Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Is your startup culture award-worthy ?

    Think your startup company is a great place to work? If you’ve created a business culture that demonstrates excellence in talent retention, forward-thinking leadership, innovation, community outreach, workplace wellness, space planning, or design, here’s an opportunity to be recognized for that achievement. As long as you can find someone outside of your company who agrees strongly enough to nominate you, that is.

    The office furniture and design company turnstone has teamed up with Wharton School management professor Peter Cappelli to host a Best Young Companies to Work For contest. Nominations are being accepted through August 23 for businesses no older than 10 years and with fewer than 100 employees. Companies cannot nominate themselves.

    Cappelli, turnstone, and judges from the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation are looking for workplaces that consistently “show that they’ve connected the dots between positive office culture and success

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  • Going for green with a yellow submarine: Two-man startup to offer bucket list rides

    Small stature and lack of claustrophobia aren’t typically characteristics required for entrepreneurial success. But for the venture that Mark Trezza and David Trezza have launched, they’re crucial.

    The cousins are the owners of Seahorse, a two-man submarine that they have just begun offering for “bucket list” rides, two-day sub pilot training courses, and deepwater expeditions through their Kingston, NY, startup Marine Exploration Group. The little yellow submarine’s three-foot-diameter hull is a squeeze for the average man and it’s virtually impossible for anyone broader than, well, a yardstick to get into. 

    A Labor of Love

    The Trezzas bought the dilapidated 30-year-old sub from a marina in the Hudson Valley in 2011 and have spent every other weekend for two-and-a-half years refurbishing it. Mark Trezza, 54, is a former commercial pilot and a certified SCUBA diver with experience building replica Wright Brothers aircraft, and David Trezza, 42, is a mechanical engineer and equipment

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  • Freelancing is the future, surveys say

    Working for yourself from home is not just a trend to get those who might be "between jobs" through the recession, but is a new way of work that is here to stay. That's according to surveys out this week from two freelancers' marketplaces that contain some surprising data about who's using freelancers and which types of freelancers are having the most success.

    oDesk says businesses have spent more than $1 billion to conduct work using its "online workplace" platform, which features more than 4 million registered freelancers offering more than 2,000 different skills. oDesk CEO Gary Swart says the platform, which has been ranked largest by Staffing Industry Analysts, is "especially empowering startups in emerging hot spots." oDesk data show that 58 percent of hires on its platform are made by businesses that call themselves startups.

    Also surprising is a finding from, another online services marketplace, that indicates those without a college education earn more than their higher

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  • A business born of a broken headlight

    As a 20-something investment banker in New York City, Hans Angermeier was earning a great income in 2010, but he hadn’t forgotten a business idea he’d conceived years earlier. During college, while struggling to replace the headlights in his pickup truck, he thought there ought to be a website for DIY car repair videos.

    Today, his company CarCareKiosk offers more than 13,000 of them for free. For hundreds of automobile makes and models, he and a three-man crew have produced how-to videos for simple jobs such as changing fluids, fuses, and filters or replacing brake lights, batteries, and wiper blades.

    Neither Angermeier nor his colleagues are mechanics. The repairs are the kind anyone could make in their driveway. “We’re a video version of the maintenance section of your owner’s manual,” he says. “The most difficult thing we show is how to change your oil. We’re not dropping any transmissions.” For jobs that require opening the hood, videos start with how to do that.

    Angermeier launched

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  • Drop your group insurance? Adviser says it’s best for workers

    For small business owners still muddling through the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, Alex Tolbert has some surprising advice: Dropping your group plan might be best for your employees.

    The Obama Administration recently delayed enforcement of the ACA until 2015, so regulated employers who don’t offer insurance will not be fined this year. Meanwhile, public exchanges set to open in October 2013 will supposedly offer affordable insurance to individuals and families. And lower income families who do not have access to employer-sponsored plans will qualify for government subsidies.

    Tolbert, whose company Bernard Health offers health insurance advice to individuals and small employers the way H&R Block provides tax guidance, says dropping health insurance coverage now could actually make insurance more affordable for your employees.

    To be sure, many employers with 50 or more full-time employees have already calculated that paying the government fine of $2,000 per employee for each one

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  • The King of Grilled Cheese: $5 Million of Sandwiches Sold in Four Years

    No one should be surprised that Michael Inwald has sold $5 million worth of grilled cheese sandwiches by age 32. His path to becoming founder and president of Cheeseboy, the country’s first quick-service grilled cheese franchise chain, was short and direct.

    As a kid, the Queens, NY, native would only eat his vegetables after his parents melted American cheese over them. He’ll never forget his first visit to a fondue restaurant when he was 16. And his favorite birthday presents were Brie wheels from his sisters. When he headed to Yale Business School in 2009, it was with the hope that he would gain the financial know-how and connections to raise the capital to start a grilled cheese restaurant chain—never mind that his only food-service experience was volunteering in a Manhattan soup kitchen. 

    At Yale, he bought some sandwich presses, began testing his product in earnest at country fairs, and made videos of people enjoying his grilled cheese. At the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute he found

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  • Boot camp to help women shape up their businesses

    If every woman who owns a business in the U.S. were able to bring on one new employee, they’d collectively add 8 million jobs to the economy. That statistic is one inspiration for a new boot camp for women CEOs announced this week by American Express OPEN.

    Recent research from the small business division of the financial services company shows that women are starting businesses at a rate 150% higher than the national average, and that “their revenue and employment growth rates exceed all but the largest, publicly traded corporations.” But only 2 of every 100 women-owned firms have crossed the million-dollar threshold. It’s easy to see how unlocking the full potential of the other 98 percent could have an impact.

    OPEN for Women: CEO BootCamp will kick off with a daylong summit in New York on September 20. The agenda is not yet set, but registration is free and open on a first-come-first-serve basis to all women entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, size, or revenue.

    Following the summit,

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  • Entrepreneur clears hurdles to a “Made in USA” label

    A stitcher works in American Blanket Company's Fall River, Mass., factory

    Rick Lotuff is a third-generation manufacturer whose first claim to fame was starting the Berkshire Blanket Company in 1993 when he was 21 years old. He has high hopes that his second claim to fame will be reawakening an industry that once thrived in an historic New England town.

    In September 2012, Lotuff launched American Blanket Company in Fall River, Mass., and has so far hired five of the town’s talented textile cutters and sewers. “Our goal is to build the best product we can, incorporating an American workforce and getting people back to work in a city that has seen a lot of difficulty,” Lotuff says.

    The labels on every kind of fabric-based product in your home offer evidence that running a textile business in the U.S. in 2013 is not common. Lotuff says market forces ultimately pushed manufacturing for his first company offshore (he sold Berkshire in 2006), and it wasn’t easy to establish a new business offering an American-made product.

    But he was determined to offer consumers a

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  • Your Business Rules Your Life? Help from a Billionaire Who’s Been There

    On his way to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen, Clay Mathile says he made numerous mistakes that brought his company “close to meeting a haymaker.” He once hired a blind truck driver, and he sent a dog-hating sales exec to dog shows, for instance.

    But the biggest thing that got in the way of Mathile’s eventual success, he says, was his own behavior. It took some brutally honest feedback from peers and employees for him to see that “I wasn’t developing my people; I was manipulating them.”

    Mathile shares that and other hard-earned wisdom in “Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You,” published this week. It’s a must-read for any small business owner who is looking for the key to growth, sustainability, and even personal happiness. Subtitled “learning and living professional management,” the book’s jacket promises entrepreneurs “no more 16-hour days.”

    Mathile became owner of the IAMS pet food company in 1982 at age 41, grew it from half a million to $1 billion in sales, and

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  • Business owners redefine “vacation”

    Summer is the season that tests your entrepreneurial mettle more than others: Do you love being your own boss enough to skip the family vacation again?

    Last year we reported on a survey that revealed nearly half of small business owners did not have time to take a summer vacation in 2012. Most of those who did have time said they would work while away. So it seems good news that 63 percent of small business people this year say they have committed to take one summer vacation, according to a survey conducted last month by j2 Global. The provider of business cloud services and digital media polled more than 2,500 U.S. small business owners and employees who are customers of its eVoice, eFax, and Campaigner services.

    infographic: j2 Global

    The definition of vacation, however, seems to have changed. "Freedom or release from duty, business, or activity," is one way still translates the word. Last month, we reported results of a similar survey which asked small business owners, "How frequently do you

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