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Monthly Archives: February 2017

7 Creative Businesses That Will Inspire You

Being an art professional certainly comes with its stigmas — just ask the people who believe in the “starving artist” cliché.

Though friends and family may try to talk professional artists out of their passions (and professions), creative businesses can thrive. Startups like these keep art alive in people’s homes, phones and everyday lives. These seven art-focused businesses are putting a unique spin on their industry, and might even encourage you to better appreciate art.

Want to bring art into your home or office without hanging the pieces on the walls? Artkick allows you to display high-quality art and photography on your TV or computer monitor, with free access to photos from museums, NASA, the Library of Congress, Photos.com and Hubble. You can even import your own photos from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr and more. You control what photos are displayed via the Artkick mobile app on your smartphone or tablet. Think of it as art projected like you would project video with Roku and Google Chromecast devices.

Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein met and became friends while traveling through Argentina. Firestein drew a design on a pair of plain canvas sneakers for Nemani, who soon found his shoes were a big conversation starter throughout his travels. This inspired the pair to start Bucketfeet, a company that sells canvas sneakers in a variety of styles that feature original art by more than 40,000 creators from 120 countries around the world. These artists cover every medium, from graphic design and graffiti to photography and painting, and anyone can submit their artwork for consideration by the Bucketfeet committee.

Based in New York, ImageThink makes art functional in the office and the classroom. The ImageThink graphic-recording team creates illustrations based on keynote speeches, presentations, strategy sessions and more to help audiences visualize and better remember the information they see. ImageThink team members create these illustrations live during the meeting or event to go along with the presentation. The company also offers its services for creating animated videos and infographics.

Have you ever posted a photo on Instagram that’s so beautiful it could be a painting? With Instapainting, you can transform that digitally captured sunset or portrait into a real-life work of art. You can order either a mixed-media painting (the artist will print your image onto a cotton canvas and then hand-paint over at least 90 percent of the image with oil paints) or a 100 percent hand-painted painting (the artist will start from a blank canvas and paint the entire picture by hand with oil paints) based on your photo. Your choice depends on your price range and the look you want to achieve. When you order a painting and it’s in the process of being created, you can view all of the progress and changes made and talk directly with the artist, and you’ll have a finished product delivered to you from Instapainting within about three weeks.

With JuicyCanvas, anyone can customize art, turning it into canvas prints, shirts, phone cases, tote bags, throw pillows and greeting cards. Juicy Canvas allows customers to select a medium and an original design, and then “remix” the piece into a custom product by altering colors, rotating and cropping the image, and adding text. Artists can submit their work to be used on the site, and customers can easily search through the available designs by style and country of origin.

Ever wish you could have the works of your favorite artists at your fingertips?Meural offers that accessibility with a digital library of precious works of art, displayable in a “digital canvas” frame. Meural renders each image as lifelike and textured as a real painting, down to the last brushstroke, the site says. The canvas comes in a wooden frame. With a range of art collections from the Romantics to the Renaissance to Contemporary art and classic photography, there are more than 20,000 pieces (and the option to upload your own images) to bring a little culture to your home, office or art space. The website says it’s easy to upload, curate and schedule images to be displayed in your frame.

Are you fickle about your home or office décor? TurningArt is an art-rental subscription service that allows you to select new art to feature in your home or office as often as you like, for a monthly fee. As a subscriber, you can search through thousands of pieces to find what you want, and the pieces are delivered to you at no extra cost. Your first order will come in a frame, and when you’re ready for a new masterpiece, all you have to do is slide the old artwork out of the frame (to be sent back to TurningArt) and put the new order in. If you fall in love with a piece, you can purchase it through TurningArt as well.

Could the Legal Cannabis Industry Expand to Every State by 2021?

The legal cannabis industry is rapidly expanding, so much so that some researchers expect cannabis will be legal — either medicinally or recreationally — in every state by 2021. Market analysts for cannabis industry research organization GreenWave Advisors anticipate that in four years 22 states will have medicinal programs and 29 states (plus D.C.) will fully legalize cannabis, leading to a projected $30 billion in sales revenue nationwide.

GreenWave Advisors’ projection is in line with the estimates of other research organizations watching the fledgling industry closely. According to cannabis-dedicated finance organization The Arcview Group, the legal cannabis industry could be valued at $21.8 billion by 2020. Yet another estimate, released by investment bank Cowen and Company, anticipates that the industry will reach $50 billion in sales by 2026.

And the legal cannabis industry is certainly showing signs of accelerated growth. On election day, voters in eight states approved new legal cannabis initiatives. Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota all supported new medical marijuana initiatives, while voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada all moved to legalize recreational adult use.

While the cannabis industry is experiencing explosive growth, many in the industry fear that it is sometimes perceived to be a part of the “stoner culture” rather than as a legitimate business. In reality, cannabis entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, cater to a wide variety of consumers and put money back into the communities in which they operate. Like any other business, there are consultants, financiers, cultivators and dispensary owners who sell the actual cannabis products, and contractors who help build out cultivation and production centers.

To get a better idea of what it’s all about, Business News Daily connected with some entrepreneurs who are already operating in the cannabis space, and asked them where it’s heading and how it has already changed since the first legal markets were created. These are some of the cannabis entrepreneurs who are shaping a post-prohibition industry.

Mike Ray, the owner of medical cultivators Bloom Farms, hails from “cannabis country” in Calaveras County, California, where the black market supported a number of families during prohibition.

“There was always a big, unspoken industry there in an underground sort of way,” Ray said.

Ray struck out on his own and headed to work as a hedge fund trader in New York City. However, when the financial crisis erupted, Ray felt the urge to change his lifestyle. He was “disgusted” at the misbehavior of some financial institutions that occurred leading up to the crisis, and he decided to return home and get back to his roots.

Ray reconnected with his childhood friends, who were now successfully cultivating medical cannabis, and he decided that cannabis was the next opportunity he needed to seize. Medical cannabis use has been legal in California since 1996, so Ray was able to study what his friends had learned so far and examine the growing industry inside and out.

“I absorbed as much as I could. I started cultivating, I examined how the sales channels worked,” Ray said. “I found the industry was just a bunch of people who cared about other people.”

From that discovery, Ray launched Bloom Farms and dedicated its mission to removing any stigma surrounding the cannabis industry. He wanted to dispel the idea that cannabis was just for “stoners” or “hippies” and emphasize the health benefits and recreational lifestyle that he saw associated with the plant and its products.

“I wanted to take a different approach and speak to a more mature market — people who were interested in cannabis as a healthy lifestyle choice,” Ray said.

Now, Bloom Farms is engaged in a number of community initiatives. Chief among them is its “one-for-one” program, which provides a meal to someone in need for every product sold. Through 2016 alone, the Bloom Farms one-for-one program has provided a quarter-million meals to four food banks in California.

Sara Gullickson has been working in the cannabis industry as a consultant for seven years. She got her start as a marketer for spas and health facilities, and soon a dispensary licensing business approached her for help. She worked with the young DispensaryPermits.com for about a year as a marketer, but soon realized that she had a knack for the business and bought it from the owners.

Today, Gullickson helps clients win their dispensary licenses and open their doors.

“We have a process that will help get them open in eight to 12 weeks,” she said. “It includes interior design, policies and procedures, compliance, and a certain level of patient experience.”

In the beginning, Gullickson said that the business was almost like seasonal work, and every client had to be sought out and courted. Now that the industry has grown, it’s the other way around.

“I never worry about finding work or clients; we’re in a situation now where we can’t keep up,” Gullickson said. “It’s amazing that it’s exploding to the point where we’re growing so fast we’re trying to outrun it.”

In the past six years, Gullickson has seen the industry go from something people looked at with suspicion, to a mainstream, exciting, rapidly growing industry. Election night was the culmination of the industry’s growth and maturation, she said.

Gullickson believes that state referendums will compound the ongoing growth, but notes that the industry still faces adversity, primarily from continued prohibition on the federal level. While investors have become more eager to get involved as the industry has grown, banks are still hesitant to work with cannabis entrepreneurs, particularly dispensaries, for fear that some federal-level administration will eventually come down hard on them.

“Banking will definitely be an issue until the feds recognize this as a legal business,” Gullickson said. “Unless banks are doing business with several different dispensaries, it doesn’t make sense to take on the risk or the expense of compliance. Some local credit unions and small private banks will fill that void.”

Gullickson hopes that the federal prohibition will soon be lifted so that cannabis entrepreneurs can operate without being shackled to a proverbial ball and chain. Still, she said, it’s a great space in which to work.

“If you’re going to get involved in this industry, buckle up,” she warned. “It’s a wild ride.”

Diane Czarkowski and her husband, Jay, began their careers in a field that was very different from the cannabis industry. Diane and Jay worked in real estate development: Diane was a licensed agent and Jay was a general contractor. However, after the 2008 housing crisis, the duo set their sights elsewhere. Diane and Jay reinvented themselves by opening a medical dispensary.

“Early on, we had a big dedication to serving patients and really catered to an older demographic,” Diane said. “A lot of local doctors … [referred] people to us because they knew they’d be taken care of.”

In 2012, Diane and Jay decided to sell their dispensary and grow operations to focus on campaigning for Colorado’s Amendment 64, an initiative that would later legalize recreational adult use of cannabis. At the same time, an aspiring cultivation operation in Connecticut, which sought the husband-and wife team’s help in obtaining a license, contacted the duo. The effort was successful, and soon Diane and Jay were helping companies with their licensing applications in Massachusetts, as well. Thus, Canna Advisorsconsulting and licensing was born.

“We’ve witnessed a lot of change in Colorado from when we first opened our doors,” Diane said. “We had to go through a regulation bout in 2010 and [we’ve] gone through many, many revisions — some still occurring. So we’ve really taken our consulting business to focus on new markets.”

Through the Arcview Group, Diane said she’s been introduced to new ideas about how to welcome patients and customers to dispensaries, harnessing technology to help provide more detailed information to the buyer beforehand. In things as simple as dispensary decor and atmosphere, Diane said it’s clear that the industry’s understanding of what consumers want and need is more refined.

“People are finally understanding that dispensaries need to be a welcoming retail experience,” Diane said. “There’s a lot of great innovation coming out for dispensaries to make it a more pleasant experience.”

One such innovation is a touch-screen tabletop that allows consumers to put a product on it. From there, the device will then retrieve troves of written and multimedia information about that product. Whether it’s the strain, how it was grown or direct footage of the farm where the plant was cultivated, the technology allows the customer to obtain a full rundown of the specific product. That, Diane said, is the mark of the dispensary’s evolution.

Ron Sassano is a 20-year veteran of construction and land development. His first introduction to the world of cannabis cultivation two years ago was quite by accident, Sassano told Business News Daily.

“I kind of stumbled into it,” Sassano said. “I was invited to look at some facilities, both cultivation and production.”

He learned from cultivators that the persistence of pests, mold and mildew was causing product inspection failures at the state level. Drawing on his construction background, Sassano recognized that much of the problem could be attributed to conditions at the facilities, and that recognition launched his cannabis industry career.

“I showed owners, cultivators and producers a better system of building the interiors and structures of facilities … because the old drywall techniques just aren’t working for these guys anymore,” Sassano said.

Sassano realized that he could provide a service to cultivators that would increase their inspection pass rates, which is invaluable when an entire crop is at stake. He set out to help cultivators build facilities from scratch or retrofit existing structures to optimize them for cannabis-growing operations. His company, Scalable Solutions, a subsidiary of the Medical Cannabis Innovation Group, also works with clients to obtain city or county approvals and building permits.

A particular challenge to the industry when it comes to facilities, Sassano said, is ever-increasing, highly stringent state regulations that are unique to the cannabis space.

“They’re looking at it like a medicine, so what goes into your body has to be pure [and] free of pollutants … mold, mildew and pesticides,” Sassano said. “[Those issues] start at the plant level in its growth stage. It’s an old, leaky building, it’s drywall absorbing moisture, it’s an undersized or oversized air conditioner.”

Sassano said the industry is evidently maturing. From an underground atmosphere even two years ago to a more open and prideful one today, cannabis is starting to be viewed as the legitimate business entrepreneurs are striving to run, he said.

“People started coming to the forefront … they became proud of what they’re doing, and they should be,” Sassano said. “Some of these guys are doing really amazing work and they should show it off.”

8 Fun Businesses Started Just for Kids

Parents know how hard it can be to keep children entertained and healthy. Especially in the digital days of internet surfing and video games, it can be hard to get kids to step outside and experience the world.

The good news is from cooking classes to science expeditions, there are plenty of businesses out there that cater to children of all interests. These companies not only give children and young adults something fun to do after school, but also help them learn valuable skills, develop their creativity, or improve their fitness. What’s better than having fun and growing at the same time?

These eight successful businesses were made just for kids.

Rebounderz helps kids soar! If you’re children are the acrobatic type, then look no further. With locations throughout the U.S. and franchising opportunities, Rebounderz is spreading to serve kids (and adult children too) everywhere. Not only does the indoor trampoline park offer an opportunity for fun, but it also helps promote fitness in children, not to mention get their energy out before bedtime. Currently, the franchise maintains locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, California, Florida, Texas, and Panama City.

Young Chefs Academy (YCA) offers cooking classes to children so they can learn their way around the kitchen in a safe, creative environment. Along with giving lessons on how to make food, the company’s kid-friendly cooking classes teach children everything from menu planning and table setting to etiquette and kitchen safety. YCA offers camp, field trip and birthday party services as well. The franchise has U.S. locations in California, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Virginia, as well as international locations in the Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia and more.

Cartoon Cuts knows that haircuts can sometimes be a trying experience for anxious or impatient kids, and that’s why it tries to make the experience more fun. The hair salon is designed especially for children — the waiting room is filled with art tables, video games and toys; the shampoo station (known as the “trunk wash” station) is shaped like an elephant named Ellie; and children can choose cartoons and movies to watch or games to play during their haircut. Cartoon Cuts even gives kids a “First Haircut Certificate” after their first visit, and offers salon services for parents, too. The salon chain currently has locations in Florida, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

Drama Kids International is a children’s acting program that helps kids to learn and pursue the art of stage work, as well as to build important skills and qualities like confidence, public speaking, leadership, teamwork and creative thinking. The company offers programs for kids ages 3 to 18, with different classes for each age group, as well as summer and holiday camps. Drama Kids International has more than 1,500 locations, including in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Abrakadoodle is a mobile art program that brings fun events, like art parties and summer and holiday art camps, to kids at schools and other community groups. Abrakadoodle aims to help kids immerse themselves in learning and creative art through hands-on, interactive programs that teach them different art techniques, forms and styles. The program also teaches kids about art history and modern artists. Abrakadoodle has locations throughout the United States as well as three international locations in China, Japan and Singapore.

Fitwize 4 Kids helps kids ages 5 to 15 learn how to stay fit and live a healthy lifestyle. The company is a small chain of health centers just for kids, with locations in Florida, New York and Virginia (and locations in eight other states coming soon). These centers offer weight training, cheerleading, boxing and kickboxing, yoga, self-defense and more, and even provide parent-child classes and an educational nutrition program. Fitwize 4 Kids also offers fitness and academic services to schools, as well as after-school programs and summer fitness programs for kids.

The Tumblebus is a gymnasium on wheels made just for children, converted from a full-size school bus and filled with equipment like trampolines, monkey bars and zip lines, among other kid-friendly gymnastics staples. These buses are taken to schools and day cares to provide kids with a way to make physical fitness more fun, and they can even be used at birthday parties and other special events. Currently, there are more than 300 Tumblebuses in the United States, and interested entrepreneurs can purchase fully outfitted buses and acquire training through the company to start their own Tumblebus business in their area.

Science Explorers — based in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware — is a business that helps children ages 4 to 11 develop their interests in science and make learning fun. The company offers its services through summer camps, after-school clubs, field trips, assemblies and more. Through theseScience Explorers events, kids can participate in hands-on experiments and activities like dissecting creatures, building rockets and even making glowing slime.

10 Unique Food Trucks Serving Up Business Inspiration

“Street food” has been around for a long time, but these days, tiny food carts, stands and trucks are more popular — and more gourmet — than ever. The culinary entrepreneurs who run them know you don’t need a huge sit-down restaurant to give customers a delicious dining experience.

These 10 food trucks from around the country are serving up so much more than just mobile meals — aspiring business owners can learn a lot from their creativity and innovation, too.

Bacon can do more than just top off breakfast platters and sandwiches, and that’s exactly what San Francisco-based food truck Bacon Bacon is out to prove. The truck offers a dozen different bacon-centered dishes and several sides, including a bacon bouquet. There are even some interesting dessert options: candied bacon chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate-covered bacon. In fact, the only thing on Bacon Bacon’s menu that doesn’t include bacon is their french fries — and even then, you can order the truck’s special “Porky Fries,” an upgrade on the basic potato dish, which includes pork shoulder, pork belly, bacon and peppers.

Del Popolo is a mobile pizzeria in San Francisco, and it’s one of several food trucks out there changing the way people see food trucks — literally. Del Popolo is a food truck created out of a repurposed trans-Atlantic shipping container, complete with a wall of glass doors so customers can see the interior. The truck comes with a traditional Italian-made wood-fired oven and serves “rustic Neapolitan-inspired pizza using ingredients sourced from small, generational producers,” according to its website. Some of their mouthwatering pizza creations include an oven-roasted asparagus pie with green garlic pesto and fresh mozzarella and pecorino; a fennel sausage pie with crushed tomatoes, Calabrian chili and spring onion; and a traditional Margherita pie.

This New Jersey food truck company serves up fresh empanadas and tamales throughout the state. Empanada Guy maintains a fleet of eight trucks, with a ninth on the way. True to the empanadas history as a versatile food, there’s a wide variety of fillings available, from beef and chicken to pulled pork and even lobster. New Jersey residents are used to seeing the truck pop up around town and at festivals, usually with a sizable line at the window. “Empanada Guy Food Truck has given me a chance to do exactly what I set out to do from the beginning, bring my product to the people. It brings me great joy to interact with my customers and watch their reactions when they first try my stuff,” Carlos Serrano, founder of (and also the) Empanada Guy, said on his website. In addition to their common public appearances, Empanada Guy can also be hired to cater private events

Made from a repurposed fire truck, Fire Truck Crepes is run by two emergency medical services professionals who were fascinated by the food truck industry. The Denver-based truck serves a variety of sweet crepes and savory crepes, so whether you’ve got a taste for cheesecake or chicken, this menu has a crepe for every craving. You can even add ice cream to some of the truck’s crepe creations by ordering them a la mode (though we wouldn’t recommend it with the steak and cheese). According to the company’s website, Fire Truck Crepes can be booked for parties, company events, luncheons, concerts and even weddings.

If you ever find yourself in Atlanta on a hot day, track down King of Pops. This truck is all ice pops, all the time — and not the boring, sugary, fake-fruit-flavored treats you’re used to from the grocery store. With both fruit- and milk-based options, and flavors like blueberry lemongrass, cereal milk, creamy avocado, honeydew lime zest, Mexican chocolate and tangerine basil to choose from, you can’t go wrong. The best part: If you’ve got food allergies, you’re in luck, as the company’s website lists which ice pops contain milk and gluten. And since King of Pops uses locally sourced ingredients, you can see exactly where the fruits, veggies, herbs and even dairy products come from on the website, as well. King of Pops also provides catering services for events.

Love macaroni and cheese? Mac Mart Cart in Philadelphia puts its own unique spin on the staple noodle dish. You can order Mac Mart’s classic seven-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese if you want to keep things simple, or turn things up a few notches by trying dishes like the Buffalo chicken cheesesteak mac or the “crabby mac,” which includes crab meat dip, cream cheese and Old Bay-seasoned potato chip crunch. For the vegetarians out there, there are plenty of options like spinach artichoke mac, jalapeño popper mac and even tater tot mac. And you’re not limited to a boring bowl of pasta — you can turn your macaroni and cheese order into a sandwich between Texas toast or hash brown patties, or order it on top of french fries or a hot dog.

Seattle-based food truck Maximus/Minimus is all about options — that is, the option between hot and spicy foods, and sweet and tangy foods. Each item on the truck’s menu comes in a hot variety (“maximus”) or a mild, sweeter variety (“minimus”) even down to the drinks. For main dishes, Maximus/Minimus serves up pulled pork sandwiches, vegetable sandwiches and grilled chicken sandwiches, with side dish options including coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. If you’re more of a maximus kind of person, you can always order extra maximus sauce to further spice things up. And did we mention that the truck is designed to look like a huge metal pig? That might be why Maximus/Minimus is best known for its pulled pork.

If you love maple syrup, you’ll love Snowday: The entire menu is maple-centric, including the truck’s “Famous Maple Grilled Cheese,” which includes sharp cheddar, sourdough bread, maple syrup and optional additions like smoked ham and strawberry chutney. But Snowday isn’t just your typical food truck — it calls itself “a vehicle for social justice,” and rightfully so. The truck is run by a New York organization called Drive Change, which helps to empower formerly incarcerated youth by helping them learn real job skills so they can go on to full-time employment or go back to school. All of Snowday’s ingredients are sourced from farms in upstate New York.

Vegans, rejoice — this food truck in Fort Collins, Colorado, should hit the spot. The Silver Seed is known for its healthy vegetarian food, with a menu that includes dishes like butternut squash tacos with pickled cabbage and barbecue sauce, homemade beet lemonade and a vegan take on the famous Philly cheesesteak, complete with green chili nacho cheese and pickled cherry peppers. All ingredients are 100 percent plant-based and sustainable, so it’s a great meal spot for environmentalists, too. The Silver Seed posts its upcoming locations on social media so you can find it easily, and the truck often makes appearances at local events.

Wafels & Dinges is one of the most well-known food trucks in New York City. The truck sells nothing but authentic Belgian, Brussels and Liege waffles (wafels) and toppings (dinges), with both sweet and savory options. With toppings like dulce de leche, Nutella, Spekuloos cookie spread and various nuts and fruits, you can’t go wrong. And for the savory waffles, you can order a waffle with bacon and maple syrup, pulled pork or even a chili con carne waffle. has everything from hot cocoa and coffee to ice cream (with waffle cones, of course) and milkshakes, too, so there’s something delicious for everyone. The truck is also available for catering.