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Monthly Archives: January 2017

7 Business Ideas for Couples

It’s not easy to run a business with your spouse or significant other. But for couples who have built up a solid foundation and who know how to handle conflict with each other, small business ownership could be a step toward financial independence and even a stronger relationship.

If you and your partner have made the decision to start a business together, you can choose from plenty of startups that are well suited for a two-person team. As with any partnership, these business ideas work best when you each take on roles that best fit your skills and strengths. An entrepreneurial relationship, like all business ventures, is truly a labor of love.

Some couples constantly fight over who has to cook dinner, but for others, preparing and sharing a meal together is an enjoyable bonding activity. If you and your partner fall into the latter category — and, of course, you’re actually good cooks — you may want to consider starting your own catering business. Let the resident gourmand take care of most of the food prep, while the other serves as customer service rep and sous chef.

For those foodies who also love to travel together, consider opening up shop as a food truck vendor. Whether its music festivals, block parties, or private events, food trucks are a great way to make some extra money while traveling and meeting new, interesting people. For many food truck vendors, the freedom of the open road and the appeal of their favorite activities has led them to strike out on their own; doing exactly that with the person you love might just be the best way to see the world together.

Crafty couples who share a passion for DIY projects can launch a successful e-commerce business on platforms like Etsy or Zibbet. One of you can handle marketing; the other can handle customer service, and both of you can work together to fill your orders. Not only does e-commerce represent a money-making opportunity, it also offers you and your partner a chance to be creative together; what’s better than having fun while turning a profit?

If you’re the type of couple that goes running and hits the gym together, launching a fitness business could be right for you. Whether you’re interested in personal training or class instruction, you can become certified through organizations like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and begin taking on clients. If you both specialize in the same area, you can double the number of sessions or classes you book. Alternatively, if one of you is a personal trainer and the other teaches a class, you can expand your client base through your service variety.

For working parents with long hours, cleaning the house can quickly fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Offer your weekends and evenings to these families, for everything from light housework like vacuuming and dusting to heavy-duty chores like cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. With you and your partner working as a team, you’ll be able to get these tasks done twice as quickly.

Do you and your partner love animals? Spread the word to friends and neighbors that you’re available to watch their pets while the owners go on a vacation or weekend trip. Pet owners often feel more comfortable leaving their furry friends in the care of a trusted homeowner rather than placing pets in a boarding facility, so getting referrals shouldn’t be too difficult. Offering two caretakers also means more individualized attention for your clients’ pets, which can be a great selling point.

SAT prep and subject-help tutoring are just as in-demand as ever for students across the country. With strong teaching skills, a wealth of knowledge and great personalities, you and your partner can make extra money educating local students in your home. While self-employed tutors are usually solopreneurs, this business can be even more lucrative for a couple if both of you can tutor. Otherwise, one of you can do the actual tutoring, while the other focuses on marketing and spreading the word.

Tips to Start a Photography Business

To build and grow your business, you need both raw talent and a knack for marketing. One photographer we spoke with said an ability “to market yourself” was one of the most important factors in success. You should continually be working to improve your craft and evolving your product, and work consistently on your own branding, online marketing and people skills. Without the two, the results will likely just be an expensive hobby rather than a viable full-time business.

Quality photography equipment is notoriously expensive, so you’ll want to start off with the minimum: Buying a $5,000 lens doesn’t make sense if your business isn’t making money yet. Many professional photographers say to plan on budgeting about $10,000 to start your photography business.

According to professional photographer Austen Diamond, “building slow and smart” will help you stay nimble. Allow the organic growth of your business to fund gear improvements, and avoid debt if possible, he said.

Optional expenses:

  • Business training, such as Lynda.com classes
  • Photography workshops and classes
  • Stylish camera bags and straps
  • Second computer
  • Printed marketing materials
  • Studio and office space

Other things you’ll need to do (that may be free or low-cost):

  • Market your business via social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to start)
  • Create your business name and logo
  • Research the best business structure (LLC, S corporation or other)
  • Acquire sales tax permit and employer identification number (EIN)
  • Obtain image licensing and usage contracts; Creative Commons offers free services
  • Set up business bank accounts
  • Find a way to manage client contact information and emails (see BND’s list of the best CRM software)
  • Choose a spreadsheets and scheduling solution (Google Docs is free)
  • Find an expense tracker (mileage, expenses, billable time), such as Expensify orBizXpenseTracker
  • Research credit card payment processing, such as Square or PayPal
  • Establish a referral program

Our expert sources offered the following advice for building your personal brand and reputation as a professional photographer.

Your person and gear: If you work with people, you are your brand. Even the little things affect your reputation, and most of your business will come by word-of-mouth referrals. When you go to a shoot, dress appropriately. Iron your shirt. Wash your car. Be organized. Bring your own water and snacks. Charge your electronics. Thank-you and referral gifts should be classy. Being ready shows respect and professionalism.

Being timely: Always arrive to the shoot early, and don’t fail to deliver your product when promised. Print out directions so you don’t get lost. Ensure that your clients understand your production schedule and how long it will be for them to receive their proofs and final product, and stick to your agreements. Answer phone calls and emails in a timely manner.

Online: Anonymity is nearly impossible these days. Many potential clients will be searching for you and your work online. The images you post online should not only be high-quality but also the kind of images you want to be taking to attract the kind of work you want to be doing. Avoid contentious social media posts, and keep your language positive. Keep your LinkedIn profile and contact information on all sites up-to-date.

Many photographers have difficulties with setting their price and determining their value. Certainly, you should never price work to result in lost money or less than minimum wage, but many do. You can research your area to see what your competitors charge, but ultimately, you’ll need to charge what you are worth.

Generally, you’ll want to estimate 3 hours of editing time for every hour of shooting. Some photographers use a gauge of roughly $50 per hour to cover standard costs. Be sure to factor in travel and preparation time. Consider your ongoing costs, such as insurance, gear, accounting services and your website.

Once you start adding up the numbers, you can see why undercutting your competitors may not always be the best strategy and may result in you losing money on a gig. If you cannot seem to make the numbers match, you’ll either have to consider whether you are OK with having an expensive hobby or if you need to branch out into a different, more profitable market.

Managing your clients’ expectations is important to your success. Your clients should know exactly what to expect of you and also what is expected of them. For weddings, timelines and group pictures should be organized in advance. For infant photos, your customers should know what clothes and accessories to bring. If you are taking corporate headshot images, people should know how to dress.

For contracts, your clients should know how much is due in advance and how to pay it. You should set terms on how far in advance you need them to commit so you can schedule. Contracts should be explained carefully, and if applicable, your customers should know how they are allowed to use the images — and that should be in writing as well. While not everyone is comfortable with legalese, your professionalism will help make this necessary part of your business agreement go as smoothly as possible. You can find free contracts online, such as model release, photo licensing, wedding agreements and other common photography contracts, on sites likeLess Accounting.

Finding your niche market not only allows you to focus on a specific skill set but also offers the opportunity to find networking prospects in a specific genre. Wedding and infant photographers are abundant. You can still book these types of gigs, but if you can offer something that others do not, you may find more work.

With weddings, you get only one chance to do it right. If you have issues with your camera or memory card and don’t have the proper backup gear, you may miss the whole thing and damage your reputation quickly. If you are not prepared for lighting challenges or the chaos of working with emotional, opinionated family members, you will not produce your best work. Although weddings are usually profitable gigs, many experienced wedding photographers recommend that you start as a second shooter with an established wedding photographer before going solo. Many part-time or freelance photographers are trying to get in the wedding game, but there are other ways to make money while you work on your skills and purchasing the proper gear.

It’s also important to note that the wedding market is seasonal, and business will likely fluctuate in the fall and winter. If you’re getting into this market, be sure to plan ahead and save for the off-season.

Not interested in competing in the oversaturated wedding or baby market? Here are some other avenues you can explore:

Stock photography: You can start your own stock-photo website or sign up as a contributor to popular sites such as Shutterstock or iStock. Pay may be low, but licensing is managed for you, and you can sell in volume.

Contract work: Some photographers have obtained contracts that pay a set monthly amount to cover local events or to be on call. For example, perhaps your local tourism or business development department may pay you monthly to cover local events.

Commercial photography: All businesses need web images these days. You may be able to find work capturing images of their products or services, facilities, and even headshots of their board members and management team.

Real estate: Oftentimes, real estate agents will contract with photographers to capture professional images of homes, business properties and land. They may also want you to capture 360-degree or interactive video footage.

Pets: People certainly love their pets, and some pet owners want professional images of their furry companions, either as portrait-style images or on location with natural movement and action.

Boudoir or glamour: Many people like sensual pics of themselves or images taken of them with their hair and makeup professionally done. These can be done in a studio with other professional artists if you cannot do hair and makeup yourself.

Sports: A wide variety of sports organizations want professional images and video. You may even be able to obtain contract work to cover a full season or a specific event, such as a local marathon, rodeo or bike race. Keep in mind that lenses for capturing sports moments can be costly.

Local news: Local print, TV and online news sources may pay you for images of local events, weather disasters or crime scenes. It would require you to go out and cover events upfront on your dime, but it could pay off later.

8 Crafty Culinary Businesses

These 8 businesses have succeeded because of their off-the-beaten-path approach and delicious delicacies.

Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love, and Philly pizza jointRosa’s Fresh Pizza truly lives up to its hometown’s name. The restaurant is decorated with a wall of colorful sticky notes worth $1 (or one slice), which feeds its homeless visitors.

“One day, a customer asked to buy forward a slice for a homeless person,” Mason Wartman, the owner of the shop, said in a video for the Ellen DeGeneres show. He then purchased sticky notes, which now cover the wall of the restaurant. “Then a homeless person takes a sticky note and trades it in for a slice of pizza.”

According to the video, Rosa’s feeds approximately 40 homeless persons a day. Visit for a slice of pizza and the gift of giving back. If you’re not in the Philly area but still wish to help out, the restaurant has set up a donation page.

Since the growth of subscription services, items for dogs (made by the humans obsessed with them) have gotten really popular. The Farmer’s Dog is a subscription service which delivers healthy farm-to-dog bowl dishes carefully formulated for your dog’s breed.

Answer a questionnaire about their breed (mixed or otherwise) weight, activity level, current dog food, and The Farmer’s Dog suggests the perfect combination of healthy ingredients, all of which are sourced from restaurant suppliers and human food purveyors. According to the site, the dog food is never frozen and delivered days after it is cooked. Furthermore, the recipes are tested on humans, for a happier and healthier pup.

If basic, store-bought ice cream isn’t unique enough for you, Mix ‘n’ Match Creamery will likely meet expectations. Mix ‘n’ Match Creamery is an Oregon-based ice cream parlor that serves liquid nitrogen ice cream, and every order is custom, so you can have any flavor you want.

According to the company’s website, the liquid nitrogen “freezes everything so fast that ice crystals don’t form,” making its ice cream extra smooth and creamy. Customers choose a base — premium milk, nonfat sugar-free milk, or vegan coconut milk — then from more than 30 different flavors like caramel, cheesecake, coffee, gingerbread, and mint. From there, customers can choose from dozens of different mix-ins like almonds, bacon, cereal and chocolate chips. Mix ‘n’ Match makes the ice cream right there in front of you, with a blast of liquid nitrogen.

Opaque, a restaurant in California, promises to change your view of going out to eat by wining and dining you in the dark. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like—you eat your meal in a pitch black dining room.

When you arrive at Opaque, customers look through the menu in a lighted lounge and order food. The restaurant’s staff will then check coats and bags, and lead you to your seat. According to the restaurant’s website, Opaque is staffed by blind and visually impaired servers who have been specially trained to serve food in the dark.

Dining in the dark may seem like a strange concept, but according to Opaque’s website, it’s all about having a more in-depth sensory experience with your food. Opaque has multiple locations in California.

The food truck trend has hit its stride. Popular trucks in major cities have long lines of eager customers waiting outside on their lunch breaks. ButDrive Change, a hybrid profit/nonprofit organization, is taking food trucks to a new, socially-responsible level by giving back to the community.

The organization hires, trains and mentors formerly incarcerated young adults, and the food trucks serve as a form of transitional employment with the ultimate goal of preparing these young people to go back to school or start full-time employment.

Drive Change currently operates only one food truck, located in New York and called Snowday. It farm-fresh foods prepared in their kitchen in Brooklyn and served at the truck. Drive Change plans to open more food trucks in the future, and each truck “employs and empowers 24 young people per year.” All food truck sales go back into the organization’s re-entry program to help more former inmates get on the right track.

Back to the Roots was started by two college students who were inspired by something they learned in a class: You can grow mushrooms using recycled coffee grounds. Co-founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez wrote of their experience, “After watching hours of how-to videos and turning our fraternity kitchen into a big science experiment, we eventually decided to give up our corporate job offers to instead become full-time mushroom farmers.”

In an effort to get people more connected with their food, Back to the Roots created an easy, 10-day grow-your-own organic-mushroom kit. Their organic mushroom farm comes in a small box (the mushrooms grow right out of the box) and simply requires watering twice a day.

The company also sells a “garden in a can” product that makes growing organic herbs at home even easier, a self-sufficient water-garden aquarium (the fish feed the plants and the plants keep the water clean), and ready-to-eat organic cereals.

Do you love cheese? Bet you don’t like it as much as Sarah “The Cheese Lady” Kaufmann, who makes her living as a traveling cheese sculptor.

She creates cheddar-cheese carvings for grocery stores, sporting events, festivals, photo shoots, and any other business or event that needs a giant hunk of cheese. Kaufmann has carved everything from a scene of the first moon landing to the Chicago skyline.

Though she makes most of her money carving cheese, Kaufmann also hosts seminars, where she informs audiences about the art and traditions of cheese making.

Want a little wine to go with that cheese sculpture? If you still haven’t found your favorite go-to bottle, Tasting Room can help.

Tasting Room is a wine club subscription, but unlike similar services that send you whichever bottles they want, this service allows you to taste various wines to find the ones you like before you buy, so that you only get shipments of wine you know you’ll enjoy.

How does it work? When you sign up, you’ll receive a tasting kit complete with six different wines in special mini bottles. Simply log in to your Tasting Room account and follow the instructions; the site will generate a “wine profile” for you that tells you more about the types of wine you like, such as where they come from and what foods pair well with them. After that, you’ll receive shipments of wines you like (and if you get one you hate, just tell them and they’ll replace it or give you a refund).

7 Places to Find Businesses For Sale Online

BizBuySell.com boasts that it is “the Internet’s largest business for sale marketplace” and offers users options to buy a business, buy a franchise, sell a business, get help with financing and more. Users can search for businesses by category, state and country, and even set a minimum and maximum price. You can also search franchises by type, state, and amount of capital you have available to invest. Or, you can search for a business broker near you.

Search on BizQuest.com for your desired businesses, franchises or business brokers by location and business type or industry. And perks for sellers are good, too: BizQuest.com allows you to post ads in just five minutes. The ads are then shared on the company’s partner websites, like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. BizQuest.com also gives you the option to browse listings in top cities as well as the most popular franchises and industries.

BusinessBroker.net has more than 30,000 business-for-sale listings just waiting for you to sift through. As with the other websites, you can search for businesses and franchises, find brokers and see listings by industry and location. BusinessBroker.net also has a finance and loan center that offers professional help to guide you in your business purchasing decisions.

MergerNetwork.com has more than 15,000 active business-for-sale listings around the world. It allows sellers to post ads for their business for free and connect with over 14,000 entrepreneurs, investment bankers and business brokers.

This website currently has more than 62,000 business listings in the United States and around the world, including available franchises. Users can search by business sector and location to find the perfect business for them.BusinessesForSale.com also has features like email alerts and a services directory for those who need accountants, brokers, lawyers and more.

With more than 800,000 listings available, it’s easy to understand whyLoopNet.com is a reliable resource for discovering businesses for sale in your region. If you’re already a business owner or an entrepreneur with a busy schedule, LoopNet is available in app form (on Google Play and in the App Store) to peruse listings on your schedule, from wherever.

Additionally, the site is partners with commercial real estate firms like Century21, Chusman & Wakefield, CBRE, Sperry Van Ness, and Re/Max Commercial.

On the other end of it? If you’re looking to sell your current business, LoopNet provides the opportunity to list your business.

BusinessMart.com, like many of the other websites, has both businesses and franchises available as well as resources and services to help you get funding. It also allows you to search by location and business category, or search franchises by your available capital.