Lesson Plan: What Top College Entrepreneurs Can Teach Us

November 27, 2010

One after another, they came into a Kansas City conference room last Thursday, five young entrepreneurs appearing before a panel of judges, all seeking a $150,000 prize—not necessarily for having the best idea, but for starting and operating the best new business.

And while they eyed the prize, we eyed them. I, along with a diplomat and such business luminaries as Peter Thomas, the founder of Century 21, and Alfredo Molina, the famed jeweler and CEO of the Molina Group, had settled on this group of dorm-room entrepreneurs from a collection of 30 semifinalists vying to become the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year. The award was given by the Entrepreneurs Organization and hosted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

They pitched away, exuding enthusiasm and energy after a process that had started for them at regional competitions around the world and proceeded through semifinal rounds that morning. They answered the kind of tough questions about their businesses that could have come from a room full of venture capitalists, which one of the judges actually was.

After nearly five hours of listening and questioning, we picked a winner. It wasn’t an easy choice to select one champion among the five—two from the United States and three from emerging markets including Mexico, India, and the Middle East—but ultimately we decided Brent Skoda and his business CollegeFitness.com was the winner.

When it was all over and I reflected back on what I’d witnessed, three takeaways hit me—lessons and attitudes from which entrepreneurs of all ages would benefit.

Give Back and Do Good

These entrepreneurs may be young, but they’re not just about themselves. They’re giving back to their communities, and not just by creating jobs.

Vineet Kumar, a student at Sikkim Manipal University in Gangtok, India, founded his Internet-security consulting company, Security Brigade, to fund his foundation dedicated to educating his neighbors for free about the Internet and online security, as well as working with his community to prevent deforestation.

Hassan Hamdan, who grew up a Palestinian refugee and still has no permanent home, started his mobile-messaging company Optimal Technology Solutions to prove a world-class technology firm could arise from the Middle East, a part of the world where local brands are often passed over in favor of international ones. Ten percent of everything he makes is going to charity as part of his observance of Islam. “Helping the community is one of the basic things we do. You have to help the community,” he said.

Hamdan started with a location listed as “virtual” from 2006 through 2008, and has since opened offices in Khobar, Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Cairo, Egypt; Khartoum, Sudan; Manama, Bahrain, and Doha, Qatar.

Daniel Gomez is determined that his Solben become Mexico’s green-energy company, and, as a result, has instilled in his firm an attitude that the company will be a good steward of natural resources as it builds and sells its custom-made biodiesel plants. “My personal objective in life is to help people,” he said.

Among the many irons Skoda—whose company College Fitness has built the largest online database of nutritional information about U.S. restaurants and offers customized exercise videos—has in the fire, he’s in touch with the White House concerning its initiative to bring down the childhood obesity rate and perhaps a partnership in which his company could help with that initiative.

Catherine Cook founded MyYearbook at the age of 15 and has seen it grow into one of the most popular social-networking sites for young people on the Web as she’s gone through college at the University of Georgetown Univestity. She’s proud of the company’s $250,000 donations to various charities in the past year and the system it has set up to allow users of the site to donate as well.

Tap Into the Global Economy

Skoda started his company with a focus on U.S. college students, but his ambitions go well beyond that. He is testing expansion first into Canada and the United Kingdom, then Mexico, and perhaps beyond those markets as well.

Hamdan started his company as a multinational, with offices in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But he has ambitions of reaching far beyond the Middle East. He’s aiming to enter Turkey in 2013, and has eyes on expanding into the world’s largest market, the United States, in the next two years.

Kumar’s company has had a global focus from the beginning, as he has helped multinationals such as Microsoft on security issues. He expects that global presence to grow. “We are planning to expand to the world markets,” he said.

Gomez already has contracts to install his biodiesel plants throughout Central America and as far south as Colombia. He has a Texas plantation growing grass that will be turned into biodiesel. His initial focus is Mexico, but he hopes to ultimately expand beyond his home country into world markets.

Cook would never have been able to start MyYearbook as a sophomore in high school if she hadn’t had access to the global workforce. Specifically, she was able to tap into programming talent in India to develop her idea on a shoestring, when it would have cost significantly more to develop the site with American programmers. Right now, 80 percent of the site’s traffic is from the United States.

Good Ideas (and Good Entrepreneurs) Are Everywhere

Skoda and Cook are living proof that you don’t have to be in an Internet greenhouse like Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley, Boston or Austin, to build a successful Internet company. Skoda’s firm is based in Cleveland, Ohio, with an office in Fort Worth, Texas. Cook’s business is rooted in the small town of Skillman, New Jersey. That has its advantages, she said. “We don’t follow what everyone else is doing in the Valley,” she said.

Hamdan—who grew up with posters of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Brittany Spears, and Shakira on his wall—is setting out to prove that a high-tech telecom company can come to life in the Middle East as easily as it can in Europe, Japan, or the United States. Gomez is also trying to do something new in Mexico with his biodiesel plants. Kumar is far from such Indian tech centers as Bangalore, but has managed to get his company off the ground.

For Hamdan, who lives out of hotel rooms around the world, the competition was an affirmation that he is not alone in dreaming the entrepreneurial dream, and that dream sets him and his colleagues apart.

“We think differently,” he said. “We have this mentality of being different.” And part of that mentality is this dreamlike reality: “I’m living a movie,” he said.


Kent Bernhard Jr. is News Editor of Portfolio.com

Read more: http://www.portfolio.com/companies-executives/2010/11/22/global-student-entrepreneurs-show-common-traits-and-attitudes#ixzz16A5EXVbu


10 Best (and Real) Work-at-Home Jobs

September 27, 2010

Searching for jobs you can do from home used to be a matter of scanning the Sunday classifieds for offers to get rich quick by stuffing envelopes.

Now, exposure to at-home employment opportunities has exploded, and a wide range of job ads are just a mouse click away. But so are the scams.

Two years ago, when The Rat Race Rebellion began tracking at-home jobs, there were 30 scams for every legitimate opportunity. Now, with 4,500 to 5,000 work-at-home job ads screened weekly, the Web site finds 57 phonies for every one that’s for real, says Christine Durst, CEO of The Rat Race Rebellion.
Nevertheless, there’s no shortage of people who dream of beating the odds and earning a living from home.

Durst, who is also CEO of Connecticut-based Staffcentrix, which develops home-based and virtual career training programs, says people interested in work-at-home jobs primarily are:

* Parents who say they want to spend more time with their children.
* Trailing military spouses who, according to Durst, by virtue of their spouse’s career need to pick up and move every few years.
* Retirees needing supplemental income.
* People with disabilities.

It’s difficult to be a good parent and simultaneously work well at home, says Durst, because most jobs require blocks of uninterrupted time to accomplish tasks, and children’s schedules are less than predictable. For those who do choose to walk the tightrope between paid work and parenting, consider deadline-oriented work. Durst says it’s generally better for those with younger children than schedule-oriented hourly work.

Steven Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, says “an increasing minority” of entry-level workers, are attracted to these gigs. He says he believes social introverts make good candidates. “They like working with people (but) they like interacting by e-mail and by being on the phone. They dislike working in person with a lot of others,” he says, due to meetings and other “time-sucking problems” at an office.

Self-motivation, discipline, job skills and independence are key characteristics for at-home workers, says Stephanie Foster of Poway, Calif., a former medical transcriptionist who runs the Web site Homewiththekids.com.

A growing number of employers appear to believe telecommuting is a good deal for them as well. It reduces overhead expenses, allows access to talented workers who may not be available locally, provides off-hours support and helps retain employees, says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.com, a Web site that aggregates hand-screened telecommuting/work-at-home jobs. “We’ve seen a real broadening of the audience of both employers and job seekers.”

Consider these 10 jobs — some rather traditional and others unexpected — for interesting at-home work and good (if competitive) prospects.

1. Virtual Assistant

This is a field with much potential, in part because the title description covers many things. “You can fit your offerings to what you know how to do,” says Foster. One can own a virtual assistant business or work from home for a company that makes you available to other employees or clients. Homewiththekids.com, for example, currently features a dozen such companies. Small businesses hire virtual assistants to help when they can’t justify a permanent employee. The International Virtual Assistants Association, which Durst co-founded in the 1990s, began with 28 members and has grown to more than 600, who charge from $15 per hour to more than $100 per hour.

2. Medical Transcriptionist

As Foster knows, being a medical receptionist is a demanding job, and nearly every company listed on her site seeks applicants with experience and/or training from certain schools. The work involves listening to and typing up dictation from doctors — some of whom have difficult accents, slur words together, and even “eat, drink, chew gum (and) talk to other people in the room” while dictating, she says. But hearing about medical matters can be interesting, and good transcriptionists are in very high demand. Expect initial earnings of less than $10 per hour, but some transcriptionists earn $20 or more per hour.

3. Translator

Those with fluency in more than one language translate audio files or documents, not just word for word but often with cultural differences in mind. “Companies can access home-based translators with hard-to-find language skills without being held back by geographic location,” says Fell.

Foster’s site lists 15 companies that seek home-based translators. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook 2008-09, which groups translators and interpreters, notes a projected employment increase of 24 percent over the 2006-to-2016 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The national mean hourly wage for translators and interpreters was $20.74, with a mean annual wage of $43,130 as of May 2008, according to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some industries pay significantly higher, with the highest paying jobs generally in the management, scientific and technical consulting services areas, in which the mean hourly wage was $56.50 and the annual mean wage was $117,530.

4. Web Developer/Designer

Information technology is the sector, Durst says, where most of the home-based hiring is being done. Terri Orlowski, a virtual assistant and Web developer based in Ledyard, Conn., offers services such as custom Web site design, template modification and redesigns, code updates, hosting, and usability reviews. She previously held administrative positions in a variety of industries, and makes a higher per-hour rate now. The job is in high demand. Of the more than 15,000 new monthly work-from-home job postings on Odesk.com, Web developers are in the greatest demand, says spokeswoman Elizabeth Gordon. A list of companies that post at-home tech jobs is available at ratracerebellion.com.

5. Call Center Representative

When you phone to order something from a catalog or infomercial, a big office with rows of cubicles may come to mind. But the person on the other end of the line is likely to be sitting in a home office. “It’s a huge and growing industry,” says Durst of companies that hire independent contractors to take calls from home. She says the “home-shore movement” started in response to complaints about the many companies that looked offshore for workers. While some Web sites, such as Alpineaccess.com, actually hire representatives, most use subcontractors. Just be aware that the pay may be by the minute rather than by the hour, so you may not be paid for time you spend waiting by the phone. A list of companies that hire call center reps can be found at Homewiththekids.com.

6. Tech Support Specialist

Call centers also hire technical support specialists to work remotely. Kate Lister, co-author of “Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home,” names it as one of her top three “best-bet work-at-home jobs.” And according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs for computer support specialists (on-site and remote combined) were expected to increase by 13 percent from 2006 to 2016 — much faster than the average for all occupations — with 71,000 new jobs.

7. Travel Agent

Scams abound in the travel industry — particularly organizations that charge for information on how to break into the field. But operating a home-based travel agency can be an excellent business, says Tom Ogg of the Home Based Travel Agent Information Center. “Real home-based travel agents have experienced robust growth over the last decade, and there are probably around 35,000 of them and growing.” A growing (although small) number of people earn $100,000 or more a year, he says. “A solid business concept and plan focused on profitability will take you a long way to achieving your monetary goals.” There’s also the joy of helping others enjoy their leisure time.

8. Teacher

From postsecondary education to elementary schools, there are opportunities for students to learn virtually. Along with that, come opportunities to teach (and tutor) virtually. While distance learning is not new, advanced technology, collaborative multimedia software designed for schools and high-speed Internet connections have created more opportunities for teachers and students to work together from afar, says Fell. Durst has also noticed more teacher jobs being posted, and she knows of one professor who works mainly online and makes six figures — although income “depends on how many hours you’re applying to it and the type of classes you’re teaching.” A resource center for online teaching jobs is available at GetEducated.com.

9. Writer/Editor

Yes, the print publishing industry has been suffering, but Durst is seeing frequent listings these days for writing, editing and proofreading, particularly for the Web. Even those without writing experience can join the blogosphere. Not only can blogging be lots of fun, Foster says, but also there’s money to be earned blogging for someone else’s site, getting paid to post on your own blog or through revenue-sharing arrangements. A list of blogging opportunities, for which the pay range is less than $5 per post to more than $20 per post, can be found at Homewiththekids.com.

10. Franchise Owner

It’s a no-brainer: Owning a business can be the road to at-home work. For an initial investment, franchises may offer a ready-made business with brand awareness, a system and a territory, says Leslie Truex, founder of the Web site Work-At-Home Success. She advises considering businesses that target the over-50 crowd or the self-employed, involve health and wellness, relate to the “green” movement, or involve electronic or online devices (i.e., accessories, applications).

Scam Alert:

When considering any at-home job, put up the scam-detection radar.

Durst suggests watching for these positive indicators of “real” employment:

* The hirer is an established company.
* The ad includes the company name and does not have applicants reply to a blind e-mail address.
* Human resources personnel are available for questions.
* There is mention of information commonly associated with “real” employment (benefits, vacations, policies, etc.).
* There is an application and interview process, not simply an e-mailed offer.
* The employer can detail the job duties and expectations.
* References/work samples are requested.

by Melissa Ezarik

Melissa Ezarik is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.
Copyrighted, Bankrate.com. All rights reserved.

Article available here:  http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/107428/10-best-and-real-work-at-home-jobs.html?mod=career-leadership


Starting a New Life as an Entrepreneur? Incorporating May Be Right for You

September 26, 2010

Starting a New Life as an Entrepreneur? Incorporating May Be Right for You
Karen J. Lange, The Company Corporation®

In its recent study, The Entrepreneur Next Door, the Kauffman Foundation indicates that entrepreneurship is as widespread in the United States as getting married or having a baby.  More than 10 million U.S. adults are actively engaged in creating businesses, often with a friend or colleague. With lay-offs and corporate downsizing filling the news, no wonder sources as mainstream as USA Today and MSN are recommending entrepreneurship as the new corporate lifestyle.

Laid-off and downsized workers are “making lemonade.”  Instead of sending resumes, they are investing in themselves by starting businesses or purchasing franchises. Gladys Edmunds, USA Today, says it best—when you leave your job, you take with you the skills and talents that you own—plus the experience you got during employment. Many choose to become consultants or independent contractors in familiar industries. Others take transferable skills like salesmanship or project management and apply them to new ventures.  Some use their newfound freedom to turn a hobby into a profit center.

Whichever entrepreneurial direction you choose, select a business structure that works for you and your family. Many businesses start as sole proprietorships or partnerships. However, these structures have unlimited personal liability for company debts. As a result, many business owners opt to incorporate or form a limited liability company (LLC) to protect their families and financial interests. Businesses may change structure at any time.  Here are the most critical items to consider when selecting—or re-selecting—your business structure.

1. Protection of personal assets—Sole proprietors and partners have unlimited personal liability for business debt or law suits against their company. Creditors can attach homes, cars, savings or other personal assets. Incorporating or forming an LLC helps separate your personal identity from your business identity. Corporation shareholders or LLC members have only the money they put into the company to lose.

2. Pass-Through Taxation—For sole proprietors and partners, company profits/losses pass directly through to their personal tax returns. For corporations, profits are taxed, then the profits that are distributed to shareholders as dividends are taxed again on the personal level.  This “double taxation” can be avoided while still enjoying the benefits of personal asset protection by forming an LLC or by electing an S Corporation. S Corporations and LLCs can be taxed just like partnerships.

3. Uninterrupted business—Sole proprietorships and partnerships may automatically end or become legally entangled when one owner dies or retires.  Corporations and LLCs are enduring legal business structures. They may continue regardless of individual officers, managers or shareholders. Corporation ownership may be transferred, without substantially disrupting operations, through sale of stock.

4. Access to Capital—Sole proprietorships and partnerships may find investors hard to attract because of personal liability. Investors are more likely to purchase shares in a corporation where they can separate personal and business assets.

5. Credibility with vendors and customers—Adding “Inc.” or “LLC” to your company name helps your business seem larger and more established!

With over 100 years of experience, The Company Corporation® provides expert incorporation services to small businesses and entrepreneurs nationwide.  In addition to filing corporations and limited liability companies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, The Company Corporation® offers a wide range of products and services that help businesses preserve and protect their corporate status.  We provide registered agent services, Tax-on-Time® and mail forwarding services, corporate kits, publications, certificates of good standing and qualifications to do business in any state. Our commitment to the success of small businesses does not end there. Our exclusive, Compliance Watch® online reminder and calendar service takes the worry out of staying in corporate compliance.  For more information on small business incorporation and business services, contact 1-800/472-2709, email info@corporate.com or visit our Web site at www.incorporate.com/score.


Full Article Here:   http://www.score.org/article_starting_a_new_life.html


Starting a New Life as an Entrepreneur? Incorporating May Be Right for You

September 26, 2010

Starting a New Life as an Entrepreneur? Incorporating May Be Right for You
Karen J. Lange, The Company Corporation®

In its recent study, The Entrepreneur Next Door, the Kauffman Foundation indicates that entrepreneurship is as widespread in the United States as getting married or having a baby.  More than 10 million U.S. adults are actively engaged in creating businesses, often with a friend or colleague. With lay-offs and corporate downsizing filling the news, no wonder sources as mainstream as USA Today and MSN are recommending entrepreneurship as the new corporate lifestyle.

Laid-off and downsized workers are “making lemonade.”  Instead of sending resumes, they are investing in themselves by starting businesses or purchasing franchises. Gladys Edmunds, USA Today, says it best—when you leave your job, you take with you the skills and talents that you own—plus the experience you got during employment. Many choose to become consultants or independent contractors in familiar industries. Others take transferable skills like salesmanship or project management and apply them to new ventures.  Some use their newfound freedom to turn a hobby into a profit center.

Whichever entrepreneurial direction you choose, select a business structure that works for you and your family. Many businesses start as sole proprietorships or partnerships. However, these structures have unlimited personal liability for company debts. As a result, many business owners opt to incorporate or form a limited liability company (LLC) to protect their families and financial interests. Businesses may change structure at any time.  Here are the most critical items to consider when selecting—or re-selecting—your business structure.

1. Protection of personal assets—Sole proprietors and partners have unlimited personal liability for business debt or law suits against their company. Creditors can attach homes, cars, savings or other personal assets. Incorporating or forming an LLC helps separate your personal identity from your business identity. Corporation shareholders or LLC members have only the money they put into the company to lose.

2. Pass-Through Taxation—For sole proprietors and partners, company profits/losses pass directly through to their personal tax returns. For corporations, profits are taxed, then the profits that are distributed to shareholders as dividends are taxed again on the personal level.  This “double taxation” can be avoided while still enjoying the benefits of personal asset protection by forming an LLC or by electing an S Corporation. S Corporations and LLCs can be taxed just like partnerships.

3. Uninterrupted business—Sole proprietorships and partnerships may automatically end or become legally entangled when one owner dies or retires.  Corporations and LLCs are enduring legal business structures. They may continue regardless of individual officers, managers or shareholders. Corporation ownership may be transferred, without substantially disrupting operations, through sale of stock.

4. Access to Capital—Sole proprietorships and partnerships may find investors hard to attract because of personal liability. Investors are more likely to purchase shares in a corporation where they can separate personal and business assets.

5. Credibility with vendors and customers—Adding “Inc.” or “LLC” to your company name helps your business seem larger and more established!

With over 100 years of experience, The Company Corporation® provides expert incorporation services to small businesses and entrepreneurs nationwide.  In addition to filing corporations and limited liability companies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, The Company Corporation® offers a wide range of products and services that help businesses preserve and protect their corporate status.  We provide registered agent services, Tax-on-Time® and mail forwarding services, corporate kits, publications, certificates of good standing and qualifications to do business in any state. Our commitment to the success of small businesses does not end there. Our exclusive, Compliance Watch® online reminder and calendar service takes the worry out of staying in corporate compliance.  For more information on small business incorporation and business services, contact 1-800/472-2709, email info@corporate.com or visit our Web site at www.incorporate.com/score.

Full Article Here:   http://www.score.org/article_starting_a_new_life.html


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