Entrepreneurial

Why do customers shop at local small businesses?

– Stephanie Rabiner is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Despite hard times and shrinking profits, Americans still shop at locally owned, independent retailers.

A new small business survey from American Express polled 1,000 consumers aged 18 and older. Ninety-three percent of respondents believe that it’s important to support local small businesses. And on average, they spend about one third of their monthly discretionary income at these stores.

How can you capitalize on this information?

Survey respondents primarily shop at small businesses because of friendly employees and product knowledge.

Additionally, 87 percent of respondents share favorable opinions about a business, while only 69 percent share negative feedback. The majority use word of mouth and social media. Only 13 percent use sites like Yelp! and Citysearch.

Bakery pushes own brand after years of white-label production

One way to counter the effects of the recession is to start a retail brand. That’s what entrepreneur Karen Trilevsky did.

The founder and CEO of FullBloom Baking Co, a 22-year-old natural foods bakery outside San Francisco, started rolling out her own line of branded snacks in 2008, after years serving as the behind-the-scenes regional baker for big customers like Whole Foods.

Trilevsky, 54, admited it’s been tough to create a market for new products in the crowded natural and organic foods space, which commands premium pricing –- sometimes as much as 50 percent –- over conventional grocery items. With all the belt tightening, she said customers are often reluctant to try new things.

Boomer sees business in discarded mannequins

Kara Ohngren is a writer and editor at SecondAct. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

Judi Henderson-Town felt trapped. For years she was unhappy as an account executive at such industry giants as Johnson & Johnson and United Airlines. She found corporate life “soul-destroying.”

“I wanted something more entrepreneurial,” said the 53-year-old Henderson-Town. “But I didn’t know it was an option — no one I knew growing up owned their own business.”

Startup Toovio offers “Minority Report”-type ad service for retailers

Big Brother has the capability to watch – and respond to – your every spending move. That’s the premise behind Toovio, a startup that has created technology to help retailers and other consumer-facing companies market personalized offers to their customers in real time.

Think of the scene in the film “Minority Report”, when Tom Cruise’s character is walking through a mall while his eyes are getting scanned and he is being bombarded by a slew of personalized 3D ads.

“We call it offer orchestration,” said Toovio’s CEO Josh Smith, 31, of the capabilities that allow companies to communicate custom offers over a range of channels that include checkout, website, kiosk and customer-service call centers.

Small businesses offer bin Laden specials

REUTERS/HO/RoadKillTshirts.com

As Americans took to the streets to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, C. J. Grouse was rushing to print thousands of new t-shirts to take advantage of the occasion.

“This is probably the biggest bounce we’ve seen from an individual news story in the last five years of doing this,” said Grouse, 43, who launched RoadKill T-Shirts with his brother in 2005. “We had our designs up yesterday by noon and we sold over two thousand of the different designs in 24 hours.”

Grouse said his most popular seller has been a shirt with an Uncle Sam icon and the message: “We Got You Osama bin Laden May 1, 2011″. Other shirts include a bin Laden likeness behind red crosshairs and the slogan “Burn In Hell” and one inspired by Facebook, with the words: “Osama bin Laden Is Dead. 311,275,382 People Like This”.

PeopleDeals offers its spin on group buying

It appears there’s no end to the number of startups the group-buying space can contain. The latest entrant offering a better mousetrap is PeopleDeals, which allows small and medium-sized businesses to create deals that increase in value the more they’re shared across social networks.

Whereas Groupon-type deals are basically a two-for-one model that doesn’t change, PeopleDeals makes the price cheaper after a certain number of participants share the virtual coupon across social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. To illustrate, a pizza joint could offer an online deal for 50 cents off a slice, then as soon as it’s shared with another person it increases to 60 cents and then to 70 cents after it’s shared five more times, up to a maximum of $1 when 20 or more people share it.

“The key is the business owner decides. At any given time they can make it go from 50 cents to $5, or from 50 cents to 70 cents,” said Darin Myman, the CEO of Red Bank, New Jersey-based social network PeopleString Corporation (PLPE.OB), which launched PeopleDeals last week. “When they (customers) share it with their friends and their friends share it they’re becoming your new social media.”

Small firm produces royal wedding comic

The cover of Bluewater Productions' comic book on the royal wedding is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/HO/Bluewater Productions

Many Americans can’t seem to get enough of the royal wedding. That’s good news for Darren Davis, president of Bluewater Productions, an independent producer of comic books with a celebrity bent.

This week his Vancouver, Washington firm is releasing both a comic book and graphic novel of the royal romance of Britain’s Prince William and bride Kate Middleton.

Scoutmob tries to outdeal Groupon

Despite Groupon’s virtual stranglehold on the group-buying space, David Payne thinks it’s vulnerable.

The co-founder of rival startup Scoutmob said Groupon’s margins aren’t sustainable and feels he has a better solution for deal-crazy consumers and businesses.

“When people look at this space they see it as a zero-sum game,” said Payne, who has heard all the naysayers since launching his Atlanta-based company last year. “They see it as Groupon’s raised a billion dollars in private capital and some (other) companies have raised one, or ten or twenty (million)… how can they compete?”

PixSpree lets you dress like a Kardashian

When Joshua Lopour’s girlfriend spent an hour online searching for a dress she saw worn by a celebrity, he thought there had to be an easier way.

“That was our ‘a-ha’ moment; that’s when we said people need this,” said Lopour, who created Orange County, California-based PixSpree, a software tool that allows users to scroll over a photo of a star and instantly find out what they’re wearing, how much it costs and where to buy it. “It’s basically a roadmap of saying you can go find this here, you can go buy this here. You don’t have to sit there and spend an hour of your valuable time trying to find something; why don’t we just tell you where to get it.”

Lopour is not a programmer, but spent 10 years working in entertainment news, predominantly as a television producer for CBS where he worked closely with a number of celebrity bloggers and photographers. After enlisting friends to design the code, something Lopour said took a couple months to complete, PixSpree struck deals with a handfull of popular Hollywood bloggers, including Perez Hilton, and photo agencies such as Fame Pictures and Pacific Coast News, among others.

Entrepreneur trades bestsellers for bracelets

– Melinda F. Emerson, known as the SmallBizLady, is an entrepreneur, professional speaker, small business coach and the author of “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months“. In 2010, Forbes magazine named her as one of the Top 20 Women for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. This article originally appeared on Second Act. –

Until three years ago, Janet Hill Talbert worked as a vice president and executive editor at a major New York publishing house. It was challenging work, and Talbert enjoyed nurturing her writers, including many bestselling authors.

But the stress of the job took its toll, and she started making jewelry as a way to unwind after hectic days.

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