Blog Posts by Dan Tynan

  • Headblade example shows how to turn your genius idea into a gold mine

    Some people have a head for business. Todd Greene turned his head into a business.

    In the mid 1990s, the then-20-something Greene – a digital animator – was losing his hair. So he began shaving his head. The problem? Razors built for shaving faces or legs weren't designed to navigate the curves of his skull, especially on the side opposite to his dominant hand.

    Then one day Greene had a revelation: What if there was a razor that fit on your fingers like a joy buzzer, so you could shave your skull as easily as rubbing it? Excitedly, he began building a prototype out of clay.

    From those humble beginnings sprang the HeadBlade, which has turned into a complete line of head-care products available in thousands of drug stores nationwide. Since that first 'aha' moment, Greene's invention also found its way into Time magazine's “Ten Best Designs of 2000” and New York's Museum of Modern Art. Over 1 million headblades have been sold and the company is worth over $5 million.

    But Greene had several

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  • The Hempire Strikes Back: The financial ups and downs of setting up in the marijuana business

    He told me his name was John.

    "Last name?" I asked. "Just John," he said. "And the name of his store, the one that just opened?"

    He demurred.

    “I don't want to invite undue scrutiny,” he said. “There is so much uncertainty in this space right now.”

    “Most new businesses welcome media coverage,” I persisted. “Don't you want customers to be able to find you?”

    “They will,” he said. And then he went quiet.

    John is in the medical marijuana business. In early August he opened his first cannabis dispensary somewhere in Los Angeles (he declined to get more specific). Despite the fact that medical marijuana has been approved for sale in California and 17 other states – two of which, Washington and Colorado, have also legalized adult use starting next year – it remains a shadowy industry whose members tend to avoid the spotlight.

    That's because, in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, subject to the same legal enforcement as heroin, ecstasy, and crystal meth. Even

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  • Four Dumb Branding Mistakes To Avoid

    Whether you're a multinational conglomerate or a one-person shop in Kalamazoo, you are a brand. That means you're subject to the same brand demands as Apple, Coca Cola, and General Motors, only with an infinitesimal sliver of their marketing and advertising budgets.

    You've got to do the same things they had to do – come up with a unique name, a catchy tag-line, an easily identifiable logo. More important, you've got to establish a unique identity and stick to it.

    You know what? You're probably going to screw up - at least a little. Cheer up - it's normal, plenty of others have, including some of the biggest brands in the world. OR you can read this and learn from their mistakes.

    Dumb branding mistake #1: Names matter

    Choosing the right name for your business seems simple enough. But the road to marketing success is littered with the corpses of unintentionally amusing names [fair warning - this link contains risque jokes]. Take, for example, PMS Mortgage, STD Flea Market, or the Mammoth

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  • Warning: Your small business may have already been hacked

    Rorschach Electronics never had a clue.

    For months, its customers' credit card data was quietly being harvested by cyber criminals in Eastern Europe. It wasn't until the store's payment processing company linked a series of fraudulent charges back to the family-owned business that Rorschach realized it had been hacked.

    By then, the attackers had racked up nearly $3 million in bogus charges, according to the store's credit card issuer, which fined the store $100,000 for the security breach.

    Rorschach is not the store's real name; the company insisted on anonymity for this story, lest the publicity make them a target for future attacks. The company is now attempting to appeal that fine – a process its attorney, Aaron Messing, describes as “Kafkaesque.”

    The Rorschach story is not at all unique, says Messing, who specializes in data security and privacy issues for OlenderFeldman LLP in Union, New Jersey.

    “One of the biggest fallacies about small-to-medium businesses is that they're too

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  • What Does Your Email Say About You?

    What your email says...

    If you're running a small business, especially one that relies on the Internet for at least some of its marketing, mastering the art of email is as essential as cranking up the coffee machine and hanging an Open For Business sign on the door.

    Your email can speak volumes. But if you're not careful, it will do it in a squeaky voice or an incomprehensible accent. There are four key components to every email: your address, subject line, message text, and signature. Screw any of them up and you could look foolish and unprofessional to the world at large. Here's how to avoid that fate.

    1. Your Email Address, Your Self

    To the 2.4 billion strangers who occupy the Internet, your email address is your identity. Yet you'd be surprised how many small business owners mess this up. For example:

    If your email address is...

    It tells the world You were born in 1912. You are using a dial-up Internet account and probably still own a rotary phone.
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