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Category Archives: business

7 Businesses Transforming Travel

Traveling is a rewarding experience. Between food, drinks and sights, there are a multitude of memories and experiences not to be forgotten.

Often, planning your trip and getting to the destination is the hardest part. These 7 businesses aim to make traveling less stressful and more enjoyable.

Snapshots are the best part of vacation; it gives you the opportunity to relive your favorite moments. Flytographer takes that concept and helps you plan a trip. According to the company’s website, you can “meet with one of [the company’s] local photographers around the world, have a stroll together and bring home the best souvenir possible — memories.” Simply search for a photographer you like in the location you’re traveling to and book a photo shoot via the company’s website after you’ve finalized your trip details. When it’s time for your shoot, your photographer will guide you around and take candid photos (though he or she will also take posed portraits, if you prefer).

Love the water but not sure how to properly rent a boat while away?GetMyBoat provides a peer-to-peer marketplace giving boat owners the power to rent their boats and vacationers the opportunity to experience a yacht, speedboat or watercraft of their dreams at an affordable price. GetMyBoat is bridging the gap of boat ownership costs. Boating enthusiasts get the benefits of worldwide inventory without the cost or headache of ownership. And as the average boat is only used 8 percent of the year, boat owners get the chance to make owning a boat more affordable by earning some income from their under-utilized asset, the site said.

Remove the hassle and pressure of planning activities on vacation with Peek. The site curates a selection of fun activities for you that you can book online or via the company’s mobile app. You can also use Peek’s Travel Guides to see an overview of the top things to see or use the “Perfect Days” feature to book a complete itinerary with “insider tips and hidden gems from tastemakers,” according to the website.

If you’re flying solo but would prefer to travel in a group or make new friends while on vacation, The Trip Tribe makes it easy. The company allows members to create a profile and search for trips — they’ll use your profile information to match you with other travelers who share your interests so you can book a trip with like-minded people. When you view trips on the site, you can see which other members are going, as well as the dates, price per person and other important details. Some of The Trip Tribe’s featured trips include an eco-retreat in Puerto Rico, a food and beer tour in Ireland, and a cycling and boating adventure in the Czech Republic.

Welcome Beyond is dedicated to those travelers who prefer to forgo staying in a big-name hotel and would rather have a unique vacation experience. Welcome Beyond strives to curate hotels and vacation rentals that are “truly original.” These exclusive rentals range from quirky to posh and are easy to search for and book. Choose a country and region for your stay, and search by interests like architecture and design, nature and ecotourism, and secluded retreats. You can also refine your search by accommodation type, with selections ranging from boutique hotels to private islands available in more than 30 different countries, including the United States.

If you thought UberBlack made you feel like you were riding in style, try traveling on a jet. Book a seat on a private jet with BlackJet. According to the company’s website, “BlackJet members enjoy the convenience, reliability and private jet experience at prices you would expect from American, Delta or United first class.” As with all flights, costs vary depending on your origin and destination locations and the date of travel, but prices start around $1,000. BlackJet memberships are limited but free until you book your first trip — after that, there’s an annual fee.

Travelers with a spontaneous streak will love Triposo, an app that gives you personalized suggestions for things to do on your trip while you’re on the go. Users can book tours and activities via the app, as well as learn important information about their destination’s history, culture, currency and language. Before you go on your trip, download Triposo’s destination guide to your device, and while you’re there, get real-time updates about what’s going on nearby. Bonus: The app works offline too, so you don’t need to search for Wi-Fi to find your next activity.

7 Cool Vegan-Friendly Businesses That Inspire

Being a vegan means a whole lot more than eating a meat- and dairy-free diet — it’s a lifestyle committed to not using any animal products. This means that strict, dedicated vegans don’t wear materials like leather and suede or use any products that have been tested on animals or harmed animals in the production process in any way. And it’s not always easy to find products you love that fit the vegan lifestyle.

Fortunately for all you vegans out there (and for food allergy sufferers and environmentalists, too!), there are more and more stores and brands dedicated to this animal- and eco-friendly lifestyle, so you can meet all your needs with ease.From food and cosmetics to clothes and accessories, here are 7 businesses every vegan needs to know.

Just because you’re vegan, doesn’t mean you need to skip dessert. While most sweets, from baked goods to candies, are loaded with not-so-vegan-friendly ingredients like butter, milk, eggs and honey (though not all vegans cut out honey), Allison’s Gourmet is home to tons of delicious vegan takes on your favorite confections, like fudge, peanut brittle, chocolates, caramels, cookies, brownies and more — all of which you can order online. Allison’s Gourmet also sells organic coffee, tea and cocoa and offers memberships to monthly clubs, like Cookie of the Month, Brownie of the Month, Fudge of the Month and Taste of the Month (this one gives you a little bit of everything). According to its website, Allison’s Gourmet uses “only the finest organic, fair-trade, vegan ingredients that honor and respect growers, animals, the planet and of course, you!”

Move over, Dunkin’ Donuts. Mighty-O Donuts knows how to do donuts well (and vegan, too). The company’s reasoning for making all of its donuts vegan? The organization’s website simply states, “We do not need any extra ingredients [like eggs and dairy] to make a delicious donut everyone can enjoy.” Bonus: Not only are all of the donuts at Mighty-O Donuts vegan, the shop also does not use any artificial colors, dyes, additives or preservatives in its donuts or toppings, so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you take a bite. And if you visit the company’s shop in Seattle, you’ll see that it also supports the local art community by offering up wall space for monthly exhibitions. The only downside: Mighty-O doesn’t deliver unless you’re one of the company’s wholesale retailers, and even then, when it comes to out-of-state orders, Mighty-O only ships to Oregon and Colorado — though the company does plan to expand.

If you’re not already vegan or considering going vegan, you may not realize that living a vegan lifestyle means giving up seafood, too. Sophie’s Kitchen offers great alternatives for those who love to eat fish and shellfish but can’t (the company’s products are perfect if you’re not vegan, but have allergies, for example) or those who choose not to. Sophie’s Kitchen sells products like crab cakes, breaded scallops, breaded calamari, breaded coconut shrimp, prawns, smoked salmon, tuna and more — all of which are vegan and plant-based. The company is Non-GMO Project-verified and uses ingredients like seaweed, textured vegetable protein and konjac (elephant yam root) to make sustainable alternatives to your favorite fishy foods. If you want to stock your own store with the company’s products, you can find Sophie’s Kitchen products at some local food stores, or you can order the products online — either as an individual or a retailer.

Think breakfast can never be the same when you’re vegan? Think again. Thanks to The Vegg, you don’t have to live without eggs — well, sort of. The Vegg makes several vegan egg substitute products so that vegans can still eat things like omelets, breakfast sandwiches and baked goods to their hearts’ content. The company sells a scrambled egg mix made from soy protein and nutritional yeast (among other ingredients) as well as vegan egg yolk substitute, an egg replacer for baking and a special French toast mix — all of which boast an authentic egg flavor and can be purchased online on the company’s website. The Vegg also sells a cookbook to make using its products even easier.

We should warn you — this next business is a little cheesy (literally). As a vegan, you can’t eat cheese, since it’s made from animal milk, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without cheese forever. While you can purchase cheese substitutes from big brands like Daiya and Tofutti at your local grocery store, fancy vegan artisanal cheeses aren’t exactly easy to come by. Dr. Cow makes delicious cheeses made out of tree nuts, like organic cream cashew cheese, aged macadamia cheese and more. The company also makes granola and oatmeal products, and you can purchase its products online or at the company’s retail location in Brooklyn.

Vegans and wine lovers alike, rejoice! The Vegan Vine is a wine brand that is grown and produced by a family-owned winery, Clos LaChance Winery, in California. You may be wondering how wine can be anything but vegan, and that’s exactly why The Vegan Vine was developed — to educate people on the wine production process, which often uses animal products. According to the company’s website, The Vegan Vine started when a family member “was curious if Clos LaChance’s wines were suitable for his animal-free lifestyle,” which prompted the owners to meet with a production team and find a way to produce high-quality wines that support a vegan lifestyle, along with ways to keep wine lovers informed. The Vegan Vine currently offers a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2013 Chardonnay available for purchase on the company’s website, along with a Web page that features vegan recipe pairings for each wine.

Want to make sure your wardrobe is animal friendly? VauteCouture, a Brooklyn-based clothing store sells everything from tank tops to winter coats and accessories for both men and women. Founder Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart started the company in 2009, after attempting to create a vegan dress coat warm enough to get through the cold Chicago (where Hilgart is from) winter. VauteCouture — like “haute couture” but with a V for “vegan” — became the first all-vegan label to show at New York Fashion Week in 2013. Whether you’re looking for coats, hats, jewelry or casual clothes, you can find it at VauteCouture. You can shop online, or if you’re in New York, you can shop in the store — though you’ll have to make an appointment first.

6 Game Changing Sports Businesses That Will Inspire You

Want to become a better coach or athlete? There are several sports-related businesses out there that can help you do just that and more.

From virtual reality sports platforms and game footage analysis to family-friendly youth sports programs, these six businesses put a whole new spin on sports, helping coaches, athletes and families do what they love.

Whether you’re an athlete or just a huge sports fan, you can turn your skills and passion into a business — just take some inspiration from these companies that are totally changing the game.

EON Sports VR

EON Sports VR is a virtual reality platform that help athletes get better at their sport. The platform simulates different game situations to help players improve their decision-making skills — EON Sports VR boasts an improvement rate of up to 60 percent for players who use the platform. The company offers 3D-playbook and playbook-simulator products for coaches, simulators for athletes, and plans to launch a virtual-reality baseball platform, which you can preview on the EON Sports VR’s website. The company currently offers a simulator, called SIDEKIQ, which is compatible with a headset or projector, and plans to launch a smartphone-powered simulator, too.

i9 Sports

I9 Sports is a company that seeks to make sports more fun — and less stressful and competitive — for young people. According to the company’s website, i9 Sports “offers an alternative to the disorganized, hyper-competitive, win-at-all-cost culture that pervades most youth sports programs today.” The company aims to provide a safe and fun experience that helps kids develop their athletic skills and boost their self-esteem and is more convenient and organized for parents.  I9 operates around five important core principles: fun, inclusivity, safety, good sportsmanship and healthy competition. Started initially as a flag football league, i9 has since expanded, with team sports in soccer, basketball, baseball and cheerleading too. The company offers leagues, camps and clinics for both boys and girls ages 3 to 17 throughout the United States.

Sportsy

Aspiring athletes will love Sportsy, a website and mobile app (available on both Android and iOS devices) that helps people get better at sports. Sportsy members have access to videos to help them learn the proper way to perform drills, special challenges to help them practice the way professional athletes do, and exclusive tips and tricks from professional athletes and coaches. Members can also compete against each other, and upload videos of them playing to get feedback from Sportsy coaches. The company is new and currently only offers these features for soccer. However, Sportsy does plan to launch sections dedicated to several other sports, including basketball, volleyball, tennis, figure skating, surfing, hockey, swimming, skateboarding and even Hacky Sack, among others. Interested users looking for one of these sports can sign up for updates on their launch on the company’s website.

Coachbase

Want to be a better coach? Coachbase is a tremendous resource. The company is part marketplace, part Android and iOS app and helps coaches find, diagram and share new plays. With the app, coaches can ditch chalkboards and whiteboards and switch to using their mobile devices to create new plays for their teams. The app has a step-by-step system for animating your plays, and features automatic backup and automatic syncing so that the plays you create are accessible across all your devices, and easily shared with assistant coaches and players. And through the Coachbase marketplace, coaches can buy, sell and trade plays and drills with other coaches.

Krossover

Krossover is another great resource for coaches and teams. Most teams record their games so they can analyze the footage later and see what went well and what went wrong. Rather than trying to analyze the film yourself, Krossover does it for you. Teams can sign up for a Krossover package for a whole season based on how many games they play per week. Just upload film from your game, and the company’s experts will analyze it and break it down by event, tag it by play and with player information, and extract stats from the footage for you. Athletes can also purchase individual packages to analyze their performance even if their team doesn’t participate in the program. Krossover offers services for basketball, football, lacrosse and volleyball.

Fandeavor

Looking for the ultimate sports fan experience? Fandeavor is here to help. The company aims to help sports fans plan the perfect trip or celebration all at once with sports-based packages that include hotels, airfare, land transportation and game tickets. Hotels are curated based on their distance to the game, their ratings and amenities and things to do nearby, and transportation includes both to and from the airport and the game. Fandeavor also helps customers get the best experience out of their tickets, with unique information and VIP packages for different stadiums. The company can even help you plan a big family sports excursion or gift for a special occasion.

5 Music Industry Startups That Are Positively Impacting Artists

The music industry is experiencing a renaissance with an influx of startups that give artists more control over their careers. Once thought to be a dying scene, the music business is reviving itself by changing, everything from how it’s made and consumed, to how musicians are compensated for their work.

“The music model changed. The revenue streams have changed. The business has to be fluid, and adaptive,” said Geoff Rickly, lead singer of the bands Thursday, No Devotion and United Nations. “Small companies are leading the way when it comes to adaptive behavior. I feel directly affected by every new idea whether it works or not.”

These five startups are rearranging the way the music industry operates.

This independent firm, based in the UK with a New York location, approaches representation as an artist approaches making music, said founder of Brace Yourself PR, Ivano Maggiulli. “Every artist we represent is vital to our business model, to our name as an agency.”

“Smaller firms are hungry and really have no choice but to innovate,” Maggiulli told Business News Daily. “We get ideas from clients and labels about what they need, and get truly excited when we figure out a new way to accomplish their goals.”

Brace Yourself offers its artists print, online, radio and TV placement under one roof and provides internationally coordinated campaigns. The firm has a rosterof more than 100 artists, including The 1975, Hot Hot Heat, Title Fight and Rickly’s band No Devotion.

According to Maggiulli, in the past, labels would often have an in-house publicist that would take care of the publicity for any and every act that came through the door, regardless of whether they liked the artist or not.

“That left a lot of artists being represented by someone that didn’t truly understand them and quite frankly, didn’t have the time to change that,” he said. “We only work with artists that we believe [in], understand and can help.”

“How we tell an artist’s story is changing and that is important because that story is vital,” added Rickly, who also serves as the general manager of Brace Yourself PR’s New York office. “We want to be able to tell the artist’s story in a way that convinces a casual listener to press play on their music and, hopefully, fall in love.”

Love music and mobile games? UpNext might be a great fit for you. Currently in its beta stage, UpNext marries music discovery and social networking “to maximize exposure for new and emerging artists.”

“The objective of the game is to scout talent to build the best label possible. The talent is actual music from upcoming artists,” said Ayinde Arnett co-founder and CEO of UpNext, who describes the service as a mix between SoundCloud and fantasy sports.

Users sign artists to their label and then earn points towards their label score based on the success of their artists.

“Success is measured by engagement metrics within the app and real-life social presence externally,” Arnett said. “Users can build their brand as a label by interacting with and promoting their artists.”

Ultimately every user is competing amongst their peers to see who has the best ear for music and can recognize talent first, he said.

The app is currently in beta, however, you can request access to it via the website.

GigTown, founded by entrepreneur Andy Altman and his father, Steve (the former president and vice chairman of Qualcomm), considers itself to be a “one-stop-shop” for everything local music. The free app makes it easy for venues, musicians and fans to interact, and creates new opportunities for artists to find paying gigs through its “Post-A-Gig” feature, among other capabilities.

“By creating new gig opportunities, [GigTown is] bringing the local music communities together and inspiring collaboration and mutual support for each other,” Altman said. “It’s not easy to be a local artist, and we are creating a positive change for local music communities as a whole.”

According to GigTown’s website, fans have the ability to send artists a monetary tip and a message, directly through the app. There are multiple payment options and artists will receive their earnings once a week, along with Check-In tips.

“Every artist has to start somewhere,” Altman said. “Having a platform to get your music heard by local fans, and then get booked or tipped by those fans makes it so much easier to build an artist’s foundation for their career as a whole.”

Soundtrack Your Brand (SYB) is a Spotify-backed company for the B2B music market, founded by Ola Sars (former Beats Music co-founder and COO) and Andreas Liffgarden (former Spotify business developer). The company is a subscription-based streaming service, licensed for commercial and public spaces.

“Both of us are music entrepreneurs, and with Soundtrack Your Brand, we set out to grow the global music market by reshaping the business-to-business music space,” Sars said. “We’ve built [a] powerful and versatile streaming platform for commercial use.”

According to Sars, businesses have been forced to play music by archaic means: a large chunk of businesses still play CDs, satellite radio, webcasts or use home-brewed mp3 playlists. With the trend toward digitization in physical retail, music can become an important tool in distinguishing your brand, keeping customers and employees happy, and growing sales, Sars said.

“The B2B-music market is lagging a decade behind the consumer market, and with SYB we set out to transform how businesses and brands relate to and use music,” Sars said. “Just like [Spotify] previously contributed to reshaping the consumer market for music through improved personalization, curation for brands is just as important.”

Startup LiveXLive is looking to enhance not only the live music experience, but the streaming one as well. According to the website, the platform offers mobile-streaming capabilities for live music events, including music festivals with multiday and multistage coverage, unique concerts, intimate performances and programming. It features all genres of music, including rock, pop, indie, alternative, EDM, country.

“What we’re building is both a tool and platform for artists to share their content with fans across the world, the majority of which wouldn’t have the ability to attend these shows in-person,” said Schuyler Hoversten, chief revenue officer of LiveXLive.

LiveXLive is also helping artists promote merchandise, new singles, upcoming tours, and even sell tickets, VIP access or fan club memberships within the stream.

“We’d like to be what MTV once was to the consumer — the mobile, digital destination for the best content in music,” Hoversten said. “We hope to be a digital network where fans can virtually transport themselves around the world in an instant to experience their favorite artists live.”

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.

7 Unique Businesses That Make Gift Giving Easier

Whether it’s a birthday, holiday or other special occasion, there are many times throughout the year that people need to purchase gifts. But finding the perfect one isn’t always easy, and sometimes, you just don’t want to give the same old predictable present.

Fortunately for gift givers, plenty of startups offer unique and exciting ways to show someone you care. From mobile gift cards to video gift messages, these 7 businesses are putting a new spin on the art of gift giving.

If you’re mailing a gift to someone far away, you might wish you could be there in person to give your recipient a thoughtful, face-to-face greeting along with his or her present. Vift, a video messaging service, allows you to record or upload a video for your recipient that arrives digitally the moment that the physical package arrives. All you need is the person’s contact information (email or mobile phone number) and the package tracking information, and your Vift message will arrive within 60 seconds of the carrier’s delivery confirmation notice. Alternatively, you can schedule your message for a specific date and time. Giving your recipient the ability to hear and see you right when he or she receives the package you sent adds an extra-thoughtful touch to your gift.

With Sugarwish, you can send anyone a personalized assortment of candies without even asking them about their favorites. All you have to do is select a size — 4, 8 or 16.25-pound (0.11 kilograms) bags of candy — personalize an e-card and send the gift to your recipient. Your recipient will receive an email with your e-card and a coded link to the Sugarwish website, where he or she can select candies for the box. Once your recipient has submitted those choices, Sugarwish packages up the gift and sends it out. If you’re sending this sweet-tooth-approved gift to friends, family, employees, clients or even your boss, Sugarwish makes it easy for you to send a thoughtful gift by giving someone exactly what he or she wants.

Giftsnideas is an international gift-sending website that allows customers to send special gifts to more than 180 countries. The staff hand-picks a wide variety of gifts from around the world, and customers are able to browse the wide array of products. You can find the perfect gift for every occasion, knowing it can be sent to your loved ones, no matter how far away they live.

Gift baskets are a fun and exciting way to give a variety of items that your recipient can use. However, compiling and packaging a basket on your own can be time-consuming and expensive. GiftTree creates beautiful themed gift baskets, all hand-assembled, that are designed to have an impact on the people who receive it. You can search baskets by price, occasion and gift type. In addition to its keepsake baskets, GiftTree also offers an extensive collection of personalized and engraved gifts for all occasions.

This company allows you to design and send a custom bottle of wine to anyone you wish. Personal Wine offers red, white and sparkling varieties in standard and mini bottles, and all options are sommelier-tasted and approved. Once you’ve selected the wine you want to give, you can design a custom label, complete with personalized text and photos. Custom labels come free with your wine purchase, but you can also engrave a bottle for an additional fee.

Personal Creations offers a personalized gift-sending experience, selling a wide range of thoughtful and fun gifts. All products offered are available to etch, monogram or embroider with names, initials or a personalized message. Personal Creations focuses on major holidays, and releases limited-time items for each occasion.

Collecting cash from a group to buy a gift for your boss, friend or a loved one can get complicated. The next time you plan to collaborate on a group gift, make it easier with GiftStarter. This business combines crowdfunding and gift giving to help you give personalized, meaningful gifts without the hassle of keeping track of who owes how much. You can search GiftStarter’s website to find a gift (there are currently more than 4 million products to choose from) or work with a concierge to create a custom gift. From there, you can split the cost evenly into “pieces” that can be adjusted, depending on the number of people contributing. Once you’ve chosen your gift and you have split it up, you can invite the rest of the gift-giving group to contribute online. GiftStarter will then deliver the gift with a card featuring the contributors’ personal messages.

A Small Business Guide to Government Contracting

There are many good reasons to pursue government contracts — not least among them is growing your business with a client that spends more than $440 billion a year on goods and services.

Businesses can do several things to position themselves for success in the government-contracting world, said Lourdes Martin-Rosa, adviser in government contracting for American Express OPEN.

“The Small Business Administration (SBA) is mandating procurement forecasts for government agencies, giving small businesses the opportunity to see how much money is going to be spent by division, by quarter, [as well as] who the contracting officer may be and if the contracts are going to be set aside for any particular certification,” Martin-Rosa told Business News Daily.

Your company can also get a leg up on the competition by obtaining a small business set-aside certification. These set-aside categories include woman-owned, disadvantaged-owned, service-disabled-veteran–owned and HUBZone small business. “Set aside” means that the contract needs to go a small business that has one of those certifications, preventing large businesses from submitting proposals or bids on the solicitation. In some cases, there is a “sole-source award,” and the contract is awarded to a qualifying company without a competitive process.

The federal government has formal goals to achieve each fiscal year in awarding contracts to small businesses. The government aims to allocate:

  • 23 percent of prime contracts to small businesses
  • 5 percent of prime and subcontracts to women-owned small businesses
  • 5 percent of prime and subcontracts to small disadvantaged businesses
  • 5 percent of prime and subcontracts to HUBZone small businesses
  • 3 percent of prime and subcontracts to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses

Martin-Rosa also encourages small businesses to monitor and respond to sources sought and request for information (RFI) posts on www.fbo.gov(FedBizOpps), the site where the federal government lists all of its contracts. Though going through the process takes some time, she said, the ability to find, explore and discuss these contracting opportunities is critical.

“What the government really wants to see with a sources sought or RFI posting is if they can set it aside in some way,” Martin-Rosa said. “Don’t be afraid to call the contracting officer and ask questions. Is this a new contract or recompete? Who is the incumbent? You can do research on the incumbent on www.fpds.com, learn more about the contract and even reach out to them for teaming.”

Martin-Rosa encouraged small businesses to contact other small or large businesses to explore teaming up on a contract. Working with businesses already performing government contracts allows a small business that’s new to the market to gain valuable insights. You can learn about meeting contract expectations, completing internal and behind the scenes processes to meet requirements and regulations, and building a past performance portfolio that will strengthen your ability to individually pursue contracts in the future.

“The key to successful teaming partnerships is to find a partner that is an extension of your company in integrity and quality,” Martin-Rosa advised. “Small businesses know as much or more than large businesses. You just get to offer it to the federal government at a very affordable price.”

Martin-Rosa said she sees a lot of potential in a new rule that the SBA implemented this year. Overseas contracts, valued at nearly $100 billion per year, will now be measured toward the SBA small business goals. This opens up the entire world to small businesses, who may lack the resources or experience to try working globally on their own.

“This gives small businesses the chance to learn how to do business internationally,” she said. “Having strong certifications, with the commitment to use them, provides expansion opportunity and the security of getting paid in U.S. currency.”