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Posts Tagged ‘start-up’

Ingenuity can make a business out of almost anything. That’s what you may conclude after reading how a small Maine company is making something useful from lobster shells.

Tom Bell has the story at the Associated Press: “A startup company in Maine is developing a children’s bandage coated with a substance extracted from crushed lobster shells that would promote blood-clotting and is resistant to bacterial infection.

“The company, Lobster Tough LLC, shipped Maine lobster shells to a processor in Iceland for testing, and so far, the results are promising, said Thor Sigfusson, an Icelandic investor in the company. …

“ ‘My dream will be to use the massive amounts of lobster shells that are being thrown into dumpsters,’ he said. …

“The lobster shells must be dehydrated to remove weight and lower shipping costs. Lobster Tough this winter is shipping a portable dehydration machine from Iceland to Maine. The company eventually plans to build a $2 million dehydration plant somewhere on the Maine coast, said Patrick Arnold, an investor who lives in South Portland. …

“The bandages would be the first commercial product developed through the New England Ocean Cluster, a new business incubator in Portland.”

More here.

Photo: Tasty Island

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At Christmas, Yuriko sent a translated Japan News article about the business she runs with her husband, who retired rather young. She told me the newspaper, called Yomiuri Shinbun in Japan, “has the largest distribution nationwide. We were really busy after that.”

The article mentioned that Japanese retirees starting small businesses or finding work at a reduced rate is a growing phenomenon, so I Googled around to see if I could learn more.

Kanoko Matsuyama writes at Bloomberg Businessweek, “When he retired three years ago, Hirofumi Mishima got right back to work. After aging out of a $77,000-a-year job as an industrial gas analyst, he spent six months trawling the vacancy boards at a Tokyo employment center.

“Fifteen days each month, Mishima, 69, rises at 4 a.m. for an eight-and-a-half-hour shift overseeing the supply of hydrogen gas to buses. His daily commute has risen from three hours to four even as his earnings have dropped by more than a third. ‘Keeping a regular job is the most stimulating thing for me,’ he says. ‘Now, I work for my health. I’m very happy my job gives me mobility and helps me stay active.’

“Though Japan’s retirement age stands at 60, more than 5.7 million Japanese have continued to work past 65, either because they can’t afford to stop working or they’re looking to get out of the house. The nation’s private companies can force employees to retire at 60 if they wish, so workers often accept slashed wages to stay on, sometimes in a reduced capacity as they start collecting public pension benefits. …

“Under the current system, Japanese men exit the labor market on average at 70, and women at 67, according to a 2011 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. ‘The pension isn’t enough to live comfortably,’ says Kazuyoshi Hirota, 69, who works 24 hours a week as an apartment building manager and janitor in central Tokyo. Hirota retired seven years ago from his full-time security job at Asahi Group Holdings. His wife, 70, works as a cleaner. It’s not just about the money, though: ‘Life is boring without work,’ he says.”

More here.

My friend Yuriko runs a consignment shop. Her husband does financial consulting in the same storefront, which gives Yuriko flexibility to run out and look after her 90-something mother-in-law.

Photo: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

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Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is well known as a hub for entrepreneurship. So the school was the logical place to help start-ups offering farmers distribution services, marketing, and the like learn how to grow their business. A training was held at Babson at the end of December, and the New York Times covered it.

Stephanie Strom writes, “In spite of the surging demand for locally and regionally grown foods over the last few years, there is a chasm separating small and midsize farmers from their local markets.

“But a growing number of small businesses are springing up to provide local farmers and their customers with marketing, transportation, logistics and other services, like the Fresh Connection, a trucking business providing services to help farms around New York City make deliveries. …

“The Fair Food Network, a nonprofit organized to improve access to better food, recently held a second ‘business boot camp’ in Wellesley, Mass., for tiny companies working to increase ties between communities and local farmers, which culminated in a contest to win some $10,000. …

“For farmers selling products to a number of customers, there are so-called food hubs like Red Tomato, which connects its network of farms to existing wholesale distribution systems to make deliveries of locally grown fruits and vegetables to groceries, produce distributors, restaurants and schools in the Northeast. …

“Not all ways of improving consumer access to local and regional farm production involve distribution, however. Blue Ox Malthouse, for instance, is making malt from barley grown in Maine as a cover crop. Normally, farmers plow barley under or sell it cheaply for animal feed.  Blue Ox has given them a new and more lucrative market, though, buying up barley and turning it into malt in hopes of selling it to Maine’s thriving craft beer businesses. …

“It’s good for the farmers, who get a better price for a product they often just plowed under, and it’s good for the craft beer business, where brewers are always looking for points of distinction,” [founder Joel] Alex said.”

Read about some other great services for small farms here.

Photo: Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Mark Jaffe of the Fresh Connection picks up fresh eggs from a farmer’s stand in Union Square, Manhattan. He will make deliveries to restaurants and groceries.

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Erik sent along this lead, and John sent it to him. Both are guys who started tech companies, and I’m learning that requires a certain kind of attire.

To signal you are a laid-back but savvy entrepreneur, wear cool socks.

Claire Cain Miller and Nick Bilton write at the NY Times, “For barristers in 18th-century London, it was shoulder-grazing wigs. For the Mad men of 1950s New York, it was briefcases and fedoras. For the glass-ceiling-shattering women of the 1980s, it was shoulder pads.

“And for today’s tech entrepreneurs in high-flying Silicon Valley, it is flamboyantly colored, audaciously patterned socks.

“In a land where the uniform — jeans, hoodies and flip-flops — is purposefully nonchalant, and where no one would be caught dead in a tie, wearing flashy socks is more than an expression of your personality. It signals that you are part of the in crowd. It’s like a secret handshake for those who have arrived, and for those who want to. …

“Some say the craze took hold because socks are an acceptable shot of flair in a dressed-down, male-dominated culture — and peek out when entrepreneurs present their latest apps onstage at the tech world’s frequent conferences. Others offer a perhaps more universal explanation. ‘Girls notice,’ said Matt Graves, 37 …

“Travis Kalanick, 35, co-founder and chief executive of Uber, the on-demand taxi service, began wearing statement socks at his previous company, which sold software to businesses.

“ ‘I started having to suit up for meetings with Fortune 500 companies,’ said Mr. Kalanick (his favorite: hot pink). ‘I wanted to keep a little of my geeky computer engineering flair without people thinking I was nuts.’  …

“Sometimes I will even browse the women’s section and get the XXL, because they have all the fun colors,” said Andrew Trader, 42, an investor at Maveron who helped found Zynga. (He is partial to wool socks with bright stripes as well as a pair with an American flag pattern.)”

Read more at the NY Times, here, and check out their slide show.

Erik adds, “And here is a Swedish retail start-up (featured in article) that apparently designs and sells them.”

I can’t tell you how happy I am to know about socks. Father’s Day gifts for the men in the family are settled for the foreseeable future.

Now, can I give Suzanne, the Luna & Stella entrepreneur, socks as gifts, too?

Photo: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

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