Friday, February 27, 2009

Cell Phone Wars

Get ready for the Boost Mobile sneak attack. Next week, they are launching a huge campaign to promote their new plan. For just $50 a month, customers can get unlimited minutes, unlimited text messaging, unlimited internet, and unlimited walkie-talkie.

The plan comes with no hidden fees, no convenience fees, no roaming charges, and no additional telecom taxes. This means that, no matter what, your cell phone bill will only always be $50 total. Even more, there is no contract involved - so there is no need for a credit check.

Did I really just say "no contract"?

This is going to kill the current deals offered by Verizon, AT&T Wireless, and T-Mobile who all charge over a $100-$150 a month for the same exact plan.

For those that don't know: Boost Mobile is the prepaid division of Sprint, and they offer their customers nationwide coverage through the Sprint/Nextel network.

Sprint/Nextel has been in a lot of financial trouble lately, and this may just pull them out of the fire. Either way, the cell phone wars have begun.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Weekend Entrepreneur

Believe it or not, but most entrepreneurs also have secular jobs. They're business owners, but they don't quite make enough revenue to live off. Many will devote a few hours each evening to their business, but the bulk of their time is spent during the weekend.

Are you a weekend entrepreneur? If so, don't feel discouraged. This is completely normal. This is part of the process. Nearly every successful entrepreneur you can think of had to do this at one point, including myself. Keep at it, and don't give up.

Before you know it, you'll be a full-time entrepreneur generating enough revenue to live off of. Just remember to make the most of your time. Recreation is okay, but don't spend too much time hanging out and watching TV.

Develop a "work now, play later" attitude, and your business goals will be reached sooner than you think.

Use FareCast To Find Best Travel Deals

For those of you like me who travel a lot for business, there's a fairly new web site powered by Microsoft called

The site allows you to search for airplane tickets from all the major airlines, and find hotel rooms at all the major hotels. No big deal right? You can do this on Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and others.

FareCast, however, has a feature called "Low Fare Prediction" that will predict whether or not the ticket prices shown will rise or drop. For instance, you may get a message saying: "Wait: There's an 80% chance that the price for this ticket will drop" or "Buy Now: This ticket price will rise soon."

The web site also indicates whether or not today's rate for a specific hotel is a deal. It compares an individual hotel's current rate found to its observed historical rates. For instance, you may get a message saying "No deal" or "Deal".

Apparently, Farecast is the 2008 Webby Award winner in the travel category and is recognized as one of Web 2.0's "Best Travel Sites" - amongst other notable accolades.

I just started using it, and it's a really neat tool. Give it a try.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Got $50 Bucks? You Can Advertise To Millions Online

If you don't have a lot of money to spend every month on online advertising, you are not alone. There are millions of entrepreneurs out there who have to work with shoestring budgets.

Fortunately, there are some very effective services to use that don't require a whole lot of money, and will help you see a return on your investment. Here they are:

1) Facebook Ads - is a social network used by over 200 million people around the world, but you can kick off an ad campaign on their site for just $50-$100. Even better, you can target your ads to only appear to people of a certain demographic. For instance, if you only want your ad to only be viewed by women age 45-65 who live in Houston, Miami, and Detroit and who like to watch "Sex in the City" - you can do that.

2) MySpace Ads -, at one point, was the most popular web site in the world. Still highly popular, Myspace allows millions of people to host their own web page for free. Just like Facebook, you can kick off an ad campaign for $50-$100 and target it to a demographic of your desire.

3) LinkedIn DirectAds - is the largest online community for professionals with a household income of $109,000. The site is used by millions of career-driven and business-savvy men and women. Again, for only $50-$100, you can start advertising to a group of people that match a description of your choice.

Advertising on Facebook and Myspace is based on a PPC model. PPC is an acronym for Pay-Per-Click. This means that you pay only when someone actually clicks on your ad. Typically, the going rate is about $0.25 to $0.50 per click - but it can be higher. Remember though that people clicking on your ads are highly targeted, and therefore are very likely to buy into what ever you are selling.

Advertising on LinkedIn is based on a CPM model. Facebook offers this model too. CPM is an acronym for Cost Per Mille (or Cost Per Thousand). This means that you pay a flat fee (anywhere from $0.30 to $15 typically) for every thousand times your ad is seen. For this ad model, you can get unlimited clicks.

I recommend that you experiment with all three sites and both models to see what works best for you. My favorite is the Facebook PPC model, but the most effective one will vary depending on what your company does and how well your web site is developed.

Tyler Perry Is My Hero

I'm not a huge fan of Tyler Perry's movies, but I went to see "Madea Goes To Jail" this past weekend - and it was pretty funny. Millions of others thought so too because the film topped box offices generating over $40 million in just three days.

What's impressive is that this is Perry's 7th studio film, and he's still packing the house. The theater I went to in Columbus, Ohio was filled wall-to-wall with people (Black and white) who were dressed up as if they were going to a club.

They came in smiling and ready to get the party started. During the movie, they laughed, they teared up, they got mad, and some were even talking to the screen. When the movie was over, people were satisfied. They walked off talking and laughing and reminiscing about scenes that they just saw a few minutes ago.

I've never seen people behave this way over a movie.

Tyler Perry is a genius. His movies, in my opinion, could be so much better - but he has perfected a formula that works and has built an empire that will live on for a very long time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Russell Simmons Said Yes To Wal-Mart

If you haven't heard by now, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons is launching a new clothing line called American Classics that will be exclusively sold at Wal-Mart.

The new line appears mainstream, even preppy, with plaid shorts, button-down shirts, zip cargo pants and a cable sweater vest. The prices range from a $9 T-shirt to a $29 hooded jacket.

Some may ask why Russell Simmons would do this. This is the same guy behind Phat Farm and Argyle Culture - both of which are popular and doing hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. So, why does he feel that he has to resort to a Wal-Mart line of clothing?

The answer is simple. Wal-Mart is the biggest discount retailer in the world, and has the ability to move products of any nature. In addition, not everyone can afford the expensive clothing sold by Phat Farm and other competitors such as Sean Jean and Rocawear. This gives lower-income hip hop fans an opportunity to look stylish and be confident about their appearance.

Wal-Mart benefits because this strengthens their renewed push into urban markets, including their scouting of several potential new sites in or near Black neighborhoods.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Black Women, Their Hair, and The Economy

Many are well aware that the Black hair care industry generates billions every year from products sold in stores, and from services provided in beauty salons. According to a recent survey conducted by Design Essential, Black women continue to make their hair a priority - even during a recession.

Here are some snippets from an article from Louisiana Weekly via Target Market News:

The survey reveals that the majority of African-American women base their salon and stylist choice on trust, cost and time consumption. With the recent state of the economy, affordable hair care is harder to find but women have stayed committed to their hair regimen.

Black hair care has always managed to fit into the budget and while some may think it would be the first to go, studies have shown that despite the present economic state of America and the price spike at most salons, Black women are still flocking to their hairdressers to keep up with routine maintenance.

"Some weekly clients have changed to every other week. But the majority of clients have been keeping up with their appointments," said Britney Adams, a stylist at New Image Salon in Harvey, Louisiana.

"As a company we have seen single-digit growth, and many of our products are flat or slightly down. However, retail products sold to consumers have shown a significant increase," said Armstrong. "This tells me that many African-American women are opting to save money by doing their hair at home sometimes. Ultimately, a vacation may no longer be in the budget, but there is still room for the occasional trip to the salon."

For the full article, visit:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Business of Selling Hip Hop Clothing

Hip Hop clothing companies have been making millions for years. Some of the early companies were Karl Kani, FUBU, Pelle Pelle, and Cross Colours. In more recent years, we've seen Rocawear, Sean Jean, Avirex, Phat Farm, and others dominate in sales.

Back in November 2008, I wrote a blog about how such companies are thriving despite a bad economy. Not only are they doing well, but retailers who sell their products are doing well.

One great example is Dr. Jays - a popular storefront in New York City and a popular web site ( that sells over 50 different brands of hip hop clothing. This includes jeans, shirts, hoodies, underwear, footwear, and accessories.

I was recently on their web site and was amazed at how extensive their catalog is. After conducting some research, I was further amazed to find that their web site is visited by 500,000 different people every month.

These visitors are obviously actual shoppers because reports that their annual revenue is between $1 and $10 million. I'm guessing, closer to $10 million.

Entrepreneurs and business owners should take a close look at how people spend money during a recession. Women are known to continue to spend money on hair and makeup. Men will spend money on music and video games. And apparently, young people (both men and women) will spend their money on fashion.

Monday, February 16, 2009

5 Reasons To Create Your Own Social Network

My business partner, Will Moss, has built a unique tool that allows people to create their own social network for free. It's called Connect Platform (, and the same technology is being used to power some of our sites including,,, and others.

The service is designed for individuals, businesses, groups and organizations who want to create their own interactive online communities. The concept is perfect for celebrities, authors, speakers, etc. It also works great for organizations like the NAACP or the Urban League, or even church groups and family reunions.

You may wonder why its a good idea to create your own social network, when sites like Facebook and LinkedIn already exist. Here are 5 goods reasons:

1) It's Your Own Community - Creating your very own social network allows you to build your own online community. It's good to be a part of other social networks, but it's also a plus to have one that is completely positioned around your brand.

2) It Creates Brand Loyalty - Having your own social network will heavily engage your customers or supporters. Social networks are interactive, encouraging people to visit your site more than just once.

3) You're In Control - Having a page on Facebook is great, but you are not really in control. Creating your own social network allows you to change the colors, add your logo, control the content, and more.

4) It Leaves An Impression - If you create an online community with powerful resources and relevant people to interact with, people will be impressed with you and will be more inclined to buy your products and services. Not only that, you'll be well-respected as the person who brought everybody together.

5) It's Free - Creating your own social network can be done within minutes, and it's 100% free. The only catch is that banner ads will appear on your site. For a modest fee, however, they can be removed.

For more details about how to create your own social network, visit

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Future of Sirius XM Radio

Commercial-free satellite radio may be coming to an end. The New York Times is reporting that Sirius XM Radio is preparing for a possible Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

That would make the company one of the largest casualties of the credit squeeze. With over $5 billion in assets, it would be the second-largest Chapter 11 filing so far this year, according to Capital IQ.

Sirius XM, which never turned a profit when both companies were independent, is laden with $3.25 billion in debt. In the month of February alone, they owe $175 million in debt payments that they are unlikely to be able to pay.

What's to blame for this? Apparently, satellite radio is failing to win over many younger listeners, and competition from other sources (such as Internet radio stations and iPod/iPhone radio stations) have slowed their subscriber growth.

In my opinion, Sirius XM offers a service that is too easy to duplicate and provide for free. Nowadays, anyone can launch a radio show. Even worse, I think they overestimated how many people would pay a monthly fee to not hear commercials. It never bothered me all that bad.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How To Find A Good Affordable Freelancer

Let's say you want to hire someone to help you with a small task. Maybe you need a writer, a copywriter, a proofreader, a web developer, a graphic designer, etc.

Well, essentially you are looking for a freelancer - and there are tons of them out there. Sites like and are great places to find one. However, sometimes it can be hard to narrow down who you should go with.

Here's my secret: Hire a freelancer who lives in a smaller, affordable city. For instance, a person who lives in southern Utah or central Ohio will charge a lot less than a person who lives in New York City, LA, or Miami. Their living and operating expenses are much cheaper, and they can pass the savings along to you.

Now, I'm not telling you to just go with anybody. Make sure that they are good at what they do. There are tons of talented professionals in smaller cities; You don't have to settle for low quality.

Suppose you find a freelancer that you really, really like in a big city. Should you not do business with them? Not necessarily. Just make sure that they are giving you a comparable rate.

Freelancers in big cities probably won't like me for posting this blog, but in a down economy - entrepreneurs need to know how to cut their costs in order to survive.

For more cost-saving tips, check out my article entitled "Roll Up Your Sleeves" in the December/January issue of NV Magazine available at Barnes & Noble.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Note To Self: Don't Do Anything Stupid If You Ever Get An Endorsement Deal

First it was baseball star Barry Bonds. Then, football star Michael Vick. Now, Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps has lost a major endorsement deal for doing something stupid.

USA Today reports that cereal and snack maker Kellogg Co. will not renew its sponsorship contract with Michael Phelps because of a recent photo circulating that shows him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

Kellogg had been featuring Phelps on the front of their Frosted Flakes and Corn Flakes cereal boxes.

The deal was reportedly worth millions, but apparently these lucrative once-in-a-lifetime contracts are hard opportunities to maintain.

Because it seems like such an easy thing to forget, I'm writing a personal note to myself. I'm going to post it on my bulletin board, add it to my iPhone calendar, and then send an email to myself. My note reads: "Don't do anything stupid if you ever get a million-dollar endorsement deal. Or at least don't get caught."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Would You Turn Down Bailout Money?

Many entrepreneurs would love to be contacted by the federal government and hear the following words: "We have bailout money for you." This could potentially rescue them from the very real and threatening effects of a down economy.

Some, however, are getting that call - and are turning it down. Why?

Well, accepting bailout money from the federal government is almost like accepting grant money: There are certain conditions you have to follow. You don't just get the money, and do as you please. The government regulates your activity.

According to Business Week, about 50 small banks are saying "no thanks" to bailout money because the government wants to "dictate how they structure dividends, compensate managers, or make acquisitions." They even want to tell them who and who not to lend money too.

I can just imagine the government giving bailout money to a soul food restaurant, and regulating by telling them they need to cut back on the chicken and waffles.

Or even giving money to a bakery and telling them to ease up on the icing for cakes.

That's crazy. I'm not sure I'm interested in getting bailout money anymore, but at the same time - I don't think I'll ever get that call anyways.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Despite Having A Black President, Mainstream Business Magazines Show Little Diversity

I'm calling out everybody, specifically Forbes, Inc, Business Week, and Entrepreneur magazines.

I just went to all of their web sites looking for interesting articles and topics to blog about. I've done this before, and people generally enjoy the points that I outline.

However, this time was different. While surfing their sites, I noticed something common on each of their homepages that perhaps I missed before. I saw tons of pictures of people, but not one single African American or Hispanic face.

There are hundreds of thousands of Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs out there, but rarely if ever does one get featured in these magazines or on their web sites. Even worse, few if any are hired as columnists and contributors.

Check for yourself:

Forbes -

Inc -

Business Week -

Entrepreneur -

I don't know what to call it: racism, institutional racism, discrimination, ignorance, or all of the above.

Thank goodness for Black Enterprise, Hispanic Business, DiversityInc, Turning Point UrBiz, Savoy Professional, NV Magazine, and other similar magazines. If it weren't for them, one could easily be fooled into believing that minority entrepreneurs don't exist.