Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Story of Envato

Established by three designers and a physicist, all of whom had no prior startup experience, Envato was launched in 2006 with a single site selling Adobe Flash files. Headquartered in Australia, the company has since grown into a network of more than 30 websites, where users can buy and sell digital goods as well as learn various creative and business skills.

With over a million members worldwide, the popular Envato marketplaces consist of 3DOcean, Activeden, AudioJungle, CodeCanyon, GraphicRiver, PhotoDune, ThemeForest, Tutorials, and VideoHive. This family of sites provides a venue for creative professionals and newbies to buy and sell a wide assortment of digital files, including website templates, stock photos, illustrations, music, videos, Flash files, and more.

Envato also manages the Tuts+ network, where visitors can learn creative skills for free. The educational sites cover a broad range of topics, from graphic design to photography to audio production to app development. Envato's other educational blogs include FreelanceSwitch and TheNetsetter, where freelancers and entrepreneurs can get tips and ideas.

At a business and technology conference in Melbourne, Envato co-founder and CEO Collis Ta'eed discussed how they took an iterative approach with their company. “Even for something as big and complex and scary as starting a business, it's okay to just leap in.”

Ta'eed explained that it's better to just start, then make improvements to your product and business as you go along. That way, you build market share and attract new buyers or members with each iteration, and by the time you produce a mature product, you already have a solid following supporting you. The key is to start simple and get started as fast as possible.

As an example, Ta'eed talked about Envato's Tuts+ websites. “They get a ton of traffic and happily they're profitable,” he said. “But it didn't start out that way.”

In fact, the now expansive network began as a simple HTML site put together in two hours with only three tutorials at first. “The important thing though, is that it got going quickly.”

Ta'eed added that they got to where they are now because of iteration. “That's why I believe that sometimes the best thing you can do is just start.”

Giving Electronic Devices a Makeover

Founded by Paul Buss and Darrin Hegemier in 2004 and currently headed by CEO Bob King, Skinit, Inc. makes personalized skins, covers, and cases for electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, MP3 players, laptops, cameras, gaming devices, tablets, external hard drives, and more. Based in San Diego, California, the organization serves both consumers and Fortune 1000 companies.

With thousands of choices for every preference, Skinit offers college and sports themed designs, as well as art featuring well-known brands like Disney, Hello Kitty, Twilight, and Harry Potter. Customers can also create their own design on the Skinit website using their own photos and text for a truly unique piece.

Skinit products are designed to fit perfectly and last for years. Skins are made of a durable vinyl material that can be removed without any residue, allowing users to change their device's look easily.

Recently, Forbes named Skinit one of America's Most Promising Companies. Additionally, Internet Retailer listed the industry pioneer as one of its Hot 100 e-Retailers for 2012.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A More Affordable Alternative to Buying Textbooks

Started by CEO Alan Martin in his Syracuse, Utah basement in 2007, CampusBookRentals.com is one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. As its name implies, CampusBookRentals.com rents new and slightly used textbooks to students for less than half the price of purchasing them.

One of the very first companies of its kind, CampusBookRentals.com has rented more than a million textbooks to students in over 5,500 campuses in the country. Each rental comes with a 30-day risk-free guarantee and free shipping both ways (the company even provides the envelope).

Aside from a vast array of titles, CampusBookRentals.com also offers a few other perks to its members, including referral bonuses, scholarship awards, and monthly giveaways. Additionally, the company donates part of its rental proceeds to a charitable cause every year.

A pioneer in the textbook rentals industry, CampusBookRentals.com has been featured in numerous media outlets such as Newsweek, The New York Times, CNN, and Entrepreneur.com. Recently, it was listed as one of Forbes's Most Promising Companies in America for 2011.

Promoting Healthy Eating, One Delivery at a Time

In today's fast-paced, modern world, many people rarely have time to grab a bite, much less prepare a meal themselves. The Fresh Diet solves that problem by delivering healthy and freshly prepared gourmet food (three meals and two snacks) to customers' doorsteps daily.

Named one of America's Most Promising Companies of 2011 by Forbes, The Fresh Diet was founded in 2005 by CEO Zalmi Duchman and Chief Culinary Officer Yosef Schwartz, a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef. Operating out of Duchman's apartment with only three clients at first, the Surfside, Florida company now has six kitchens across the United States and Canada and delivers daily to a number of areas nationwide, including Southern Florida, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, just to name a few.

Since its establishment, The Fresh Diet has served more than two million meals to thousands of customers, from teenagers and business people to celebrities and NFL players. As America's leading at-home meal delivery service, The Fresh Diet does not offer food that have been frozen, vacuum-packed, or freeze-dried. In addition, clients are given access to certified dieticians and an online meal planner so they can customize their menu. Whatever the customer's personal preference or dietary restriction, The Fresh Diet chefs always prepare meals that are fresh, nutritious, made-to-order, and based on the 40-30-30 diet (40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent proteins, and 30 percent “good” fats).

Recently, Duchman won Product of the Year at South Florida Business Journal's 2011 Entrepreneur Awards, where The Fresh Diet competed against The Original Brooklyn Water Enterprises, Burke Brands, and Radiation Shield Technologies in its category.

In a statement, Duchman said, “It's taken innovation, dedication, and having the right team on my bus to make it work and this accolade is a testament to all of the above for which I am proud.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bamboo: Green in More Ways Than One

While most people are familiar with the different types of conventional fabrics such as cotton, silk, and polyester, few of us have ever heard of bamboo textile. Plainfield, Illinois retailer Corey Dinerstein hopes to change this, however, through Green Earth Bamboo, a family-owned company that distributes bamboo clothing, bedding, and towels online.

What's so special about bamboo, you ask? The bamboo plant grows fast – up to four feet a day! And because it's actually a grass, it produces new shoots from its roots after being harvested, eliminating the need for replanting. Bamboo is also more efficient at producing oxygen than trees and possesses antibacterial properties, making it naturally resistant to pests. In short, bamboo is a very sustainable resource. As a fabric, bamboo is soft, absorbent, and breathable.

Green Earth Bamboo is among the few but growing number of companies that have recognized the eco-friendly advantages of bamboo. Aside from their best-selling bamboo bed sheets, the brand offers bamboo clothing for kids and adults, bamboo blankets and duvets, bamboo towels, and bamboo scarves.

Home Gardening, Minus the Dirt

It all started with a thought. The thought that gardening enthusiasts could grow fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers in their home any time of the year, even during winter. This thought led to the creation of the AeroGarden, a gardening system that makes use of aeroponics technology, which allows plants to grow with no soil and very little water.

Distributed by AeroGrow International, Inc., the AeroGarden is the result of countless prototypes and seed evaluations and four years of hard work by company founder Michael Bissonnette and his colleagues. Sold online and in over 8,000 retail stores, the AeroGarden now has more than half a million customers. The public's response to this indoor garden has been positive, with the product becoming a best seller on HSN and QVC, as well as staying at the top of Amazon's “Most Wished For” list for two years. The AeroGarden has also been featured on The Today Show, The View, The Economist, The New York Times, TIME, and other media outlets.

AeroGrow describes the AeroGarden as foolproof and guarantees the success of every user. Indeed, the unit comes with grow lights to simulate the sun, and even indicates when water and fertilizer should be added. The AeroGrow website shows that growing plants with the AeroGarden can be carried out in three easy steps. First, you place the seed pods into the unit. Next, add water and fertilizer. And finally, simply wait and watch as your plant grows. Most AeroGardens require only a few minutes of care per week, while others need as little as five minutes each month.

AeroGrow offers over 50 non-GMO seed kits, letting users grow anything from salad greens and heirloom tomatoes to lavenders and petunias. Customers can create their own herb and flower seed kits as well. Energy efficient and recyclable, the AeroGarden makes growing one's own food and flowers at home simple, convenient, and dirt-free.