a decent set of wheels and a small-scale food prep station, you can. Decreased startup costs, competitive pricing and lower risk of failure are just a few of the reasons why food trucks are a great alternative to brick-and-mortar restaurants. Pick a specific type of food or cuisine you’re familiar with and work on perfecting recipes in that category to sell at your mobile eatery. Focusing on a particular specialty can help you stand out from the competition and aid in your branding efforts.

Personal chef

Another way to tap into the “busy family” market is by offering personal chef services. This business requires you to plan and prepare weekly or daily meals for your clients, so strong cooking skills and a working knowledge of nutrition and special diets (if applicable) are a must. While you don’t necessarily need to have graduated from culinary school, taking a few cooking classes will boost your credibility. If you’ve ever fantasized about working for a celebrity, this might be your ticket in: A lot of high-profile individuals employ personal chefs to maintain a healthy diet with their round-the-clock work schedule.

Nutrition coach

There’s no question that obesity is a growing problem in America, and many people who want to lose weight and eat better simply don’t know where to start. You don’t necessarily need to be a registered dietitian to offer meal plans and diet counseling. Read some nutrition books or take an online course, and use that knowledge to recommend delicious and healthy recipes to your clients that they can easily prepare at home. With the right combination of practical information and personal support, you can help people get their health — and their relationship with food – back on track.

7 Green Business Ideas

Green finance

Money isn’t the only thing that has to be green in the world of finance. Green finance is focused on supporting local, community-level projects, particularly with an emphasis on sustainable, ecologically-friendly agriculture. Green finance is also typically concerned with providing educational opportunities, funding for artistic endeavors, and projects that support local ecology. As opposed to more conventional companies in the world of finance, green finance is preoccupied with the idea of social profit — while monetary profit remains important, the real goal of green finance is to support beneficial projects that provide value to the local community and ecology. Oftentimes, when conventional lenders shy away, green financial institutions can fill the void to help realize a positive project that otherwise would not exist.

Organic catering

A great way for eco-friendly foodies to share their passion for both food and the environment is to start an organic catering company. Cater local events and business luncheons with foods that are made from organic and locally grown ingredients, and offer free-range meats along with vegan, gluten-free and paleo-meal options and you’ll appeal to nature lovers and health and wellness enthusiasts alike. Be sure to keep environmental impact to a minimum by avoiding using plastic and paper goods as much as possible and composting food waste. And if you already own a catering company, switching to organic, eco-friendly foods could be a great way to boost business.

Organic or recycled fashion

Organic cotton, reused fabric scraps and evenplastic bottles can all be starting points for a green fashion line. You can create silk screen artwork on eco-friendly T-shirts, or design handbags and accessories made of recycled materials. Many distributors brand themselves as “organic,” “fair trade” and “eco-friendly,” so do your research on their practices to make sure you’re sourcing your fabrics from reputable organizations.

Green app developer

Want to help others help themselves go green? Build an app. From reference guides to activity trackers and games, green-app developers can create apps to help users learn more about going green and guide them toward achieving their sustainable lifestyle goals. Your app can cover green living as a whole or focus on niche areas — such as energy conservation; recycling and upcycling; eco-friendly products, and green living — at home or at work. It can be as simple as an app listing local green businesses, or something complex and interactive that users can enjoy on a day-to-day basis. You can also build educational apps to teach children about going green and help them grow up to be environmentally conscious citizens.

Air duct cleaning

Dust, debris and other particulates that collect in ventilation systems can make a home much less energy-efficient. Help homeowners save money, gas and electricity by cleaning out their air ducts. You may need to purchase someequipment to get started if you don’t have a portable vacuum, and a strong working knowledge of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is a must. Spring is a great time for this business: Seasonal allergy sufferers will be more than happy to pay you to remove allergens from their air ducts.

Handmade all-natural/organic products

Soaps, cosmetics and cleaning products are just a few of the household products that can be made using common organic materials. Sure, anyone can find a recipe for a sugar scrub or vinegar-based cleaning solution and do it themselves, but if you package and sell them in sets, your customers can have those all-natural products at their fingertips without having to use their own time and resources. Local markets and events are a good place to sell, or you could start anonline store.

Green waste management

Most homeowners have pickup bins for standard recyclables like paper, glass and plastic, but they often don’t make the effort to properly recycle electronics and batteries, which can be extremely harmful to the environment when left in landfills. Offer to pick up all the e-waste that’s been collecting in their garages — old televisions, broken laptops, defunct cellphones — and bring them to your local electronic recycling facility. Charge per item, by weight or a flat fee plus travel to and from the location.

Trash compacting is another type of business helping to take the waste out of the waste management industry. In the U.S. alone, garbage trucks consume roughly 1 billion gallons (3.7 billion liters) of diesel fuel every year, according to InformInc. Companies likeBigbelly Solar are working to change that by using solar-powered trash compactors that reduce the frequency of collections, thereby also reducing emissions and fuel consumption. Trash compactors also reduce litter overflow, a common problem among public trash receptacles.

Retailers Turn to AI to Integrate Marketing Channels

The study was conducted by Sailthru, a cross-channel management platform company. When discussing what marketing channels best met marketing goals, 56 percent of businesses surveyed said their websites generate the most online revenue, with email marketing and mobile coming in next at 18 percent and 7 percent. Social media trailed at 4 percent.

Even so, email, social media and digital advertising nearly tied as the favored channels for acquiring new customers. For retention, email, followed by mobile, showed the most promise, retailers said. Thus, retailers intend to invest more in social media advertising, email automation and mobile marketing in 2017.

“Email is a tried-and-true digital marketing tactic. Revenue attributed directly to email varies between 30 to 50 percent for our retail clients,” said Marielle Habbel, director of customer strategy and optimization for Sailthru, in awebinar discussing the results.

Habbel found it surprising that revenue generated by mobile was so low, considering how pervasive it is, and that social media, while very popular, did not show the return on investment that other channels produce. However, she said the one of the most sought-after innovations for 2017 is integrating social and mobile with email to create more powerful campaigns.

To do that, and to improve personalization of the customer’s buying journey (another goal of companies), Habbel said businesses need to incorporate artificial intelligence programs.

“There’s no way to bring the automation to life or bring the personalization to life without the AI,” she said.

Most retailers (66 percent) already use AI in some way, with 37 percent using it for search and 33 percent using it to improve product recommendations for customers. Programmatic advertising and data analysis tied for third at 26 percent each.

Seventy-three percent of retailers felt ready for cross-channel campaigns. The rest said their companies faced roadblocks, including organizational or customer data silos that prevented smooth collaboration, and a lack of integrated technologies. In addition, more than a quarter felt their departments didn’t understand how to create a cross-channel strategy to maximize resources.

Even with successful companies, one of the resource challenges for retailers is finding and retaining human talent. Habbel noted two issues: a high turnover of employees in marketing resulting in time spent training people on software, and a difficulty finding employees who are comfortable with both story and technology.

“There’s a small (number) of people in the market that are able to combine those two skill sets,” she said.

Marketing experts agree that “story,” or content marketing that goes beyond advertising messages, is vital for successful online campaigns in email or social media.

Online marketing has shown itself successful: 81 percent of retailers met or exceeded their marketing goals in 2016, according to the survey. As companies look to the future, marketing will continue to grow, particularly for those who have already had a taste of success. Retailers will push their efforts into cross-platform integrations and personalization, particularly to incorporate artificial intelligence programs with people able to bring in the human element through content.

7 Tips for Building an Effective Business Website

Creating a website isn’t especially difficult with the many website creation tools available. Whatever software you choose, keep these design principles in mind.

In 2016, OuterBox reported that more than 62 percent of shoppers made purchases using their cell phones, and the 2016 stats show that over 90 percent of shoppers use their smartphones even while in retail stores for comparing prices and looking at product reviews. Further, 40 percent of consumers will go to a competitor if they have a bad experience with a mobile website.

“If you plan on running a successful eCommerce website, or any website, you absolutely must cater to mobile users,” wrote Justin Smith, CEO of OuterBox, in his company blog.

You need to have a domain name that describes your business or is your company name. You can even have multiple domains that point to the website. To learn more about what makes an effective domain name, read our article on choosing the best domain names.

If your business depends on people being able to contact you or call your sales team, put that information where they can find it easily.

“Your contact information should be visible, preferably at the top of the home page, so that visitors don’t have to search for a phone number or address if they want to contact the business,” said David Brown, CEO of Web.com.

If you use social media to connect with customers, then be sure to put links at the header or footer, where they are easily found.

Dan Veltri, co-founder and chief product officer of Weebly, advised limiting your top-level navigation menu to five clearly labeled tabs with related pages organized under them. You should also have a clear way to get back to the home page no matter where your readers land. Very often, a search can take your reader to a page other than the home page.

Paul Bolls, an associate professor of strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism, said that readers need to be able to put information in context. If a site has too much information, it overloads the mind, making it unable to retain the new information. Be sure you use a balance of text and graphics that present a clean page.

One way to keep it simple is to cut the social widgets, such as a Twitter feed on your site. Ask yourself if you are adding information your reader cares about, advised Michael LaVista, CEO of Caxy Interactive. If your widget content does not support the purpose of the page, remove it.

It should go without saying that inaccurate information will turn off consumers, whether it’s a wrong number, outdated product information or simple grammatical errors. Not only should you proofread each page before it goes live, but you should periodically check each page, especially after making updates anywhere else.

A study by SOASTA, a website creation company, found that 88 percent of Americans surveyed said they have a negative association with brands that have buggy websites and apps, and 83 percent said slow websites cause them to have a negative reaction to a brand or company. Further, 28 percent of respondents said they will go to a competitor’s website if the first website they visit takes too long to load.

Make sure your website runs smoothly by keeping the software updated, optimizing videos and images for quicker downloads, and using a website host that can handle your bandwidth demands.