Posts Tagged "Business Motivation"

The $499 package includes your hotel stay, along with complimentary breakfast and a 2-hour daily open bar.


3 min read

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With the Covid-19 pandemic coming to an end, overworked professionals have one thing on our minds: that next getaway. And when it comes to destination vacations, there are few places more luxurious than Maldives — a small archipelagic nation comprising almost 1,200 islands sprinkled throughout the Indian Ocean. Because it’s one of the most picturesque locations in the world, it’s also typically one of the most expensive to visit. 

For a limited time, however, you and a loved one can travel to the country’s South Palm Resort in Addu City for just $499 total over at TravelZoo. In addition to five nights in a 700-square foot beach villa, that low price will get free breakfast and access to a 2-hour open bar each day. And you’re willing to spend $1,000 more, you can chow down on all three meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and enjoy a domestic flight to Gan from Velana International Airport as well as a 10-minute speedboat transfer to the resort from there. Each villa has an outdoor shower on a private deck with a stunning view of the water. 

Step it up to a 750-square foot water villa for $300 more, and you’ll be treated to lavish lodging that overlooks the lagoon, for the ultimate summer escape. Like the base package, you’ll get all the bells and whistles including breakfast and an open bar for $799 and three meals plus the open bar and round trip domestic flights and speedboat transfers for $1,899. To sweeten the deal, the water villa comes with a 24-hour butler service, too, so you can live out your most extravagant dreams to their absolute fullest. 

As long as you book prior to December 19, 2023, TravelZoo is flexible on the times you can take off on your trip to Maldives. The vacation is completely refundable, too, in case you don’t end up wanting to go. If you’re at all interested in a once-in-a-lifetime experience at an affordable cost, you should jump on this bargain, risk-free, before it sells out. As of this writing, it’s “almost gone,” according to the site. Seeing as the previously least expensive sunrise villa option is sold out, we suspect the beach villa will be the next to go. Take your next step toward exploring the rest of the world, at a discount, while the offer still applies. 

Interested in more deals on highly rated travel destinations? TravelZoo is more than Maldives. From San Francisco to Paris to Waikiki, browse the full selection of vacation packages on sale at TravelZoo.com.

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14 min read


As an ambitious young man looking to leave his mark on the world, Oded Brenner never planned to make chocolate. He probably didn’t plan to be bald, either, but when we spoke on the phone, the 52-year-old founder of Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man suggested that plans are often a detour from the main event. He quoted John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” 

Growing up in Israel, Brenner wanted to be a writer. But he needed money to finance his writing, and it turned out he had a knack for making pastries. So he went to Paris to study under the chocolatier Michel Chaudun, and in 1996, when he was 25, he returned to Israel to open a chocolate shop in the small town of Ra’anana.

“The things I was doing in my shop were very out of the box, different from classic European chocolate stores,” he says. “I felt there was a big gap between the way people talk and think about chocolate and the way they experience it in the retail world. Traditional chocolate stores treat chocolate almost like jewelry, in these beautiful boxes — don’t touch it! But when I talked to my customers, they were talking about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sexy gifts, romantic childhood memories, the emotional connotations of chocolate. So this was the beginning of Max Brenner. I said: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Let’s create chocolate pipes that go all around the restaurant. Let’s create a ‘hug mug,’ so you can hug your mug close and feel like you are in a chalet on a ski vacation. You say, ‘I’m addicted to chocolate, I want a chocolate fix.’ So I created a big syringe full of chocolate so you can shoot it into your mouth. And so on. I really turned it into a chocolate amusement park.”

Word of the chocolate amusement spread, and Max Brenner (a hat-tip to Brenner and his original partner, Max Fichtman) quickly became a household name in Israel. In 2001, the company was acquired by Israeli food conglomerate Strauss Group. And while the brand continued to grow, moving its headquarters to New York and opening 50-plus international locations, Brenner began to feel the loss of control more acutely. With Strauss’s blessing, he opened a separate cafe chain, Little Brown Chocolate Bakery & Coffee, in 2011. But when the new concept started to find success, Strauss sued him for violating his non-compete. Brenner fought down to his last penny, but still lost both Little Brown and his place at Max Brenner. And he was banned from creating anything chocolate-related or putting his name or face on any brand for five years (Entrepreneur reached out to Strauss for comment but didn’t receive a response prior to publication).

Brenner says those five years were the darkest of his life; he moved his family, struggled financially, called up friends to ask for help finding work. His whole sense of self changed. But when the exile was over, he returned with a new venture. In 2018, the Blue Stripes: Urban Cacao shop opened just a block and a half from the Max Brenner flagship in Union Square. Brenner had discovered the myriad uses of cacao — a football-shaped fruit with white, somewhat ghostly-looking “pods” inside — on a trip to a Blue Mountain Coffee plantation in Jamaica. He was aghast to learn that chocolatiers only use 30 percent of the whole “superfood,” and trash the rest. “I was shocked that I had dealt with chocolate for 20 years and was so unaware of the potential,” Brenner says. “I was like, wow, this is cacao the way I want to talk about it. The purity and the cultural origins of it.” 

Blue Stripes uses all parts (shell, fruit and pods) of the cacao to make impressively healthy products — from cacao water and dried fruit, to cookies, energy bars and protein balls, keto dessert bites, granola, hazelnut butter, and pastry flour. 

“I think Max Brenner was a phenomenal brand,” Brenner says. “But what I’m doing today with Blue Stripes is much more beautiful in terms of both creativity and meaningful message. When you see what’s going on around the world — climate change, pollution, the gap between the rich and other countries — it feels like finally here is a small way that I, with my 25 years of experience, can do something to make a change. And all of this came about because of those five years of hell.”

In a candid conversation, Brenner opened up about what he learned while going through his own personal hell. He talked about his initial fateful decision to sell Max Brenner, trying to work in a corporate environment as an entrepreneur, the bitterness that came with losing control of his own creation, being banned from doing what he was best at, and how he came to view those five years in the emotional and financial wilderness as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. His perspective is valuable to entrepreneurs considering selling equity in their business, those in the midst of a nasty split with business partners, or anyone simply figuring out how to start again after a staggering loss.

Image credit: Oded Brenner

What were the factors that led up to you deciding to sell Max Brenner?

Max Brenner was a big success from the beginning, but the success had nothing to do with making money. I had a lot of fame, I was participating in many TV shows, and everybody knew about the brand. But maybe three years in, if I was making money, it was for sure not enough to continue. So I had to bring on a partner. Strauss was the largest food corporation in Israel, and they basically took over the company. They gave me a very nice salary, bonuses here and there, consulting fees and a little bit of royalties, but left me with a very small percentage in the brand — 3.5% equity. I became a very minor shareholder.

What was your mindset at that time?

I was exhausted, I didn’t want to let this dream die completely, and I didn’t have the money to continue. So I had no other choice. I wanted to believe that we would grow this thing together, and I would still benefit from it. I was convincing myself that it would eventually be a billion dollar company, and my 3.5% could be $35 million. But to be honest with you, I was also so in love with my own creation that I wasn’t thinking rationally from any business angle. I couldn’t stand to think of the stores closing down. I couldn’t stop getting the love from my customers. I was addicted — in a good way — to the food, to the love, to the applause. I didn’t want it to stop. And I didn’t really think about what it meant that I had just a 3.5% vote on anything. I thought that three, four, five years later I would look back and say, “I saved the brand.”

Did Strauss give you the impression that you would retain creative control?

Yes, they gave me the impression that, “You’re Max, you’re the bald man! You’re this amazing guy, you’re the creator!” Today I’m less naive than I was then, and I think experienced people do a lot of these things intentionally. I don’t say intentionally in such a bad way, but they are looking at it as pure, cruel business. So yes, they gave me the impression that there was no brand without me, even though they didn’t actually share the same vision as me.

What was it like going from running your company to being part of a corporation?

Many people told me that an entrepreneur cannot work in a corporate environment. It’s almost like an impossible marriage. I don’t want to generalize, but usually, an entrepreneur is a very impulsive, gut-instinct person. He has crazy passion, like a fire. He wants to do things, he wants to see them happen right now. The corporate process is extremely different. It’s, “Let’s think about it, analytics, who told you this is true? Why this packaging? Why these colors? Why are you changing the brand language?” It’s endless. When you say, “Let’s try to sell in Japan,” it’s, “Why Japan? Who told you it’s a market?” But the Japanese love dark chocolate! “How do you know, show us research. Why do you think this is the way?” The entrepreneur usually doesn’t think, he knows. He’s pushing and he makes mistakes. But he just says, “Okay, so this was a mistake. Doesn’t matter.” This is almost his nature to push forward and make things happen.  And the corporate is mostly people who are running an already existing business. It’s not good or bad, but they are thinking and analyzing and slowly, “Let’s bring in a consultant.” An entrepreneur and a consultant, they are like oil and water. I mean, they cannot work together.

How did your relationship with the corporate Max Brenner team start to sour?

For a very long time, bitterness and frustration were building up. At some point, I started to show up less to meetings, and I think they were relieved because they didn’t want to see me there. I was showing up for PR, events, interviews, whatever, here and there, and I was making new recipes sometimes. But in general, I wanted to be involved less and less. And eventually I decided that I wanted to start a new concept, like a Starbucks of chocolate — smaller stores, self-service, quick serve. It was called Little Brown. I pitched it to Max Brenner and they weren’t interested, so I told them, “I think it’s not in competition with Max Brenner, and I want to open a store like this under a different brand name.” They said no problem. So I opened one on the upper East side, and then I had a franchise in Russia and one in Dubai, and I leased another store in Chelsea… they never told me I was doing anything bad. But one day the chairman of Max Brenner came to me and told me, “Listen, I don’t think it’s working between us, we should split.” I told him no problem. But then he said, “You need to stop doing this and this and this in Little Brown.” I said, “I cannot, I already have franchisees, and you know you’re jeopardizing my concept.” Well he didn’t say anything much, and then one day on a Friday afternoon, somebody knocked on the door and said, “You’re being served.”

What was the legal battle like?

I was extremely emotional, like, “I’m going to show you and fight.” You just don’t think that a $3 billion corporate company is going to smash you, but that’s what happened. It was a very short and aggressive fight. Then we went to court, and right when we started the discussion the judge said, “You should settle.” I had not a drop of energy to continue fighting, not a dime left in my pocket. So I gave up on everything. The five year non-compete was always part of the settlement. But I just wanted it to finish, I didn’t care. I’m lucky because at some point they even said 10 years and I was ready to sign.

You had to really change your lifestyle after losing the court battle. What was that like?

I lived a very comfortable life in Manhattan, and I moved my family to a very small house in Jersey. We had one car, we didn’t go out to restaurants. No vacations, no nothing. I had to call friends and ask for help. It’s not pleasant when you were the big shot who gave job interviews, and now you need to do job interviews or ask friends to hire you for consulting work. And consulting is very unstable work. You never know when you’ll get the next job. Sometimes I had a little more money, sometimes I didn’t have any. And I was very surprised how much people don’t want me as a consultant. I thought, “I’m the bald man, Max Brenner, everybody needs my advice!” It was not that easy. Nobody was waiting for the bald man. But eventually I started to fill up a CV, which I’d never had before. For a self-made man who was the boss, becoming an employee is devastating. But I said, this is another stage in the journey I need to go though.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who need to bring on partners for their company to survive?

Don’t give up control. Be extremely tough in the negotiation. If people really want your brand, they will give in eventually. If not, they’re not the right partners. They will negotiate hard because they are more experienced than you. Sometimes they will be mentally stronger because you’re in a very tough spot, and you are tired and exhausted. But don’t give up on equity because equity is the most important thing. And I’m not talking here about a huge, mature brand. Then you can give up on control and it’s a different situation. But when a brand is in the earliest stages of entrepreneurship, you need to have control in the decision-making. Even if you are kind of diluted in your financial equity of the company, because sometimes somebody’s putting a lot of money in and yeah, the company is not in a great situation. I understand this, but if you’re not going to have the control, it’s not going to be your company.

What did you learn from the emotional journey?

At a certain point, you just want to collapse. You’re angry at the world, angry at God, angry at everyone. This is hell. You ask: How could this happen to me? Even though you know that part of it is probably your fault. But hopefully — and this is what I told myself — you’re not going to go through hell many times. So this is a one-time experience. I would say it even stronger: This is a one-time opportunity. Hell has benefits. It has benefits on your ego, and ego is a very destructive element in our personalities. Hell has benefits on the way you talk to other people and how you think about business. Mostly, hell makes you think a lot. It can change your personality. It is not there coincidentally, and this may sound maybe a little bit too spiritual and mystical, but I would say listen to it carefully. Give it all the room and time it needs. Feel sorry for yourself, be angry. But use this period to build you for the next stage in your life, which can be unbelievable. If you are creative, if you are a true entrepreneur, you will be able to come back and do it again, and the next thing will be better.

Related: This Entrepreneur Sells $355 Bars of Chocolate. Is He Crazy or a …

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4 min read


This story originally appeared on MarketBeat

With cybersecurity in the news lately, are stocks like Fortinet (NASDAQ: FTNT) well-positioned for gains?

The stock rebounded Thursday, along with the broader market. 

In addition to the hacking of the Colonial pipeline, the growing work-from-home movement shed light on cybersecurity risks for enterprise. This week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order designed to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity. 

Fortinet has specialized in core firewall protection, but it’s expanding into a new networking technology called SD-WAN. 

Analysts have great expectations for the company for the next two years. Unlike many companies whose revenue and net income hit the skids in 2020, Fortinet saw annual earnings growth of 35% and revenue growth of 20%. 

This year, Wall Street expects earnings per share of $3.74, up 12%. Next year, that’s expected to be $4.35, a gain of 16%.

At the company’s virtual investor day in March, Fortinet said it expects revenue to reach $4 billion by 2023. 

SD-WAN is short for “software-defined, wide-area network” technology. It serves a need very much in demand these days: Connecting a company’s various offices, as well as at-home workers. 

Corporations Change Approach To Security

This business line ramped up fast, with events of 2020 boosting Fortinet’s SD-WAN revenue. Billings in the category nearly doubled, to $355 million. 

Enterprise customers are changing their approach to cybersecurity and connectivity. That bodes well for Fortinet, whose firewall products have built-in SD-WAN. 

In addition, the SD-WAN rollout is a good move for Fortinet, as firewall business is slowing industrywide, as more and more enterprise users switch to cloud storage. 

Fortinet’s trade has been choppy since its earnings report after the close on April 29. However, much of that chop was due to a decline in the broader market. Fortinet, as a large cap, is part of the S&P 500 index, so it’s appropriate to gauge its performance to the broader index. 

Fortinet is down 2.78% in May, trading Thursday at around $198. As a point of comparison, the S&P 500 is down just 1.54% this month. 

That’s not a big enough discrepancy to become concerned about, especially with a company that’s situated in a growing industry, and one that’s in the spotlight these days. 

What Does Chip Shortage Mean?

One potential headwind is the global semiconductor shortage. In the April earnings call, chief financial officer Keith Jensen addressed that challenge. He discussed the products themselves within Fortinet’s inventory mix.

“One thing about Fortinet, in addition to having different form factors, is the inventory balances that we carry, a two times inventory turns, you’re looking at basically six months of inventory that we’re carrying on our balance sheet,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that supply chain issues related to chips will be a constant this year and into next year. “But I think in terms of when we sit down and talk about our expectations for the year, I think we have a fairly good understanding of how to work that in,” he added. 

Although this stock has a lot going for it, this is not the right time to buy, especially with the broader market in a correction. Downside volume has been lower than upside volume lately, which is a great sign for the stock. However, more selling could be ahead. 

There’s a great deal of chatter right now about investors being spooked by inflation, but the reality is: The stock rallied 42.37% over the past year and 32.65% year-to-date. After those rallies, it’s not surprising to see institutional investors take some profits and prepare for the next run-up.

The industry outlook is good, as well. Rivals in the firewall space include Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW) and Checkpoint Software (NASDAQ: CHKP). Smaller cybersecurity stocks include Identiv (NASDAQ: INVE) and Proofpoint, which is being acquired by private equity firm Thomas Bravo.
Look For Fortinet To Post Double-Digit Earnings Growth In Next Two Years

Featured Article: What are Institutional Investors?

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Once upon a time, there was a young and scrappy entrepreneur who sent an email to a famous billionaire he didn’t know and ended up getting a $1 million investment.

This isn’t a fairy tale; it’s what happened when I sat at my desk one evening and decided to take a shot and email Mark Cuban. I’ve always admired his ideas and his approach to business, and I thought he’d appreciate my startup, SAVRpak, which helps keep takeout, packaged foods and produce fresher for longer. So I found his address, dropped him a note, and forgot all about it, thinking there was little-to-no chance the man who stars on ABC’s Shark Tank and owns the Dallas Mavericks would rush to answer my email.

A few hours later, while cooking dinner for some friends, I pulled out my phone to check something and, by force of habit, took a quick look at my inbox. And there it was. A reply from Mark Cuban. It was just a few words long, but I didn’t care; it was an invitation to an engagement, an engagement that, in my case, ended with Cuban becoming my investor.

I’ll be honest: If this wasn’t my story, and if I had heard the very tale I’m telling you now, I might’ve dismissed it as a one-off, some crazy fantasy that never really happens in the real world to guys like me. But having lived through this thrilling and deeply instructive experience, allow me to offer five pieces of advice on how you, too, can take the sort of initiative that might end with a very famous investor and a very large check in the bank.

Take the chance!

It might sound obvious, but it’s not. Anyone looking over my shoulder as I drafted that initial note to Cuban might have very well advised me not to waste my time. Such a critic might’ve noted that cold-emailing celebrity billionaires is hardly the most prudent and logical approach, and such a critic would’ve been right. But business, like life, isn’t always rational, and sometimes just jumping right in and making an ask defies logic and rewards the bold. So, as the old and wise slogan goes, just do it.

Related: Black-Owned Vegan Burger Brand Lands $300,000 Investment on ‘Shark Tank’; Reached Six-Figure Revenues Within 24 Hours

Treat it like a sport

How to do it, however, is an entirely different question, one that I can answer with great joy: Treat it like a sport. There’s a reason why so many business people are fond of using athletic metaphor, like saying a deal is a home run or that the negotiations are on the five-yard line. It’s because capitalism, like sport, is, at its best, a respectful and rule-bound, yet playful and muscular competition. My conversation with Cuban is a case in point: One or two emails into our conversations, the famously outspoken investor tried to rattle my confidence by dismissing the potential worth of my business. I remained polite, of course — you’d be foolish not to when talking to a man who knows a thing or two about business — but shot back with my own reply, which not only delivered facts and figures I thought Cuban should know but also showed him that I can play the game.

Related: The Shocking 4-Letter Word Mark Cuban Uttered on the Set of Shark Tank

Have a conversation

This leads me to my third point: When engaging a high-profile potential investor, you’re not really pitching; you’re having a conversation. Once Cuban was convinced that I was someone who knew his business and had the wherewithal to stand his ground and champion his own cause, he asked excellent and insightful questions and made great suggestions that I happily followed. I didn’t just try to sell him on my company; I listened, and this engagement is what took our exchange from a random back-and-forth online to a real and fruitful business relationship.

Of course, in business, like in, say, dating, you can hardly get very far unless you have a pretty good idea of what the other side likes. Before writing Cuban that first note, I spent a good bit of time reading up on him and getting a good sense of how he approached deal-making. I learned how he liked to communicate and what he considered to be an utter waste of time, which helped me hit the right notes early and make our interaction a meaningful one.

Related: 13 Million-Dollar Businesses That Turned Down ‘Shark Tank’ Deals

Have fun

Again, like dating, make sure everyone is having fun. For example, when Cuban wrote and tweaked me by suggesting that my company wasn’t worth as much as I believed, I didn’t respond with an indignant missive or a spreadsheet dense with numbers. I just sent him a sad face emoji before writing back a short and polite response stating my opinion. That silly little gesture isn’t the sort of tactic they teach you at business school, but it told Cuban a lot about me and how I approach life, showing him that I’m serious about business but also a down-to-earth guy who isn’t above a bit of banter when the occasion calls for it. This is exactly the sort of realness that moves a relationship forward fast, even — or especially — when the person you’re trying to court is one of the world’s busiest and most sought-after investors.

Follow these lessons, and you might not land a business partner of Cuban’s caliber, but I guarantee you’ll do much, much better than you would have otherwise. Trust me: If you take chances and have fun, do your work and stand your ground, engage and educate and enchant, you, too, will have your happily ever after. 

Related: The One Investing Tip From Billionaire Mark Cuban That’s Perfect For Entrepreneurs

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Putting your effort in upfront and collecting the returns forever after is the foundation of financial freedom.


12 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Passive income has long been the holy grail for entrepreneurs looking to free up their time, untethering the cord of daily duties and responsibilities from the potential to generate healthy monthly revenues. While the importance of passive income isn’t often doubted, the monumental hurdle often required to achieve a respectable amount of cash flow from automatically-recurring revenue streams is often too great for most to bear.

Clearly, it’s hard to generate passive income. It requires the upfront investment of a significant amount of our time, usually with little to no returns for extended periods. We can go months and even years without a single dollar produced from passive income activities, making even the most astute entrepreneur shake their head in sheer and utter frustration.

The truth of the matter is that time is far more valuable than money. While money can be spent and earned, time can only be spent once, then it’s gone forever. As we age and grow older, we understand the importance of time and being able to freely choose what we do with those precious moments that we do have in life.

Related: 11 Ways to Make Money While You Sleep

 

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5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


WhatsApp is no longer just for messaging and calls. This app, which is part of Facebook, has become an engagement and commerce tool for entrepreneurs and small business owners alike. It can provide another channel for brand building, customer interaction and intelligence, and revenue opportunities. 

Designed around the idea that today’s consumers and businesses prefer mobility, WhatsApp empowers companies to move into the mobile environment through several different touch points. 

Related: How to Get Invited to Clubhouse

Product catalog creation 

Facebook introduced the product catalog for WhatsApp Business users in 2019. You can create an online catalog of your products that customers can browse through the app. You have the ability to add significant content that helps shoppers learn more about each product, helping to inform and encourage their purchase. This information can include elements such as product name, product description, a URL link, product SKU and even an image of each item. 

For small businesses that have yet to develop a real web presence, this can help you get in front of customers with a minimum of effort. It’s especially helpful for those businesses just starting out that may be only known through a local kiosk, farmer’s market, or some other small offline following. Appreciative, loyal customers will find it easier to keep buying from these brands while simultaneously easily promoting them within their social circle, thus broadening the brand’s reach. 

Product ordering

Beyond just browsing and learning about your products, shoppers can immediately click on one or more items, add them to a shopping cart on the app and complete a purchase. 

WhatsApp Business added this functionality in 2020 and plans to launch more payment tools in 2021. That would mean the entire shopping process could be completed within the messaging window of this app. 

Related: 8 Content Marketing Ideas to Strengthen Your Bottom Line

Conversations while shopping 

WhatsApp is propelling the conversational commerce concept. That’s when companies use interactive media (like WhatsApp) to communicate with customers throughout the purchase process. You may see your response and engagement rate increase simply by switching from phone calls, which often go unanswered, to instant messaging, which often feels less intrusive to customers. 

Not only do they know who is contacting them, but they also retain more control over the conversation with your brand. It is also an easier and more cost-effective way to engage with international customers, where phone calls may prove either cost-prohibitive or impractical.  

Conversational commerce differs from promotional messaging. It focuses on dialogue that helps your company build relationships with customers, thus creating a conversation during all parts of the customer purchase journey, from need recognition all the way through to purchase decision (and even repurchase). 

WhatsApp provides multiple ways to start these conversations, including messaging templates that guide you through the most effective dialogue strategies. For example, thoughtful approaches to encouraging a conversation include providing space for customers to ask questions about products or services, giving them order updates and confirmations on shipping and delivery, and offering answers to basic inquiries about business hours and similar questions. You can also use the app to share information on upcoming offers or to deliver personalized messages and deals tied to a customer’s birthday or anniversary. 

Related: Te Quiero Mucho: How to Benchmark Taco Bell’s Winning Marketing Strategy

WhatsApp API for more complex features

Beyond WhatsApp Business, you can explore the paid version known as the WhatsApp Business API, which is designed for larger businesses and businesses seeking enhanced sophistication in messaging. This version offers an extensive array of additional features, including the product ordering and order checking. 

The API includes integration with Facebook advertising tools so that targeted audience members can contact your brand directly through a paid social media ad. Since it is an API, you can integrate with other third-party companies to further extend the power of WhatsApp Business. You can optimize your business profile page with additional content, such as a business description, contact information (address, email address, and website URL), and a cover photo.

Additionally, the WhatsApp API delivers more robust metrics about your audience in the app. In turn, this intelligence can help your marketing team develop more impactful messaging, campaigns, and product displays. 

Related: Hire Your Next Remote Team Member from One of These 20 U.S. Tech Hubs

An internal opportunity

Although WhatsApp Business is primarily an external tool to use with leads and existing customers, the app also offers internal applications to help make workflows easier for your team members. It’s a simple tool that your employees may already use to communicate outside of work, which makes it even easier to deploy with little to no pushback on having to use another tool. 

Consider putting WhatsApp to work within your company by developing specific groups, such as a sales group or marketing group. That way, your teams can share information through instant message, rather than an email chain. Many individuals prefer to use this immediate communication channel, so it makes sense to introduce it within the work environment. 

New business territories

WhatsApp is a tool that helps your business move into new territories with a simpler commerce infrastructure. This can be an ideal and cost-effective way to expand into new growth areas for your startup or small business. It offers a unique business model that suits unprecedented times and physical business limitations. 

It could mean using WhatsApp Business as a booking or consultation platform for a service-based business or for deliveries from a restaurant or retailer without a physical storefront. It can also assist with internal growth, providing a channel to help your employees and outsourced team members stay connected. 

Related: Make Sure to Ask Yourself These 3 Business Questions for 2021

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One of the biggest pandemic winners last year was Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), a company that offers a software platform for retailers that helps them set up their stores online.


5 min read


This story originally appeared on MarketBeat

One of the biggest pandemic winners last year was Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), a company that offers a software platform for retailers that helps them set up their stores online. The stock rallied over 179% in 2020 thanks to broad shifts in the retail landscape and unprecedented demand for e-commerce. Many investors were wondering whether or not Shopify’s huge 2020 was simply the result of short-term tailwinds, but the company is still maintaining its strong momentum after its recent blowout Q1 earnings report.

While Shopify is certainly not a cheap stock, there are plenty of great reasons to consider adding shares. Risk tolerant investors that are looking for the cream of the crop in e-commerce stocks should be very interested in Shopify at this time. Here are a few reasons why Shopify belongs on your shopping list.

Revolutionizing the E-commerce Ecosystem

Let’s say you are a business owner that wants to list your products for sale online. If you aren’t an expert in web design, building out an online store on your own is going to be costly and time-consuming. Alternatively, you can consider selling your products on Amazon, which is a ready-made platform with millions of potential customers. The problem with that option is you will be competing against tons of other sellers and will have a hard time creating a unique or strong brand that stands out. On the other hand, you can use the leading e-commerce platform Shopify to start your online store without any technical experience whatsoever and use its powerful e-commerce tools to create a brand that matches your business.

That’s the beauty of Shopify. It’s revolutionizing the e-commerce ecosystem and allowing businesses to build their online stores in an affordable and easy-to-use way. The company offers a free trial period that allows small and medium-sized businesses to see why it’s the best e-commerce platform on the market, then generates revenue from recurring subscription fees and add-ons. The platform can easily handle large inventory and even allows businesses to sell their products through social media sales channels like Pinterest and Facebook. Shopify also provides a point of sale system so businesses can sell their products both online and in person. The bottom line here is that Shopify makes running a business simple and is a major disruptor in the e-commerce market, which is why it’s a stock that is worth buying.

Blowout Q1 Numbers

Shopify stock hasn’t kept up its torrid pace from last year, but that might be changing given the company’s blowout Q1 2021 earnings numbers. Fears that the company’s momentum would slow down in 2021 have been assuaged, as Shopify is still benefitting from digital commerce tailwinds. The company reported total Q1 revenue of $988.6 million, up 110% year-over-year and beating the consensus analyst estimate of $866 million. Investors should also note that more merchants are joining Shopify’s platform, which is evident in the subscription solutions revenue number of $320.7 million, up 71% year-over-year.

As we dive deeper into the company’s huge quarter, there are plenty of additional standout numbers that exceeded expectations. Perhaps the most impressive takeaway is the fact that Gross Merchandise Volume came in at $37.3 billion, up 114% year-over-year and an even larger GMV number than last quarter, which included sales from the holiday season. GMV is a very important metric for e-commerce businesses because it refers to the volume of goods sold on a company’s platform and is often used to determine the health of a company in this space.

Enabling Entrepreneurship 

When it comes to having conviction in a long-term investment, it’s a lot easier if you are on board with a company’s mission and how it is impacting the lives of its customers. That’s another reason to stick with Shopify because it’s a company that is helping entrepreneurs succeed with the help of its platform. Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the economy, and the fact that Shopify provides business owners with things like payment processing, shipping, financing, and an easy way to create their online stores at an affordable price could end up inspiring new generations of business owners to pursue their dreams.

As of now, Shopify powers over 1.7 million businesses in over 175 different countries. The company is likely just getting started in terms of growth, and Shopify estimates that its total addressable market for small businesses is $153 billion. While this company trades at a lofty valuation, there are more than enough reasons to support adding shares at this time. Keep in mind that the stock is still down over 12% from its February highs even after the Q1 post-earnings move, which means there’s plenty of room for the stock to rally at this time.

Featured Article: How liquidity affects the bid-ask spread

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Did you think you had unusual customs? Wait to meet those of these people.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.


One thing is for sure: the most successful people – in the artistic, sports, political and business spheres – are out of the box. Maybe that’s why it shouldn’t surprise us that they have strange habits, but some are so unheard of that it’s impossible not to be astonished.

These are the most exotic practices of successful people.

Get up early … VERY early

Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for 11 years, began her days not at 6 o’clock, not at 5 o’clock … but at 4 o’clock in the morning! It is said that he slept only 4 hours during the week. The question is, where did she get the energy to build the fame of the Iron Lady?

Wear different socks

Seth Godin, an American businessman and leading marketing theorist, is known for wearing brightly colored socks, full of shapes and different from one another. He does it to illustrate a point: that of not being afraid to “step out of the mold.”

Offer your day to Buddha

Before starting his daily activities, Eric Ripert, French chef and owner of Le Bernardin, one of the best restaurants in the world, meditates for a couple of minutes and offers his day to Buddha. Ripert is a faithful devotee of Buddhism and a follower of the Dalai Lama.

Wear an unusual work uniform

Suit, tie and briefcase? Bah: that uniform is for ordinary businessmen. Business mogul Steve Jobs challenged this rule by wearing a pair of jeans , a black turtleneck, and a pair of New Balance sneakers for all his meetings and conferences.

Always wear the same clothes

Why break your head wondering what to wear to work if you can always wear the same? This is the (strange) logic of Leo Widrich, a young entrepreneur and co-founder of Buffer, a company that manages company social networks . Leo prefers to always wear the same shirts so that he can focus his mind on “bigger decisions.”

Sleeping in a capsule

No, it’s not science fiction… Michael Phelps, a swimmer and American Olympic medalist, sleeps in an air-controlled compartment that simulates some 2,700 meters in height. The objective? Force your body to work even while you are asleep to produce more red blood cells and deliver oxygen to your muscles.

Write thank you notes by hand

Not all CEOs live glued to their cell phones and tablets. Dave Kerpen, owner of Likeable Local, a successful social media company, has a practice that allows him to have a close bond with his employees and customers: writing thank you notes by hand. At least write three a day.

Lock yourself in a hotel room

To be more productive during the day, Maya Angelou – poet, novelist, activist, actress, singer, screenwriter and film director – locked herself in a small hotel room from 7 am to 2 pm She carried a dictionary, a bible, a card game and a bottle of sherry … to stimulate your creativity, of course.

Self-drown

There are rare habits, but certainly none as extreme as Yoshiro Nakamatsu’s. The 85-year-old Japanese, inventor of the floppy disk, the karaoke machine, the taximeter and the digital clock, used to submerge his head in water until he was almost out of air. His idea: deprive the brain of oxygen and “push it to the limit.” He claims that being close to death he visualized his best inventions.

Work 130 hours per week

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, is known for her hobby – or rather, addiction? – to work. While working for Google, he used to put in 130 hours a week for the company (more than 18 hours of work per day, including weekends). It is said that, to cope with such a rhythm of work, he takes a week off every four months.

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Once you’ve defined your most effective keywords, it’s time to hunt for how they’re being used effectively online so you can find the best link-building opportunities for your site.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The following excerpt is from the Garrett French and Eric Ward’s book Ultimate Guide to Link Building, 2nd Edition. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Once you’ve compiled your list of market-defining keywords (MDKWs), it’s time to create queries and search for them in your favorite search engine. The following are a few ways you can do that.

Related: Do You Know What Linkable Assets Are Hiding in Your Website?

1. Look for blogs, news sites and trade publications

The existence of blogs, news sites and trade publications are all indicators of a healthy “expert publication” stratus within your market space. If these kinds of sites exist, especially in large numbers, your campaign design can and should include expert engagement and content creation and promotion, to name a couple.

Check for these kinds of publishers with queries such as:

  • MDKW blogs
  • MDKW “blog list”
  • “top MDKW blogs”
  • “MDKW news”
  • MDKW “Trade Publication”
  • MDKW conference or convention (You’ll have to track back to the trade orga­nization that’s hosting the convention.)

 

How many results in the top 10 are relevant? Are you finding lists of bloggers? If not, make sure your MDKWs are broad enough! If so, then make note of “expert engagement” and content creation/promotion as a solid direction for your link-building efforts.

2. Look for niche directories

Niche directories are almost always worth submitting to. Consider them a “covering your bases” link-building effort. Some keyword spaces have niche directories, and some don’t.

Find niche directories with queries such as:

  • “MDKW Directory”
  • “MDKW Websites”
  • MDKW “suggest * URL”

3. Look for interviews with subject-matter experts

The presence of interviews signifies there’s an “expert class” within your keyword space. If there are a number of interviews, then you should do two things. The first is to get thought leaders in your organization interviewed. Second, you should conduct a group interview of all the experts who were interviewed. Gather the experts’ contact information, then brainstorm five to 10 great questions and send them out. When they’ve responded, aggregate their answers into one article and let them know when it’s published.

Check on the presence of interviews with queries such as:

  • MDKW intitle:interview
  • MDKW intitle:“q&a with”
  • MDKW intitle:“tips from” OR “advice from” OR “chat with”

4. Look for niche forums, social networking sites and Q/A sites

What is the online community like in your keyword space? Remember, there are hundreds of thousands of people perfectly happy with forums as their platform for web interactions. Find them! This will help you determine whether it’s worthwhile to put resources into online conversations.

Find niche forums and social networks with queries such as:

  • MDKW community
  • intitle:MDKW forum
  • MDKW inurl:blogs
  • MDKW answers

5. Look for professional associations

Finding professional associations related to your business indicate a high level of business organization within an industry. This could result in some great opportunities for link development. First, you should consider joining as a means of connecting formally with your industry. Second, many associations have online newsletters and publications to which you can submit content.

Find professional associations with queries such as:

  • MDKW association
  • MDKW associated
  • MDKW intitle:“of america” (or other locale)

Related: 6 Elements Your Link-Building Campaign Must Include

6. Look for company profile listing opportunities

Company profile listings — often earned through submitting specific content types to aggregation sites — are a fairly simple way to build links. There are usually paid and unpaid opportunities.

Find company profile listing opportunities with queries like:

  • MDKW add job
  • MDKW submit software
  • MDKW submit pdf
  • MDKW add coupon
  • MDKW submit contest
  • MDKW events
  • MDKW free tools

7. Look for resource curators

Resource curation has, until recently, been the task of librarians. These days, it’s far more likely that industry expert participants and publishers will build lists of resources either on a one-time basis with continual updates (that’s what we mean by “curation”) or on a weekly/monthly basis in the form of roundups. We’ve seen some resource aggregation in the form of exhaustive how-tos that link out to the best industry tools and information as well, so be on the lookout!

Detect resource curators with queries such as:

  • MDKW roundup
  • “Useful MDKW links” library
  • MDKW resources list

8. Look for content placement opportunities

Guest content placement has been the work of PR departments for years. Times are changing, and it’s up to link builders to help lead the company toward content placements that will improve rankings, sales and brand recognition.

Check your keyword space for content placement opportunities with queries such as:

  • MDKW “guest post”
  • MDKW inurl:category/guest
  • MDKW “guest article”
  • MDKW “write for us”

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6 min read


This story originally appeared on PennyStocks

3 Penny Stocks to Watch That Are Trading Higher Today

Many penny stocks have shown bullish action in April. While there are bad days in the market, investors seem hopeful about the future. Some of this can be attributed to recent positive updates about the pandemic. In the U.S., COVID cases have rapidly declined in the past month alone. This is in part due to the millions of vaccine doses that have been distributed.

According to the most recent data, 36% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. Because of this, many believe that economic recovery could occur in the coming months. Additionally, factors like solid retail numbers and low unemployment, show that the future could be bright. As a result, many penny stocks are increasing in value.

If you are looking to invest in penny stocks, there are a few options. While you can buy stocks under $5 through many brokers, traders have recently turned to newer platforms. This includes those like Robinhood and WeBull. In the past, buying and selling stocks was a rather tedious process for non-institutional investors. However, the rise of easy-to-use brokers and social platforms like Reddit has increased the number of retail traders out there.

And while these platforms are easy to use, they often won’t allow access to OTC or over-the-counter markets. This is where a large portion of penny stocks reside. While finding stocks under $1 can be challenging on Robinhood, there are plenty of them out there to take a closer look at.

[Read More] 4 Reddit Penny Stocks to Watch Before the End of the Month

Before you dive headfirst into penny stocks, it’s worth noting that they can be more volatile than blue chips. While it depends on the sector, in general, stocks under $5 and especially those under $1 can carry a high-risk profile. That being said, there are lots of penny stocks to watch in April 2021. With this in mind, here are three that posted large movements on April 15th. 

Penny Stocks To Buy For Under $1

ToughBuilt Industries Inc.

ToughBuilt Industries is a company that has been trading heavily off of speculation in the past few days. Before we get into why; let’s talk about what the company does. ToughBuilt is a manufacturer of home improvement items and construction-related products. It offers everything from tool belts and tool bags to storage solutions, saws, and more. On March 26th, the company released an update that most likely affected its intraday trading volume.

This update came as ToughBuilt released its fiscal 2020 results. In the results, TBLT announced revenue growth of 106% to $39.4 million. Additionally, its gross profit shot up by 162% to $14.7 million. This is compared to $5.6 million in the previous year. Both of these numbers represent sizable gains and show that fundamentals might actually be driving its recent price action. 

“ToughBuilt has demonstrated strong fundamentals based on execution team, customer relationships, balance sheet, commitment to research and development and continued customer service.” 

CEO of ToughBuilt, Michael Panosian

This year, Toughbuilt is focusing on building out its product lines as well as its global distribution. It aims to offer a wider range of products as well as new and innovative equipment.

Despite TBLT falling in value on April 15th, this balance sheet could have larger implications for the long term. It’s common to see a stock either move up or down very quickly on the day of a balance sheet release. Because its numbers are quite good, TBLT stock could be worth watching in the coming days.

Penny_Stocks_to_Watch_ToughBuilt_Industries_TBLT_Stock_Chart

Great Panther Mining Ltd.

If you’ve invested in the market in 2021, you’ve probably seen the solid performance of the mining industry. During that time, many mining penny stocks like GPL, have jumped up in value.

One of the driving factors of this is the increasing prices of gold and silver. Because of fears of long-term inflation, investors have turned to safe-haven assets like precious metals. This includes gold and silver. As we turn the corner in April, many mining stocks are continuing to carry this momentum. 

Great Panther Mining is a perfect example of the solid momentum with mining stocks right now. GPL operates as a mining and exploration company based out of Canada. It explores and mines gold, silver, lead, copper, and zinc ores at its facilities. While it does mine non-precious metals, its main focus is on gold and silver. Because of this, it’s no surprise that shares of GPL have increased alongside the precious metals industry.

[Read More] Penny Stocks and the Coinbase IPO: What Cryptocurrency Has to Do With Small-Cap Stocks 

On April 13th, Great Panther reported its first-quarter 2021 production results. In the report, GPL showed solid growth in its mining operations. It also engaged in several big advancements which allowed it to mostly avoid pandemic-related losses. With these results, Great Panther is on track to meet its proposed guidance for 2021.

While production numbers were low in the first quarter of the year, this was all a part of its roadmap. The company states that “The first quarter was planned to be a low production quarter due to heavy stripping. Production is expected to ramp up quarter-over-quarter for the remainder of the year as mining progresses into sectors with lower strip ratios.”

When this was announced, shares of GPL spiked higher during intraday trading. While it did pull back slightly, this seems to be the result of a natural correction. On April 15th, GPL began to see positive momentum once again. During the trading day, GPL shot up by almost 3% to $0.79 per share. With this exciting news in mind, is GPL stock worth watching?

Penny_Stocks_to_Watch_Great_Panther_Mining_Limited_GPL_Stock_Chart

Castor Maritime Inc.

Castor Maritime is a shipping company that works with dry bulk cargoes. This includes everything from flour to building materials and more. During the pandemic, companies like Castor have increased greatly in popularity. However, its recent momentum can be attributed to three factors in particular.

First, on April 5th, it announced the pricing of a $125 million registered direct offering. It will be issuing 192.3 million common shares at $0.65 per share. This is always exciting as it helps to bring in new capital for potential business expansion. Additionally, it can help to make investors feel more comfortable with a company’s balance sheet.

Second, on April 9th, Castor announced that it had acquired a 2011 Japanese-built Panamax dry bulk carrier vessel from a third party for $18.48 million. This is big news for the company as it shows it is expanding its fleet. The company is currently focused on bringing in as much business as possible. This is where the ship acquisition comes in.

Lastly, on April 14th, Castor announced deliveries of the M/V Magic Twilight and M/V Magic Thunder. These are two Korean and Japanese-built dry bulk carriers. Again, this will help to boost its fleet count as well as its carrying capacity. While these updates may seem small, they provide solid insight into what Castor is doing right now. Considering this, is CTRM worth watching?

Penny Stocks to Watch Castor Maritime (CTRM Stock Chart)
[Read More] 4 Penny Stocks On Robinhood To Buy Under $1; 50%-270% Price Targets

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