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How To Measure The Performance Of Your Remote Startup Team

It used to be that the main reason for hiring remote workers is access to talent and cost savings. Today, small and large companies hire remote talents for reasons beyond access and savings. In fact, research shows that remote workers accomplish more in less time, experience lower levels of stress, feel more connected with their colleagues and are less likely to quit their job.

Higher productivity means better team performance which leads to faster growth. When you combine lower overhead with higher productivity you get higher margins. Faster growth with higher margins means more revenue with higher profits.

Especially for early-stage startups, the ability to hire remote talents is probably the biggest disruption that happened to entrepreneurship in the past few decades. Today, no matter your location, budget or the skills you need, as long as you have an internet connection, you can build and manage a team.

Despite the advantages, hiring remote team members has also come with challenges. In fact, without proper management, the benefits of remote work can turn into drawbacks such as lack of transparency, low reliability, poor communication, low productivity, and security issues. Here’s how to measure the performance of your remote startup team and avoid the drawbacks of hiring remote team members.

1. Hire To Delegate, Not To Manage

This rule applies to any and every role, even for interns. Just by hiring the right talents, you save a lot of time and headache managing their input so you can focus on the output. It can seem enticing to hire less experienced candidates with the lowest hourly rate. In most cases, you will end up spending more time and money in training and management while getting inferior results.

Especially if you are looking for skills that complement yours, take all the time you need to find the right candidate with experience successfully completing similar projects. Candidates who can plan, lead and execute on their own while keeping everyone on the team informed.

Finding the right candidate is 80% of the work. Setting clear expectations, frequent communication, using productivity and management tools, and everything else is a way to make what’s already great, exceptional. None of those matter without the right person or team who knows their space and are trusted to get things done on time.

2. Qualify And Quantify Expectations

The right candidates will always try to exceed expectations. Nonetheless, as an employer you should have clear expectations about the end result and how they will get there. As such, for every project, start with your goal and then ask your hire to create a plan divided into milestones with a mini-goal for each milestone and the steps needed to achieve these goals.

This roadmap is like an accountability schedule that provides for a transparent and planned path to your goals. Furthermore, taking the time to create a roadmap will allow you to uncover and address unexpected challenges that could waste significant resources later on. A platform like Trello can be used to list the end goal, milestones, the steps required for each milestone and the deadlines for each step.

3. Shorten Evaluation Cycles

Setting smaller goals gives you an opportunity to evaluate progress frequently. Many startup founders fail not because they’re not committed or have a weak value proposition, many fail because they hire the wrong people.

For example, in app development, it can take months before you can see and test a functional product. By then, you would have spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. If the product does not meet the promises, chances are more development time will not make a significant change. In fact, it will probably cost more. Even with the right candidate, shortening evaluation cycles allows you to minimize hiring risks and ensure progress as planned.

Sometimes measuring and evaluating progress in unfamiliar areas is easier said than done. In this case, I suggest hiring an expert in the space who could spend as little as thirty minutes to evaluate progress and perhaps even help your team members solve problems and move quicker.

In sum, before thinking about how you can measure performance, think about who you can hire that you trust will deliver results. Focus on goals not activity, set clear expectations, and treat remote as local through communication tools like instant messaging, Slack or Skype. Finally, remember that more experienced candidates may be costly but their work will most likely save and make you more than what you’d spend on less experienced hires.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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It Takes A Village—Black Parents Protecting Black Genius

Will Jackson started Village of Wisdom to help parents and teachers unlock the gifts, talents, and prior knowledge of Black students. Ashoka’s Simon Stumpf caught up with Will to hear more about his vision for making school a true and supportive home for every student, and why his approach is so important now. 

Will, why is it important to focus on the education system versus individual students?

Because the system is actually what’s causing harm. I use the metaphor of fish and water. Let’s say you arrive at a lake and you see that not one but all the fish are sick or dead. You probably will want to examine the water quality, right? Same with race and education — the problem is not within Black children, it’s within a system that’s disproportionately suspending them, disproportionately not recommending them for gifted or advanced classes, disproportionately not looking out for them when it comes time to prepare for college applications. A child can’t fix this, a child can’t say “put me in an AP course.” The teachers, assistant principals, counselors are making those decisions and they’re often deciding based on the kid’s skin color.

How is race reflected in education today?

Nearly 80 percent of the teachers in America are white. Close to 40 percent of K-12 students are Black and brown kids — about 20 percent are Black kids. This mismatch is important for a few different reasons, but the one we’re focused on has to do with prior knowledge — the set of experiences and knowledge that students and teachers bring into the classroom.

Why is prior knowledge so key? 

Because learning is the act of connecting new information to prior knowledge. So when a teacher says, “well, these kids don’t come to school knowing anything” or “their parents aren’t invested or investing in them,” what is actually true is that the child is coming with prior knowledge that doesn’t match the knowledge relied upon to teach in this country. For example, teachers may use analogies that students miss completely because the teacher is trying to connect to prior knowledge that the student doesn’t have because it’s not a part of their cultural experiences. 

How do we bridge or close this knowledge gap? 

Hiring with a new lens can help with part of this, but that’s longer term. What we are doing at Village of Wisdom is developing new tools, measures, and communication processes that allow kids and families to communicate all the strengths and knowledge that a student is bringing to the classroom to educators. This new information actually helps teachers do what they love — design creative learning challenges that captivate their students, inspiring them to learn and grow.

Your Black Genius planning tool helps with this translation. Tell us about it. 

It’s a strength-based, individualized learning tool that frames Black culture in positive ways and challenges students to think about how to fight against injustice. Any parent can go to our site right now and set up a profile for their child. You start with the Black Genius brainstorm that’s a series of questions you can ask your child. How does he think about his Blackness? What are some of the cultural environments she moves across? What types of injustice is she most moved by? Who does he trust? Older students can do this on their own, of course. So this is a tool for parents and students to use on their own, then take to schools and teachers. 

Interesting. Schools often push information to parents — you’re proposing the opposite. 

Yes, because all strong relationships are two-way, right? So this is a tangible way that parents can add value to the education system by giving teachers more information about their children. We’ve begun to support teachers with what to do with the information: “Okay, you get this Black Genius Profile of one of your students. Now, as you think about what you’re teaching in the next six weeks, can you embed one of this child’s interests into one of the lessons? Can you think about, oh, they’re really interested in Simone Biles and use that.” The new information helps teachers activate the student’s prior knowledge and draws them in a way that engages their curiosity and interests in new and more meaningful ways.

You’re based in Durham, North Carolina — what results are you seeing there?

We want to become a bright spot for the country, to say, “Hey, this is what this looks like. You can do this, too, and here’s how.” We have organically grown an online community of more than 1,000 parents in our Black Parents Connect Facebook group. We have had more than 300 parents and students complete the Black Genius Profiles. And, in classrooms where teachers use the Black Genius Profile to enhance their instruction, early evidence suggests Black students are more engaged, have greater trust in their teachers, and are more likely to persist through difficult learning challenges. 

Looking ahead, what will be different in 10 years? 

We’re talking about giving parents enough information to be a part of essential education decisions. Without this kind of mutual accountability, we’ll end up in some of the places that we don’t love about where our world is going. And this isn’t about one person — me or anyone else — it’s about the village’s wisdom, the wisdom that everybody brings. We all benefit when we see each other and the genius that we bring to the table. Then we get to solutions that hopefully can transform our whole education system into one that liberates Black Genius instead of oppressing it. And then, in the future, transform our world.

This interview was condensed by Ashoka. Will Jackson is a 2019 Ashoka Fellow. You can read more about him and his team’s work here.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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From Arrest To Top Cannabis Biz Exec: Aaron Riley’s Dramatic Journey

When he was 19 years old, Aaron Riley was on the cusp of success until things went drastically awry. It’s the type of story you see frequently portrayed in movies. Except in Riley’s case, it was only too real.

Attending Furman University on a football scholarship, Riley had gotten involved in a drug-dealing operation. It was a rebellious act that Riley chalks up as a reaction to his parents’ divorce. Arrested on several felony drug charges, Riley, luckily, only spent two days in jail. Although his record was eventually expunged, the fallout was immense: he was kicked out of college and a once promising future seemed to be in tatters. Though able to pick up the pieces of his young fractured life and attend a new school, Jacksonville University, on another athletic scholarship, Riley knew he was facing an uphill battle with getting employment due to his record. That’s when he became entrepreneurial, starting a car dealership business, which would prove to be lucrative.

Then in 2014, Riley decided to re-enter the cannabis industry. This time, he would do it legally. After much research, he zeroed in on the testing segment and in November 2016, joined CannaSafe as president. Described as the first ISO accredited cannabis lab in the world as well as the top cannabis testing lab in California, CannaSafe has a stellar clientele that includes some of the state’s top brands and producers, such as Raw Garden, Cresco Labs, Papa & Barkley and Lord Jones. Last year, it generated about $20 million in revenue, said Riley. The 2020 forecast looks even rosier: CannaSafe, which currently has a staff of 150, is opening five new locations in the second quarter and Riley is projecting 50% growth.

It’s been quite a journey for Riley, now 28. Recently, he spoke about his personal and professional trajectory, his social equity efforts and what he considers to be the legal market’s biggest problem right now, aside from federal illegality.

This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

Iris Dorbian: What have been your biggest challenges serving as president at CannaSafe? How have you resolved them?

Aaron Riley: We never took in any outside investment capital. We’re self-financed; we’ve never done any fundraising. We barely broke even in 2018. First year, we lost money. When we started, I put in all the cash I had and maxed out all my credit cards. I slept on an air mattress. It was an all-in endeavor. The regulations weren’t finalized in California. And then we were 10% uncollectable—people weren’t paying. But we were able to crawl out of the hole.

Dorbian: I understand CannaSafe places a heavy focus on social equity. I know Los Angeles has a strong social equity program. Can you talk about your company’s efforts in this area?

Riley: We have a six-figure advocacy and education budget. We do a lot of educational events. We sponsor expungement clinics and do minority hiring. It’s about giving people who have been persecuted an opportunity to participate [in the legal market]. We do on a monthly basis at least one event that revolves around education and social equity, minority promotion and expungement. We also have a discount program that’s for social equity businesses.

Dorbian: What do you think are the biggest problems facing the legal cannabis industry today?

Riley: In California it’s the black market. Obviously, we’ve seen with the news what the unsafe [vaping] products can do to consumers. In California, it’s made it very hard on the legal business. The black market is cheaper, they’re not paying for taxes or compliance fees. There’s no incentive for them to be upstanding citizens; they’re only going after profits.

Dorbian: What are your thoughts on federal legalization? When do you think it will happen?

Riley: I think it’ll happen in the next two or three years. It’ll be something that gets discussed in the next election. I think the Democrats will focus on it being an economic opportunity. It won’t happen overnight.

Dorbian: Where would you like to see CannaSafe in five years? How about ten years?

Riley: I would like to continue to be the leader of hemp and cannabis testing in the world. We plan on going to pretty much all the large states that have cannabis programs. We want to be known for integrity and quality.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Overcoming Regrets

The end of the year inevitably brings a number of thoughts and feelings: a realization of how quickly the past year has come and gone, an urgency to prepare for the new year to hit the ground running on January 1st —  hopefully — some joy and happiness to spend time with friends and family over the holiday. It’s also a time when we look backward at the previous year to consider what we’ve done, and often what we wish we’d done. 

Part of this retrospection is inspired by what’s around us; website everywhere recap and rank the best and worst of the year, and perhaps it’s only natural for us to consider our own year in kind. And for this we should generally be grateful; memories are what make us who we are, good or bad. We remember, and we hopefully learn from those memories. 

Regrets are perhaps a subset of those memories, albeit ones that don’t feel nearly as edifying or educating. I’d classify them differently from mistakes; mistakes are things to be made and learned from and then moved past. Regrets are those mistakes that haunt you months and years past the point where they’ve served their purpose, to the point that they can start to weigh on your psyche if you don’t put them out of your mind. 

We’re all subject to regrets in business as well as life. There is no shortage of what-ifs or roads almost taken given how many choices and decisions go into every day of running your own company. Occasionally we’re able to see how things would have played out had a decision been made in another direction; there’s an entire list here of people who would be vastly richer had they chosen differently in one crucial moment. In other instances we’re tormented by thoughts of what might have been had we made a different decision, thoughts that are often brought on in the midst of our daily grind and struggle to keep things going and keep our heads above water. ‘Would things be better, my life easier, if I’d gone a different direction with a pivotal decision,’ we inevitably think, even though there’s no way to know.

So how can we make peace with our regrets and learn to live with the decisions we’ve made, particularly in cases when things haven’t worked out as we imagined? Mistakes are human, sure, but so are regrets that linger; there are few more innately human experiences than having a terrible embarrassment from years ago come rushing back to us out of nowhere unless you’re one of the lucky few to have avoided such abject mortification. We can’t escape entirely those haunting memories and regrets that kick around in our brain, so we have to learn how to integrate them into the whole. 

Part of coming to terms with regrets is truly understanding the nature of decisions. We love to say that ‘hindsight is 20/20’ but rarely do we actually heed that wisdom; instead, we let ourselves second-guess every mistake we’ve made. But it really is true that mistakes and missteps can only be seen after the fact, once everything has played out (often not as we imagined it.) Decisions are made at the moment, with the best information available at the time, which is often far from perfect or complete. There’s so much that we can’t predict that it’s often the case that the opposite decision might not have worked out either had circumstances and factors aligned differently at that moment. We have to accept the possibility that no decision may have been the right one, given how much is outside of our control.

How we can gain peace and maintain our sanity is in embracing the process of decision-making as an imperfect science that we must endeavor to do as best we can. There’s no trick to avoid a mistake or a wrong decision, but we can learn to live with the decisions that we make so long as we make them in a considered fashion, with all available knowledge gathered and taken into consideration. The right decision is the one that is most considered and based on the best reasoning available; what we would otherwise term as “right” decisions, those that work out to the greatest benefit, are only known to be so after the fact, at a point that anyone could make a “right” decision. The right decision is the best guess, even if the guess is wrong. 

Even in embracing this approach you’ll still be plagued with thoughts about what you could’ve done differently. It’s simply human nature to consider alternative possibilities and outcomes. The difference will be that you can simply remind yourself that you could have done no better at the moment and that learning to live with those mistakes is part of achieving greater peace of mind as you move into the new year. #onwards.  

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Four Key Steps To Get Sponsorships For Your Company

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In this world of social media influencers and big brands looking for the next creative marketing campaign, there are some people who have sponsorship figured out and many who don’t. This advice applies across motorsports, video game streamers, Instagram influencers, YouTube product reviewers or any other industry where you hope to get product or money in exchange for providing exposure for a company.

Here are four simple steps to help you get sponsorships.

1. Understand The Business

From getting a free cup of coffee from the local coffee shop in exchange for a social media post to getting a seven-figure sponsorship deal from a leading manufacturer to race a car, you need to understand the business. If there is a local coffee shop with only one location, the business only needs exposure in a small area — specifically, to people looking to go to a coffee shop. On the flip side, a vehicle manufacturer is looking for widespread exposure if it is going to support racing efforts.

2. Understand Its Marketing Goals

Once you understand the business, you need to understand its marketing goals. You can gather a lot of data from a company’s past marketing programs. What does it put on its social media? Does it do any print ads? Does it boost a specific Instagram post? Don’t be afraid to try to directly ask the company about its marketing goals. Using LinkedIn is a great tool to find someone you can speak to at that company. If it’s a small, local company, just walk in and ask to speak with the manager. You can say something like, “I’m interested in giving you a marketing proposal, but I’d like to understand your marketing goals first so I don’t waste your time”

3. Develop Your Ask

Now that you understand the business and its marketing goals, it’s time for you to ask for something. Most companies you want to work with probably have hundreds to thousands of requests for sponsorship. You need to work hard to become creative on behalf of the company you are trying to pitch. It all boils down to money. If you can build your ask by giving the company a way to make five times more money than it gives you, your pitch will be better than most, if not all, other requests that come in. Going back to understanding marketing, you need to build a pitch where the company gets way more in return than it is giving you. Otherwise, why would it give you something?

4. Commit To Getting Sponsors

Getting sponsors is hard work, and it takes tons of time and personal investment prior to ever seeing anything. Expect lots of rejection and to get ghosted by your points of contact. Then, if you do get sponsored, it will probably be for less than you were hoping for in exchange for more than you were hoping to give. Once you get a sponsor, you need to justify their investment and prove your value is above what you are receiving. You may get lucky on a one-off deal from time to time that will then disappear. However, if you want to be sponsored, you need to commit time to these steps.

If you get the opportunity to pitch yourself, keep the conversation focused on what you can do for the company and not what the company can do for you.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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How To Grow Your Startup With The Help Of An Angel Investor

By Rieva Lesonsky

Does watching Shark Tank make you dream about finding an angel investor of your own? Well, stop dreaming and start searching—angels are real and not just found on TV.

In fact, the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research reports in 2018 that “The angel investor market saw an increase in market participation in more companies but at smaller amounts. Total investments in 2018 were $23.1 billion, a decrease of 3.4% over 2017, and 66,110 entrepreneurial ventures received angel funding, an increase of 7.4% over 2017. The number of active investors in 2018 rose to 334,565 individuals, an increase of 16%.”

What’s causing this? CNBC suggests investors have “deeper pockets” due to “the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, which has produced legions of cashed-out entrepreneurs looking to stay involved in the startup scene.” Plus, Shark Tank has shined a lot of light on the angel investing process.

Identifying angels

Angels are becoming more plentiful. According to the Angel Capital Association (ACA), angels are usually high-net-worth individuals (or groups of people) who invest their own money in startup companies in exchange for an equity share of the business. The ACA recommends you only work with accredited investors “who can add value to the company via high-quality mentoring and advice.” Recently, says CNBC, “less-affluent investors have begun to participate in angel investing via equity-crowdfunding platforms.” (Check out the federal guidelines for this practice.)

The ACA says angels are often former entrepreneurs who make investments for various reasons, including:

  • To make a return on their money
  • To participate in the entrepreneurial process
  • To give back to their communities by catalyzing economic growth

And they add, angels often invest locally or regionally, since they tend to want to be involved in the company.

Are you angel ready?

Getting angel capital is not for every business owner. The ACA advises you ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I willing to give up some amount of ownership and control of my company?
  • Can I demonstrate that my company is likely to realize significant revenues and earnings in the next three to seven years?
  • Can I demonstrate that my company will produce a significant return for investors?
  • Am I willing take the advice from investors and accept board of director decisions I may not always agree with?
  • Do I have an exit plan for the company that may mean I’m not involved in three to seven years?

When to approach an angel investor

While angel investors are more interested in funding startups and early-stage companies than banks or VCs are, the ACA says it’s best to approach an angel when:

  • Your product is developed or near completion.
  • You have existing customers or potential customers who will confirm they will buy from you.
  • You’ve invested your own money and exhausted other alternatives, including friends and family.
  • You can demonstrate your business is likely to grow rapidly and reach about $50 million in sales in the next three to seven years.
  • Your business plan is in top shape.

Other Articles From AllBusiness.com:

Finding angel investors

Probably the best place to find an angel is an angel group. There are plenty of angel groups, and a good place to start is the ACA’s member directory. Ask other entrepreneurs who’ve been funded for their recommendations. Since many angels tend to focus on specific industries, your industry trade association may have some suggestions for you as well.

To help you home in on the right angel, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. In addition to funding, are you seeking mentorship, industry, or general guidance or specific help (finding new sales channels, for example). Jeffrey Sohl, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research, told CNBC, “They’re value-add investors. Don’t just look at [angels] as a source of cash. Look at what’s coming with the money—what kind of advice, what kind of experience.”

Prepare for the pitch

When it’s time to make your pitch, you need to be very prepared. That means, even if your business is up and running and has market traction, you need a solid business plan, financial statements, and projections. The angel will want to know what your goals are and how you envision them being helpful to your business. What do you plan to do with the money they’re investing? This is no place for your ego. Though investors want to see you’re confident and capable, they also need to know you’re willing to take their advice and incorporate them into your business.

Sohl told CNBC, “Once you strike a deal with an angel, you are no longer your own boss. So it only makes sense to look for an angel who not only brings valuable insight and connections to the table but also shares your goals for your company.”

Of course, the angel investor will be doing their due diligence on you and your company. But, says Sohl, “Due diligence is a two-way street. As an investor performs due diligence on the entrepreneur, the entrepreneur should also perform due diligence on the angel.” Make sure you talk to the last few entrepreneurs who have done deals with that angel to find out more about how it is to work with them.

Resources

These organizations have a lot of useful information about angels:

Word of caution

One final thing to remember: Working with angel investors is not for entrepreneurs who are in it for the long haul. The angel makes their money when you’ve so successfully grown your business, it’s sold to another company—and chances are you’ll have to move on.

I am CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email me at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow me on Twitter @Rieva, and visit my website SmallBizDaily.com to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for my free TrendCast reports. Read all of Rieva Lesonsky’s articles.

RELATED: 10 Lessons for Entrepreneurs I Learned From Being a ‘Shark Tank’-Type Judge

This article was originally published on AllBusiness.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Former Facebook VP Goes To The Dogs With Fresh Food Delivery

Tom Arrix joined Facebook in New York City in 2006 when the social media giant only had 100 employees in the city. In seven years with Facebook Arrix rose to vice president of marketing for the company.

“We were starting to shift our focus to the biggest and best advertising market in the world, which was New York,” Arrix said. 

Working from home in Darien, Connecticut, at first, Arrix traveled frequently to Facebook headquarters in California, as well as to many offices the company had around the country.

“We slowly but surely started to build out our office in New York,” Arrix said. “We started with a small office in midtown Manhattan in the spring of 2007. The rest is history.”

Today, Arrix said, Facebook has about 9,000 employees in New York City. Arrix left in 2013, having learned something about himself from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he said.

“Mark was really insistent that in life you should do the thing you love to do, spread your wings, take on new challenges,” Arrix said. 

Arrix realized that he loved building a business, living in a world of uncertainty, without a playbook for what to do every day. But as the business got bigger and bigger, and the daily routine became more and more standardized, Arrix found himself wanting to move on.

“It’s OK to take on new chapters in your life,” Arrix said. “Open up a whole new adventure.”

That’s when Arrix had the idea for his company, Joy. Launched six months ago, Joy is a direct result of Arrix’s oldest of two Golden Retrievers falling ill in 2018. Arrix was told by a veterinarian to feed Cooper the way he would feed himself. He began making fresh, home-cooked meals for his ailing Golden.

“I consider my two dogs my fifth and sixth children,” Arrix said. 

Arrix began to think about how to combine his marketing experience at Facebook with his new obsession with providing “human-grade ingredients” for dogs.

“It’s an incredibly exciting segment of the dog food space, which continues to grow,” Arrix said. “I believe just as fresh ingredients and farm-to-table eating transcended our lives as humans, the same trend will accelerate for dog owners.”

Joy is a direct-to-consumer business.

“Consumers find us via social platforms and through word of mouth,” Arrix said. “People come to the site to learn about why we do it and how we do it. They have the ability to give us good data points about their dog so we can provide custom meal options based off of the dog’s weight and activity level.”

Arrix uses ingredients like ground turkey, cauliflower and fish oil to prepare Joy’s dog meals, which are perishable and have to be shipped with frozen gel packs to keep them fresh.

“In a perfect world, we hope we are on the road to replacing as many kibble experiences out there as we can,” Arrix said.

In addition to full meals, Joy offers a topper, or mix-in, for customers who want a less expensive alternative.

“We want to offer them a chance to mix in smaller sized portions of the same ingredients in the kibble,” Arrix said.

Joy delivers 14 single-serve meals at a pop, which can be put in the freezer and defrosted just in time for Fido to partake. The cost depends on the size of your dog, but Arrix said it can range from as little as $2.32 per meal to as much as five or six dollars. That’s considerably more than even high-end kibble will cost you.

Basically, it’s about $75 a week. Fresh cooked meals with premium ingredients for your dog don’t come cheap.

“One of the pieces we’re really focused on is building a community of wellness education,” Arrix said. “We’re trying to demystify the notion that’s it’s too expensive.”

Arrix has five full-time employees and three part-time employees. He’s moving the business out of his house and into a facility in South Norwalk, Connecticut, with a commercial kitchen.

“We’ve been cooking out of my kitchen since the spring when we were testing,” Arrix said. “When we went live with the business we continued to run it out of my house.”

The UPS truck would arrive every Wednesday afternoon to pick up that week’s shipments, he said.

“Wherever the business goes we’re super confident in the things we’re doing,” Arrix said. “We’re thinking about the dogs first. The business will accelerate behind it.”

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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A New Label That Could Be The One-Stop Shop For Sustainable Fashion

Veronica Chou grew up in fashion, working with some of the biggest names in the business. As a teenager living in China, she was immersed in the world of manufacturing, seeing garments for the world’s most notable labels being made — Tommy Hilfiger, Karl Lagerfield, Pepe Jeans, Badgley Mischka. As an adult, she delved into that world running Iconix China Group and Novel Fashion Holdings — two fashion companies that manage distribution of global brands and oversee manufacturing.

For years, she admits she didn’t question the process. But six years ago, the young entrepreneur started to dig deeper, understanding the impact of all this manufacturing. “I realized how polluting it was,” she says in an interview from her London office.

That compelled her to launch Everybody & Everyone, a new sustainable fashion brand, which aims to bring in all aspects of a sustainability under one room: from pieces that can be worn a variety of ways to carbon-offsets to using primarily certified fabrics. Plus, they’re available in sizes from to 00 to 24 to reach as many consumers as possible. While the prices are not exactly high-street cheap, they’re not luxury either, fitting into the category of what could be defined as “affordable premium.” The goal is to keep these pieces for a long time.

As a mother of two kids, Chou says that parenthood helped her gravitate to more eco-friendly options in the market. Couple that with her knowledge of the fashion industry, she started looking at how to build a more sustainable brand several years back. Though it took longer than she anticipated, she’s learned more during that process, honing in on small details and bringing all the tentacles of sustainability under one roof. 

Tencel appears a lot in the collection. But she’s also keen on new materials. As an investor in Modern Meadow, a biofabrication company that’s making leather in labs, Chou wants to not only fund the latest in textile innovation but eventually put it into practice. Having her own brand will make that easier.

Where Chou hopes to distinguish herself from the slew of other sustainable brands is in the versatility of the clothes. The puffer jacket, for instance, can be worn long or short. A turtleneck can be shortened in the neck or kept high, depending on the weather. Made with Nadaam’s cashmere, Chou is also open to collaborating on materials.

At checkout, there’s an option to offset the carbon footprint of one’s shopping purchase; 98 percent, Chou says, are choosing to do so.

She’s aware that many sustainable brands are beyond the reach of high-street consumers. That’s something she wants to take on with Everybody & Everyone. “Sustainability shouldn’t just be for the elite,” she says.

Their denim, a staple in most wardrobes, is made in the US using organic cotton and a cellulosic fiber blend, she says, and finished with a single wash to conserve water and energy. But Chou also wants people to wash their clothes less: so it’s been treated with an “eco-friendly solution to repel water-based staines.” The company even sells guppyfriend wash bags, which help capture fibers from synthetic clothing and keep it out of waste streams.

The end life of these products is under scrutiny as well. Chou, who has family in the recycling business in Hong Kong, is aware of the complexities of pulling apart textiles made with a blend of natural and synthetic fabrics. For that reason, she says, “We try to keep the mixing of the materials as separate as possible.”

Does the brand have all the answers? No, she admits openly. “I’m learning. We are finding what’s out there. Testing the latest innovations and seeing what’s feasible to use now. It takes time to find these solutions and I see any step towards the right direction as a positive move.”

Though she’s spent decades in the industry, she’s aware that her customers have not. “We do have to make it simpler for consumers on what to buy, what to avoid, what to look for. It’s far too confusing right now.” 

With a focus on the US market, Chou is looking at manufacturing in the US to cut down on the carbon footprint of international shipments. But it’s a dance, trying to find mills close to manufacturing facilities and keeping it all within the same region that one will be selling in. Thus, some of their products are made overseas, for instance, in a mill in Italy known for their eco-friendly approaches; but denim, specifically, is made in the US.

But could Chou have ticked off all the boxes in crafting a planet-friendly label? Everyone and Everybody is certainly designed to be a one-stop shop for the classic essentials in a wardrobe. And Chou hopes that with time, it’ll be an integral part of the circular economy, putting back to use what it churns out.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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From Hams To Haircuts, Atlanta Entrepreneur Building Another Franchise Empire

Children can be notoriously difficult to get into a barber’s chair. For some, it’s nothing short of a form of torture to sit still for a haircut. Wade Brannon’s son was one of those kids. 

“It was a battle until we found Pigtails & Crewcuts,” Brannon said.

Pigtails & Crewcuts was a business in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, where Brannon lived. The business specialized in giving haircuts to young children. Brannon met the owner at his son’s T-ball game when she approached him about helping her franchise the business. That was 15 years ago.

“She said, ‘You’re the ham guy right?’” Brannon remembered. “It was kind of a back-handed compliment, but we were the ham people, and now I’m the haircut guy.”

The reference was to Heavenly Hams, the first business Brannon helped to build, which he and his partner sold to The Honey Baked Ham Company, the leading direct-to-consumer ham seller in the country.

“We were the Number 2 guys,” Brannon said. “We finally got under their skin enough that they came knocking.”

Heavenly Ham was a franchise operation with about 250 locations doing about $150 million in business annually.

“We started in Hilton Head in 1986,” Brannon said. “When I got out of college I went to work for the original owners. We bought it from them and moved it here to Atlanta. I kind of fell into it. We figured it out as we went along.”

Brannon had a senior partner who was anxious to take advantage of the opportunity to cash out. After selling to Honey Baked Ham, Brannon took on the role of Mr. Mom, taking care of the children and trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Brannon was only his in early 40s — he’s 58 now — and even though he probably could have retired, he didn’t want to.

“I was looking for my next opportunity,” he said.

When Brannon was approached by the founder of Pigtails & Crewcuts about franchising her business, he said she should. The place had worked wonders with his recalcitrant son. But after some meetings, Brannon realized the owner didn’t really want to franchise her business. She wanted to sell it. So he bought it.

“We talked about partnering, I ended up buying it from her to build it into another franchise company,” he said. “Having done it before, I did some research into the concept and felt there was an opportunity.”

The concept behind Pigtails & Crewcuts is to make the experience not only comfortable for children, but also for their parents. There are bright colors and fun things to do, but it’s not overwhelmingly loud and crazy for parents.

“You’ll see a lot of color TV screen showing the same movie so it’s not sensory overload,” Brannon said. “For the parents who are waiting, there’s love seats and comfortable chairs. It could get girly with pinks and lavenders. We keep it gender-neutral with crown molding, baseboards and wood floors.”

Brannon acquired the federally registered trademark name and concept for the business in late 2004. He started franchising in earnest toward the end of 2005, surviving the Great Recession of 2008.

“We found in the recession that people will continue to provide for their children even when times are difficult,” Brannon said. “That was very encouraging.”

Brannon brought back some of his old Heavenly Ham colleagues for his second act, including Michelle Holliman, who is his Vice President of franchise development.

“She’s one of these people who is just totally dedicated to the success of the franchisee,” Brannon said. “Our motivation is their success. We figure our success comes after that.”

There are currently 65 Pigtails & Crewcuts open around the country, with about an equal number under development, according to Brannon.

“We’re from here to Honolulu with a lot of empty spaces in between,” Brannon said.

There are currently franchisees in 24 states, from California to Virginia. It costs in the neighborhood of $150,000 to get set up, depending on construction costs and other factors. Brannon charges a one-time franchise fee of $30,000, with significant discounts for multiple locations.

“We support them all through the development phase with site selection, lease negotiations, construction guidance, and training in Atlanta,” Brannon said.

Brannon collects 5 percent of sales as royalties. Franchisees are also expected to contribute 2 percent of sales to an advertising fund. They sign 10-year contracts with three five-year renewals at the franchisee’s option.

Technically, Pigtails & Crewcuts could pull a franchise away from a franchisee, but Brannon said that’s not the way he operates. If there’s a problem, his staff works with the franchisee to figure out what it is and solve it.

“We’re in constant contact, talking to most of them at least weekly,” he said.

Brannon’s biggest challenge is finding people who want to work with children, and who are good at working with children.

“A lot of children have sensory issues,” he said. “They don’t like to be contained, and don’t want to sit still. Clippers are loud and scary. What we’ve tried to do is recognize that and learn from those children how to make it even better for other children as well.”

In addition to his son, now in college, Brannon has twin daughters who had no problem visiting the hair styling salon. If not for his son, Brannon said, he might not be the owner of Pigtails & Crewcuts today.

“I don’t think I would have been as interested in the concept if he’d floated along without a problem,” Brannon said. “I’ll be the first to thank him, or blame him.”

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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20 Books to Inspire Your Happiest Life at Work

I’m on a continual quest to live my best life at work and inspire the people around me. But for too many people, happiness doesn’t come easy. It can be difficult for some folks to truly feel good about their work and their impact on a company.

Hunt for Happiness Week is an ideal time to turn that sad situation around. If you’re struggling to find joy in your work, pick up these books to get tips and actionable advice that will have you skipping through the halls in no time.

Building: Lessons Learned in Real Estate & Life by Brian Watson

As I reflect on my career, one of my greatest joys was building a company from the ground up. In his book Building, Brian Watson likens the process to constructing a skyscraper—establishing a solid foundation, gathering quality materials and outlining your vision in a blueprint. This book contains great information for anyone looking to start their own company or jumpstart their life.

How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind by Leah Weiss

I know too many people who are working jobs they loathe. If only there were a way out! Stanford University business school professor Leah Weiss suggests that those who are struggling to enjoy their work create a personal mission statement and consider the best way to make sure that statement aligns with their work. Weiss recommends mindfulness techniques that will be helpful to anyone searching for greater satisfaction in their work.

Dare to Inspire: Sustain the Fire of Inspiration in Work and Life by Allison Holzer, Sandra Spataro, and Jen Grace Baron

I’m not gonna lie to you—I can’t claim to be inspired 100% of the time. The authors of Dare to Inspire admit that inspiration can seem fleeting, but they’re not ready to throw in the towel. Drawing examples from business success stories along with other recent history, they provide a guide for finding—and maintaining—your motivation.

No Place Like Known: A Journey of Self-Discovery, Chasing Dreams, and Finding Home Right Where You Are by Megan Valentine

There were times early in my career where I felt lost and needed some guidance, but I’ve always been proud of the way I got back on track in pursuit of my goals. Megan Valentine illustrates all the benefits that can come our way when we face our fears and dare to dream without any hesitations.

Discover Joy in Work: Transforming Your Occupation Into Your Vocation by Shundrawn A. Thomas

As my career has progressed, I’ve found that there are many connections between the values that matter to us and the work we do. Shundrawn A. Thomas explores this idea in great detail, outlining how we can meet challenges by remembering we have total control of our own outlooks.

Enoughness: The Simple Truth of Embracing YOU by Alison Robertson

I see a lot of business executives who try to live according to someone else’s ideas of success. Using real stories and experiences, Allison Robertson builds rapport with readers, while teaching about the value of getting out of your own way and permitting yourself to be exactly who you are.

The Big Stretch: 90 Days to Expand Your Dreams, Crush Your Goals, and Create Your Own Success by Teneshia Jackson Warner

Sometimes setting big goals can feel daunting. There have certainly been times in the past when I’ve written down an idea and struggled to figure out how to execute it. In The Big Stretch, Teneshia Jackson Warner makes those big ideas seem within reach by helping you focus on the action steps that are most important to you.

Startups and Downs: The Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs by Mona Bijoor

When I’m coaching entrepreneurs who are working to get their companies off the ground, I always remind them that hurdles and challenges will inevitably arise. In this book, Mona Bijoor takes that advice a step further with true stories about how entrepreneurs have weathered the tests they’ve faced along the way.

Flip the Script: Train Your Brain to Breakthrough Your Biggest Barriers and Release Your Highest Potential by Coyte Cooper

Some of my most well-worn advice to small business owners is to approach each opportunity with a positive attitude. In this book, I found a lot of useful tips on how to do that. Coyte Cooper touches on topics like how to fight against self-doubt and how to be mindful of all the things that are going well in your life.

Ignite Your Life for Conscious Leaders: Elevating and Transforming the Way We Lead Ourselves and Others in a New and Conscious Way by JB Owen and Catherine Malli-Dawson

Before I could manage a whole team, I had to teach myself to lead my most important employee: me. This book uses short vignettes to show how we can comprehend, develop and create change when we start with our own personal development.

Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life by Laura Gassner Otting

It’s easy to get stressed when you’re working on your startup. I’ve certainly been there a time or two. In Limitless, Laura Gassner Otting illustrates how plenty of smart businesspeople follow the wrong idea of success only to become burned out in the process. In these pages, Otting offers concrete advice on how to create your own roadmap to success.

JOMO: Celebrate the Joy of Missing Out! by Jessica Misener

I’ve found that as entrepreneurs try to get their business started, they feel compelled to attend every possible event and social function in order to network and spread the word about their company. In JOMO, Jessica Misener teaches us that staying in and focusing on ourselves can be just as beneficial.

Wholehearted: Finding Purpose, Taking the Leap, and Doing the Best Work of Your Life by Adnan H. Mirza

Too many people work all week long at jobs they don’t like just so they can do what they really want to do on the weekends. As a startup founder, I was lucky that my passion was my day job! In Wholehearted, aviator-turned-entrepreneur Adnan Mirza encourages readers to reject a “half-hearted” way of living by saying yes to what really matters in their business and their life.

Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires: Crack the Code to Greater Wealth, Health, and Happiness by Matthew R. Kratter

I’ve seen folks from very humble beginnings work their way toward becoming millionaires simply by staying true to a system of principles. In Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires, Matthew Kratter outlines how to create a path toward wealth that anyone can follow.

When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple, and Good by Emily Ley

It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the world, which is why I’ve always admired folks who work to the beat of their own drum. In When Less Becomes More, Emily Ley gives you permission to slow down and take in the sweet moments that too many people overlook.

The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain by Tara Swart, M.D.

As an entrepreneur, I’m conscious that my brain is my most important tool. In The Source, psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and MIT senior lecturer Tara Swart maps out the connection between daily brain functions and the impact they have on a person’s view of the world, arguing that by reshaping our minds, we can reshape our destinies.

Heart & Hustle: Use Your Passion. Build Your Brand. Achieve Your Dreams. by Patricia Bright

I tell my clients all the time about the importance of building their brand. In Heart & Hustle, U.K.-based YouTube phenom Patricia Bright does the same, offering suggestions for rethinking your approach to work, life, and taking control of your future.

Just Do You: Authenticity, Leadership, and Your Personal Brand by Lisa King

Speaking of branding, in Just Do You, Lisa King discusses how your personal brand depends on authenticity. Some of the best advice I have for my clients deals with ways to live more authentically. That’s why I liked this book by King, who shows how to achieve genuine leadership by aligning your words and actions with what matters most to you.

Is This Seat Taken? No, I Saved It for You: Inspiring Life Lessons from Everyday Experiences by Kristin S. Kaufman

I’m sure I’m not the only entrepreneur who has learned that you can’t control what life throws at you, only your response to it. In Is This Seat Taken? portfolio entrepreneur Kristin S. Kaufman describes 16 “catalytic” moments that changed her life. Such moments, she argues, offer us the best chance to learn, grow, and experience true happiness.

The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business by John Jantsch

I’ve found that the most successful startup leaders have a strong moral compass pointing them in the direction that best aligns with their values. This book can help readers find a deeper meaning to their work and their life using a variety of mediations that build self-awareness and creativity, among other traits.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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