Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

Starting a business can be exhausting, exciting and exhilarating–all at the same time. This is precisely why it’s refreshing to hear words of encouragement from those who have done it before–and succeeded. We spoke with entrepreneurs we admire to cull the single best bit of startup advice they could muster–and the experiences that led to it. They’re simple mottoes, to be sure, but their impact can be tremendous.

“Don’t think, do.”
So said a stranger to Jeff Curran, founder and CEO of Curran Catalog, a high-end home furnishings company in Seattle, more than 20 years ago.

The two men were sitting next to each other on a cross-country flight, and Curran, then 25, had just broken into the catalog business. They got to talking, and Curran spilled his idea for a startup while his neighbor interjected with devil’s-advocate questions. When the plane landed and the two rose to claim their bags from the overhead bins, the stranger finally opened up his can of insight. Those three words inspired Curran to pour $15,000 of his own cash into launching his company, which has grown into a profitable B2B and B2C brand.

“After that plane flight, I’m sitting in the bathroom at my parents’ house and I pick up [a financial] magazine, and this guy was on the cover,” remembers Curran, now 47. Turns out the man was mutual-fund maven Mario Gabelli.

Curran still lives by Gabelli’s advice. Earlier this year, after learning about profit margins in the high-end car-accessories business, Curran Catalog launched a new product line: designer flooring for collector and European automobiles. “There is such a thing as overthinking a big decision,” Curran says. “Sometimes you just have to get it done.”

“Let your customers lead the way.”
Anupy Singla never intended to build her business around this philosophy, but the more she looks back on the history of Indian as Apple Pie, her Chicago-based Indian food-products business, the more she credits customers with driving her strategy.

 
Exhibit A: When Facebook followers complained they were having trouble finding certain Indian spices, Singla equipped her company to buy those spices from manufacturers and offer them for sale. Exhibit B: After friends and neighbors asked her to show them around Chicago’s Little India, Singla began hosting intimate tours of the shops on Devon Avenue for $50 per person. Even her Spice Tiffin, a modernized version of a traditional Indian storage container for spices, went to market at the behest of customers.

“The point of view for this company is to make Indian food easy and accessible,” says Singla, who was born in Chandigarh, India, and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was a child. “If customers are saying they want certain things, it’s up to me to give them what they want.”

Singla’s ultimate goal is to sell her products in retail stores across the country. Until then, however, she plans to leverage her responsive customer base to test-market products and see what sticks. “If something isn’t right,” she says, “they’ll let me know.”

 

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So many choices!

In an ever more digital world, there are a few things that remain reassuringly analog. Wine, for example. The mysteries of a Montrachet or the magic of a Margaux remain too complex and too nuanced to reduce to the zeros and ones of digital DNA, though I imagine someone must be trying. Although technology has its limitations in the making of wine, it is increasingly useful in the buying and selling of it.

The Internet accounts for only a tiny fraction of worldwide wine sales. Most people buy their wine at local shops or supermarkets. But online sales have been growing strongly for a few years in Britain, Germany and some other European markets, as well as China and Japan. There are signs of progress in the United States, where regulatory hurdles have been a problem.

At the end of last year, Amazon opened an online wine shop in the United States. Presumably the e-commerce giant hopes to do for Bordeaux or Barolo what it has done for books: Make a previously unimaginable selection available to anyone, anywhere, at any time and at a bargain price.

But Internet wine sales in the United States have been complicated by Byzantine rules. Some states forbid online sales, others restrict cross-border shipments. Others maintain monopolies over distribution. So Amazon is starting with only a handful of states and the District of Columbia.

Europe, so fragmented and divided in other ways, is more coherent and unified in this niche of the economy. From my home in France I can order wine online from almost any other European Union country and expect it to show up at my door in a few days.

The only variable is cost. For some reason, Italian parcel services tend to charge more than €50 to ship a 12-bottle case of wine to France, about $70. German delivery companies often do the job, faster, for less than €20. There you have the euro crisis in a nutshell — or a case of wine. Still, my cellar would be a lot poorer without those occasional deliveries from the sunny south.

The most advanced online wine market is probably Britain. Wine Intelligence, a research firm in London, estimates that up to 15 percent of all retail wine sales in Britain take place online — perhaps five times the U.S. percentage.

Growth in Britain has been led by supermarket chains like Tesco, which have been using wine as a way to promote Internet grocery shopping services. But specialist British wine merchants like Berry Brothers & Rudd were also early online innovators, opening e-commerce sites well over a decade ago.

“Not only do we like wine, but we also like the Internet,” said Antonia Branston, an analyst at the research firm Euromonitor in London. More and more British online wine specialists, like Laithwaites, Slurp and Naked Wines, are expanding to other countries in Europe, the United States or Asia. Slurp, for example, opened sites in Germany and France last year. While the prospect of a British Web site trying to sell wine to the French might sound a bit like carrying coals to Newcastle, Slurp insists there is a place for it.

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Black-Box-Merlot-490x402

 

Bag-in-a-box wines may not be the epitome of chic, but a new study finds that keeping them cool may hold the answer to their drinkability.

 

Scandinavians love pickled herrings, woolen sweaters and bag-in-a-box wines. The rest of the world isn’t quite so sure. Pickled herrings are certainly an acquired taste, woolen jumpers are sartorially suspect (apart from the ones worn by Sarah Lund in “The Killing”), and boxed wines suffer from an image of quantity over quality.

But the fact is that bag-in-a-box wines have plenty of advantages over glass: they are environmentally friendly, they are easy to transport, they don’t break, and they remain fresh for a long time once opened.

Unfortunately, long-held perceptions are difficult to overcome. The low quality of the wines inside the bags hasn’t helped to win consumers over. Scandinavia is an exception to the rule – you can buy Chablis and Sancerre in a box, and this form of packaging represents more than 50 percent of all wine sold in Norway and Sweden.

Elsewhere, the quality of bag-in-a-box wine could be higher if only producers – and consumers – would break with tradition and… read on

Bag-in-Box.

Bag-in-Box.

Bag-in-box wines are more likely than their bottled counterparts to develop unpleasant flavors, aromas and colors when stored at warm temperatures, a new study has found. Published in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it emphasizes the importance of storing these popular, economical vintages at cool temperatures.

Helene Hopfer and colleagues explain that compounds in wine react with oxygen in the air to change the way wine looks, tastes and smells. These reactions speed up with increasing temperature. Many winemakers are moving away from the traditional packaging for wine — glass bottles sealed with a natural cork stopper — and trying synthetic corks, screw caps or wine in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. The scientists wanted to find out how this transition might affect the taste and aroma of wine under different storage conditions.
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