The Biz Fix
“Every year, half a billion disposable cups enter the landfill that will never biodegrade,” said Chelsea Briganti. She and co-founder Leigh Ann Tucker want to revolutionize the use of plastics with their creation—a fully biodegradable and edible material they’re selling as a cup—called Loliware. Their goal is to create a full set of tableware. “The longer you dry it out, the harder it becomes.” Briganti said “We really look at Loliware as a material that can become anything. Even packaging.”
(Related: A $100 million idea that no one knows about)
Follow The Profit's Marcus Lemonis on Twitter: @marcuslemonis
Ever eat Japanese-inspired Mexican food? It’s an uncommon mix that food truck owners Debbie and Derek Kaye have combined to create Takumi Taco. But rather than hawking their spicy tuna tacos and miso tortilla soup off a truck, they’re peddling it in another mobile way. “As far as I know [Takumi Taco] is really the first permanent cart inside an office building in New York City,” Derek Kaye said. The young entrepreneurs got their start in business four years ago with their Eddie’s Pizza Truck. They quickly learned how difficult it was to turn a profit on New York City’s streets. Strict rules and regulations have them paying fines up to $1,000 a month. So rather than putting another truck on the streets, they parked a semi-permanent Takumi Taco food cart on the 17th floor of a large office building. It spans one full city block on Manhattan’s west side, houses 5,000 workers and doesn’t have many lunch options nearby.
(Related: Is it the end of food trucks? Not quite, says Lemonis ) Lemonis also likes businesses that have diversified product offerings. At Crumbs, he wants to sell more than cupcakes. He and an investor group plan to turn the bake shops into snack food destinations. He’ll sell products from his other brands, like Mr. Green Tea, Matt’s Cookies and Sweet Pete’s candies. “You can’t run a business on just cupcakes,” he said. “When we reopen, we’re going to have a diversified offering.” How important is listening to your gut in business? Lemonis frequently makes handshake deals based on gut decisions. But he doesn’t invest his own money purely on a whim. (Related: Downward dog your way to thousands of new clients ) “Your gut is good to give you some sort of reaction, but it doesn’t trump listening to the numbers,” he said. “If the numbers say one thing, and your gut says another, always defer to the numbers.” How can small businesses stay alive against big boxes? Small businesses can win by offering a unique product and a unique service. Customers sometimes feel like they’re nothing but a number when they shop at big box retail chains. This means mom-and-pop...
Derek and Debbie Kaye tell eager foodies who seek advice on starting a food truck one thing—don’t do it.
The married couple cut an exclusive licensing deal with Eddie’s Pizza, a restaurant on New York’s Long Island, to sell a version of its bar pies out of a truck. Four years later, they say it’s become increasingly difficult to make money on New York City’s streets.
“On a monthly basis, we’re spending over $1,000 in parking tickets and fines alone just to maintain our business on the streets,” Derek Kaye said.
Tough rules and regulations, along with required permits and licenses, create obstacles that eat up their profits, the couple said. Truck drivers often wake up at 3 a.m. to fight for prime lunch spots, even though they can’t legally park and operate at a paid meter.
“We even go to a spot knowing that we’re going to get a $60 ticket, and we just take it because we like that spot,” Debbie Kaye said.
Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” advises them on how to make more money, and how to hire help without spending a lot.
The Julie Wilcox Method is an online, subscription-based program that integrates yoga, fitness and food.
Owner and namesake Julie Wilcox founded it in January after eight years as a yoga instructor. It hasn’t been in business long enough to be profitable, but she hoped to change that by signing up large companies and their employees.
“My biggest hurdle right now is to land some of the bigger fish, some of the bigger companies with thousands and thousands of clients,” she said. “I haven't nailed those yet.”
Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” said that in order for her to land these kinds of accounts, she would have to make some major sacrifices.
“The first thing I would do is find one or two companies, and I would make it so affordable to them, just to get somebody in the till,” he said. “It's going to be painful for you, because you're going to feel like, ‘I'm worth more than this.’ I think you have to get that out of your mind and say, ‘I'm just getting my foot in the door.’'
Liza Hughes at The Biz Fix 2 yrs ago
Grace Hightower De Niro started her business, Coffees of Rwanda, two years ago. Her goal was to help increase the sustainable farming system of that formerly war-torn country, and toward that end, it buys coffee beans directly from Rwandan farmers at above fair-trade market price. She was inspired by a speech she had heard by the country’s president, Paul Kagame.
“One of the things that resonated with me was when he said he wanted for his country, his people, ‘trade, not aid,’” she said. “I had not heard of a so-called Third World country being this progressive-thinking. So I went there … saw the people and met the people and met the farmers, and they just have this amazing sincerity and gratitude and a desire to create, a desire to work.”
Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” met with her at New York City’s Tribeca Grill Screening Room in May 2014. He gave her succinct and actionable advice—change the name.
Lemonis also suggested changing the packaging to emphasize the relationship between the product and the people who produce it.
Longtime friends Khat Rabbani and Ashley Williams began selling hair extensions out of their cars in 2011, with no idea how far their initial $2,000 investment would take them. By the end of the year, it had turned into $70,000, and then $700,000 the year after that.
They opened Hair Are Us, their flagship store in Atlanta, which was joined a year later by a location in Miami. Revenue exceeded the $1 million mark, but not without sacrifice.
“In the beginning we put everything on the line,” Williams said. “We didn't do anything else but sleep and eat Hair Are Us.” Luckily, they knew who their future customers were, and they knew how to target them.
“We went to colleges, we went to all your different nightclubs, restaurants, the malls, anywhere you can think of,” she said. “We were there, leaving fliers. And we realized that it was working when the phone started to ring.” The phones haven’t stopped ringing ever since.
(Related: Time to drive out stubborn employees?)
Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” suggested that they focus on their online store. It’s their biggest revenue source and has the most growth potential.
When Sherri Heckenast bought Team Demolition in 2008, she had grand dreams of turning the Joliet, Illinois , derby series into a motorsports behemoth.
“My vision was to get it to the highest level we could,” she said. Think Monster Jam, and you’re on the right track.
Six years later, each race draws 10,000 adrenaline junkies to the Route 66 Raceway, where teams crash their way to a $7,500 prize. Yet , Team Demolition is hardly the household name she originally envisioned . S he told Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” that reaching a national platform is something only a new generation of drivers can accomplish.
“New blood would grow not only the competition side, but would grow the fan base,” she said.
Lemonis agreed, adding that new people are necessary where such a dangerous sport is concerned. Last season alone saw Team Demolition drivers rack up three broken backs and a multitude of broken fingers and elbows.
Five years ago, Russ D'Souza and Jack Groetzinger were frustrated.
They wanted a single, convenient website where a user could find the best deals on concert and sports tickets, and it just wasn’t there. So like other entrepreneurs before them who built businesses from nothing, they created SeatGeek.
With $100 million worth of tickets flowing through the ticketing platform in 2013 alone, conventional wisdom says it’s been successful so far. Still, SeatGeek faces the challenge of getting its name out there, so Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s “The Profit” spoke with the founders about their marketing plan.
How does it work?
First, SeatGeek doesn’t sell tickets.
It culls and lists inventory from all major primary and reseller websites like TicketsNow, eBay and Ticketfly. It then allows buyers to create custom searches based on factors such as seating, price and venue. Its proprietary software, Deal Score, ranks these seats from “amazing to awful,” based on a scale of zero to 100.
(RELATED: Shoe maker considers the ultimate offer)
Biz Fix Tip 1: Affinity marketing
Biz Fix Tip 2: Spread your name with logo and tagline
Flat Out of Heels sells rollable ballet flats for women. CEO Dawn Dickson launched the Miami-based company in 2012, and the product has been selling like crazy ever since. She even started a second company to build vending machines to sell them. Demand was high, but Dickson didn’t have the money to keep the shoes in stock. “I can sell out my product,” she said. “I just need to have it on hand all the time. That’s a tough pill to swallow, when the reason you’re not making money is because you don’t have the product.” After receiving several large orders, including one for 10,000 pairs, she began desperately searching for funding. Eventually, she received what seemed like an impressive offer -- a large retail company wanted to buy the brand. (RELATED: Looking to grow your business? Do this) Dickson would have stayed on as CEO for two years, as well as, retaining the vending machine company, and she still would have been able to sell her own shoes.
(RELATED: When raising prices is good business)