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Category Archives: business

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.

6 Game Changing Sports Businesses

Want to become a better coach or athlete? There are several sports-related businesses out there that can help you do just that and more.

From virtual reality sports platforms and game footage analysis to family-friendly youth sports programs, these six businesses put a whole new spin on sports, helping coaches, athletes and families do what they love.

Whether you’re an athlete or just a huge sports fan, you can turn your skills and passion into a business — just take some inspiration from these companies that are totally changing the game.

EON Sports VR

EON Sports VR is a virtual reality platform that help athletes get better at their sport. The platform simulates different game situations to help players improve their decision-making skills — EON Sports VR boasts an improvement rate of up to 60 percent for players who use the platform. The company offers 3D-playbook and playbook-simulator products for coaches, simulators for athletes, and plans to launch a virtual-reality baseball platform, which you can preview on the EON Sports VR’s website. The company currently offers a simulator, called SIDEKIQ, which is compatible with a headset or projector, and plans to launch a smartphone-powered simulator, too.

i9 Sports

I9 Sports is a company that seeks to make sports more fun — and less stressful and competitive — for young people. According to the company’s website, i9 Sports “offers an alternative to the disorganized, hyper-competitive, win-at-all-cost culture that pervades most youth sports programs today.” The company aims to provide a safe and fun experience that helps kids develop their athletic skills and boost their self-esteem and is more convenient and organized for parents.  I9 operates around five important core principles: fun, inclusivity, safety, good sportsmanship and healthy competition. Started initially as a flag football league, i9 has since expanded, with team sports in soccer, basketball, baseball and cheerleading too. The company offers leagues, camps and clinics for both boys and girls ages 3 to 17 throughout the United States.

Sportsy

Aspiring athletes will love Sportsy, a website and mobile app (available on both Android and iOS devices) that helps people get better at sports. Sportsy members have access to videos to help them learn the proper way to perform drills, special challenges to help them practice the way professional athletes do, and exclusive tips and tricks from professional athletes and coaches. Members can also compete against each other, and upload videos of them playing to get feedback from Sportsy coaches. The company is new and currently only offers these features for soccer. However, Sportsy does plan to launch sections dedicated to several other sports, including basketball, volleyball, tennis, figure skating, surfing, hockey, swimming, skateboarding and even Hacky Sack, among others. Interested users looking for one of these sports can sign up for updates on their launch on the company’s website.

Coachbase

Want to be a better coach? Coachbase is a tremendous resource. The company is part marketplace, part Android and iOS app and helps coaches find, diagram and share new plays. With the app, coaches can ditch chalkboards and whiteboards and switch to using their mobile devices to create new plays for their teams. The app has a step-by-step system for animating your plays, and features automatic backup and automatic syncing so that the plays you create are accessible across all your devices, and easily shared with assistant coaches and players. And through the Coachbase marketplace, coaches can buy, sell and trade plays and drills with other coaches.

Krossover

Krossover is another great resource for coaches and teams. Most teams record their games so they can analyze the footage later and see what went well and what went wrong. Rather than trying to analyze the film yourself, Krossover does it for you. Teams can sign up for a Krossover package for a whole season based on how many games they play per week. Just upload film from your game, and the company’s experts will analyze it and break it down by event, tag it by play and with player information, and extract stats from the footage for you. Athletes can also purchase individual packages to analyze their performance even if their team doesn’t participate in the program. Krossover offers services for basketball, football, lacrosse and volleyball.

Fandeavor

Looking for the ultimate sports fan experience? Fandeavor is here to help. The company aims to help sports fans plan the perfect trip or celebration all at once with sports-based packages that include hotels, airfare, land transportation and game tickets. Hotels are curated based on their distance to the game, their ratings and amenities and things to do nearby, and transportation includes both to and from the airport and the game. Fandeavor also helps customers get the best experience out of their tickets, with unique information and VIP packages for different stadiums. The company can even help you plan a big family sports excursion or gift for a special occasion.

4 Music Industry Startups That Are Positively Impacting Artists

The music industry is experiencing a renaissance with an influx of startups that give artists more control over their careers. Once thought to be a dying scene, the music business is reviving itself by changing, everything from how it’s made and consumed, to how musicians are compensated for their work.

“The music model changed. The revenue streams have changed. The business has to be fluid, and adaptive,” said Geoff Rickly, lead singer of the bands Thursday, No Devotion and United Nations. “Small companies are leading the way when it comes to adaptive behavior. I feel directly affected by every new idea whether it works or not.”

These four startups are rearranging the way the music industry operates.

This independent firm, based in the UK with a New York location, approaches representation as an artist approaches making music, said founder of Brace Yourself PR, Ivano Maggiulli. “Every artist we represent is vital to our business model, to our name as an agency.”

“Smaller firms are hungry and really have no choice but to innovate,” Maggiulli told Business News Daily. “We get ideas from clients and labels about what they need, and get truly excited when we figure out a new way to accomplish their goals.”

Brace Yourself offers its artists print, online, radio and TV placement under one roof and provides internationally coordinated campaigns. The firm has a rosterof more than 100 artists, including The 1975, Hot Hot Heat, Title Fight and Rickly’s band No Devotion.

According to Maggiulli, in the past, labels would often have an in-house publicist that would take care of the publicity for any and every act that came through the door, regardless of whether they liked the artist or not.

“That left a lot of artists being represented by someone that didn’t truly understand them and quite frankly, didn’t have the time to change that,” he said. “We only work with artists that we believe [in], understand and can help.”

“How we tell an artist’s story is changing and that is important because that story is vital,” added Rickly, who also serves as the general manager of Brace Yourself PR’s New York office. “We want to be able to tell the artist’s story in a way that convinces a casual listener to press play on their music and, hopefully, fall in love.”

GigTown, founded by entrepreneur Andy Altman and his father, Steve (the former president and vice chairman of Qualcomm), considers itself to be a “one-stop-shop” for everything local music. The free app makes it easy for venues, musicians and fans to interact, and creates new opportunities for artists to find paying gigs through its “Post-A-Gig” feature, among other capabilities.

“By creating new gig opportunities, [GigTown is] bringing the local music communities together and inspiring collaboration and mutual support for each other,” Altman said. “It’s not easy to be a local artist, and we are creating a positive change for local music communities as a whole.”

According to GigTown’s website, fans have the ability to send artists a monetary tip and a message, directly through the app. There are multiple payment options and artists will receive their earnings once a week, along with Check-In tips.

“Every artist has to start somewhere,” Altman said. “Having a platform to get your music heard by local fans, and then get booked or tipped by those fans makes it so much easier to build an artist’s foundation for their career as a whole.”

Soundtrack Your Brand (SYB) is a Spotify-backed company for the B2B music market, founded by Ola Sars (former Beats Music co-founder and COO) and Andreas Liffgarden (former Spotify business developer). The company is a subscription-based streaming service, licensed for commercial and public spaces.

“Both of us are music entrepreneurs, and with Soundtrack Your Brand, we set out to grow the global music market by reshaping the business-to-business music space,” Sars said. “We’ve built [a] powerful and versatile streaming platform for commercial use.”

According to Sars, businesses have been forced to play music by archaic means: a large chunk of businesses still play CDs, satellite radio, webcasts or use home-brewed mp3 playlists. With the trend toward digitization in physical retail, music can become an important tool in distinguishing your brand, keeping customers and employees happy, and growing sales, Sars said.

“The B2B-music market is lagging a decade behind the consumer market, and with SYB we set out to transform how businesses and brands relate to and use music,” Sars said. “Just like [Spotify] previously contributed to reshaping the consumer market for music through improved personalization, curation for brands is just as important.”

Startup LiveXLiveis looking to enhance not only the live music experience, but the streaming one as well. According to the website, the platform offers mobile-streaming capabilities for live music events, including music festivals with multiday and multistage coverage, unique concerts, intimate performances and programming. It features all genres of music, including rock, pop, indie, alternative, EDM, country.

“What we’re building is both a tool and platform for artists to share their content with fans across the world, the majority of which wouldn’t have the ability to attend these shows in-person,” said Schuyler Hoversten, chief revenue officer of LiveXLive.

LiveXLive is also helping artists promote merchandise, new singles, upcoming tours, and even sell tickets, VIP access or fan club memberships within the stream.

“We’d like to be what MTV once was to the consumer — the mobile, digital destination for the best content in music,” Hoversten said. “We hope to be a digital network where fans can virtually transport themselves around the world in an instant to experience their favorite artists live.”

7 Inspiring Businesses Keeping It All Natural

Engaging in an all-natural lifestyle has a plethora of benefits, including ridding of wasteful materials and the avoidance of putting chemicals in or on your body. It also means doing better for the environment and sustainable products that can help agriculture and jobs.

Companies are embracing the benefits of “green” and natural products, not only for the Earth but their customers as well.

Whether you’re looking for products, or you want to start a business that’s all about bringing it back to basics, here are six inspiring all-natural businesses you need to check out.

EcoNuts is a company that has introduced soap nuts into everyday life. According to the site, are a berry shell that naturally contains soap. They grow on the Sapindus mukorossi (Soap Berry) tree in the Himalayas. The natural soap found in these berries is called saponin, which is a natural cleaner that works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing to properly clean them.

The soap nuts are gentle on clothes and skin, making the product ideal for those who find themselves irritated by chemicals used in manufactured products. Additionally, despite the name, soap nuts are a berry fruit and safe for those with nut allergies.

GrowJourney is a “seeds of the month club” — a fun, all-natural take on the popular box subscription business model for people who love gardening and want to grow organic produce. Each month, the company sends its subscribers an assortment of five different seasonal heirloom gardening seeds, all of which are certified organic and sourced from organic farmers selected by the service. And if you’re trying to get into gardening but don’t have much of a green thumb, don’t worry — becoming a GrowJourney member gets you more than just seeds. It also provides you with access to resources to help you learn how to grow your produce with ease.

Abel is a perfume company that produces signature scents with only 100 percent natural, food-grade, organic ingredients and without the chemicals and synthetic compounds found in most perfumes and colognes. There are several natural perfume companies out there, but what sets Abel apart is the craft behind the company’s packaging. Since their perfumes lack the chemicals other perfume companies use to protect their products from light and UV heat (both of which can damage the product), Abel’s perfumes come in cases hand-crafted from reclaimed wood. The company sells the gender-neutral fragrances, “Tonic,” which is made from ginger extract, black pepper oil, lime oil and peppermint oil, among many others.

Humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from going back to basics. The Honest Kitchen ensures that you can feed your beloved furry friends all-natural food and treats, too. The company makes 100 percent all-natural, FDA-approved human grade (meaning they’re made to the same standards as the food we humans eat) dog and cat food, treats and supplements. The Honest Kitchen’s products use dehydrated whole foods, non-GMO produce, hormone-free meats and organic, fair-trade ingredients in their foods. Employees even taste-test them for quality control. The company provides grain-free and whole-grain food options as well as a base mix for foods if you prefer to mix up your own pet-friendly meals and treats.

Better Life is a cleaning product company that sells everything from dish detergent and floor cleaner to stain remover and hand soap. Whether you’re scrubbing your kitchen, disinfecting your bathroom, doing laundry, washing dishes or cleaning up after your baby or pets, Better Life has a product that can fit your needs without using any toxic or harmful ingredients. Every product Better Life offers is derived from plants and is free of GMOs, alcohol, dyes, sulfates, fragrances, petroleum, not to mention cruelty. And they’re made in the USA. Better Life’s products are also safe for septic systems and completely biodegradable, so you can use them without risk in your home and in the environment.

Looking for all-natural clothing? Earth Creations is a company that sells eco-friendly clothing and accessories for men, women and children, all of which use natural, sustainable fabrics. Earth Creations’ products are made from hemp and organically grown cotton and natural clay dyes (the company’s dyeing process uses only natural and biodegradable materials). The designs are brought to life at Earth Creations’ sewing plant in Moulton, Alabama, to help maintain a smaller carbon footprint and create local jobs. Earth Creations also donates its irregular and overstock items to other organizations, such as the Audubon Society, Ogden Nature Center and Animal Acres, to help people in need.

If you’re looking for all natural skin and hair care products, TruSelf Organicsoffers a line of products complete with moisturizers, lip glosses, conditioners, and more. In business since 2013, TruSelf Organics prides itself on eliminating synthetic chemicals in favor of all natural and organic products. Founded by a yoga-enthusiast and self-proclaimed “health-nut,” TruSelf Organics entire line is vegan, save for their Raw Honey Lip Gloss which is made with honey and beeswax. Each product is designed to further the company’s mission of promoting a three-pronged approach to wellness: health, beauty, and self-love.

7 Creative Businesses That Will Inspire You

Being an art professional certainly comes with its stigmas — just ask the people who believe in the “starving artist” cliché.

Though friends and family may try to talk professional artists out of their passions (and professions), creative businesses can thrive. Startups like these keep art alive in people’s homes, phones and everyday lives. These seven art-focused businesses are putting a unique spin on their industry, and might even encourage you to better appreciate art.

Want to bring art into your home or office without hanging the pieces on the walls? Artkick allows you to display high-quality art and photography on your TV or computer monitor, with free access to photos from museums, NASA, the Library of Congress, Photos.com and Hubble. You can even import your own photos from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr and more. You control what photos are displayed via the Artkick mobile app on your smartphone or tablet. Think of it as art projected like you would project video with Roku and Google Chromecast devices.

Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein met and became friends while traveling through Argentina. Firestein drew a design on a pair of plain canvas sneakers for Nemani, who soon found his shoes were a big conversation starter throughout his travels. This inspired the pair to start Bucketfeet, a company that sells canvas sneakers in a variety of styles that feature original art by more than 40,000 creators from 120 countries around the world. These artists cover every medium, from graphic design and graffiti to photography and painting, and anyone can submit their artwork for consideration by the Bucketfeet committee.

Based in New York, ImageThink makes art functional in the office and the classroom. The ImageThink graphic-recording team creates illustrations based on keynote speeches, presentations, strategy sessions and more to help audiences visualize and better remember the information they see. ImageThink team members create these illustrations live during the meeting or event to go along with the presentation. The company also offers its services for creating animated videos and infographics.

Have you ever posted a photo on Instagram that’s so beautiful it could be a painting? With Instapainting, you can transform that digitally captured sunset or portrait into a real-life work of art. You can order either a mixed-media painting (the artist will print your image onto a cotton canvas and then hand-paint over at least 90 percent of the image with oil paints) or a 100 percent hand-painted painting (the artist will start from a blank canvas and paint the entire picture by hand with oil paints) based on your photo. Your choice depends on your price range and the look you want to achieve. When you order a painting and it’s in the process of being created, you can view all of the progress and changes made and talk directly with the artist, and you’ll have a finished product delivered to you from Instapainting within about three weeks.

With JuicyCanvas, anyone can customize art, turning it into canvas prints, shirts, phone cases, tote bags, throw pillows and greeting cards. Juicy Canvas allows customers to select a medium and an original design, and then “remix” the piece into a custom product by altering colors, rotating and cropping the image, and adding text. Artists can submit their work to be used on the site, and customers can easily search through the available designs by style and country of origin.

Ever wish you could have the works of your favorite artists at your fingertips?Meural offers that accessibility with a digital library of precious works of art, displayable in a “digital canvas” frame. Meural renders each image as lifelike and textured as a real painting, down to the last brushstroke, the site says. The canvas comes in a wooden frame. With a range of art collections from the Romantics to the Renaissance to Contemporary art and classic photography, there are more than 20,000 pieces (and the option to upload your own images) to bring a little culture to your home, office or art space. The website says it’s easy to upload, curate and schedule images to be displayed in your frame.

Are you fickle about your home or office décor? TurningArt is an art-rental subscription service that allows you to select new art to feature in your home or office as often as you like, for a monthly fee. As a subscriber, you can search through thousands of pieces to find what you want, and the pieces are delivered to you at no extra cost. Your first order will come in a frame, and when you’re ready for a new masterpiece, all you have to do is slide the old artwork out of the frame (to be sent back to TurningArt) and put the new order in. If you fall in love with a piece, you can purchase it through TurningArt as well.

6 Businesses to Help Kick Off the New School Year

As August comes to a close, students, parents and teachers are preparing for back-to-school season. The new academic year means buying school supplies, planning school lunches and considering options like tutoring services to help make the school year go as smoothly as possible.

Heading back to school can be stressful, but these entrepreneurs aim to make it easier. Here are six businesses to check out before school starts.

Decorating lockers is a surefire way to make going back to school a little more fun for kids and teens. LockerLookz sells decorations made specifically to fit in and spruce up school lockers. Plus, the company has an online locker design tool, so students can see how their chosen decorations will look together and even purchase the entire design all together once they’re happy with the outcome. The decorations are easy to install and won’t damage lockers (so schools can rest easy). Decorations include wallpaper, photo frames, dry-erase boards, and even rugs and mini-chandelier lighting.

Most stores sell the same plain notebooks and folders. If you want to make things a little more personal, check out Frecklebox, an online store that lets you customize your school supplies. Frecklebox sells everything from binders, bookmarks and journals to lunch boxes, stickers and sketchbooks, all of which can be personalized with students’ names and favorite prints and patterns. The store is also a great place to find gifts for kids, as you can shop by occasion, theme and age.

Step away from the everyday classroom accessories and spice up your desk with accessories from Poppin. Their selection of colorful and whimsical supplies range from notebooks, desk organizers, planners and even filing cabinets. The simple designs, bright colors and fun patterns will make planning for the school year more exciting for your little one as they’re sure to dazzle any classroom with these accessories. Poppin features a “most popular” selection, so you can keep up with the trends and be sure to have what kids want the most before they return to school.

Sometimes all it takes is a little help on a particular project or lesson for struggling students to make the grade. Chegg Tutors, formerly known as InstaEdu, is a great alternative to the typical tutoring service. The online-based tutoring service employs current students and graduates from top colleges around the country to help junior-high, high-school and college students with their assignments. Students can either sign up for traditional scheduled tutoring sessions or find tutors on-demand when they need immediate help with a particular assignment or problem. Tutors and students connect via a virtual lab that includes chat and video features as well as a shared virtual whiteboard and the option to upload documents.

If you’re a parent struggling to pack a healthy lunch that your kids will love, Revolution Foods is the company you need. Revolution Foods creates healthy on-the-go lunch boxes (known as “Lunch Bundles”) — think Lunchables, but without all of the artificial ingredients and preservatives — and nutritious snacks called “Granola Bundles” that are created specifically to help kids get more protein. The brand’s Lunch Bundles come in five different flavors: turkey and cheddar, ham and cheddar, cheese pizza, popcorn chicken, and hummus and pita chips. Along with these retail products, Revolution Foods also offers programs that provide healthy, freshly prepared meals to schools throughout the United States.

Not all schools can provide teachers with the supplies they really need to make sure their students get the best education possible. AdoptAClassroom.org, a national nonprofit organization, aims to help teachers get the classroom supplies they can’t otherwise afford. Teachers can register their classrooms with AdoptAClassroom.org, where they’re provided with outreach materials to promote their donation page. Donors can also search for classrooms to adopt by teacher, school name, school type and poverty level. All donated funds go directly to teachers, and donors are given personal feedback from the teachers themselves to let them know exactly what their donations were used for and the impact it had on their class.

Could the Legal Cannabis Industry Expand to Every State ?

The legal cannabis industry is rapidly expanding, so much so that some researchers expect cannabis will be legal — either medicinally or recreationally — in every state by 2021. Market analysts for cannabis industry research organization GreenWave Advisors anticipate that in four years 22 states will have medicinal programs and 29 states (plus D.C.) will fully legalize cannabis, leading to a projected $30 billion in sales revenue nationwide.

GreenWave Advisors’ projection is in line with the estimates of other research organizations watching the fledgling industry closely. According to cannabis-dedicated finance organization The Arcview Group, the legal cannabis industry could be valued at $21.8 billion by 2020. Yet another estimate, released by investment bank Cowen and Company, anticipates that the industry will reach $50 billion in sales by 2026.

And the legal cannabis industry is certainly showing signs of accelerated growth. On election day, voters in eight states approved new legal cannabis initiatives. Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota all supported new medical marijuana initiatives, while voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada all moved to legalize recreational adult use.

While the cannabis industry is experiencing explosive growth, many in the industry fear that it is sometimes perceived to be a part of the “stoner culture” rather than as a legitimate business. In reality, cannabis entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, cater to a wide variety of consumers and put money back into the communities in which they operate. Like any other business, there are consultants, financiers, cultivators and dispensary owners who sell the actual cannabis products, and contractors who help build out cultivation and production centers.

To get a better idea of what it’s all about, Business News Daily connected with some entrepreneurs who are already operating in the cannabis space, and asked them where it’s heading and how it has already changed since the first legal markets were created. These are some of the cannabis entrepreneurs who are shaping a post-prohibition industry.

Mike Ray, the owner of medical cultivators Bloom Farms, hails from “cannabis country” in Calaveras County, California, where the black market supported a number of families during prohibition.

“There was always a big, unspoken industry there in an underground sort of way,” Ray said.

Ray struck out on his own and headed to work as a hedge fund trader in New York City. However, when the financial crisis erupted, Ray felt the urge to change his lifestyle. He was “disgusted” at the misbehavior of some financial institutions that occurred leading up to the crisis, and he decided to return home and get back to his roots.

Ray reconnected with his childhood friends, who were now successfully cultivating medical cannabis, and he decided that cannabis was the next opportunity he needed to seize. Medical cannabis use has been legal in California since 1996, so Ray was able to study what his friends had learned so far and examine the growing industry inside and out.

“I absorbed as much as I could. I started cultivating, I examined how the sales channels worked,” Ray said. “I found the industry was just a bunch of people who cared about other people.”

From that discovery, Ray launched Bloom Farms and dedicated its mission to removing any stigma surrounding the cannabis industry. He wanted to dispel the idea that cannabis was just for “stoners” or “hippies” and emphasize the health benefits and recreational lifestyle that he saw associated with the plant and its products.

Sara Gullickson has been working in the cannabis industry as a consultant for seven years. She got her start as a marketer for spas and health facilities, and soon a dispensary licensing business approached her for help. She worked with the young DispensaryPermits.com for about a year as a marketer, but soon realized that she had a knack for the business and bought it from the owners.

Today, Gullickson helps clients win their dispensary licenses and open their doors.

“We have a process that will help get them open in eight to 12 weeks,” she said. “It includes interior design, policies and procedures, compliance, and a certain level of patient experience.”

In the beginning, Gullickson said that the business was almost like seasonal work, and every client had to be sought out and courted. Now that the industry has grown, it’s the other way around.

“I never worry about finding work or clients; we’re in a situation now where we can’t keep up,” Gullickson said. “It’s amazing that it’s exploding to the point where we’re growing so fast we’re trying to outrun it.”

In the past six years, Gullickson has seen the industry go from something people looked at with suspicion, to a mainstream, exciting, rapidly growing industry. Election night was the culmination of the industry’s growth and maturation, she said.

Diane Czarkowski and her husband, Jay, began their careers in a field that was very different from the cannabis industry. Diane and Jay worked in real estate development: Diane was a licensed agent and Jay was a general contractor. However, after the 2008 housing crisis, the duo set their sights elsewhere. Diane and Jay reinvented themselves by opening a medical dispensary.

“Early on, we had a big dedication to serving patients and really catered to an older demographic,” Diane said. “A lot of local doctors  [referred] people to us because they knew they’d be taken care of.”

In 2012, Diane and Jay decided to sell their dispensary and grow operations to focus on campaigning for Colorado’s Amendment 64, an initiative that would later legalize recreational adult use of cannabis. At the same time, an aspiring cultivation operation in Connecticut, which sought the husband-and wife team’s help in obtaining a license, contacted the duo. The effort was successful, and soon Diane and Jay were helping companies with their licensing applications in Massachusetts, as well. Thus, Canna Advisorsconsulting and licensing was born.

“We’ve witnessed a lot of change in Colorado from when we first opened our doors,” Diane said. “We had to go through a regulation bout in 2010 and [we’ve] gone through many, many revisions — some still occurring. So we’ve really taken our consulting business to focus on new markets.”

Ron Sassano is a 20 year veteran of construction and land development. His first introduction to the world of cannabis cultivation two years ago was quite by accident, Sassano told Business News Daily.

“I kind of stumbled into it,” Sassano said. “I was invited to look at some facilities, both cultivation and production.”

He learned from cultivators that the persistence of pests, mold and mildew was causing product inspection failures at the state level. Drawing on his construction background, Sassano recognized that much of the problem could be attributed to conditions at the facilities, and that recognition launched his cannabis industry career.

“I showed owners, cultivators and producers a better system of building the interiors and structures of facilities because the old drywall techniques just aren’t working for these guys anymore,” Sassano said.

Sassano realized that he could provide a service to cultivators that would increase their inspection pass rates, which is invaluable when an entire crop is at stake. He set out to help cultivators build facilities from scratch or retrofit existing structures to optimize them for cannabis-growing operations. His company, Scalable Solutions, a subsidiary of the Medical Cannabis Innovation Group, also works with clients to obtain city or county approvals and building permits.