Brook Lundy and Duncan Mitchell created a free online e-card service, but the messages on the cards are somewhat different than other ecards, a semi warped version of traditional ecards. Their ecards cover all occasions, birthdays, weddings, graduations, get well cards, but they also have cards for break-ups, for flirting, and for awkward thinking of you moments.

Their website, someecards.com describes the company as follows:

Someecards may or may not be the greatest thing since ecards. It was created by Brook Lundy and Duncan Mitchell and a dollar and a half-assed dream. New cards, categories, and features will be frequently added until everyone involved with the site dies.

Their dream is certainly paying off. Lundy originally pitched the idea for Someecards to Mitchell as “the lamest idea I’ve ever pitched you”. Mitchell loved the idea and the two set to work to form a “funny ecard site”. They set the site up, found some investors, hired some writers and a Director of Sales all in hopes to make the site a “successful business”, a full time job. The site has become such a huge success that Lundy and Mitchell recently decided to quit their day jobs and work on Someecards full time. As of October 2008 the site had 1.5 million unique visitors a month and 10 million pageviews a month.
Someecards now also allows customers to create their own ecards and they also have a very fine blog.

Lundy and Mitchell are heroes of capitalism for taking their private property and founding a profitable website that is free for users. They have successfully met their dream of creating a “success business” and continue to expand their company. They wanted a site where people not only set ecards, but also went to just read. I have spent many hours procrastinating on their site.

A closing thought, their most popular card is vintage black-and-white illustration of a little boy sitting on a stack of books, bearing the message: “When work feels overwhelming, remember that you’re going to die.”

 

 

Lindsay Robertson? And Gabe Delahaye? They do Videogum. They host funny a funny reading series called “Ritalin Readings.” Google ’em.

No challenge too big for enthusiast

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

FOR a young entrepreneur to start a small documentary production company in the tough times we face is not easy.

But, for one 28-year-old it’s a challenge to be faced head-on.

Former radio personality Russell Fong has used his savings in the Fiji National Provident Fund to literally put his money where his mouth is.

He has taken the plunge to form Tanoa Productions.

Mr Fong said it was not easy deciding to dip into his FNPF funds through its small business scheme and to start from scratch.

But, with the full backing of his wife Carol they dived into making their dreams come true.

His production company is based in Tanoa Street, in Flagstaff, Suva, and is already excelling in making documentaries, video shoots and editing.

In just a few months of operations, they have already done six videos and are now the production company for the University of the South Pacific’s Marine Department.

Mr Fong said documentary work for USP involved going to villages and making documentaries on reefs, resource videos and whatever was needed.

“Well, I got this passion when I was young,” he said.

Mr Fong, who has worked the for production department at Fiji Television said the plan to setup a company started in 2005.

“I started foundation work like getting a licence and money for the equipment,” he said.

He has turned a garage into his office, saying wants to do videos for corporate organisations we well.

Apart from the financial challenges of setting up the production company, he said other challenges included learning skills on his own.

Good time for the planner TheStar.com – Life – Good time for the planner

The party is always hot and hopping at UniversityParty.ca

May 01, 2007


toronto star
It’s 11 on a Friday night and the party at Grace O’Malley’s is in full swing. Paper hat-clad revellers celebrate a 20th birthday in a corner, and on the dance floor girls shimmy to a deejay while St. Catharines college band Opus Road warms up onstage.

Another party is underway across the Entertainment District, where a line-up forms outside Cantina Charlies. Inside, the three-storey tropical theme bar is packed with plastic palm trees and people getting drunk on foot-long slushy drinks.

TV screens feature messages texted in by bar patrons and, in a corner, a shampoo company has a booth where patrons can project their smiling faces and well-coiffed heads on the wall.

Overlooking the throng, University Party photographer Bernard Leung snaps shots of a posing couple on the balcony. A shooter girl dressed as a nurse interrupts to scold Leung. “Where were you last week? We missed you!”

Leung shrugs. He was busy snapping pictures at other bars for his boss Daniel Warner, the 23-year-old founder of UniversityParty.ca, the largest student website in Canada, with 7.5 million hits each month.

Warner is not at the bar. In fact, he seldom gets to the Entertainment District these days. He’s busy gunning for 2007 Student Entrepreneur of the Year, a national award that recognizes the business movers and shakers of tomorrow.

So instead of partying, the BlackBerry-toting Warner spends most of his time in class or in his office in the basement of his parents’ Richmond Hill home. He leaves it to his “point people” to mingle at the UniversityParty.ca hit list bars and sponsored events, including the Van Wilder 2 DVD promotion party at Gracie’s last month.

“This is by far the best job I’ve had,” says Leung, 27, grinning as he’s interrupted by people who want to know when their pics will be posted on the UniversityParty.ca website. “It’s not hard to make friends in this job.”

The site’s motto is, “We remember what happened last night, so you don’t have to,” but those who do remember are encouraged to log in and tag the photos that depict their boozy attempts to bring sexy back.

Every night, Leung tours the bars, taking photos and handing out flyers for UniversityParty.ca, or UP.ca for short. Meanwhile, Warner is hard at work arranging for companies to sponsor student events and advertise on the UP site, tailored to campuses across Ontario and most provinces.

With plans to expand the two-year-old website – which has more than 25,000 members and already includes social networking aspects similar to MySpace – and about a half-dozen other initiatives aimed at 18- to 25-year-olds in the works, it’s an understatement to say Warner is one busy guy.

“I don’t really think of it as work, which probably keeps me sane,” Warner says with a laugh. “I just get up in the morning and start.”

Warner began the first UniversityParty.ca site after planning frat parties at the University of Western Ontario, where he studied business. He reckons he’s been to hundreds of student events over the years.

“People were asking what was going on, so it was a natural fit to create a website for London students.” Now as owner of UP Media Group Inc., he has 40 employees in 12 cities. He calls the business, soon to be known as Canadianstudentmarketing.com, a one-stop shop for corporations that want that all-important demographic of young people with money.

Warner’s finishing a post-graduate diploma in marketing management at Seneca College and fits in business meetings between exams. While the biggest decision facing students who use his site is deciding which event to attend that night, it’s up to Warner to make the hard decisions, such as to pull the plug on clients not living up to their share of the bargain.

Recently, UP Media Inc. cancelled its official Friday night party at a Toronto club, after the bar defaulted on a cheque, Warner says.

“It’s gotten to a point where we don’t have to bend over backwards for clients who don’t treat us well.” The company isn’t some fly-by-night student outfit, Warner adds.

UP Media Inc. has earned Warner a whack of money – when asked how much, he says: “Put it this way, I wouldn’t have to be in school right now if I didn’t want to” – as well as accolades from the business community.

He’s one of six vying for student entrepreneur of the year at the 2007 Advancing Canadian Entrepreneur National Exposition in Toronto next week.

The award goes to full-time post-secondary students who have founded their own businesses. Hundreds apply each year from across the country.

Judges were impressed by the companies Warner has worked with, such as clothing company Urban Behaviour and, most recently, film and TV company Alliance Atlantis. He’s built a list of 50,000-plus students who signed up to receive email promotions and other info from UniversityParty.ca. Non-profit student groups can advertise for free. Other companies pay for the privilege.

The judges also like that Warner encourages students to Party With a Cause with his PWAC foundation, which has raised more than $25,000 for charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society.

Warner has already advanced through the provincial and central region qualifying rounds for the national award. The top prize for the winning student entrepreneur, to be awarded on May 9, is $10,000 and the opportunity to represent Canada at the international level of competition, the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Sort of like the Miss World pageant for business types.

And if Warner wins you can bet, on that night at least, he’ll be out partying.

“It’ll definitely be time to celebrate. And then, soon after that, back to work. The summer’s going to be intense – all the students are out of school.”

Evanston, IL  60201 March 12 2007
Source: http://www.sarasotabusiness.info/Pages/hotstories/hotstories.asp?story=5642&month=11&year=6

Word of Mouth by Mary Catherine Coolidge
A Sarasota entrepreneur markets his innovative tongue brush through Wal-Mart and YouTube.

The first time Tom Oechslin, president of Peak Enterprises, Inc., a consumer products company that is marketing the TUNG Brush, met with Wal-Mart, he heard the word every entrepreneur dreads: “No.”

It was August 2005, and Oechslin and his marketing consultant, Joel Warady of the Joel Warady Group out of Chicago, thought they had nailed their marketing presentation of the TUNG Brush to the Wal-Mart buyer.

Oechslin and Warady were stunned. They replayed the presentation about their dental hygiene product—a black-and-neon-orange plastic tongue scraper that retails for between $3 and $4—in their heads. Hadn’t they presented reliable data about the bacteria build-up that causes bad breath in nearly every individual at some time or another, creating a consumer base that spends, according to Oechslin, “$700 million to $800 million a year on bad breath” remedies? Hadn’t they presented detailed information that proved the efficacy and salability of their product?

The buyer had seemed impressed, and Oechslin and Warady had left that first meeting elated, sure that Wal-Mart would make a buy.

What, they wondered, had gone wrong?

Oechslin called the buyer back and asked the big question—why?

The response was surprisingly simple. The buyer liked the product, but felt the packaging was too wide and would take up too many valuable inches in the highly competitive scramble for “real estate”—shelf space—in Wal-Mart aisles.

Oechslin immediately offered to change the packaging. He had no problem reconfiguring the size of the packaging if that would solve the problem.

But Wal-Mart insisted there was no way the TUNG Brush packaging could be redesigned in a time-frame acceptable to their schedule; they wanted it turned around within 48 hours.

Oechslin knew that only 2 percent of the thousands of suppliers who pitch Wal-Mart actually land on the giant retailer’s shelves, but he wasn’t going to come this close and slink away because of a couple of lousy inches. Getting on Wal-Mart shelves was an absolutely essential step in building the product’s prestige—and he believed in his product.

“If you’ve got a tongue, it applies,” says Oeschlin. And Oeschlin felt his timing was right. Even though Wal-Mart historically hasn’t attracted the TUNG brush demographic—educated women who prefer more upscale shopping—the company is trying to change its image and draw higher-income customers through better-quality products.

The pair started dialing numbers and found a Chicago design team that would make the changes and create a mock-up of the new packaging in 24 hours. The next day Oechslin and Warady went back to Wal-Mart with a sleeker, slimmer package.

And the final answer—yes!

Within 90 days, Wal-Mart had placed its first order for 20,000 TUNG Brushes. Manufacturing began in China, Chicago, New York, Tennessee and Ohio. By March 2006, the brush debuted in limited distribution in 1,280 stores across the country.

In retrospect, Warady says, the packaging drama was really “a test.” The big retailers, he explains, are practically “daring you to do business with them.” Whether it’s Walgreen’s or Wal-Mart, he says, they’re going to “throw up obstacles” to see if an entrepreneur can play in the big leagues.

Oechslin concurs. National retailers “have to believe in the people behind the product,” he says. “They don’t care how good your product is,” they care about whether it will sell, and whether you can deliver on your promises, he adds.

It’s also absolutely essential to have enough capital to ramp up production and deliver quickly when opportunity finally does come knocking.

Oechslin has been marketing TUNG Brush since 1996, when he and Sarasota dentist Steve Wieder came up with the concept. The TUNG Brush has been in Rite Aid drugstores since 2000 and other drugstore chains throughout the country such as Duane Reade, Long’s and Meijer. With Wal-Mart under his belt, Oechslin hopes to launch the TUNG Brush in Publix supermarkets and Walgreen’s as well as other large chains in 2007.

But that’s not all. Oechslin and Warady are intent on delivering the message to the prime TUNG Brush target audience—18 to 45 year olds, Oechslin says, an audience that lives online.

“Gen X and Gen Y groups,” Warady explains, “want to be entertained and they don’t want to be sold to,” especially on the Internet.

So in his quest to make the TUNG Brush as ubiquitous as dental floss and as hip as the latest MP3-playing cell phones, Oechslin turned to video viral marketing, a tactic that uses online sharing of video clips, often homemade, mostly through e-mails and blogs. In June 2006, Oechslin launched his viral initiative through YouTube, a wildly popular new Web site that contains millions of videos—everything from wacky homemade videos of pets doing backflips to clips of politicians’ speeches.

Oechlin forged an alliance with YouTube impresario Billy Presley, who has a penchant for videotaping himself as he travels around licking things like bridges and statues. Presley documents his antics on video and posts them on YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=billypresley, which has become one of the Web’s most popular video sites. The TUNG Brush Web site is tagged to the end of every video Presley posts.

To drive visitors to the Presley videos and subsequently to the TUNG Brush Web site, Oechslin and Warady hired college students and recent college graduates, some with master’s degrees in marketing, to “get the word out about these videos through social networking sites” such as myspace.com, iambored.com and friendster.com.

Marketing via viral video is a relatively unproven arena, and videomakers such as Presley aren’t easily managed, causing many marketers to shy away from such online strategies. Warady, however, says the strategy enabled them to build the brand cheaply. Presley’s expenses are paid, along with a “very modest fee,” Warady says, and “all the TUNG Brushes he wants.”

Oechslin says that so far, promoting the TUNG Brush alongside Presley’s funny, slightly subversive videos has resulted in “tens of thousands of hits” to the TUNG Brush Web site. Even though TUNG Brush is not sold via tungbrush.com, there is a store locator feature and a link to drugstore.com, where sales “have doubled in the last six months,” he says. Although Oechslin wouldn’t release revenues for the last year, he says more than 100,000 TUNG Brushes have been sold and sales are in the “seven figures.”

“I have no doubt that the TUNG Brush will become a staple in dental care,” states Oechslin, with the true entrepreneur’s boundless faith. “We’re grateful that we’ve had the success we’ve had. But can we do better? Of course we can. The key is never quit.”

Joel Warady (joel@joelwarady.com)
Principal
Joel Warady Group
1010 Davis Street
Evanston, IL   60201
Phone : 847-859-1800
Joel Warady - Branding & Marketing Expert Contact Joel Warady

Entrepreneurship is a craft. But given the risky nature of starting one’s own business are there opportunities to practice the skills involved? Absolutely. Below I’ve taken five online opportunities that would be a natural extension of a web worker’s daily routine. Each does require certain skills and, in some cases, a small amount of capital. However, all are purposely picked to have the lowest barriers to entry. The goal is to learn. If something doesn’t work its possible to iterate until it does; the only major cost is the time invested. The exercises below probably won’t make you a Rockefeller. However, they will help hone those entrepreneurial chops and give you a greater appreciation for the issues and effort involved.

The experiments:

1. New Media Producer
As reported on New Tee Vee last month Ask a Ninja, a popular comedy video blog (or vlog), signed a six figure advertising deal. Ask a Ninja could be summarized as a rapid fire series of non-sequiturs, a funny premise, and not much else. Production for another notable vlog, RocketBoom is equally as sparse. For as little as a webcam, the free editing software that comes with your OS, and a YouTube account a person can produce their own show. You do need something to say and better production does require better equipment (cameras, microphones) and time (post-production editing). However, the number of places to distribute (YouTube, MySpace, iTunes, etc.) and sources of monetization (pre-roll, post-roll, product placement, revenue sharing) has never been greater.

2. Clothing Label Crafter
Third party fulfillment services for items like t-shirts are nothing new: Cafepress launched in 1999. But given the explosion of blogs dedicated to the subject and the now universal acceptance of purchasing things online, small boutique shops can thrive. And a degree in graphic design isn’t necessary to make something that sells. The Lactivist is a T-shirt shop founded by Jennifer Laycock as part of a 30 day business experiment (a recap of her experience is available in a free PDF). The shirts that you’ll find there are text only. Jennifer is able to sell them because of her wit and unique audience. The fulfillment behind this type of site – companies like CafePress, SpreadShirt, or even Threadless – handle the mundane things like printing and shipping. This leaves you free to focus your entrepreneurial energies on the bigger business picture: finding an audience and best serving them.

3. Micro Investor
When most people hear the words ‘investing’ they think of power ties, ticker symbols, and wads of cash usually reserved for lotto winners. However, there are web sites that allow geographically diverse investors to aggregate small amounts into meaningful returns. Prosper.com (and its U.K. equivalent, Zopa.com) enable direct borrowing and lending on a person to person level. Thousands of dollars aren’t required to get started. A person can take a tax return or unexpected bonus and begin creating a unique investment strategy. This entrepreneurial experiment does require more capital to start than the others listed here. But the time investment is less and you’ll be learning about diversifying portfolios and acceptable risk while funding people that you can believe in.

4. Publisher
The web is a publishing medium. However, reading a full length novel on a laptop is still a sub-optimal experience. For those that have something to say LuLu.com is a solution. LuLu will print and ship your treatise for a percentage revenue cut. Can’t think of what to say? Intimidated with the prospect of writing a few hundred pages? Take an example from Carolynn Duncan’s most recent business experiment: in exchange for stories about entrepreneurship the contributing authors are getting recognition in a highly publicized way and a free copy of the finished product. It’s just one way of building both an audience AND a product. Your experiment may find others.

5. Community Curator
The final entrepreneurship example is to build a community. While not directly creating a product, by providing the impetuous for people to come together you can create opportunities for monetization. Whether it is incorporating appropriate affiliate advertising or facilitating transactions between members this is probably one of the most difficult and time consuming projects to pull off. However, if done successfully, it can be the most rewarding. Sites like Ning.com simply the software setup for your social network. All that’s left is creating a site that’s sticky; a place where what’s shared is valuable and worth coming back to again and again.

The web is not only revolutionizing the way we work; it also creating opportunities to experiment with what that work might be. Have you tried any of these five things in your time online? What was your experience? More importantly – what have I missed?

Sphere Software Apps, Workplace Trends