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Monthly Archives: March 2017

7 Crafty Culinary Businesses

The restaurant business isn’t the only entrepreneurial option for food lovers. The desire to offer people a unique culinary experience has spawned interesting food trucks, subscription services and green eateries, to name a few.

These 7 businesses have succeeded because of their off-the-beaten-path approach and delicious delicacies.

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. But Drive 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).

J&D’s Foods makes a huge variety of edible products — mayonnaise, popcorn, croutons — and all of these products have one thing in common: They taste like bacon.

Founded in 2007, J&D’s was started by two friends whose mutual love of bacon led them to the logical conclusion that everything in life should taste like this savory meat product.

They started by creating a bacon-flavored salt that could be added to nearly any food to lend it that distinct, cured-meat flavor. Since then, J&D’s has expanded its offerings to include much weirder products, such as bacon-flavored lip balm and sunscreen and, of course, its highly popular Mmmvelopes (that’s right: bacon-flavored envelopes) though they are currently out of production.

What do you give to those who have recently lost a loved one? You’re probably thinking flowers. But although flowers are pretty, they’re ultimately useless to mourners. This is why David Storke, a former funeral director from Virginia, founded MealGifts.

Storke’s company delivers family-style meals to grievers all over the United States. So, if you want to send a little comfort food to someone far away, there’s no need to cook and ship your famous lasagna. Whether it’s a full pot roast or some vegetable stir-fry, MealGifts delivers all the goodness of a home-cooked meal without requiring any of the home cooking.

7 Killer Business Ideas

Whether you’ve lost a loved one, buried a family pet or had a near-death experience, death is simply a fact of life. And, as it turns out, the business of death can be quite lucrative.

From afterlife preparations to unique burial methods and memorials, it turns out that there are more businesses related to death than you might expect. Here are 7 businesses that are cashing in on the dearly departed.

Just because you’re no longer alive doesn’t mean your tattoos can’t live on. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) hosts a website called Save My Ink, which is dedicaed to preserving tattoos of the deceased and leaving them in the care of their next of kin.

The tattoo preservation community isn’t just for the recently deceased; the living are so interested in the process that NAPSA is retooling to offer their services directly through funeral homes. The move comes just in time, as Americans are getting record number of tattoos. Will the future homes of millennials be commonly decorated with the ink once worn by their loved ones?

You’ve heard the expression, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” but what’s the consensus on spilled blood? If the idea of mopping up gore makes your eyes water (or worse), don’t worry: There’s a business you can call to tidy up even the bloodiest of messes.

Baxter Restoration, a cleaning and reconstruction company in Orlando, Florida, does something your average maid won’t: It cleans up after the Grim Reaper. Whether it’s a crime scene, the aftermath of a suicide or the remains of an exploded meth lab, Baxter will disinfect, decontaminate and leave things looking less macabre.

Industry insiders refer to such sluicing down of blood and brains as “biohazard” cleanup. And while this unusual service makes some people squirm, it’s reassuring to know that there’s someone you can call to perform this most unpleasant of chores.

Leaving behind a hefty inheritance for family members to squabble over is a nice gesture. But what if you want to bequeath something more meaningful than money? There’s an app for that.

Your Last Will is an iPhone app developed by former video game publisher and entrepreneur Wolfgang Gabler. The app lets users prepare for the afterlife by recording a short video with a final message for those they’ll one day leave behind. Whatever your final words are, the app lets you record them in a 5-minute video, which is then uploaded to the company’s servers.

Your Last Will then generates a QR code for you to share with a trusted confidant who can sign in to your account after your demise and distribute your video to friends, family, archenemies, old flings and whomever else you choose to haunt. You can even make your will public and inspire (or sadden) the entire Internet.

A company that lets you send messages from beyond the grave is one thing, but a business that facilitates the sending of messages directly from your grave is quite another.

Invented and patented by Robert Barrows, president of an advertising and public relations firm in California, the “video-enhanced grave marker” is a tombstone for the modern age. Embedded with a remote-controlled video screen, this high-tech memorial caters to those unwilling to go quietly into the hereafter.

As Barrows explains on his website, the invention allows people to record messages for family, friends and even complete strangers before dying. Once the person is 6 feet under, these messages are broadcast right in the cemetery. Mourners can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Barrows envisions a future in which graveyard visitors will pay a fee (headset included) to wander from grave to grave, listening to the dark secrets and final advice of lost love ones, as well as dead strangers.

Sure, you eat organic apples and have sworn off plastic shopping bags, but will your green lifestyle die when you do? That’s the question this next business wants you to consider before it’s too late.

The Natural Burial Company is an online retail and consulting business that sells biodegradable coffins, caskets, urns and other funeral goodies for eco-conscious mortals. The business aims to facilitate the natural burial process for those who take the whole “dust to dust” thing literally.

To that end, the company sells goods like the “Everybody” Coffin Kit, a biodegradable cork coffin that you can put together in your living room. Talk about a fun do-it-yourself project! The company’s online retail store also features a line of products for pets, including a biodegradable urn in the shape of a yarn ball for the eco-minded (but aging) feline in your life.

If you want to be cremated but aren’t sold on the idea of being hoisted onto a conveyor belt and pushed into a giant oven, then this next business is for you. Anderson McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg, Florida, specializes in a new kind of cremation that utilizes water, not fire, to dispose of human bodies.

The process is known as alkali hydrolysis, or “flameless cremation.” And while it sounds less scary than its fiery cousin, the end result is much the same. In this process, the body is soaked in a tub of water and alkali for a few hours. According to the company, the process results in 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than traditional cremation, and is marketed to those looking for a greener way to go.

The process is still in the early adoption phase and is only legal in a few states. However, legislation is pending in many states that could bring this bizarre alternative into the mainstream.

Lots of people want their ashes scattered across the surface of the sea, but those looking for a unique postmortem experience may want to consider permanently joining the seafloor instead.

Decatur, Georgia-based Eternal Reefs specializes in the construction of “memorial reefs.” The company mixes human remains into concrete, artificial reefs. The reefs are then lowered to the seafloor, where they play host to local sea life and help maintain marine diversity.

The company’s “reef balls” are designed to withstand even the strongest of ocean currents, so mourners don’t have to worry that a loved one’s remains will drift into unchartered waters. Each reef also features a bronze plaque bearing the name of the deceased person it’s made from, making this memorial much like an underwater tombstone.

7 Businesses Transforming Travel

Traveling is a rewarding experience. Between food, drinks and sights, there are a multitude of memories and experiences not to be forgotten.

Often, planning your trip and getting to the destination is the hardest part. These 7 businesses aim to make traveling less stressful and more enjoyable.

Snapshots are the best part of vacation; it gives you the opportunity to relive your favorite moments. Flytographer takes that concept and helps you plan a trip. According to the company’s website, you can “meet with one of [the company’s] local photographers around the world, have a stroll together and bring home the best souvenir possible — memories.” Simply search for a photographer you like in the location you’re traveling to and book a photo shoot via the company’s website after you’ve finalized your trip details. When it’s time for your shoot, your photographer will guide you around and take candid photos (though he or she will also take posed portraits, if you prefer).

Love the water but not sure how to properly rent a boat while away?GetMyBoat provides a peer-to-peer marketplace giving boat owners the power to rent their boats and vacationers the opportunity to experience a yacht, speedboat or watercraft of their dreams at an affordable price. GetMyBoat is bridging the gap of boat ownership costs. Boating enthusiasts get the benefits of worldwide inventory without the cost or headache of ownership. And as the average boat is only used 8 percent of the year, boat owners get the chance to make owning a boat more affordable by earning some income from their under-utilized asset, the site said.

Remove the hassle and pressure of planning activities on vacation with Peek. The site curates a selection of fun activities for you that you can book online or via the company’s mobile app. You can also use Peek’s Travel Guides to see an overview of the top things to see or use the “Perfect Days” feature to book a complete itinerary with “insider tips and hidden gems from tastemakers,” according to the website.

If you’re flying solo but would prefer to travel in a group or make new friends while on vacation, The Trip Tribe makes it easy. The company allows members to create a profile and search for trips — they’ll use your profile information to match you with other travelers who share your interests so you can book a trip with like-minded people. When you view trips on the site, you can see which other members are going, as well as the dates, price per person and other important details. Some of The Trip Tribe’s featured trips include an eco-retreat in Puerto Rico, a food and beer tour in Ireland, and a cycling and boating adventure in the Czech Republic.

Welcome Beyond is dedicated to those travelers who prefer to forgo staying in a big-name hotel and would rather have a unique vacation experience. Welcome Beyond strives to curate hotels and vacation rentals that are “truly original.” These exclusive rentals range from quirky to posh and are easy to search for and book. Choose a country and region for your stay, and search by interests like architecture and design, nature and ecotourism, and secluded retreats. You can also refine your search by accommodation type, with selections ranging from boutique hotels to private islands available in more than 30 different countries, including the United States.

If you thought UberBlack made you feel like you were riding in style, try traveling on a jet. Book a seat on a private jet with BlackJet. According to the company’s website, “BlackJet members enjoy the convenience, reliability and private jet experience at prices you would expect from American, Delta or United first class.” As with all flights, costs vary depending on your origin and destination locations and the date of travel, but prices start around $1,000. BlackJet memberships are limited but free until you book your first trip — after that, there’s an annual fee.

Travelers with a spontaneous streak will love Triposo, an app that gives you personalized suggestions for things to do on your trip while you’re on the go. Users can book tours and activities via the app, as well as learn important information about their destination’s history, culture, currency and language. Before you go on your trip, download Triposo’s destination guide to your device, and while you’re there, get real-time updates about what’s going on nearby. Bonus: The app works offline too, so you don’t need to search for Wi-Fi to find your next activity.

7 Cool Vegan-Friendly Businesses That Inspire

Being a vegan means a whole lot more than eating a meat- and dairy-free diet — it’s a lifestyle committed to not using any animal products. This means that strict, dedicated vegans don’t wear materials like leather and suede or use any products that have been tested on animals or harmed animals in the production process in any way. And it’s not always easy to find products you love that fit the vegan lifestyle.

Fortunately for all you vegans out there (and for food allergy sufferers and environmentalists, too!), there are more and more stores and brands dedicated to this animal- and eco-friendly lifestyle, so you can meet all your needs with ease.From food and cosmetics to clothes and accessories, here are 7 businesses every vegan needs to know.

Just because you’re vegan, doesn’t mean you need to skip dessert. While most sweets, from baked goods to candies, are loaded with not-so-vegan-friendly ingredients like butter, milk, eggs and honey (though not all vegans cut out honey), Allison’s Gourmet is home to tons of delicious vegan takes on your favorite confections, like fudge, peanut brittle, chocolates, caramels, cookies, brownies and more — all of which you can order online. Allison’s Gourmet also sells organic coffee, tea and cocoa and offers memberships to monthly clubs, like Cookie of the Month, Brownie of the Month, Fudge of the Month and Taste of the Month (this one gives you a little bit of everything). According to its website, Allison’s Gourmet uses “only the finest organic, fair-trade, vegan ingredients that honor and respect growers, animals, the planet and of course, you!”

Move over, Dunkin’ Donuts. Mighty-O Donuts knows how to do donuts well (and vegan, too). The company’s reasoning for making all of its donuts vegan? The organization’s website simply states, “We do not need any extra ingredients [like eggs and dairy] to make a delicious donut everyone can enjoy.” Bonus: Not only are all of the donuts at Mighty-O Donuts vegan, the shop also does not use any artificial colors, dyes, additives or preservatives in its donuts or toppings, so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you take a bite. And if you visit the company’s shop in Seattle, you’ll see that it also supports the local art community by offering up wall space for monthly exhibitions. The only downside: Mighty-O doesn’t deliver unless you’re one of the company’s wholesale retailers, and even then, when it comes to out-of-state orders, Mighty-O only ships to Oregon and Colorado — though the company does plan to expand.

If you’re not already vegan or considering going vegan, you may not realize that living a vegan lifestyle means giving up seafood, too. Sophie’s Kitchen offers great alternatives for those who love to eat fish and shellfish but can’t (the company’s products are perfect if you’re not vegan, but have allergies, for example) or those who choose not to. Sophie’s Kitchen sells products like crab cakes, breaded scallops, breaded calamari, breaded coconut shrimp, prawns, smoked salmon, tuna and more — all of which are vegan and plant-based. The company is Non-GMO Project-verified and uses ingredients like seaweed, textured vegetable protein and konjac (elephant yam root) to make sustainable alternatives to your favorite fishy foods. If you want to stock your own store with the company’s products, you can find Sophie’s Kitchen products at some local food stores, or you can order the products online — either as an individual or a retailer.

Think breakfast can never be the same when you’re vegan? Think again. Thanks to The Vegg, you don’t have to live without eggs — well, sort of. The Vegg makes several vegan egg substitute products so that vegans can still eat things like omelets, breakfast sandwiches and baked goods to their hearts’ content. The company sells a scrambled egg mix made from soy protein and nutritional yeast (among other ingredients) as well as vegan egg yolk substitute, an egg replacer for baking and a special French toast mix — all of which boast an authentic egg flavor and can be purchased online on the company’s website. The Vegg also sells a cookbook to make using its products even easier.

We should warn you — this next business is a little cheesy (literally). As a vegan, you can’t eat cheese, since it’s made from animal milk, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without cheese forever. While you can purchase cheese substitutes from big brands like Daiya and Tofutti at your local grocery store, fancy vegan artisanal cheeses aren’t exactly easy to come by. Dr. Cow makes delicious cheeses made out of tree nuts, like organic cream cashew cheese, aged macadamia cheese and more. The company also makes granola and oatmeal products, and you can purchase its products online or at the company’s retail location in Brooklyn.

Vegans and wine lovers alike, rejoice! The Vegan Vine is a wine brand that is grown and produced by a family-owned winery, Clos LaChance Winery, in California. You may be wondering how wine can be anything but vegan, and that’s exactly why The Vegan Vine was developed — to educate people on the wine production process, which often uses animal products. According to the company’s website, The Vegan Vine started when a family member “was curious if Clos LaChance’s wines were suitable for his animal-free lifestyle,” which prompted the owners to meet with a production team and find a way to produce high-quality wines that support a vegan lifestyle, along with ways to keep wine lovers informed. The Vegan Vine currently offers a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2013 Chardonnay available for purchase on the company’s website, along with a Web page that features vegan recipe pairings for each wine.

Want to make sure your wardrobe is animal friendly? VauteCouture, a Brooklyn-based clothing store sells everything from tank tops to winter coats and accessories for both men and women. Founder Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart started the company in 2009, after attempting to create a vegan dress coat warm enough to get through the cold Chicago (where Hilgart is from) winter. VauteCouture — like “haute couture” but with a V for “vegan” — became the first all-vegan label to show at New York Fashion Week in 2013. Whether you’re looking for coats, hats, jewelry or casual clothes, you can find it at VauteCouture. You can shop online, or if you’re in New York, you can shop in the store — though you’ll have to make an appointment first.