Week at the Entrepreneurial Mind

You might have thought this was Small Business Week — however, it is really Week here at the Entrepreneurial Mind. They have asked me to be the guest advisor for the week. I will be posting some of the ideas from along with my advice.
Here is my first installment.
The idea:

My fiancee and I were in a national student organization event in Atlanta when we joined the Entrepreneurial Challenge. We came up with The Hummus House. Our slogan was ‘Hummus where the heart is’. Essentially it would be a restaurant that produced and sold a large variety of hummus flavor, bread/pita, chips, and for non-hummus enthusiasts we could sell salsa, chips, sandwiches, and salads. We would also provide a list of wines or drinks that would compliment the flavors of the hummus. The restaurant would have graffiti on the walls, local artists paintings mounted on the walls, warm lighting and a welcoming atmosphere with local bands/musicians performing.

My Advice:

There is a reason that bankers run screaming from restaurants — they have high failure rates.
That being said, it always amazes me how well certain niche restaurants can do in the market. Before launching this concept, make sure that the market is big enough and passionate enough to support this very specific niche.
You need to find a location that has enough people passionate enough about hummus — sorry that ain’t me — so that you can sustain enough traffic to make this concept work.
Know that any niche restaurant may end up being a fad. Keep your debt low and your lease short-term so if the passion for hummus passes, you can ease out of the business with little residual financial burden.

The Next Buggy Whip predicts ten businesses that will go the way of buggy whip manufacturers:

  • Record stores:  My students would agree,  They have already transitioned our campus-based business that was a record store into a “dorm store”
  • Camera film manufacturing:  there goes my Instamatic
  • Crop dusters
  • Gay bars
  • Newspapers:Can blogs be next??
  • Pay phones:  When was the last time you actually saw one?
  • Used bookstores:  Does that mean that students will also stop reselling my textbooks?
  • Piggy banks
  • Telemarketing: Yeah, right….
  • Coin-operated arcades

Can you think of any you want to add?

My Old Beat Up Guitar

Well I found her in a pawnshop
somewhere up in Ohio
where I guess some rounder came up short
and he had to let her go
It cost me ninety dollars
but it’s worth much more by far
cause I never had a better friend
than that old beat up guitar

Jerry Jeff Walker
This old Jerry Jeff Walker song has always had a soft spot in my heart as it reminds me of my guitar. I have a 1961 Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar. Although I did not find her in a pawn shop, I did buy her used in the early 1970s from a used musical instrument store. (And it was not actually in Ohio, but Fond du Lac, Wisconsin). But, I digress…

It looks like this:
My Old Guitar

It is the only guitar I have ever owned. I have never wanted to replace her in large part because her sound has gotten richer and richer over the years. The older it gets, the better it sounds.

A new product has been developed by a couple of entrepreneurs out of Florida that might change my thinking. I first heard about it when a colleague of mine attended a business plan competition in California with one of our students.

The company is called ToneRite, and it rapidly speeds up the “aging” process of musical instruments to create an old sound out of relatively new instruments.

Cool idea!

A New Meaning of Golfing Green

My son sent me a link to a golfing blog site that talks about new bio-degradable golf balls for use on cruises:

eco-balls.jpgThe original balls were made of rawhide, but the material’s
hardness was caving in people’s expensive drivers. Now, the balls are
made mostly of polyvinyl alcohol, or PVA (think Elmer’s Glue), which
has some elasticity. [Company founder Todd] Baker says the balls are
pretty lifelike when hit with wedges and other lofted irons, but admits
they only travel a little more than half the distance of a person’s
typical driver shot. Hey, you can’t have everything.

More importantly, when submerged in water, the balls break down in
three to five days into non-toxic elements, carbon dioxide and water.

The company is Eco Golf Balls, located in Indianapolis.

The company website has a page dedicated to their golf balls being used in the Antarctic.


Another Month, Another Student at Ideablob!

Yet another Belmont student has put his idea in the mix for ideablob. This month’s entrant is Lee Turley and his new business called is a social networking site that is aimed at providing a central, national location for automotive enthusiasts to host a personal page, meet other enthusiasts, and network at no cost. It aims to solve the huge communication and organizational barriers in the automotive community. All the while using its position to make changes in communities through local involvement and high ethical standards. It’s more than a website!

Please go to and vote for Lee!!

Important Trends to Watch

The cover article for Entrepreneur magazine this month looks at the “people, trends and events that matter most for your business.” They call them “the influencers.”
In the hustle and bustle of starting a growing a business we can lose sight of the big picture. The trends and changes that created the opportunity for the business in the first place can just as quickly take away our economic advantage.
While I am not sure I agree with all of their choices for the top 25, it is worth a read and some careful reflection. Opportunities in the dynamic world in which we live can be quite fleeting.

Time to Vote Again!

Three of the eight finalists in this month’s ideablob competition for the best idea are Belmont students offering up social ventures. The winner will receive $10,000 from Avanta to help develop their venture.
Here are Belmont’s three finalists (in alphabetical order of the student’s name):
Noah Curran’s Turning Actions into Good (winner of “Sprint 1”) is a web-based non-profit charity which revolves around the kindness of strangers. The concept allows anyone to participate in a charity, regardless of financial status. Here is how the process works: Become a free member. Print off pre-made TAG-cards. Commit an act of kindness. Give the person a TAG-card which asks the stranger to do another act of kindness and go to the website to report about the deed that was done to them. After submitted, viewers can vote for the most touching act of the month. The leading vote getter would receive a cash prize.
Janice Dotti (winner of “Sprint 1”) wants to create a completely fair trade, completely organic coffeehouse that sponsors social justice causes while taking care with the environment. In addition to serving fair trade coffee, she will also only use fair trade sugar, tea, and cocoa as we educate our consumers on how their buying habits affect the working poor in developing countries. Every month, this coffeehouse would sponsor a social justice cause–promoting awareness to customers about worldwide issues of injustice. This coffeehouse will also have free wifi, live music, local art–all with a community emphasis.
Finally, Megan Lopez (winner of “Sprint 3”) presents an idea to create an informational website about how to raise your child naturally. From recipes to exercise programs to do with your children. Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in our country today. We need to instill habits in our children starting at birth, so they can maintain and carry them through for the rest of their lives. Organic Baby will be a tool for parents to use as a community blog, buy organic clothing and bedding merchandise, research the benefits of healthy organic foods, etc. She would later like to own her own baby organic clothing line.
Please go to ideablob and vote for our three finalists in this month’s best idea contest! You can vote for more than one idea, but you can only vote for each idea one time.

A Winning Formula

Bill Hobbs sent along a great story that illustrates one of the most important lessons an aspiring entrepreneur can learn. It is the importance of finding a business that satisfies both the entrepreneur’s needs with a true market need that is backed up by hard data.
From Latina Lista:

Carrie Ferguson Weir spent all of her professional life asking the hard questions. As a daily newspaper journalist, this Cuban-American Latina was accustomed to asking the kinds of questions that force honest responses.
However, it wasn’t until she had her own daughter and found herself wrestling with the age-old “working mother dilemma” of either returning to work after maternity leave or being a stay-at-home mom that Carrie found herself on the receiving end of her own interrogation.
What could she do that would give her the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom and a successful businesswoman?
…”The idea came as a lightening bolt out of nowhere,” Carrie said. “I believe in those messages. The research that followed backed up the hunch.”
What Carrie had noticed was a gap in the baby t-shirt business when it came to exhibiting proud Latino roots.

Another Belmont Social Entrepreneur in Latest ideablob Heat

Megan Lopez is the latest Belmont Social Entrepreneur to throw her hat in the ideablob ring.

An informational website about how to raise your child naturally. From recipes to exercise programs to do with your children. Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in our country today. We need to instill habits in our children starting at birth, so they can maintain and carry them through for the rest of their lives. Organic Baby will be a tool for parents to use as a community blog, buy organic clothing and bedding merchandise, research the benefits of healthy organic foods, etc. I would later like to own my own baby organic clothing line.

Please go to ideablob and vote for Megan’s idea! Even if you voted earlier this month this is a new heat and you can vote again! We hope to have three social entrepreneurs from Belmont in the finals this month!!

Calling All “Edisons”

Everyday Edisons, a PBS reality series chronicling modern inventors and the development of their inventions, announces its 2008 casting call schedule to be held in major cities throughout the nation in search of Season Three participants. The show considers all categories of invention, ranging from sketched ideas and simple concepts to detailed, patented designs and factory prototypes.
The Everyday Edisons panel of judges, including product development and patent law experts, will provide a forum for participants to present and demonstrate original ideas. The judges will select 10 to 12 inventors to be featured in the third season of Everyday Edisons, which chronicles the inventors as their concept is refined, produced, marketed and sold.
The remaining Everyday Edisons 2008 casting call schedule includes:
– SAN JOSE – February 16
– DALLAS – March 15
– CHICAGO – April 19
Participants with factory prototypes or finished products will be reviewed by the judging panel, as well as representatives from major retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, QVC, PetSmart, Staples, The Sharper Image and buybuyBABY. Previous inventions featured on Everyday Edisons range from a convertible baby bag and kitchenware product to a family board game and construction tool.
Interested? Go to their web site here for more details.