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5 Products to Help You With the Keto Diet

It seems like there’s always a diet trend sweeping the nation and, currently, it’s the ketogenic (keto) diet. Popularized by Joe Rogan, the keto diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat in order to put your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. In ketosis, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. The keto diet can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can have numerous health benefits, and can help you lose large amounts of weight in relatively little time.

No wonder it’s so popular, right? However, like any diet, adhering to the keto diet can be difficult. These products may help.

Butcher Box

The keto diet typically demands that you eat a lot of meat in order to get the fats you need. Butcher Box, conveniently, specializes in delivering high-quality meat right to your door. Each week, you can pick one of Butcher Box’s curated boxes or customize your own with beef, chicken, and pork, and they’ll deliver it frozen, along with recipe suggestions and tips for cooking.

OFFER: Get 2 lbs of 100 percent grass-fed ground beef and 2 pakcs of bacon for free with your first box

Athletic Greens

Athletic Greens offers delicious beverages for virtually every diet. Their mission is to create drinkable meals that can be enjoyed on the go. With options specially designed for the keto diet, you can honor the diet’s demands while still going about your day, and without having to worry about making a complete meal.

OFFER: Save 21 percent off when you subscribe (cancel or customize delivery anytime)

Whole Psyllium Husk Powder

Psyllium husk is a simple way to maintain gastrointestinal health, an important consideration when making a drastic change in diet. This bulk-forming dietary fiber naturally promotes healthy digestion to keep your system on track while you’re elevating your fat intake. Believe us, you’re going to want to keep everything as normalized as possible.

OFFER: Save 14 percent off


MCT Oil is a healthy way to increase your fat intake. By adding this supplement to smoothies, coffee, or dressings, you can naturally take on more fats to help your body reach ketosis faster. This specific supplement is made from certified organic coconuts grown without pesticides, GMOs, or hexane.

OFFER: Save 22 percent off

Epic Bars

Epic Bars are delicious, low-carb and low-fat bars that are an outstanding source of protein. While they won’t help you reach ketosis, they are a healthy way to get a boost of muscle-building protein before or after a workout. Plus, they’re filling and low-calo, contributing to your diet.

OFFER: Save 15 percent off

Source: Entrepreneur
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Is Learning a New Language Your New Year’s Resolution? Rosetta Stone Makes It Easy.

Every year, we make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to address some aspect of our lives that could use a little improvement. From eating healthier to drinking less wine, not all resolutions are easily conquerable. However, if you’d like to learn a new language (and why wouldn’t you?) there are plenty of tools to help you; none better than Rosetta Stone.

Learning a new language will broaden your perspective of the world and can help you when you travel for both business and pleasure. Rosetta Stone’s intuitive, immersive training method takes to heart the practical applications of learning a new language, helping you to match words with images, just how you learned your native language as a child. From there, Rosetta Stone leverages speech recognition technology to evaluate and help you improve your accent with instant feedback. Through lessons, you’ll develop basic conversational skills as well as intermediate skills like how to share opinions, and you’ll develop your command of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding.

Rosetta Stone has long been trusted by organizations like NASA, Calvin Klein, and TripAdvisor because it is simply the top language learning platform on the market. Typically, lifetime subscriptions to Rosetta Stone are $299 but we have them on sale for $199 and, for a limited time, the price has been reduced to just $189. Choose from Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, or Mandarin Chinese. For a limited time, get an extra 15 percent off with promo code: MERRYSAVE15. 

Source: Entrepreneur
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Study: The Number Of People Who Abuse Weed Is Decreasing. Legalization May Be Responsible

Contrary to the expectations of public health experts, the rate of frequent marijuana consumers who are diagnosed with cannabis use disorder (CUD) is not increasing, a new study reports. In fact, it’s actually decreasing, and that may be due to the growing number of states that have legalized access to marijuana.

According to the paper, “CUD prevalence decreased significantly across all ages reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use between 2002-2016. Cannabis dependence prevalence decreased for adolescents and young adults and was stable only among adults ages 26+ reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use.”

Recent studies have had mixed results on the prevalence of CUD — a diagnosis that includes either misuse and/or dependence — in the last two decades. Because people who consume marijuana every day or almost every day are the most at risk for problematic use, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health set out to get a better understanding of this group’s general health.

Their findings were published last month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

RELATED: More States Have Made Marijuana Legal, So Why Are More People Getting Arrested?

The study’s authors used data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health for the years 2002-2016. The final sample, totaling 22,651 people, included participants who were 12 and older and reported using marijuana at least 300 days in the past year.

To measure problematic marijuana use, the authors used criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, for cannabis dependence and cannabis abuse, such as:

  • Spent a great deal of time over a period of a month obtaining, using, or getting over the effects of marijuana
  • Unable to keep set limits
  • Unable to cut down cannabis use
  • Recurrent use resulting in failure to fulfill major role obligations
  • Continued use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems

Other factors considered in the research asked whether participants had a perceived need for mental health treatment, whether a doctor had indicated they had other health issues and whether or not they’d driven under the influence of illegal drugs with and without alcohol.

Over the study period, the authors found that the prevalence of CUD decreased among their sample in all age groups: For adolescents ages 12 to 17, the rate fell by 26.8 percent; for 18- to 25-year-olds, by 29.7 percent; and for adults 26 and older, by 37.5 percent.

“Among those with past-year daily/almost daily cannabis use, there were reductions in the prevalence of DSM-IV cannabis abuse across all age groups, with reductions observed for all individual abuse items in adolescents and young adults,” the study states. “There were also reductions in the prevalence of DSM-IV cannabis dependence among adolescents and young adults, but not in adults ages 26+. Reductions in most DSM-IV dependence items were observed in young adults while reductions in only a few dependence items were found for adolescents and older adults.”

RELATED: How Will Businesses Handle Legalized Marijuana In The Workplace?

Marijuana Legalization May Be Responsible For Declining Rates

Researchers offer several possible explanations for the declining rates, many of which point to the influence of legalization. “First, the new national cannabis policy environment, with 33 states legalizing medical use and 10 states allowing recreational use of cannabis may have played a role in reducing stigma and perceptions of risk associated with cannabis use,” Silvia Martins, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “Secondly, increasing legalization may also be associated with changes in social attitudes resulting in fewer conflicts with relatives and friends around cannabis use.”

As a result, according to the paper, “[t]his could explain reductions in the abuse item ‘Continued use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems,’ which reflects difficulties in interactions with others due to cannabis use.”

It’s also possible that “a sector of the population that is healthier overall” is starting to use marijuana more because of legal access, which “may have diluted the prevalence of cannabis abuse/dependence over time.” They may use “less potent” cannabis or in lower daily amounts, researchers note. Additionally, more people may feel less afraid to admit on a federal survey that they use marijuana frequently.

Ultimately, Martins said, the study’s results “contradict the predominating hypothesis that the prevalence of DSM-IV CUD would be stable, or increase, among those using with this regularity.”

To stay up to date on the latest marijuana-related news make sure to like Weedmaps on Facebook

Source: Entrepreneur
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A 5-Step Guide to Revamping Your Brand Consistency (and Boosting Customer Trust)

The goal of any brand is to provide a recognizable, positive brand identity people will remember. Without a consistent brand presentation, you cannot achieve that goal.

Why? There’s a phenomenon known as context-dependent memory, which states that people remember information best when they are in the original context in which they encountered that information. However, brand messages usually occur in a wide variety of places (online ads, business cards, outdoor signage, product packaging, email campaigns and more). This means that your brand messages often lack the necessary context that would make it easiest for people to remember them, so consistent presentation is often necessary to bridge that gap and reinforce your brand recognition. This is especially true for new and younger businesses. 

Related: The 8 Laws of Branding

Consistent branding allows your business to be perceived as the same business they’ve interacted with in the past. After enough consistent exposures to a brand, customers often begin to feel as though they know it personally and the relationship begins to grow.

On top of that, the more customers are exposed to something — a product, a service, or your brand — the more inclined they are to like it. This is a psychological phenomenon known as “mere exposure.”

Take stock of your current branding efforts. 

Brand consistency occurs when a business presents the same visual face, values, personality, and brand messaging across every customer touchpoint. This can be challenging to accomplish if you don’t fully understand your own brand. That’s why truly getting to know your brand is the first step in any brand consistency effort.

Your company’s logo design, your business website, your mobile app, your store signage, your marketing and customer support messaging — they must all be instantly recognizable as your brand. But it’s impossible to faithfully repeat something if you don’t know what you did in the first place. And that’s the challenge so many businesses encounter when they try to present a consistent brand.

If you haven’t given any deep thought to your brand — your values, your inherent and projected brand personality, your unique selling proposition, and how those elements will manifest visually — then you simply cannot expect to achieve a consistent brand presentation.

Related: 9 Tips for Creating an Awesome Brand

It’s a good idea to start by self-reflecting. Determine the values that drive your business and the traits that define it and make it unique. Then, likely through working with designers, develop a visual design that embodies that brand. This will be the foundation for all of the visual elements that customers and potential customers will associate with your brand.

If you already have a logo and visual branding elements, conduct a self-audit. Ask yourself if these elements properly represent your brand. If not, it may be time for a logo refresh or a complete visual rebranding.

Create a style guide.

A style guide is a way to keep track of your visual brand. This document outlines a set of rules to follow any time a member of your organization wants to publish, present or promote content for your brand. If your brand isn’t captured in a style guide, it can quickly drift into an inconsistent experience for your customers and employees.

A comprehensive style guide will provide all of the information needed for an employee to accurately create consistently branded content, including visual info such as fonts, brand colors, logo, signage specifications, typography style and any other commonly used branded graphic elements. It should also cover less tangible items like ideal voice and tone, your branding mission and company philosophy.

Once you’ve clearly defined your brand and developed visuals to support it, make it all official via a style guide you can share with every member of your team.

Give brand messaging time to work.

Relationships of any kind take time to build, and it often takes multiple interactions with a brand before a customer is ready to make a purchase. So when executing any branding strategy, plan to give it enough time to really sink into the consumer consciousness.

Related: Why Your Brand Plan Is More Important Than Your Business Plan

Your business name and logo should remain the same for as long as possible, and if changes are made, they should be clearly related to the originals to maintain your valuable brand equity. Your brand position may change over time as the business landscape evolves, but it should still have a life cycle of years, not weeks or months.

This is just one area where authentic branding has a distinct advantage over contrived branding. An authentic brand is far more likely to have longer staying power, since it’s grounded in the reality of the business from the foundation up — making it easier to implement and most likely to still be relevant years from now.

If you don’t immediately get the reaction to your brand that you had hoped, don’t give up too quickly and try something new. Every brand needs time and repeated exposure to truly make a lasting impact.

Deliver a consistent multi-channel experience.

Businesses today share their marketing and branding messages in many, many places. From social media to your website, email marketing to roadside billboards, and mobile apps to your customer support team, consumers could be interacting with your brand all over the place.

And they should be. It’s in your best interest to meet customers where they are, in all the places they frequent. This makes you easy to find and keeps your business top-of-mind. But oftentimes, being in all the right places isn’t enough. It’s crucial to present a consistent brand across all of these locations if you want people to recognize your brand and remember you.

This is especially important when you lead customers on a journey from one point to another. For example, if you send an email with a discount link, the landing page the customers land on should share the same brand messaging and appearance as the original email.

Customers should experience your brand in the same way whether they’re on social media, using a mobile app, visiting your website or physically in your store.

Brand from the inside out.

Your employees are the guardians of your brand.

Employees should be as well-educated and passionate about your brand as you are. Without their understanding and buy-in, a consistent branding effort could be doomed to fail. This is one of the reasons why many of the best brands are built from the inside out.

Authentic brand values that evolve naturally from your company culture will likely be easiest for your employees to embrace and enact. However, don’t necessarily assume that because your brand values are genuine, that your employees will know how to — or that they will — articulate them. Provide brand education for all employees so that they understand their role in presenting a consistent brand identity for your company. 

Source: Entrepreneur
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How Four Friends Became Successful Franchisees

This story appears in the
December 2019

issue of
Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When husband-and-wife team Dave Tjen and Lynna Tsou were considering opening a unit of the Coder School in Berkeley, Calif., they knew they needed partners. Both had full-time jobs (and side hustles), and they wanted another pair of brains to juggle the responsibilities. With caution, they went into business with their friends Mike and Kelly Scribner, and opened the doors to their operation in January 2017. But by taking advantage of their respective skill sets, creating clear boundaries, and remembering that they (and the seven kids between the two couples) are friends first, they’ve created a business that doesn’t just enhance their own work lives, but one that has also become a valued part of their local community

Related: How to Find Your Passion (If Your Passion Isn’t Your Product!)

How did you all decide to go into business together? 

lynna: My husband and I had been approached by the founders of the Coder School, who are friends of ours, about opening a location. We knew we didn’t have the bandwidth to do it alone and got pretty far in the process with another couple, but they backed out. One night, we were sitting around the campfire with Kelly and Mike, talking about this dilemma. And a couple days later, they reached out: “Hey, would you do this with us?”

Were you nervous about partnering with friends? 

Mike: We had heard horror stories from people who’d tried. We talked about it quite a bit. We each realized our strengths, and we knew that if we could divide responsibilities, it would be more manageable.

So how did you do that? 

Mike: Lynna is an educational psychologist, so she works with our coaches, matches students to coaches, talks to the parents. My background was in HR and customer service relationships. My wife is very detail-oriented and has sales marketing experience, and Lynna’s husband, Dave, comes from a tech background and is great with numbers. 

Related: There’s a Skilled Trade Labor Shortage. Can We Fix It?

What are some of the nuances of the local community of Berkeley you had to consider? 

lynna: We live in a college town, so we’re lucky to have access to some incredible minds in terms of hiring coaches directly from the UC Berkeley campus. But we’re also in a community that’s highly educated and incredibly knowledgeable. Parents here can be very forthcoming and knowledgeable about what their kids’ needs are. We knew we had to really meet our families where they’re at, and be proactive and thoughtful in how we approach customer service. 

What kind of support do you get from the corporate office? 

Mike: Very personable, approachable. You have a problem or a question? They’re quick to respond. My wife and I used to operate a Color Me Mine pottery studio franchise, and if we had a problem, the home office sent us a PDF or a zip file and told us to go make it happen. There wasn’t much support or feedback, which was challenging. Here, it’s smooth. 

Related: This Franchisor Leans on His Experience In the Military to Lead His Team

Has it been difficult to hire instructors who are good at code but also good at working with kids? 

lynna: Coding ability is actually secondary. We hire coaches who know how to build connections. Part of our orientation process is teaching our instructors to step back from the computer and check in with their students, ask them how their day was. If they seem frustrated or upset, let us know, and try to find ways to comfort them. A lot of times this is the only opportunity students have to get one-on-one attention from adults. So we want to form really trusting relationships and make sure our instructors are reading their cues and body language. 

Source: Entrepreneur
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How to Make the Impossible a Reality

On this episode of The Playbook, speaker and author Jeff Griffin provides insights on:

  • The difference between being a successful leader and a leader of success. [4:30]
  • How quitting college football helped him to discover what he calls the P-Squared Mindset. [6:56]
  • What he would tell one of his kids if they were paralyzed in an accident. [20:05]
  • Why he believes that the past and the future do not exist. [29:11]

Related: Tapping Into the DNA of the Playboy Brand

Source: Entrepreneur
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Streamline Your Community Organizing Efforts with NationBuilder

In business, politics, grassroots campaigning, or virtually any other organization, streamlined communication is absolutely essential. However, for one reason or another, many organizations have fragmented outreach systems. Their donor list might be in one database, while their event signups are in a Google Doc and their volunteer list is scrawled on a few sheets of printer paper.

Unsurprisingly, with this kind of information siloed ineffectively and confusingly, it can be exceedingly difficult to raise awareness of your brand or cause. Thankfully, NationBuilder is here to solve that problem.

NationBuilder is an all-in-one tool that makes it easy to keep all of your data — from donor and volunteer lists to your events and payment processing — in a single, integrated platform. Optimized for nonprofits, advocacy groups, political campaigns, and distributed organizations of all kinds, NationBuilder makes community and grassroots organizing more streamlined than ever.

NationBuilder puts people at its center. The platform helps you manage and improve every element of your work by keeping everyone’s tasks, responsibilities, and projects front and center in a central hub. It helps you build your site in minutes thanks to a variety of readymade templates and provides real-time data and analytics to keep you apprised of how you’re tracking towards your goals.

NationBuilder helps you take your audience’s pulse by creating lists, filters, and tags in a database that dynamically updates with every supporter interaction. What’s more, you can personalize email, text, and field outreach to supporters based on their interests and history with you, cultivating an even stronger relationship.

Jumpstart your campaigns and community engagement. When you sign up now for a free 14-day trial to NationBuilder, you’ll receive one free month after the trial ends.

Source: Entrepreneur
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How the Black Market Is Threatening the Legal Cannabis Market

This story appears in the
December 2019

issue of
Green Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

One morning last August, Jonathan Doneson woke up with a cough that shot straight through his rib cage. “It killed me,” says the 52-year-old, who runs a women’s apparel company with his wife. “It was like I’d taken a really big bong hit.” 

But Doneson didn’t have a bong. What he had was a discreet vape pen with marijuana cartridges he’d bought from a friend. For months, he’d been hitting it eight to 12 times a day, installing a new cartridge when the old one ran out and keeping a low-grade buzz to manage his stress. The habit felt so harmless that he didn’t even think to mention it to the doctor who X-rayed him following his bong-level cough. 

New York has yet to legalize recreational weed, and some of Doneson’s cartridges were part of an illegal market of products that skirt regulations. What’s shocking is that the same underground market is thriving even in states where cannabis is fully legal. In fact, it dominates all cannabis business in the U.S. And it’s a growing problem: Not only are its dealers able to undercut legal sellers on price, but the unregulated product seems to be a critical agent in the vape-illness outbreak, giving all of marijuana a bad reputation.

Related: Why The Cannabis Industry Is Urging For A Regulated Market

Doneson was diagnosed with bronchitis. A few days later, it was pneumonia. And a week after that, he was in the intensive care unit, quarantined in a pressurized room. He wasn’t responding to antibiotics, so officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention filed in to hammer him with questions. Did he smoke cigarettes? Drink alcohol? Travel? “Yeah, I do all those things,” Doneson replied. Then they asked about recreational drugs, and for the first time, he mentioned the pen.

A roomful of doctors lifted their eyes from their clipboards. “We’ve been treating this all wrong,” he remembers one saying. “People have died from this.” 

As of early November, the number of deaths related to vaporizers stood at 39. And more than 2,050 people had fallen ill. One of the challenges healthcare professionals face in treating these people is that they don’t yet know what causes the condition. What they do know is that 86 percent of the patients were vaping THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. And according to the CDC, most of them were using illicit products bought from unregulated sellers, like friends or dealers — which makes it harder than ever to pinpoint the illness’s culprit. For example, the agency points out that Dank Vapes, a brand cited often among those sickened, doesn’t originate with a single source. Dealers just purchase the empty packaging online, buy empty vape cartridges from Alibaba, and fill them with whatever they want. 

In October, Mayo Clinic researchers examined biopsy samples from 17 vaping patients, two of whom died. “The lining cells of the lung were either gone completely or responding to injury,” says Henry Tazelaar, M.D., a pathologist who worked on the study. It’s similar to what you’d see with a chemical burn. “Even if you know what’s in that little cassette, we don’t know what happens when you heat that stuff up and mix it all together.”

One hint comes from a 2017 study from Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Research Institute, which found that propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol — two common cutting agents used in both legal and illegal vaporizers — could convert into acetaldehyde (a carcinogen) and formaldehyde when exposed to the heat of a pen. (Many legal manufacturers have voluntarily stopped using cutting agents, and dispensaries have begun removing products with either of the glycols.) In a more recent analysis, the cannabis testing lab CannaSafe found detectable levels of pesticides in all 12 of the illegal vapes tested. Products with carefree names like Mario Carts, plus counterfeit versions of typically legal vapes like Heavy Hitters, contained myclobutanil, a chemical that can break down into cyanide under heat. 

The CannaSafe research also turned up something else: There was no trace of vitamin E acetate among the legal samples they tested, but the illegal products were awash with it. And the CDC has since identified vitamin E acetate as a strong culprit in the vaping illness outbreak. Dealers use the oil to thicken the liquid in vaporizer cartridges, and once heated and inhaled, it can clog air sacs called alveoli, which help the lungs take in oxygen. That may have been the offending ingredient in Doneson’s case. Some of the cartridges from a counterfeit of a vape called Kingpen consisted of 34 percent vitamin E acetate. Whether the problem comes from the oil or a chemical, the result is essentially the same, according to Tazelaar. “You end up with a lung that doesn’t breathe,” he says. “You can’t get oxygen in, and you can’t get carbon dioxide out.” 

Related: 3 Key Steps to Securing a Marijuana Manufacturing License

Doneson lost 20 pounds the month leading up to being hospitalized. Once he made it to the ICU, his organs started shutting down. And as his temperature spiked to 105.4°F, doctors began covering his body with ice bags. His wife sobbed while signing the do-not-resuscitate order, and the hospital began pumping an aggressive cocktail of intravenous antibiotics and steroids into his body. Doneson passed out. “For some people, this treatment has been helpful,” said the attending medic. “But others didn’t react at all, and they died.” 

It’s no surprise that bootleg vapes are proving to be dangerous. But it’s beyond frustrating that they’re now being associated with highly regulated, well-tested legal cannabis products. Not only that, they’re hurting one of the biggest avenues of legitimate growth. Vape sales make up about 19 percent of legal cannabis sales, according to BDS Analytics, and that number had been expected to climb for at least the next five years. But with the recent spate of illnesses and deaths, vape sales have fallen. In the span of a few weeks, they dropped by 11 percent in California, 16 percent in Nevada, and 25 percent in Oregon.

What’s perhaps most disturbing is that the underground cannabis world seems unstoppable. BDS data shows that the illegal market for weed brings in more than $52 billion a year. And the problem is the worst in California, where the legalization of medical marijuana more than 20 years ago helped create a gray area of growing and distribution that fell somewhere between legal and illegal. “We were cultivating for the entire United States,” says Jerred Kiloh, board president of the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA). “So we had a very mature supply chain with relationships, vendors, and distributors.” 

Recently, the UCBA analyzed the California dispensaries registered on Weedmaps, a popular online resource for smokers, and found that 75 percent were unlicensed. And state sales figures reflect those numbers: At $8.7 billion, the illegal market is nearly three times the size of the legal market. 

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), which has received almost 10,000 complaints in the past two years, tries to go after offenders, but the punishments the agency has to dole out are often too lax to matter. “Our investigators can make arrests and confiscate product and cash,” says spokesperson Alex Traverso. “Then the next day, or week, the place is back in operation.”

That leaves law-abiding dealers to fight for the smallest piece of the cannabis pie. “I think it’s becoming more contentious when it comes to the relationship between legal and illegal,” says Kiloh, who also owns The Higher Path dispensary. “For 20 years, it was ‘Everyone close your mouth! Nobody tells on anyone, and nobody brings in the police.’” But now there are multistate operators and shareholders who expect to see returns. And right now, they’re not happy. 

Related: There’s No Connection Between Marijuana And Violence, Experts Say

California’s legal market has been roughly flat for three years. “There’s not a lot of incentive to be in the regulated market,” says Kiloh. “We’re trying to compete with illicit dealers who have half-price everything.” After compiling state and local taxes, a report from Fitch Ratings finds that the upcharge for legal weed in Colorado is 36 percent, in Washington it’s 50 percent, and in California it’s 35 to 45 percent. But Kiloh estimates the number is actually much higher when you factor in compliance costs and a lack of tax deductions. Since cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, federal law forbids companies that sell it to receive the tax breaks other industries rely on to grow. 

“The only way to survive in the legal market is by burning through cash,” says an illegal dealer who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. “Either that, or they’re dealing out the back door. The reality is that a lot of cultivators are selling on the black market to support the legal side.” To his point, in a recent raid on a legal, licensed warehouse facility in Los Angeles, the BCC seized 7,200 illegal vape cartridges and $21 million of illegal cannabis.

But raids and the bad press on illegal vapes haven’t slowed the street market for cannabis. On the contrary, profits are looking good. “Over the past six months, the prices have been going up, so now the black market is strong again,” says the dealer. “I think it would be great if it were regulated and people knew it didn’t have any shit in it. I just don’t see that as being a full reality.”

In late 2018, John Mueller decided to fight back. The CEO of Acres Cannabis in Nevada began selling a product he called Black Market Killer, or BMK — low-price, low-potency cannabis in the 17-to-20 percent THC range. But the marketing was bold: Mueller put up five billboards around Las Vegas, at a total cost of $12,500 a month, imploring drivers: “Ditch your dealer, stop into a dispensary.” 

The goal was not only to promote BMK but to draw consumers to legal sellers in general. “Part of the reason the black market still exists is that people are used to it,” says Mueller. “It’s just easy when you’ve been buying from the same guy for the past decade.” 

To bring more legit cannabis companies into the battle, Mueller works polls and volunteers with advocacy groups, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It’s about educating the public,” says Mueller.  

And that’s why, in a twisted way that nobody is fully comfortable discussing, the outbreak of vape illnesses might actually prove to be a positive turning point for the legal industry. “Now is the moment in history,” says UCBA’s Kiloh, “where I think consumers are asking, ‘Is the cost increase worth the reassurance that I have something safe and healthy?’ I’m not trying to say we needed some catastrophe for the cannabis industry to see some growth, but with every catastrophe comes a new lens to look at things.”

The morning after Doneson passed out, he woke up at 5:40 a.m. The room was dark, save for the monitors behind him. Am I in heaven? he asked himself. Or maybe hell? 

Once he’d decided that neither was true, he realized that he felt, well, fine. He felt like he was back to normal, even. Only later would he understand how lucky he was and decide to quit smoking vapes, legal or otherwise. But at the moment, he just broke out laughing. “And then I started taking everything off — all the monitor stuff, the tubes and oxygen, just ripping things off my body.” Alarms went off, nurses rushed in, and Doneson announced: “I haven’t eaten in a month. I’d like scrambled eggs, French toast, and cranberry juice.”

Source: Entrepreneur
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Tech Entrepreneurs to Face More Regulatory Scrutiny in 2020

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last month, he claimed that Libra as a global currency would solve major problems including banking the unbanked, lowering the costs of international payments and speeding up transactions. However, most politicians in the U.S. and abroad are resisting Facebook’s proposed payment system, calling it a threat to national sovereignty, among other grievances.

Only 17 percent of Americans trust the government in Washington, according to Pew Research Center. So who, in turn, do politicians (and their powerful lobbies) mistrust or oppose? Despite the benefits of their technology, the answer is disruptors and innovators. But the good news for compliance-minded entrepreneurs is that the Trump Administration has significantly deregulated the federal government, issuing 35-40 percent fewer new rules than its predecessors while eliminating decades-old regulations across industries. However, red tape still gets in the way of business owners and technologists.

The challenge for regulators is to consistently set rules whose benefits exceed the costs, especially since small businesses create the majority of of new jobs in America. Here are a few dynamics of today’s regulatory environment.

Related: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Compliance

Unclear and Contradictory Regulations

Complying with federal, state or local statutes isn’t always clearcut. An example is the $6 trillion food industry, for which federal, state and local agencies often set contradictory rules and code violations that are seemingly impossible to resolve. One real-world example that’ll leave you scratching your head: While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the doors of food establishments to swing inside, the Department of Agriculture requires those same doors to swing outside. One government, two rules. Each agency requires code violations to be fixed within 30 days, lest entrepreneurs face thousands of dollars in fines.

Bad rules put small businesses at a disadvantage because they don’t typically have the army of lawyers that Fortune 500 companies possess. “That 100 hours that I work per week, I estimate that I spend 36 [hours] on compliance issues alone,” says Joseph Semprevivo, president of Joseph’s Lite Cookies, in a PragerU video. “This keeps me away from activities that would help me grow my business.”

Since taking office, President Trump has ordered federal agencies to roll back two rules before issuing one new regulation. However, as the above example shows, legacy rules can still pose problems for businesses that want to be compliant.

Lowering Compliance Costs

The global regulation technology (RegTech) market is expected to grow to $12.3 billion by 2023, representing an annual growth rate of 23.5 percent, according to RegTech eases the burdens and costs of compliance in areas like money laundering, know-your-customer and data privacy.

Federal regulations cost Americans nearly $2 trillion annually, according to Competitive Enterprise Institute. When it comes to payments and transactions, tech ventures are working to lower compliance costs via smart-contracts technology, coding compliance directly into the technologies they build. Boston-based Algorand has provided technology that makes a number of financial exchanges more efficient and low cost while also providing features and partnerships that solve for compliance and regulation. This technology allows fintech and blockchain entrepreneurs to follow compliance requirements such as whitelists, geofencing, quarantine and force-transfers of assets by directly hard coding these elements into their projects. It’s never been more critical to respect and respond to international regulation. And now, by leveraging this new technology, it’s finally cheaper and easier. 

Adjusting to New Guidance

Facebook’s Libra is hardly alone. Governments around the world have been critical in response to the rise of digital currencies. Cryptocurrencies, digital exchanges and their ecosystems are viewed by most lawmakers as the lawless Wild West of finance. 

Where you’ll find growing regulatory certainty is in fiat-backed stablecoins, which are usually pegged 1:1 with the U.S. dollar and, in the unique case of San Francisco-based TrustToken, also British pounds, Hong Kong dollars, Canadian dollars and Australian dollars. To be able to offer these digital currencies compliantly in over 120 countries, TrustToken spent more than $1 million during the course of a year with a team of regulatory experts from the public and private sector alike, including Coinbase, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Though it was a huge investment, it’s par for the course among today’s fintech companies. According to the TrustToken team, companies aiming to build a similarly rigorous compliance regime today should expect to spend between $900,000-$2.75 million over a period of six-18 months.

It’s a high price to pay to print digital money — or is it? Fintech entrepreneurs’s new focus on compliance is a direct response to regulatory scrutiny that has put blockchain projects in the same bucket as banks. Despite their innovations, neither technology nor distance is proving to be a good defense against the long arm of the law. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has imposed penalties ranging from $700,000 in fees on Ripple Labs to more than $100 million and jail time against BTC-e operator Alexander Vinnik.

Related: The Feds and States Are Embracing Privacy Law — What That Means for Your Business

Creating Certainty in the Regulatory Environment

Like choosing the direction of swinging doors, finance regulators will need to pass appropriate measures that encourage innovation and make it easy for the ecosystem to comply with regulatory and reporting requirements. Here’s one good place to start: the classification of cryptocurrencies for tax purposes. The IRS classifies cryptos as property for tax purposes, which means owners must account for capital gains or losses on each and every transaction. The CFTC, however, views cryptos as commodities. 

Other agencies disagree. The SEC looks at cryptos as securities, while FinCen treats them as currencies. The Federal Reserve has issued statements that cryptocurrencies have negative consequences for the monetary system.

Companies will need to be smart and agile when navigating through a complex regulatory environment. RegTech is providing solutions that reduce the burden and costs of being compliant, but politicians and regulators will need to demonstrate common sense so their rules add up.

Source: Entrepreneur
Continue reading Tech Entrepreneurs to Face More Regulatory Scrutiny in 2020

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Meet the Billionaire Couple Behind Panda Express, Who Built a $3 Billion Fortune Selling 90 Million Pounds of Orange Chicken Each Year

Over the course of 45 years, college sweethearts Andrew and Peggy Cherng have grown Panda Express from a single restaurant in a southern California mall to a 2,000-location empire around the world.

The married couple founded the company in the early 1980s and continues to own and operate every Panda Express themselves. Today, the Cherngs have amassed a combined net worth of $3 billion, Forbes estimates, making them two of the richest people in fast food.

Related: The Youngest Self-Made Billionaires: Kylie Jenner, Mark Zuckerberg and More 

But the Cherngs weren’t always on track to build a fast-food empire. Keep reading to learn how the Cherngs built their multibillion-dollar fortune.

  • Andrew and Peggy Cherng, both 71, are the cofounders and CEOs of Panda Express, the American Chinese restaurant with nearly 2,000 locations worldwide. According to Forbes, the Cherngs have a combined net worth of $3 billion.
  • The Cherngs own and operate virtually every Panda Express location themselves — they don’t franchise them out to other owners, making Panda Express a rarity among restaurant chains of its size.
  • The couple also owns a highly rated ramen restaurant with locations in New York City and Berkeley, California, called Ippudo.

Related: The 5 Entrepreneurial Factors That Distinguish ‘Billionaires’ From Millionaires

  • The Cherngs’ tight grip on their restaurants’ operations may have helped preserve the food quality and helped the chain grow, but it has also led to some problems with employees. PRG has settled multiple lawsuits over overtime pay and hiring discrimination in recent years.
  • Andrew Cherng was born in Yangzhou, China. His father was a chef, but Andrew didn’t enter the restaurant industry at first — he came to the US to study math, eventually earning a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Missouri.
  • During his undergraduate studies at Baker University in Kansas, Andrew Cherng met his future wife, Peggy.
  • Andrew Cherng spent his summers waiting tables at Chinese restaurants in New York City. In 1973, he opened his own sit-down restaurant in Pasadena, California, called Panda Inn, with his father as chef.
  • The opening of Panda Inn coincided with President Richard Nixon’s famous 1972 visit to China, a watershed moment in US-China relations. As Peggy Cherng explained, pandas were viewed as “a symbol of friendship” between the two countries.
  • In 1983, Peggy Cherng joined Andrew in the restaurant business, and the two opened the first Panda Express in a mall in Glendale, California.

Related: 6 Money Tips From Self-Made Billionaires

  • Born in Myanmar and raised in Hong Kong, Peggy immigrated to the United States for college. She later earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri.
  • Peggy Cherng combined her engineering expertise with Andrew’s experience in food service to streamline the company’s operations and logistics. She pioneered the use of technology for tasks like tracking inventory and re-ordering ingredients, a practice other American Chinese restaurants had not yet adopted.
  • Panda Express began growing rapidly, expanding to 97 restaurants within 10 years. “In the beginning, we said we wanted to be the McDonald’s of the East,” Peggy Cherng told Bloomberg Businessweek.
  • Panda Express sold an estimated 90 million pounds of its best-selling orange chicken in 2018, and purchased 22 million pounds of broccoli in 2017
  • The Cherngs found gold in their family-owned business. The couple is ranked No. 838 on Forbes’ Billionaires List of the richest people in the world.
  • “Back in 1973 it was about making a living for the family,” the couple said in a statement to Forbes. “Today it’s about challenging ourselves and seeing what all of us on the team can achieve; living into Panda’s mission of inspiring better lives.”
  • Two of the Cherngs’ three children work for Panda Express’ corporate parent, Panda Restaurant Group. Andrea Cherng (pictured below) is the chief marketing officer, while Nicole Cherng is the manager of catering and special events.
  • The Cherngs frequently cite their philosophy of treating employees well and allowing them to improve and advance their careers. The couple purchased a 12-foot high, multimillion-dollar Robert Indiana ‘LOVE’ sculpture to display outside their corporate headquarters in Rosemead, California to represent that.
  • “Love is the verb we emphasize with our Panda family,” Peggy Cherng told The Times. “We must respect and care for each other. We must push and stretch each other.”

Source: Entrepreneur
Continue reading Meet the Billionaire Couple Behind Panda Express, Who Built a $3 Billion Fortune Selling 90 Million Pounds of Orange Chicken Each Year