Blind entrepreneurs boost eBay sales

EBay is recruiting an unlikely group of new entrepreneurs into its selling ranks – the visually impaired.

Blind citizens have staggeringly high rates of unemployment, with some 70 percent of working-age, legally blind adults out of work, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

So the online marketplace, in partnership with NFB, began recruiting test sellers in the blind community late last year. In February, it began a pilot program with 15 blind entrepreneurs. In total, they have sold more than 2,100 items, including everything from packing tape to clothing and makeup.

“We have a commitment to making our pages accessible,” said Jonas Klink, senior product manager of accessibility for San Jose, California-based eBay. The company was also the title sponsor at NFB’s national convention in July.

“These 15 pilot program participants have been selling above and beyond even the majority of our sighted community,” said Klink, adding that word has spread through the blind community. “A number have become top-rated sellers.”

Hearty 2011 seen for restaurateurs

This year the restaurant industry is poised to put up its best numbers in four years, buoyed by an increase of roughly 2 million jobs since the depths of the recession and improved household income.

Sales are seen rising 3.6 percent to $604 billion in 2011, according to forecasts from the National Restaurant Association, the industry’s trade group.

“When employment moves up it creates additional demand for convenience such as pizza,” said Hudson Riehle, the association’s senior vice president of research and information services. “Barring any unforeseen shocks, the future for the industry will continue to improve.”

GroupPrice targets small business with daily deals

Price and value is what led Chris Gafoor to purchase a press release distribution plan from GroupPrice.

“It gives you more bang for your buck,” said the president and CEO of Miami-based BluStar Media Inc, who paid $39 for a GroupPrice deal that he estimated would have cost $200 elsewhere. The deal guaranteed Gafoor’s company a minimum of 5,000 views of its press release in 30 days.

GroupPrice is a business-to-business version of the group-buying trend that offers deals specifically for Internet-based small businesses. Van Jepson, CEO of the Redwood City, California-based firm, got the idea for the business when he ran a previous Web company.

3 rules for selling in the new economy

-- Lisa Nicole Bell is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of lifestyle consultancy firm Inspired Life Media Group. This article originally appeared on Under30CEO. The views expressed are her own. –

Every entrepreneur knows that the key to a thriving business is sales. Without it, cash flow dries up, checks turn to rubber, and heads roll. With it, few things are impossible. The challenge for most entrepreneurs is understanding how to sell what they offer.

Throughout the years, the sales gurus of our parents’ generation have offered their conventional wisdom about “building rapport” and “explaining the features”. In the new economy, this advice just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Businesses trim costs to combat lagging sales

USA-RETAIL/BLACKFRIDAYTina Bean’s wish for 2011 is that people will open their wallets more.

“People don’t want to spend money,” said Bean, the owner of Port Arthur, Texas-based pet food dealer, Five Star Feed Store. “They are buying necessities and that’s it.”

Annual sales at Five Star Feed Store have declined approximately $100,000 since the recession, said Bean. She has been forced to lay off three workers and has given pay cuts to the remaining five. The cutbacks have also had a personal effect. “For a long time, I didn’t draw a paycheck,” she said.

Bean’s experience is highlighted by recent financial data from Sageworks Inc., which showed a number of sectors are suffering from declining sales. The report analyzed 2010 sales, profit per employee and payroll as a percentage of sales data for private companies in six major industries: construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, healthcare and education.

Running a successful sales office

- Michael K. McKean is the CEO and director of new product development for the Knowland Group, a leading provider of business development solutions for the global hospitality industry. The views expressed are his own. -

“A-B-C. A-Always B-Be C-Closing…you close or you hit the bricks.”

This may work for Blake in the classic sales film Glengarry Glen Ross, but sales directors today know it’s not always that simple. No one can create the perfect sales office overnight, anymore than someone can wake up one day as a golf professional ready to win the Masters. Building a successful sales team takes skill, patience, and hard work.

But just as any golfer can quickly up their game with a few short lessons from a knowledgeable instructor, so can you improve your team with a few easy steps.

Is it time for do-gooder to cash out?

TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie created his Santa Monica, California-based company as a vehicle for giving away shoes to needy children, but should the Texas entrepreneur be looking ahead to selling the company and using the money to pursue other philanthropic goals?

TOMS, an abbreviation of “Tomorrow’s Shoes,” is based on a simple concept: for each pair of shoes sold, a pair is donated. Mycoskie, 33, conceived his “One-for-One” business model on a trip to Argentina, when as a volunteer on a shoe drive, he witnessed how a simple pair of shoes could change a child’s life (read original story here).

“Many of the kids’ feet I saw were really badly cut up and infected and just really gross, for lack of a better word,” said Mycoskie, who also noticed how much trouble the non-profit organization he was helping had in getting the right size shoes for the kids, as they were completely reliant on donations. “It dawned on me that instead of looking at this as a charity thing, which is what they were doing, why not look at it from a business perspective and create a business where you sell a pair of shoes and give a pair.”