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Millionaire under 21: Shawn Nelson

UPDATE(another video):

UPDATE( Lovesac saves a consumer’s life): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5jyTxJMP2I

A Bag Is Born: At age 18, Shawn Nelson was watching TV on the couch when he decided “a huge beanbag thing” might be more comfortable. He bought 14 yards of vinyl, cut it into a baseball shape, and spent three weeks filling it with anything soft he could find. The finished LoveSac was 7 feet wide, and everyone who saw it tried it out–and loved it.

Pocket Power: When neighbors started placing orders, Nelson decided to start his company almost as a joke. With free help from his friends, he made the LoveSacs in his parents’ basement and sold them at trade shows, events and even the drive-in. Business was moderate at best, until he got a call on his cell phone that changed his life: a quarter-million-dollar order from Too Inc., which was looking for a back-to-school offering for its Limited Too stores. “I answered the phone and said, ‘Twelve thousand LoveSacs? Sure, no problem. That’s what we do; we’re the best in the world at it,'” remembers Nelson.

Hard Road: Undaunted, Nelson amassed $50,000 in credit card debt building a factory. He worked 19-hour days and slept at the factory. “It nearly broke me emotionally, physically, mentally,” Nelson says. “My hands were cracked and bleeding. We finished the order [for Too Inc.] but ate up all our profits.” Just when things seemed darkest, a deceptively simple idea presented itself: Open a mall store. Not just any store, but one designed from the beginning to look like an upscale chain–even before it was a chain. It paid off: With some 55 stores, about half of them franchised, LoveSac is looking at sales topping $30 million this year.

Looking Forward: “We’re headed toward owning [the market for] oversized living,” says Nelson, who dispenses with all modesty where his business is concerned. “We’re going to have a catalog that’ll be three inches thick, selling everything that’s over-the-top, bling-bling, LoveSac-get-out-of-our-freaking-way.”

Unstoppable: No one fully expected LoveSac’s success-not even Nelson himself. He says being committed to solving any problem is vital to his–and any entrepreneur’s-success. “Decide that there is always a way,” he says, “and you’ll find that there is.”

Lovesac’s website: http://www.lovesac.com

History: http://generallyawesome.com/store/love-sac/Love-Sac-History.php

May 31, 2008 Posted by | Business, Life, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, Uncategorized, Youtube | , , | Leave a comment

Success story: Gerry Shreiber

PENNSAUKEN, N.J. – He became a father at 18, dropped out of school and found a factory job to make ends meet, until hard work and a twist of fate led him to a fortune he’d never imagined. 

It’s almost like a fairytale. A little Jewish street kid from the wrong side of the tracks buys some defunct assets and grows the enterprise into what today amounts to a $600 million a year company.

Gerry Shreiber’s success began at the ballpark, home not only to the hallowed hot dog, but that other classic stadium snack: the salty jumbo pretzel. This doughy concoction might never have been a hit were it not for Shreiber’s vision of a pretzel empire.

“Every time I see one of our fans going up there and buying it, I feel a special kind, you know how the back of your neck kind of — you get that little feather feeling in there,” Shreiber said on a recent visit a to Philadelphia Phillies home game.

As CEO of J&J Snack Foods, Shreiber is the man behind the pretzel.  With a roll and a twist, J&J churns out a half-billion pretzels a year.  It all began in 1971 when Schreiber struck up a conversation with a salesman who told him about a failing pretzel company.

“A couple of weeks later, I bought the assets of a bankrupt soft pretzel company for $72,000,” he said.

That $72,000 bought Shreiber some old baking equipment and an eight-person company selling a little-known product.

“The traditional stadiums, baseball stadiums, in those days had a very limited menu,” he said. “They didn’t know what a soft pretzel was.”

Convincing stadiums, movie theaters and other vendors that soft pretzels could be the next big thing took some creativity.

“It didn’t have a name,” said Shreiber. “So I thought — ‘Super Pretzel.’ Super Pretzel, Superman. And I found these special trees with hooks on it.  And I built a glass box around it. And we attached the motor to it. And all of a sudden we had a revolving tree.”

Dreaming big
With that, the super pretzel was born and super sales quickly followed. At the company’s factory in Pennsauken, N.J., J&J bakes 2 million pretzels a day.

“I instructed my people that I want to have a line which feeds the dough automatically, very little labor, that will produce 5,000 pounds an hour with hardly anybody touching the product,” he said. “And my chief engineer said to me at the time, ‘Gerry, you’re dreaming.’ And I said, ‘All right, we’ll call it the dream line.’ ”

J&J has made Forbes magazine’s list of the “200 Best Small Companies” seven times since it went public in 1986. And it doesn’t stop with pretzels. Shreiber has a knack for turning around distressed snack food brands — recent acquisitions include Fruit-A-Freeze and Whole Fruit sorbets. 

The simple, soft, salty pretzel has brought him a personal fortune worth over $100 million.

Shreiber also has a soft spot for animals and keeps 30 horses, six dogs, five cats, two goats, one pig and one bunny on his New Jersey farm.  He is a prominent donor to animal’s charities — including the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine — and starts every day with a walk on the farm, animals in tow, dreaming up the next super snack food idea.

May 31, 2008 Posted by | Business, Entrepreneur, Life, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, News, Uncategorized, Youtube | Leave a comment

Success story: James Murray Wells

James Murray Wells started Glassesdirect.co.uk with the last £1,000 of his student loan. With the help of VCs, he is now aiming to turn it into a £1 billion company. Smallbusiness.co.uk got in touch with him to discuss how he did it.

Take us back to the beginning – where did it all begin?
I was a student looking for the right idea. I had always been entrepreneurial and was searching for a market to break into. I stumbled across the glasses market and realised that it hadn’t changed in 50 years. It was one of those stuffy sectors than needed updating, so we started really small with just a simple website.

How did you start-up on so little capital?
We convinced the suppliers to hold all the stock and to distribute it for us. That means that the frames and lenses, even the packaging were being stored for us and sent to the customers, so really we were just managing data.

Within two months of launching we were getting about 50 to 60 orders per day. I put that down to strong word-of-mouth advertising and the amount of money we were saving people on high-street prices.

Was there a lot of resistance from your competitors?
Well the typical high-street spend on glasses is £149 and our range starts from £15 with lenses, so yes, there was massive opposition from the high street retailers. We had everything from legal letters to hate mail, it really was a witch hunt. In fact, one of the big opticians contacted our supplier and threatened to stop buying from them if they continued to supply us. The website had to go down for two weeks while we sourced another supplier.

What was your reaction to that?
It really spurred me on. That was when I knew I was on to a winner – the more they kick and scream, the more you know you’re doing something right.

How are you funded now?
Well, in 2006-2007 we were taking orders of around 200 to 250 pairs of glasses per day. We had funded the company with £750,000 of business angel money and I realised we were only going to grab a very small percentage of the market with that financial model.

We were well positioned to become a global player, so in 2007 we decided to take on some venture capitalists, who took two seats on the board and provided £3 million funding. We’re now aiming to be a £1 billion company.

Where now for the business?
A change in financial model meant a change of focus. Rather than being a value product supplier, we realised that we could market glasses as a fashion accessory. The fact that our product is so cheap compared to the high street, means that people can afford to buy different pairs of glasses for different occasions.

We are also developing technology to allow people to upload a photo of themselves onto the web to try out pairs of glasses online and see themselves in 3D. What I really wanted to do was put the fun back into buying glasses, rather than this old fashioned, boring process.

May 30, 2008 Posted by | Business, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, Uncategorized, Youtube | 1 Comment

Inspirational Seminar: Rick Warren

 

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Book, Life, News, Television, Uncategorized, Youtube | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rag to riches: Bob Williamson

How I Did It: Bob Williamson – Horizon Software

Once a homeless drug abuser, he’s now king of the cafeteria.

By: As told to Andrew Park

When Bob Williamson left home at 17, he lived on the streets and did time for heroin possession. But he pulled himself together, got a job, and eventually began his own business as a manufacturer of art supplies. In 1993, Williamson started a company to develop software for cafeterias. Today Horizon Software International supplies more than 15,000 schools, colleges, and universities and has sales of $26 million. Meal payments are made online, and parents can monitor what their kids eat at school. Horizon, based in Atlanta, also sells to hospitals, retirement communities, big corporations, and, soon, U.S. military bases around the globe — “wherever,” he says, “large numbers of people need to be fed.”

My childhood was tough. My father was in the Air Force. We moved around a lot. When I graduated from high school, I got all hung up in drugs and all that nonsense. I slept on the side of the road; I stayed in missions; I didn’t have anything to eat. I fought a lot. I was in jail lots and lots of times.

I had been told all my life that I was worthless and would never amount to anything. I hitchhiked from New Orleans to Atlanta. I had only one change of clothes, and I didn’t know anybody. My first job was cleaning mortar off of bricks with a hatchet for $15 a day. Not long after that, I had a head-on collision and very nearly was killed. While I was in the hospital I read the Bible and became a Christian. After that I met my wife. We’ve been married 37 years.

I went to work for a paint company called Glidden. I had the worst job in the company: I was in charge of the label room, a caged-in area in the basement. But I was promoted eight times in two years to the point where I was managing special projects. I knew a lot of the chemists and taught myself about the chemistry of paint. In my spare time, I was a wildlife artist. There wasn’t a good airbrush paint on the market. Everybody was using automotive lacquers. I spent about two years developing one for myself. I’d go to an art show and take my entire inventory. People lined up out of the door. Within about six months, I had distributors and customers all over the country.

I started Wildlife Artist Supply in 1977. I went from my basement to my garage to a little building. Then I went to a 50,000-square-foot warehouse. And I didn’t just sell paint. We had a thick catalog, 6,000 or 7,000 items for artists, primarily mail order. It was everything you could imagine: brushes, compressors, clay. I started a magazine to teach people how to do wildlife art. We also founded the World Taxidermy Championships.

In 1988, I made a deal to take the company public. We were going to develop my business into a company like L.L. Bean. My customers were hard-core sportsmen. We were selling wildlife art supplies, so we could have just as easily sold them hunting and fishing stuff.

The next day, my controller turned in his notice. And then a whole bunch of other people quit. I discovered that all of our financial records had been destroyed, and we were $1 million in debt and $278,000 overdrawn at the bank, and my inventory was decimated. It was like a nightmare. I spent two years trying to make him pay. To this day, there’s never been anybody but a Williamson reconciling our bank accounts.

There are only so many artists in the world. I wanted to get into something that didn’t have any limits. My sons were very gifted in computer technology, and they wanted to start a software company. I had a couple of programmers who worked for me. We had written all this software. The best was our warehouse and distribution package. I had been using it for years in my own stuff. We decided to try selling it. I thought it would be like the paint: I’d just go out there and introduce myself, distributors would pick it up, and I’d be home free. Well, I had a rude awakening. When those big boys are in there, they just stomp you. I realized I had to have a niche.

A rep who worked for me also sold systems to school lunchrooms. I went with him on one of his calls and found out that in the schools there wasn’t a system like ours, and there was a tremendous need for it. So I modified my warehouse and distribution system so it would work in cafeterias. The market was too small to attract those big guys, but it was big enough for me. There are 14,000 districts, 97,000 schools. It was a really big opportunity. It seemed unlimited. Everybody’s got to eat.

I hired salespeople, but they couldn’t sell anything. I told my wife, “I might just do it myself.” I had always detested sales and salespeople. But I found out that’s what I’m really good at. I went in and told food-service directors how they could save money. They were doing everything manually, and I showed them all the things that our software could do. Within two weeks I had my first order. Then I went to another one, and I went to another one, and pretty soon I had all of Georgia. So I became our chief salesperson. You wouldn’t believe how I could sell. I could sell firewood in hell.

It wasn’t like I was real flush with cash. Pretty much all my career I was undercapitalized. I borrowed on my home equity and loaded up my credit cards. We started with three or four people, in 1993, and each year we would either double or triple in size. Now we have 173 employees and sales of $26 million.

We ended up developing an A-to-Z software system for managing school food services: warehousing and tracking inventory and sales. For a long time I didn’t have any competition. I started looking at other markets. We developed software for colleges and universities and then hospitals and senior living communities. Whoever feeds a lot of people, that’s who we go to. We have more than 15,000 installations.

In 2005, we got a $10 million deal with the U.S. military. I worked five years on that deal. Our technology will be in every dining facility worldwide for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Every land base, ship, submarine, and remote battlefield.

It’s my goal to get junk food out of the schools. Oranges instead of Snickers bars. We’ve developed technology so kids can buy healthful items from vending machines on their prepaid accounts. And we have software so parents can go online and view what their kids ate that day. I want to help kids make the right nutritional choices. We’ve got all this technology and all these schools, and we ought to be able to have an impact.

Source: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20080501/how-i-did-it-bob-williamson.html

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Business, Entrepreneur, Life, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, News, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Zappos: A brillant idea

1998, 24-year-old Tony Hsieh sold his company, Internet advertiser LinkExchange, to Microsoft for $265 million. A year later, he met an even younger entrepreneur, Nick Swinmurn, who had an idea no investor would touch: selling shoes on the Internet. But Hsieh (pronounced shay) was intrigued and invested $500,000 in ShoeSite.com (they soon changed the name to Zappos, after zapatos, which is Spanish for “shoes”). Within six months, he and Swinmurn were running the show together. Early this year, Swinmurn moved on, leaving Hsieh at the helm of a company that had sales of $252 million in 2005.

I almost deleted the voice mail. Nick left a message saying he wanted to start a company that sold shoes online. I didn’t think consumers would buy shoes sight unseen, and Nick didn’t have a footwear background. It sounded like the poster child of bad Internet ideas.

But right before I hit Delete, Nick mentioned the size of the retail shoe market–$40 billion. And the more interesting thing was that 5 percent was already being done through mail order catalogs. That intrigued me. Initially, I was just an adviser. But I got sucked in.

We all sat around one day talking about what we wanted the Zappos brand to represent. We decided to be about providing the best service; we said, “We’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes.” But in order for that to happen, we had to control the entire customer experience. We expanded the warehouse to 77,000 square feet and stopped having manufacturers ship directly to customers. It was a scary time–drop shipping was 25 percent of revenue, and we gave it up all at once.

We thought about going under every day–until we got a $6 million credit line from Wells Fargo. It’s now $60 million.

I’d rather spend money on things that improve the customer experience than on marketing. We run the warehouse 24-7–it’s not very cheap or efficient, but it allows us to get the shoes out more quickly. We have a 365-day return policy with free shipping both ways.

We have to untrain employees’ bad habits from previous call centers, where they’re trying to be more efficient by minimizing the time they talk to the customer. If someone is looking for a specific shoe and we happen to be out of stock, we have employees direct those people to competitors’ sites.

In January 2004, we decided to move to Las Vegas. It was one of those things we started talking about at the beginning of lunch, and by the end of lunch, we’d decided. We were having a hard time finding good customer service people in San Francisco. Las Vegas has a lot of call centers and lots of people who want to do customer service as a career. We announced it later that week and people were moving by March.

We interview people for culture fit. We want people who are passionate about what Zappos is about–service. I don’t care if they’re passionate about shoes.

source: http://www.zappos.com/about.zhtml

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Business, Entrepreneur, invention, Life, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, News, Television, Uncategorized, Youtube | , , | Leave a comment

Kiva: A brilliant Idea

Kiva was founded in October 2005 by Matt and Jessica Flannery. It is run by a team with experience in microfinance and technology.The founders came up with the idea for Kiva, which means “unity” in Swahili, after spending time in East Africa.

 How it works

Kiva allows microfinance institutions around the world, called “Field Partners”, to post profiles of qualified local entrepreneurs on its website. Lenders browse and choose an entrepreneur they wish to fund. Kiva aggregates loan capital from individual lenders and transfers it to the appropriate Field Partners to disburse and administer. As the entrepreneurs repay their loans, the Field Partners remit funds back to Kiva. Once a loan is fully repaid, the Kiva lenders can withdraw their principal or re-loan it to another entrepreneur. Lenders’ funds are transferred to Kiva through PayPal, which does not collect its usual fees in this case. Field Partners generally charge interest from their borrowers, although Kiva claims to keep track of how much interest is charged and will not work with those charging unfair interest rates.Kiva lenders do not receive any interest because of US Government regulations. Kiva claims that its borrowers have a historical repayment rate of about 99.7%.

Publicity

  • Kiva was featured at the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative and the 2006 Global Microcredit Summit.
  • Former President Bill Clintonexhorted the students of Brandeis University to use Kiva in a speech given on December 3rd, 2007.
  • Frontline  and The Oprah Winfrey Show had segments devoted to Kiva.
  • Kiva is mentioned in Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World  by Bill Clinton.
  • Los Angeles Times : Lending hope over the Web (October 18th, 2007)
  • The founders were on the Oprah Winfrey Show November 2007 “Oprah Features Kiva Founders”
  • “Kiva PR Director Fiona Ramsey” was interviewed on “CBC Radio One’s, SearchEngine”

So, if you can, please visit the website and show support on this brilliant idea that would help those in need. Through helping one person, you create jobs for other people as well.

Website: http://www.kiva.org/

Here’s more report about kiva: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXk4GUGXNTQ

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiva_%28organization%29

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Business, Life, News, Television, Uncategorized, Youtube | , , , , | Leave a comment

Spill.com: What happens in Vegas/ Speed Racer

Website(what happens in Vegas): http://www.whathappensinvegasmovie.com/

Website(speed Racer): http://speedracerthemovie.warnerbros.com/

 

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Funny, Humor, Movie, Movies, Television, Uncategorized, Youtube | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A millionaire before 21: Ben Kaufman

Kluster is a newly launched web-based collaboration and decision-making platform. Born of simpler roots – namely Mophie, an iPod accessory company relying heavily on its customer base in the design and development process – Kluster seeks to foster the same principals that made Mophie so popular by engaging consumers to conceive, design, brand, and launch new products. Kluster’s founder, Ben Kaufman, sat down with Behance to explain how his new project will help make ideas happen.

Every new idea will meet its skeptics. Radical concepts, however, often take a greater amount of time to justify and coax critics onto its side – and Kluster was no exception. “The toughest part about launching the several initiatives we have done at Kluster has been convincing our clients (and sometimes our investors) that doing something very different is okay. A normal response is, “But, that’s not how this kind of thing is usually done.” Of course this isn’t how it’s usually done! That’s why it’s effective, exciting, and worth while. If this were normal, we wouldn’t be here. We have overcome these obstacles by surrounding ourselves with people and organizations that realize that in order to reach new goals you have to use new techniques.

Naturally, a company whose main mission is transforming the way people think will embrace some unorthodox work techniques — even when it comes to scheduling. “The main time management strategy at Kluster is to ignore the normal social rules regarding “work hours.” Any hour can be a work hour and limiting your creativity and productivity to daylight hours on weekdays won’t help you change the world. We work whenever there is work to be done, and rest when there isn’t. By removing normal societal expectations of “work time” we get a lot more done during crunch time, and get a lot more rest during relax time.

Appreciating the power of collaboration and feedback in any project, Kaufman and his team strive to make this a reality for a broad audience. “No idea is perfect when it’s first hatched from one person. Every concept needs help to be refined and improved, and collaboration is the only way to make that happen. Our method at Kluster is to throw the colossal creativity of the internet and the enormous power of computing at the problem so we can foster collaboration of the grand scale.”

Concepts which finally come to fruition aren’t necessarily the ones you started off with. Knowing this, Kaufman and his team were able to edit and cultivate the ones that would, resulting in a product that will continue to evolve through the same process. “You pour your life into a new idea, but you have to be able to walk away from it too. Like [Behance has] said ‘most ideas bite the dust’ and you have to be willing to just move on, and quickly, don’t miss the next opportunity because you’re mourning over the last. So far, very little in our original plan has happened as we wanted or expected, but that’s okay. At every step we reevaluate how the latest development can still be a step towards our end goal: The whole world being able to collaborate so that great ideas don’t get lost to obscurity and so that consumers can get what they really want from the brands they love.

With the site live today, and officially launching at the TED conference later this month, Kaufman hopes the project will change the way companies and consumers interact with each other and that this is reflected in the end result. “[At TED], we will be harnessing the creative energy of the “The World’s Greatest Thinkers and Doers” and allowing the world to collaborate with them to address the pressing issues discussed at the conference. Our goal will be to have the world and the attendees work together for 72 hours using the Kluster system to develop a new product to address a crucial humanitarian, social, or environmental problem.

Ultimately, Kluster is about connecting people and busting open the vacuum so often used in the idea development and evolution process. “We are going to allow all the people out there that have new ideas, or thoughts on how to improve something, or expertise on developing concepts to finally realize their potential. We are breaking down the usual barriers to consumer influence and entrepreneurship.”

 

Source: http://www.behancemag.com/

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Business, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, Television, Youtube | , , , | Leave a comment

Business idea: Jibbitz

Video: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26526805#24291692

It started when sheri and her children were having fun with arts and crafts at home, she stuck a silk flower through a hole in a pair of crocs. She thought it looked cute and then found other things. When Sheri’s husband came home and saw his family accessorizing their shoes, a light bulb went over his head. Sheri and her husband ran with the idea and realized there were alot of cros roaming the streets with no accessories. They bought other objects such as hearts and happy face at craft stores and glued them onto cufflink. Then struck the cufflink into their children’s crocs and send them to school. Soon, orders for jibbitz followed and their business quickly took over the family’s basement. Sheri launched a website, and after just two weeks,she was swamped with requests for jibbitz. Retailers caught on and began ordering hundreds at a time. WIthin twelve months, Jibbitz were sold to more than 3,000 stores. They later sold their business to the founder of crocs for $10 million with an extra $10 million if they meet sales goals. Their business is still booming and they plan on launching line of wristband, hats, belts and purses in the future.

more about Jibbitz: http://www.readersdigest.com.au/life/the-accidental-entrepreneur/article91637.html

website: http://www1.jibbitz.com/store/

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Business, Life, Million dollars Idea, Millionaire, Television, Uncategorized, Youtube | , , , | Leave a comment