The Borgia’s Episode 1


This showtime production is based off of the religious institutions of the time. You can learn plenty on organization management, culture creation, etc.

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Multimillion-Dollar Domains


A look at some of the priciest names on the Internet.

A typical domain name might cost you around $12, but not if you’re looking for one that captures a popular industry in cyberspace. From sex to money to shopping, the all-encompassing domain names that are most popular amongst web surfers often come with an astronomical price tag. Here’s a run-down of some of the most pricey domain names by category.

Business
Many people have hedged their bets on domain names with a money theme. In 1999, Business.com sold for $7.5 million — and just eight years later that domain and the business tied to it fetched an astronomical $350 million from RH Donnelley, which this year changed its name to Dex One Corp. In 2009, Insure.com — now a website that provides quotes for life, car and health insurance — sold for $16 million, according to Domain Name Journal. And a year prior, Fund.com sold for $10 million. Ka-ching.

Adult Industry
With the online porn industry raking in billions each year, it’s no surprise that sex-related domains have million-dollar names, too. In 2007, multimedia and investment firm MXN Limited bought Porn.com for around $9.5 million. And most recently, in November 2010, Sex.com fetched an eye-popping $13 million in a deal between Escom LLC and Clover Holdings Ltd., the buyer. The domain name was originally registered back in 1994 by entrepreneur Gary Kremen, the founder of the popular dating site, Match.com.

Notable Names, Pricey Domains
Business.com
$350 million (2007)
Internet.com
$18 million (2009)
Sex.com
$13 million (2010)
Diamond.com
$7.5 million (2006)
Beer.com
$7 million (2004)
Clothes.com
$4.9 million (2008)
Vodka.com
$3 million (2006)

Source: Domain Name Journal

Alcohol
Liquor, wine and beer are obvious money-makers for restaurants and bars — and when it comes to domain names, they’re not doing too shabby, either. In 1999, VirtualVinyard.com bought wine.com for nearly $3 million. In 2004, Beer.com was purchased for $7 million, and two years later Vodka.com sold for $3 million. Now that’s the spirit.

Information Technology
While it may be the most basic of domain names, Internet.com is also among the priciest of those focused on cyberspace. In 2009 the domain name was bought by QuinStreet, a direct marketing service firm for $18 million as part of a bundle of business assets. Other Internet-related domain names have high sticker prices, too. The name DataRecovery.com for example, sold for $1.66 million and Computers.com fetched a respectable $2.1 million.

Shopping
The Internet is also an ever-increasing space for shopping, so profiteers are always looking to snag domain names that consumers might turn to first. In 2008 Clothes.com sold for $4.9 million and that same year, Shopping.de garnered a sizeable $2.8 million. Popular items for purchase also become top-dollar domain names, such as Camera.com with a $1.5 million price tag and Diamond.com, which sold for $7.5 million.

By Jane Porter (Entrepreneur.com)

How to Use Video to Market Your Business


Consider these tips to help you produce video that connects with your customers.

The average Internet user watches an astounding 186 videos a month, according to comScore Inc., a global digital market measurement service. This includes news and entertainment clips, personal videos, advertising videos gone viral — you name it.

Video engages people in a way that photos and text alone can’t. For small-business owners, using video in your marketing can bring faces, voices, personality and heart to your operation, while also demonstrating your authenticity. To top that, video in email is said to be able to boost conversion rates by as much as 50 percent.

Thanks to affordable video cameras and easy-to-use software, video has become a tool that nearly any small business can use to enhance their marketing efforts on any channel. Your videos don’t have to be big Hollywood productions to be engaging and effective. You can even use your smartphone camera to create them. Here’s a quick example:

Types of Videos You Can Create
Not sure what you’d produce a video about? Here are six tips for video production that can help you create informative clips that also reveal your business’s “human” side:

  1. Demonstrate your product or service: Don’t just tell, show your customers how your business works. In other words, bring your how-to guides to life. In my experience, informed prospects are more likely to make purchases.
  2. Use customer testimonials: Your best fans can explain on video how using your products or services solved a problem or improved their lives. Help prospects see themselves in the stories of real people.
  3. Put donor dollars to work: Videos of how your charitable donations benefit a cause tell a compelling story, which makes a problem — and how donations help remedy it — more real.
  4. Introduce your staff: This simple method can help show your dedication, passion and commitment to customer satisfaction. It can also create a greater connection with customers by showing them the faces and personalities of your employees.
  5. Offer a video tour of your office or business location: Another option is to add some spice to your website’s “About Us” page by providing an insider’s look at your operation.
  6. Request to take a poll or survey: Add a personal touch to your “Tell us what you think” feedback requests by creating a video. In it, assure customers that their opinions matter.

Tips for First-Time Video Producers
Are you camera shy? Producing marketing videos for your business doesn’t have to be a daunting process. Here are a few things to keep in mind that should help make your video shoots simple, smooth and effective:

  • Don’t make it too complicated. Pick a simple topic for your first video.
  • Relax. Work with a colleague you’re comfortable with and speak to him or her as the video records.
  • Prepare notes but don’t read them on camera. Video should be casual and conversational whether it’s you, an employee or a customer talking.
  • Keep it brief. Determine which two or three bullet points you want to convey in a two-minute video. If you’re interviewing a customer for a testimonial, it’s usually a good idea to limit it to two or three questions.
  • Don’t worry too much about “ums” and “ers.” You’re human. That’s what video is about. But take time to do a few takes and then edit together the best segments.
  • Enable and encourage comments. Videos, email marketing and social media marketing go hand-in-hand-in-hand. Get your viewers talking and sharing. Good videos go viral and are great for building brand awareness.
  • Incorporate a call to action. This can add interactivity at the end of your video (i.e. “For more information…,” “To take our survey…,” “To share your story with us…”).

Video is a fun and effective marketing tool that’s accessible to entrepreneurs — even those who are on a budget. Think about which of your marketing messages could benefit most by the color that video brings to the mix. If a picture says 1,000 words, a video can say it bigger, brighter and better.

By Gail Goodman (Entrepreneur Magazine)

Vintage Clothing Business Thrives in a Mad Men World


vintage-th-story.jpgHow a chef turned her love of retro fashions into a new career.

When Theresa Campbell McKee was working as a personal chef, both on Martha’s Vineyard and on private yachts sailing around the Caribbean, she told herself that someday she’d settle down and open a little vintage shop with the clothing she had collected from her travels.

After her mother passed away, McKee, then in her 40s, decided she couldn’t wait for “someday” anymore. In 2002 she started her business the easiest way she knew how — with one rack of clothes and an eBay store. Today, she sells thousands of vintage dresses a year through her web store, Blue Velvet Vintage.

By selling on the web rather than setting up a brick-and-mortar shop, McKee and other vintage vendors can keep costs down and find customers as far away as Russia, Finland, Australia and Cypress. In turn, vintage lovers can find that perfect ’50s frock without driving all over town rifling through dusty thrift store racks.

Interest in vintage clothing has swelled in recent years along with the popularity of shows such as AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s 1920s-era Boardwalk Empire.

According to eBay UK data published on the Queen of Vintage blog in August, sales of full skirts were up 252 percent, year-over-year. Sales of ’50s-style kitten heels jumped 140 percent, while sales of sling-backs soared by a staggering 600 percent.

“I think Mad Men brought a new level of consciousness to how spectacular clothing of that period — the late ’50s and early ’60s — really was,” says Ashley Kane, a vintage clothing blogger for About.com. And in many cases, she says, the workmanship is better than you’d find today.

Of course, not everybody can fit into wasp-waisted vintage dresses. So McKee began expanding her site several years ago, adding vintage reproduction clothing for those who don’t have a 24-inch waist (or just don’t like the idea of pre-worn clothing). She also started her own line of ’50s- and ’60s-inspired halter dresses that she sells on her site.

Her customers come to her, she says, because they’re looking for something one-of-a-kind, something that will make them the “center of attention.”

“A lot of people just want that unique look,” McKee says. “They tell me they don’t like a lot of the styles they find in the malls.”

Getting Started
McKee says that part of the reason she has succeeded is that she launched her business slowly — a rack at a time on eBay — before setting up shop at an online antique mall and then gradually migrating to her own site with the help of a web designer.

There was a learning curve: McKee met with vintage dealers and trolled estate sales by day and read books on search engine optimization by night. She also started blogging about her finds and advertising on other blogs to bring more traffic to her site.

Sales have grown every year since she started the business, prompting a move to a new warehouse in Stuart, Fla., and the hiring of two part-time workers to update her website and ship orders.

Her biggest challenge now is finding enough time in the day to do the things she wants to do to expand her business. She talks about adding more hats, jewelry and gloves to make her site a one-stop shop and expanding her own dress line.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find relatively nice vintage things at decent prices,” she says. “So much of it goes overseas.”

The Price of Popularity
Indeed, she says, she has a lot more competition these days for those 1950s Hawaiian sundresses and 1940s satin evening jackets: everyone from huge warehouse operations to Etsy’s small army of vintage resellers. She doesn’t have time anymore to troll thrift shops or travel the country extensively searching out vintage stock, so she often has to pay a bit more for her pieces from dealers or estate sales.

And these finds are not without risk. Sometimes a 60-year-old dress she has paid $100 for will simply fall apart or fade when it’s dry-cleaned.

That’s why more of her sales have shifted to higher-margin reproductions. Still, she says, she loves the treasure hunt of finding good-quality authentic vintage clothing. It’s a rare thrill, she says, when she can find something like an Emilio Pucci dress hidden away in an old dusty closet.

You Gotta Love It
McKee says the main reason she does what she does is because of her fascination with the clothes and their history. She loves styling people in vintage clothes, wearing them herself, and talking about fashion on her blog. Her South Florida home is decorated in mid-century style, and she loves to wear her prize finds to swing dance parties on weekends.

“It makes me happy to have a job where I can talk with people who like to dress like me.”

She says her customers run the gamut from teens looking for rockabilly-style prom dresses to women of her age and beyond looking for styles that are ladylike, but not frumpy or matronly.

She’d better love it, McKee says. Though her site brings in enough for her to live comfortably, she says she won’t get rich from it.

“I work about 70 or 80 hours a week,” she says. “I wouldn’t work this many hours for someone else for the money I make now. It’s really a labor of love.”

By: Melinda Fulmer (Secondact)

Wall Street Trader Quits Job to Pursue His Dreams


Anteneh Addisu was already successful in the finance world, but he gave it all up for a career in music.

Anteneh “Anthem” Addisu, 25, loved working on Wall Street. Making close to $150,000 a year, the Duke University graduate was among a handful of Black men living the fast paced, Manhattan life of a Wall Street trader. During his first year in finance, Addisu’s take-home pay helped care for his mother, who’d been laid off while he was in his senior year of college. But a prestigious job, six-figure salary, and the accomplished joy of being able to support his family wasn’t enough. Addisu wanted to be a rapper. So he approached his mentor, DG, with plans to quit his career and pursue dreams of working in hip-hop. “He didn’t take kindly to that,” says Addisu, with a chuckle. “In hindsight it did sound foolish. [DG] said, ‘Do you have any music?’ I said, ‘No.’ He made a deal and said he’d finance a demo and if it wasn’t good, I’d commit to focus on my career.”

The demo, filled with Addisu’s smooth-yet-persistent and eloquent vocals about the realities of life, impressed DG so much that he decided to partner up with the aspiring artist and make a hefty financial investment into his rap career. “He was the person whose word I respected. When you make a believer out of a naysayer, that was all I needed,” says Addisu, who performs under the name Anthem. “He’s kinda my Quincy Jones, in a sense, of my development as a rapper.”

Despite the surprising support, Addisu’s radical career shift didn’t happen overnight. Continuing to work 12-hour days on Wall Street, he headed home at night and locked himself in a studio to manifest his musical aspirations. “Weekends I didn’t go out,” he recalls. “When you work for your dreams, it’s tough to waste time.”

That focus has been rewarded. In the summer of 2009, Addisu left the world of finance for a full time career as an MC. Since then, he’s performed shows in DC, California, and opened for critically acclaimed rap acts like B.O.B. and Lupe Fiasco. This spring, he’ll perform at the South by Southwest Music Conference, while dropping his first mixtape Manhattan Music, Vol. 1, hosted by 50 Cent’s DJ Whoo Kid. A documentary, about his grassroots marketing and promotions hustle as a rapper, is also in the works.

“I wouldn’t rest my hat on my own talent. My transition has been successful because of organization,” Addisu says. “When you pursue a dream, you’re effectively a start up business. You gotta be organized, but you should never keep a dream to yourself. And never wait on a cue from the world that you’re in the right place. You should just move and act.”

San Francisco’s Founders Den: Invitation-Only Entrepreneurs Club


The hottest club in San Francisco won’t let just anybody through its front doors; it doesn’t matter if you’re a movie star or singer as fame holds no bearing on gaining entrance. The Founders Den is exclusively geared toward entrepreneurs and provides a space for them to work amongst other successful entrepreneurs, bouncing ideas off one another.

The Founders Den held its launch party on Tuesday night this week and hundreds of invite-only attendants partied into the wee hours of the morning. Bringing together entrepreneurs, techies and venture capitalists from around innovation hub Silicon Valley, the Founders Den was started by four noted entrepreneurs – although they admit not all of their business ventures have been successful.

Jason Johnson, Michael Levit, Jonathan Abrams and Zack Bogue have all started profitable – and some failed – businesses, including Friendster, a popular social network before it was eclipsed by Facebook over the past six years.

The four friends founded the club as a networking tool for entrepreneurs in and outside of the Bay Area, affirming to Forbes that the goal was to “make sure there’s a good mix of people here so that everyone has someone they can learn from every step of the way as they build their companies.”

There are currently 15 people renting space in the workshop, but Abrams asserts that they expect a turnover every six months as companies graduate to their own offices. However, if you’re hoping to get into the entrepreneurial hub, you better know a founder, a sponsor or someone who is on the Advisory Board – otherwise, you should get used to working on your business plan in your mother’s basement.

Source: Young Money Magazine

6 Steps to Take Before You Become Your Own Boss


Clear the path to entrepreneurship by laying solid groundwork for your midlife career change.

Have you had it with your paycheck job? If you think you are ready to become your own boss, January is a perfect time to start moving toward what you really want to do with the rest of your life.

I remember when I knew my next career would be as a small-business owner. I had my dream job, working as a television news producer in Philadelphia, the nation’s fourth-largest media market. People work their whole careers to get to top-market TV, yet I was getting headaches on the way to work in the morning.

I had thoughts of starting my own business since my undergrad days, inspired by Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Studios. Despite my entrepreneurial goals, I knew the value of getting business experience. After working for three television stations, I felt comfortable that I knew storytelling and production. Next, I had to learn how to run a production company.

I worked weekends at the TV station, so I had two business days a week to do freelance work for another production company. I enjoyed that work and I learned important lessons, such as how to price a job and how to budget my time between doing work and finding the next client.

My next move was to make a plan to leave my job. My biggest concern was making sure I was financially stable enough to quit my job. I took out a home equality loan and paid off all my bills, including my car. I took my lunch to work and stopped eating out to save money. I invested in some business plan software to map out my enterprise, but creating a business plan the first time was really hard. I eventually signed up for a business plan course. The class was great, and I was able to finish my plan. The class also made me realize that I needed much more business training. I quickly became a student of entrepreneurship.

In 1998, I launched Quintessence Multimedia, a video production company. People soon started asking me for business advice. After I gained five years of experience running my company, I began speaking on panels and doing workshops about marketing and how to start a business. In 2007, I branched out to do consulting work about small-business best practices.

After 12 years as an entrepreneur, having made many, many expensive mistakes, I believe that if you want to become a small-business owner, you need a 12-month transition plan to give yourself the best odds of succeeding.

The biggest difference between starting a business in 2011 and launching one a decade ago is that the current economy is brutal, and so is competition. If you fumble around and make costly mistakes, you’ll fail. According to the Small Business Administration, only half of new businesses survive five years.

The time you spend planning your business is just as important as how you run your business. If you lay the groundwork now, you could be ready to open a business in 2012. Here are six steps to take before you become your own boss.

1. Develop a Life Plan. Regardless of your business idea, you must first figure out what you want out of life. By developing a life plan, you can build a business that aligns with your long-term goals. Too many people start businesses that are not good for them and their families. Your life plan should outline your financial, personal, learning and retirement goals. For example, you need to figure out upfront how much money you need to earn in order to be happy. Then settle on the best fit for a new business venture. Is day-to-day variety important to you? Do you want to open one great pizza shop or a chain of franchises? Will you take on a partner? All of these decisions must be measured against the big-picture goals for your life. You need a life plan before you ever write a business plan.

2. Develop a Financial Plan. Can you go without a paycheck for a year or two? Your ability to save has everything to do with your ability to start a business. The money you use to start your business will come from you. Start developing a financial plan by calculating your net worth. Over the next 12 months, try saving 20 to 40 percent of every paycheck. Start using a household budget to watch every penny you spend. Launching a business while carrying credit card debt will put a lot of pressure on you. You’ll need your credit capacity to support your business, too.

3. Examine Your Skills. Look at the skills you have and the skills you need to run your business. Be honest when making your list. If you are not sure about your strengths, ask three close friends to name your best skills. Be sure to evaluate your tech skills, too. You may need to learn computer programs such as accounting software or Customer Relationship Management (CRM ) software and basic graphics and website programs such as WordPress and Adobe Photoshop. And don’t forget about the latest social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

4. Develop Your Marketing Plan. The most important questions about your business idea are: Who is buying? Why will they buy from you? The new economy is all about niche marketing. I suggest you develop a marketing plan before the business plan to make sure there is a viable market for your product or service. If you can’t answer these questions, then you need to go back to the drawing board and come up with another business idea.

5. Every Small Business Needs A Plan. You must plan for success; it will not just happen. You need to write a business plan to run your enterprise. It is very helpful to think through how you are going to get sales, what happens when a sale is made and how many sales you will generate each quarter and year. Don’t be one of those new business owners who spends more time working on a logo and stationery than you spend working on your business plan. I suggest starting out with business plan software such as Business Plan Pro. Then, you should enroll in a business plan class at a Small Business Development Center, a SCORE chapter or your local community college to finish the business plan.

6. Start Your Business While You Are Still Working. It’s best to be a moonlighter at first. Join the 5-9 team. Use your evenings and weekends to launch your business. You can find more time in the day if you start working flex hours, stop watching TV, scale back on volunteer work and sleep less. For more tips, read my previous column, 7 Steps to Successful Moonlighting.

Twelve months is an ideal time frame in which to launch a business. The longer you plan, the more research you do and the more money you save, the more likely you are to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Here’s one last idea to help you stay motivated: Find a song that you can use as your personal theme song. Make it your favorite on YouTube, and get it on your iPod and on a CD in the car. On those days when you feel discouraged, play the song to keep you fired up and pushing forward. If you lay the groundwork this year, you should be ready to take on the world with a plan of action in 2012.

By: Melinda F. Emerson (Entrepreneur)

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