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4 Future Trends That Represent Massive Opportunity

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Staying on top of trends is how entrepreneurs succeed. I love reading and researching data to understand what’s to come. Sure, no one can predict the — yet, but excited for the time when AI will do that for us — but trends are our best bet when it comes to projecting where business is heading.  

Not many years ago, we were predicting the rise of something called a smartphone and becoming comfortable with the idea of wide-scale digital subscription services with monthly fees and cars that drive themselves. Now the iPhone and  are part of our everyday lives. Let’s take a look at four new trends that represent massive opportunity.

1. Ghost kitchens are the food of the future

Accentuated by Covid, ghost kitchens, also known as delivery-only restaurants, are where food service is headed. The concept is popping up everywhere, from Barcelona to New York City. Uber-popular, fast-casual chain Chipotle just rolled out its first ghost kitchen. Speaking of Uber, ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick just raised $130 million for his ghost kitchen concept, according to The Wall Street Journal. If this doesn’t foreshadow that ghost kitchens are the future, what will?

But, can this bare-bones trend turn into big dollars? Research firm Eurometer has estimated that ghost kitchens could be a $1 trillion business by 2030. These kinds of restaurants offer a streamlining effect like never before — with no waiters or flashy interiors, the inherently cut costs ultimately give the customer the same food at cheaper prices. This space is still relatively new and represents lots of opportunities to focus on hyperlocal regions.

Related: Why Most Ghost Kitchens Will Fail in 2021

2. Car companies are scrambling to offer more autonomous and electric vehicle options

More than ever, consumers are making ethical purchases and looking to reduce their carbon footprint. The intersection of those two ideas is electric and autonomous vehicles.

Tesla’s Cybertruck, a futuristic-style truck with a stainless-steel exoskeleton and reported sports-car level performance is a prime example of why going electric and autonomous is where the car industry is headed. The fact that a truck can offer both a 2.9 second 0-60 mph acceleration and 500 miles of range shows its potential. After all, the Ford F-150 certainly can’t offer those numbers.

The rest of the car world sees the opportunity as well. Even the notorious gas-guzzling Hummer is being reintroduced as an electric vehicle by GMC. If that’s not a sign of the future, what is? 

3. Cloud storage overtaking traditional disk-based storage 

Stacked hard drives and overloaded computers are a thing of the past. Popular services like OneDrive and Dropbox offer cloud storage services for consumers across the globe. One service, pCloud, is heading the trend to take things a step further. Touting themselves as an external hard drive, after installing pCloud on your computer, everything stays totally in the cloud, unlike OneDrive or Dropbox. Plus, you can now choose the data region, where your files and personal data are stored either in the United States or the European Union. This is great for privacy protection and speed of data delivery. 

And, in a security-challenged world, where seeing 2.2 billion accounts breached is commonplace (as reported by CPO Magazine), pCloud offers pCloud Crypto, a service that encrypts user content along with client-side — essentially meaning that the users’ files are encrypted on their device before they are ever transferred to the pCloud servers. With pCloud Crypto, not even pCloud’s administrators can view files. The future is secure, and pCloud is leading the charge while making room for massive opportunity in the space. 

4. 5G makes the widely unavailable available 

The incredible speed that 5G offers introduces a whole new ball game for people and businesses that rely on digital communication — so, essentially everyone. How about this for some future Sci-fi Seadronix is harnessing 5G power to develop autonomous ships. The company is using AI to enable vessels to travel unmanned using cameras and sensors. 5G enables the devices to work together in real-time to avoid obstacles and make necessary adjustments to avoid crashing. 

Related: The Future of the Entertainment Industry Beyond 2020

Really, 5G is about making what’s already semi-available through 4G and WiFi widely accessible and easy to integrate through blazing-fast speeds. While we’ve heard more about 5G than seen results so far, when 5G does ramp-up, expect augmented reality to become the norm, movies to be downloaded in seconds, and latency to drop to near zero. See ya later, buffering and hello an exponential amount of opportunities, thanks to the fastest power we’ve ever seen. 

Time marches on, whether we like it or not. Trends like 5G, autonomous vehicles and ghost kitchens are a natural evolution in our habits as consumers and sellers. Who knows, in 10 years, maybe we’ll be predicting 6G and flying humans.

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4 Tips for Holding Onto Customers During the Pandemic

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As soon as crap hits the fan, most businesses look at what services to cut (to drop costs) or how to sell more (to generate more revs), but the most important and sometimes overlooked segment is figuring out how to retain and keep your current . For every founder, should be the name of the game. It’s more important than because it’s easier to keep a customer than to find a new one. In fact, acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times more than retaining an already established one. Unfortunately, in the age of Covid-19, many businesses (especially startup founders who have lower margins for error) are struggling to maintain profits and drive sales. 

To help with that, I’ve created some quick tips to help other founders retain customers and drive revenue amidst this moment’s obstacles.

Related: How to Create a Winning Employee Retention Strategy

1. Maximize customer loyalty programs 

Customer loyalty programs are incredibly important for small businesses, for whom the individual is much more than “just a number,” an epidemic of thought that plagues many large-scale corporations. The reason people go to small businesses is to feel valued, so reward that inclination with excellent reward programs.

One great example of an effective reward program is REI’s Co-op membership. Upon joining, users receive 10 percent back on all purchases and annual dividends, as well as special on rentals; they can even enjoy exclusive member events.

My favorite loyalty software is Glue, which is ubiquitous and automated. I’m a huge fan of automating anything you can, so long as it doesn’t lose the personalization, which is exactly how Glue works. They use a dedicated CRM, website visitor tracking, payment integrations and unique IDs to keep everything organized and automated. Their platform sends out personalized messages across various platforms to help you retain and provide value to your costumes, including discount codes and even gift cards. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, is the time to get creative and innovative with how you’re going to approach retaining customers. 

2. Leverage new software made for Covid

I love software and leveraging it to make my businesses better. As soon as Covid hit, most SaaS products offered a discount to founders. Even most of the accelerators provided resource kits like this one from Techstars, and there was a flurry of new software specifically created to help founders during Covid. For example, Vcita offers an all-in-one application for startups that includes scheduling and payments. Their new “Packages” feature enables businesses to bundle several of their services together and sell them as a package deal to consumers at a discounted price. The main pro here, in my opinion, is flexibility –– allowing your customers to pre-select the services each package contains, or letting them mix-and-match as they wish. (This is especially useful during Covid when businesses are scrutinizing budgets.) Imagine letting your customer choose their own budget and pay what they’re able to pay. 

3. Use social media to answer complaints and stay in the consumer’s mind

Social media has become even more valuable in the midst of Covid because the world is now spending more time online during lockdown and quarantine. Too many founders neglect social media as a marketing and customer-retention tool, still. Apps like and Instagram allow your businesses to stay in front of the eyes of the consumer daily, and thus, in the minds of the consumer when they have a purchase to make. It’s as simple as a couple of posts a day. Further, social media allows for a type of efficient never seen before (i.e. your customers are just a message away), and their problem can be solved in minutes if you’re able to catch the messages as they come in.

is a great example of this in action. They have a dedicated Twitter account, @Team Nike, specifically for customer support that works seven days a week and in seven languages. When a customer mentions Nike’s main twitter handle @Nike with a customer-service request, @TeamNike jumps in to help. Even though Nike is a huge company, one major leg up startups have is their ability to focus on the individual. Nurturing every relationship will inevitably payout. Offer easy access to support emails, online chats and phone numbers. Make having your consumer’s voice heard as easy as possible, and leverage social media to do it. 

4. Deep customer onboarding  

Consumers have to be sold on your services, and a one-time purchase is generally not enough to make them a long-term customer. What’s the solution? Hold their hand the entire time they’re a customer, and onboard them in a way that makes them feel like they’ve been invited into your business family. Zappos has preached this mantra for decades now.

Thank them for becoming customers, offer help, even provide discounts for future purchases (everyone loves saving money, and it’s a great way to earn an upsell and increase the lifetime value of each customer). One great example of an effective onboarding process is from Ring, the home-security company. After signing up for an online home-security account, Ring sends customers consistent emails to account holders with helpful tips and product set-up instructions, which is a brilliant move, because the more comfortable a consumer is with how a product works, the more likely it is that they’ll either re-buy or purchase similar products in the future. Onboarding is another lost art that can help you retain customers.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric

Chaos creates opportunity, and this crisis is no different. With any luck, these tips will reduce churn and increase retention –– even during a pandemic.


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Michael Jordan’s New NASCAR Venture Is Another Slam-Dunk Business Move

The NBA icon and mogul shows yet again that true leaders forge ahead and create opportunities that change the culture.

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4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For most people, being a billionaire, Hall of Famer, greatest-of-all-time player, franchise owner, brand owner and sometime actor would be enough to fill up a day. Not for .

Last Monday, broke that MJ teamed up with stars Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace to form a new NASCAR team. It’s not a headline you might expect. But in 2020, it actually fits perfectly. 

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity, and there have been few Black owners…the timing seemed perfect,” Jordan said in a press release announcing the partnership. With the news, he will become the first Black principal owner of a NASCAR squad since Wendell Scott in the early ‘70s. 

Jordan — worth $2.1 billion according to Forbes — has enough money to last a lifetime. Yet, his willingness to forge ahead for new audiences is striking. Perhaps because to him, everything is an opportunity (or competition). And this latest challenge will help him reach new audiences while changing the culture and disrupting established norms. 

Related: Michael Jordan Gets Into the NASCAR Game

In fact, Saint Louis University Professor of Marketing Dr. Brett Boyle thinks this moment has the potential to change NASCAR much in the way changed golf when he came on to the scene. In an interview with CNBC, he reflected on Woods’ career, saying, “You saw younger people get interested in golf…[and] when somebody sees somebody like them in a sport, then they start thinking about themselves playing that sport…this may increase minority interest in NASCAR.”

Strong leaders know how to push boundaries and leverage their leadership capabilities to induce change. Before his death, Jordan’s NBA heir apparent was authoring children’s books and teaching valuable lessons of character within his writings. Danny Trejo did this in Hollywood by taking his tough-guy mentality and previous prison experience to forge a path that was not previously seen for returned citizens. Jay-Z did this in the corporate world by parlaying his street smarts and bending the business world to his acumen. Jordan knows all of this, and his mission is to forge ahead as true leaders do. 

“NASCAR is evolving and embracing more and more,” Jordan noted in his statement. “In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.” 

It’d be tough to bet against Jordan and company on this one. Over the last 20 years, since his professional retirement, he’s:

  • Become majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

  • Been ranked by Forbes as the 20th-most powerful worldwide.

  • Been Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

  • Named Chief Wish Ambassador by Make-a-Wish-Foundation.

  • Awarded a 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

  • Released a book, became the majority owner of a golf course and restaurant, and became co-owner of an automotive group.

That’s among a slew of other successful ventures. Still, Jordan’s decision to enter NASCAR is another striking example on his part of a leader pioneering to find a new audience and change the culture of an established sport — something many will likely follow suit in doing.

One of Jordan’s most impressive abilities is attracting big-name sponsors (e.g.  his newly established relationship with online sportsbook Draft Kings). Surely, Jordan has sponsorships in mind for his NASCAR team, and as an anonymous source told CNBC, “If you’re a corporation, wouldn’t you want to support Michael Jordan and Bubba Wallace as they try to promote positive change?”

Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Be Relentless Like Michael Jordan

Jordan’s M.O. is to break new ground and promote unique partnerships, and there’s a lot that can be learned from that — especially today. Mining the same well won’t produce results forever, so it’s imperative for entrepreneurs and businesses alike to follow Jordan’s lead and branch out for the betterment of themselves, their business and everyone around them, including society as a whole. 

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The Secret to Sustainable Growth Is Identifying Trends Ahead of Time

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs have to walk a tightrope. Every day, we focus on keeping customers happy and making sure our businesses are running smoothly. (I share daily tips in my newsletter on my website.) But we have to balance that daily grind with looking ahead. Envisioning what customers may need in the future — most times before they even know what they’ll need — is the secret to sustainable growth. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has left thousands of businesses across industries struggling. No one can be sure how and when the will rebound, and more than 100,000 small businesses have closed forever, according to The Washington Post. It is now more vital than ever for founders to be flexible, ready to pivot, more daring and a bit more visionary. 

I recently heard about SimplePractice’s story of product vision. Howard Spector’s foresight is one reason the electronic health record (EHR) platform is experiencing a growth surge during the pandemic. Spector, the cofounder and CEO of SimplePractice, studied to become a therapist when he saw the existing EHR systems on the market were complicated, incomplete and poorly designed. He built SimplePractice to combine the solutions practitioners need, such as scheduling, documentation, billing and client communication, in a single, beautifully designed and affordable platform.

Related: Technology as the Way Forward: The New Normal

Telehealth was on Spector’s radar, but demand was low. He and his team revisited it periodically. A couple of years ago, they started to see more standalone telehealth apps coming out and decided to add it to the platform. “I realized we should get out in front of this, so we prioritized it on our roadmap,” says Spector. “If we didn’t, we’d be suffering right now.”

SimplePractice encouraged its customers to use the video-enabled feature to ensure continuity of care for patients in rural areas or for patients who couldn’t get to an appointment because of traffic, storms and the like. About a quarter of SimplePractice’s clients took advantage of the service SimplePractice — until the pandemic.

Since then, almost 90 percent of customers have adopted telehealth. SimplePractice customers went from using five million telehealth minutes per month in January to 144 million in April. “We’ve also seen a massive spike in new customers beginning in March, and we believe it was primarily driven because we had telehealth integrated into our platform,” explains Spector.

SimplePractice continues to amp up the offering and has recently added a waiting room and screen-sharing capabilities. “Our work is never done,” he continues. “We’re always looking ahead at what’s next, what features our customers are asking for, and what features our customers need. We’ve intentionally created a very entrepreneurial culture that honors the individual’s ability to be adaptable and creatively problem solve.”

The lesson here is to learn how to spot industry trends and invest time and energy into these trends, even if it’s just to test them.  

Related: Telemedicine is Laying the Roadmap for Healthcare’s Future

Bringing disruptive models to new industries

Visionary founders sometimes get the idea for their businesses by applying the thinking of disruptive companies in other industries to their fields, which is especially true in economies of despair. Think 2008-’09, when Uber adopted the taxi model and paired it with tech. Or when took PayPal’s approach and made it more user-friendly and mobile-centric. That adoptive tack is paying off for the founders of Jurny, a smart tech solution in the hospitality industry, and Vooks, a streaming platform for animated children’s books. 

Watching how companies like Airbnb, Uber and used technology to enable shifts to on-demand services inspired Jurny cofounder and CEO Luca Zambello to explore bringing that to hospitality, an industry that has been slow to adopt new technology. While interviewing the two on my Entrepreneur podcast recently, I learned how Zambello and his cofounder developed a technology that helps hotel and multi-family building owners increase efficiency and profitability on vacant units while streamlining operations to give guests a simple way to plan and enjoy their stay with limited interaction.

For property owners, Jurny acts as an end-to-end managed service that includes interior design, sourcing and installation, marketing, cleaning management, customer support and security. Guests use the Jurny app to find available units, choose dates, book their stay, check-in, check-out and access everything they need during their stay. 

Both founders are frequent travelers who loved the idea of being able to go from booking to check-in in seconds without having to wait or interact with anyone. That contact-minimizing solution has been ideal for people traveling during the pandemic, and Jurny’s revenue has been four times higher than the industry average. The company’s tech-first experience enables them to address social distancing measures and reduce potential contact points. The lesson here is that you don’t need to create a revolutionary new business model to disrupt an industry. Disruption can be copied from other spaces. Find industries that are outdated and apply a proven model to that industry. 

The timing has also been great for Vooks. CEO Marshall Bex, former creative director for Nike, got the idea for a Netflix-style platform for children’s books after noticing his daughter didn’t like reading but enjoyed watching videos. Bex and his three cofounders — including Shannon Bex, a multi-platinum recording artist (Danity Kane) and TV personality (Making the Band and So You Think You Can Dance) — launched Vooks about two years ago as the world’s first streaming platform bringing storybooks to life through animation.

Related: Hotel Experiences Are Going to Be Completely Different: Ritesh Agarwal

Vooks quickly gained fans from educators to celebrities — a recent shout-out came from Michelle Obama. Since the pandemic started, it has really taken off. Vooks has seen record monthly growth in subscribers and daily users. It now has about one million registered users across 175 countries. Educators at 95 percent of elementary schools in the U.S. and Canada are using Vooks. The lesson here is to look for problems that people in your current sphere of influence are having. This takes the ability to be observant and skill to create solutions to existing problems. 

While all of these companies have had their growth accelerate unexpectedly over the last several months, it’s a good bet to assume they will continue to succeed. Their founders have proven they can quickly respond to changing circumstances and spot opportunities, and the loyalty their products have gained with customers isn’t likely to end when the pandemic does. The new normal for entrepreneurs is there is no normal. You must stay agile and pivot as needed. 

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Inclusivity Is More Than Just a Buzzword; It Is the Future of a Healthy Global Economy

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The world is a crazy place right now. Between the global pandemic gripping everyone’s attention and worldwide protests following the tragic death of George Floyd, we’re in the midst of what feels like a massive, revolutionary sea change when it comes to diversity and equality. Jia Wertz, filmmaker and founder of Studio 15, a fashion-forward women’s brand that specializes in South Asian inspired collections, was a recent guest on my podcast (episode to air soon). And she specifically raised the need for more prominent representation of South Asian  in the U.S. through business and fashion.

As she explained to me, “Even though the South Asian (also known as desi) population –– consisting of individuals with ancestry from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives ––  in the U.S. is 5.4 million, you wouldn’t know it by watching your favorite TV shows or shopping at your favorite stores. Historically, South Asian people have rarely been represented on television, in marketing campaigns or even in the business world. With the U.S. population being approximately 331 million people, the South Asian community only represents about 1.6 percent of the country’s population, but even still, the portrayal of the South Asian people in film, television and business doesn’t even meet this low threshold.” 

To her point, the most famous South Asian person on television in the 1980s and ’90s was Apu from The Simpsons, and his voice was performed by Hank Azaria, a white male actor, which only reinforced racial stereotypes. But in recent years, we have finally begun to see a shift in this area, as comedians and actors such as Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, and Hasan Minhaj have risen to fame and become household names. Minhaj even headlined the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner and delivered a bold 30-minute speech that got people talking.

Related: StartOut Pride Economic Impact Index to Help Quantify Value of LGBTQ+ Entrepreneurs

This increased visibility of South Asian Americans in pop culture was far overdue. One of the factors that could have led to the culture being more widely seen across business and media is that the community grew roughly 40 percent between 2010 and 2017. 

“As a first-generation immigrant raised in Canada and living in the U.S. since my 20s, I rarely saw anyone that represented myself or my culture on television or as the face of my favorite brands,” said Wertz, who is of Pakistani descent and immigrated to Canada with her parents at a young age. “I’m happy to finally start seeing some South Asian actors and models being represented in the industry recently.”

She continued, “As it relates to business, I saw a gap in the market and a demand for fashion that was different, unique, and represented a large group of people who were in between two worlds — first-generation immigrants who relate to both North American culture and their ancestral roots — which is where the inspiration for our Desi Collection came from. We make a concerted effort to work with South Asian models as much as possible, it’s important to keep this momentum we are finally seeing moving forward.”

The fashion industry hasn’t historically been very representative of the South Asian population and has received criticism for not leveraging its visual power to help change perceptions around the world. According to a Fashion Spot report, which tallied Spring 2017’s 299 shows and 8,832 model appearances in New York, London, Milan and Paris, Asian models only represented 7 percent of all who walked the shows.  

Inclusivity is critical for business growth across the board, no matter what industry. When the end consumer feels represented and can identify with the people they are seeing in ads, on television or running the companies they do business with, they are more likely to engage.

More pointedly, inclusion is a true growth opportunity for businesses — equally important as personalization in today’s business landscape. Embracing diversity allows people to voice different perspectives and new innovative ideas to be generated, all of which can only lead to a better end result. 

To that end, Kuldeep Sah Gangola, a documentary filmmaker and instructor at New York Film Academy, comments that, “As the South Asians find their place in the nation’s ever-changing tapestry, the second-generation south Asians are building on the success of their parents and hence becoming a significant part of the western culture itself. This indeed has provided a very special blend of South Asian values and traditions which have given rise to the portrayal of this culture in the media as well.” 

Related: The Washington Redskins’ Overdue Name Change Teaches a Powerful Lesson on How to Lead

Blending the experiences and talents of different individuals can be very powerful. Businesses that make consumers feel included on an individual level will have a major advantage. The great news is that diversity is getting far more attention than ever before, but there is still a long way to go, and hopefully, the industries will keep moving in the right direction. And I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds. 

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5 Must-Have Resources for Anyone Looking to Make Money Online

Here’s a quintet of books, courses and other content that will unlock the secrets to leveling up.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a , I love building and creating. With businesses varying from agencies to SaaS and everything in between, I enjoy focusing on the tech space. I also love figuring out how to make my generate even more money. Once you learn how to do it, it becomes the greatest game you can play. 

In this quest for diversification and accumulation, I have become mildly obsessed with creating and selling courses geared towards teaching others how they can disrupt the online world in their own way (while making money the entire time). My first course, “How to Build a Million Dollar Website in 60 Minutes with No Code” (not to be confused with my latest book, The New Rich) has been an awesome foray, but I have also found other great resources by various entrepreneurs and business owners across the world focused on how to make money online. 

Here are my top five must-have resource picks for anyone looking to make money online that I’ve personally undertaken or read. 

Related: 5 Books to Read Before Starting Your Business

1. “Reloaded Hustlers Field Manual” and five other relevant courses including “ Money” by Chris Johnson. I’m a big fan of how Chris approaches business. His courses are a no-bullshit guide on how to leverage the , find the right products, build community, sell online, price correctly for the most profit, create an email , build an online store and more. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a practical guide on how to make money online. 

2. “How to Buy, Grow, and Sell Small Companies” by Ryan Kulp. This online course is all about walking you step-by-step through the extensive process of business acquisition. With six incredibly detailed modules and more than $3,000 worth of bonus content in contract templates, this is a great resource for anyone looking to acquire a business for the first time. 

3. “Monthly 1k” by King Sumo himself, . “Monthly 1k” is an online course with action-based steps and community accountability, and it’s a perfect resource for those driven to turn ideas into business plans. Throughout the course, you will learn exactly what you need to focus on in order to make a business idea reality — and hit that 1K-a-month goal. 

4. “No Code MVP” by Bram Kanstein. For those who don’t learn well by sifting through thousands of words of text, this video course is ideal. Not only is it packed with tons of practical lessons, but it allows budding entrepreneurs to learn all the mindset, tools and processes they’ll need to turn target customers into paying customers (without any necessity to learn code).

5. Make — Bootstrapper’s Handbook by Pieter Levels. This online handbook is for those who like to do things on their own terms. The “make” book is filled with continuously updated information on how to start small and grow big, including the best tools, processes, systems and ways to grow your projects. The indie hacker and solopreneur crowds comfortable with rolling up their sleeves to get down and dirty on their startup will have met their match with this ebook packed full of useful tips and tools.

Related: 19 Books to Read to Be Successful in 2019

While there are plenty of resources (both free and paid) to find on the internet, when you stumble on the right course, book or app for you, finding your niche in the online money-making world can becpme simple. It is important to note that there is absolutely no cure-all for getting money without work, and if you are falling for resources that tout as much, you’re running down a scamming path. 

The savviest entrepreneurs are the ones who are constantly learnin, being coached and taking courses. Using the resources I’ve named above is a great start to realizing just how far you can take your ideas, startups, and it’s another essential path to acquiring monetizable skills. 

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How to Navigate the Volatile Business-Funding Environment

Tips for getting the loans and investments you need as the economy reopens.

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4 min read

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Debt is extremely cheap nowadays. The and are injecting trillions of dollars into the U.S. , which means entrepreneurs can access loans at historically low rates. (In March, the Fed cut interest rates to zero.) And I don’t know what you’ve heard, but angels and VCs are still active. 

Moreover, the $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law on March 27 is extraordinary legislation that attempts to avert another Great Depression. (The 1930s crisis saw 25 percent .) Last month, nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, and that’s after millions more were turned away by clogged application systems.

Because of the huge expansion of the supply, companies have financing options at a time when some economists say the jobless rate could soon approach 20 percent. Former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen recently said unemployment is now at least 13 percent and that gross domestic product (GDP) will decrease by 30 percent.

Related: Tech Entrepreneurs and Mentors Help Students Join Tomorrow’s Workforce

Washington’s intervention to spark a weakening economy, 70 percent of which is driven by consumer spending, includes $500 billion in loans to businesses and local governments. Businesses can get a tax up to $5,000 per idle worker for keeping him/her on the payroll during the pandemic. 

There’s extra funding if your business belongs to a hard-hit industry. For example, healthcare firms will be awarded $100 billion in grants, while airlines will get $58 billion in loans and grants. Finally, employers and self-employed individuals can defer the 6.2 percent tax on wages that fund Social Security. 

More help could arrive as Trump is pushing Congress to cut the payroll tax for companies and employees. Even though I’m of the mindset that you should sell and build to increase revenue, I still know there’s value in getting the support that you need. Here are tips for business owners who are seeking funding during the lockdown.

Use idle time to research government loans

More liquidity means record-low interest rates. can use cheap debt to pay bills, employ Americans and keep doors open. You may have a great product or service, but still go bankrupt for lack of cash. When taking out government loans, like Economic Injury Disaster Loans, it helps to be organized.

Felix Polanski, a partner at the banking platform CreditPilot, recently explained in an email interview that entrepreneurs should research loans aimed specifically for small- and medium-sized enterprises, elaborating that, “Most small businesses don’t have enough liquid reserves on hand to handle even two weeks of expenses. It’s imperative to leverage loans like the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program so that owners can get cash as soon as possible.” (The SBA program gives incentives to businesses to keep workers on their payroll.)

To see all options and expedite the borrowing process, you may want to call the bank where there’s an existing line of credit. “Do your homework because there are numerous options,” says Polanski, whose Cyprus-based venture works with mobile network operators (MNOs) who then provide mobile banking services to subscribers. “If you go with the option of turning a loan into a grant, make sure you can meet the requirements. And if you use payroll services like Gusto, info can be collected very fast.” He also adds to submit all paperwork as soon as possible.

“Entrepreneurs should be wary of big banks that offer credit products,” says Zon Chu, CEO of Constant, a peer-to-peer lending platform. “Traditional financial institutions have grown inefficient and greedy. They lend depositors’ money for interest, but keep most of the profits. And they charge high fees when selling complex products that confuse rather than inform borrowers.”

Related: 10 OG Prison Tips to Get Your Mind, Body and Soul Right During Quarantine

There are other ways to increase working capital without a bank loan. According to attorney Mat Sorenson, the stimulus “increases the dollar amount you can loan yourself from your own 401(k) … and also creates a penalty-free early distribution rule whereby IRA or 401(k) account owners … can take a penalty-free retirement account distribution.”

The $2.2 trillion in stimulus money and the Fed’s quantitative easing are designed to increase employment. Business owners have access to cheap cash in today’s challenging environment. The bottom line is the bottom line –– get money. 


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Why 2020 IS The Year for Healthy-Alternative Startups

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

More than any other time in history, consumers have become cognizant of what they put into their bodies, and the demand for products that shake up the status quo continues to expand. People are voting with their dollars in greater numbers than ever, and products marketed as sustainable are gaining momentum.

The expanding interest in improving personal wellness and the environment through -conscious, eco-friendly and organic purchases is driving consumer markets in a whole new direction, giving rise to companies that provide something completely different for their customers.

Why are healthy alternatives gaining traction?

These days, more consumers are leaning toward a plant-focused lifestyle, and their product choices represent a desire for greener agricultural practices.

Seventy-three percent of consumers say they would be willing to accept higher prices for a brand that is transparent, which presents major challenges for and big corporations that already have ingrained processes in place. It is a boon, however, for companies investing in a more socially conscious approach to their .

, for example, has seen a great deal of company growth in response to its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which put its agenda to reduce environmental impact and improve social influence front and center. The 26 brands that are part of the plan contributed 70 percent of the company’s revenue growth in 2018.

Data shows that brands providing peace of mind about a product’s origins and health benefits inspire loyalty, and that people are more likely to switch labels when they offer greater transparency. Here are a few other brands and trends that underscore the movement. 

Related: 10 OG Prison Tips to Get Your Mind, Body and Soul Right During Quarantine

Despite the well-established fact that prolonged tobacco use can lead to myriad illnesses, including fatal mouth, throat and respiratory cancers, the global industry is expected to reach $1.08 trillion by 2027. While nicotine alone has not been found to cause cancer, it is highly addictive. That addiction may be the culprit of continued tobacco use in spite of known risks.

I recently enjoyed a conversation on my podcast with the co-founder of Black Buffalo, which is a smokeless tobacco alternative that provides an answer for people who love their dip but don’t want to consume the actual plant itself. (My podcast is hosted on the Entrepreneur platform here, where you can catch this episode.) During the chat, I learned about the unique opportunity for a tobacco alternative that isn’t just about the nicotine (though the company uses the same amount of pharmaceutical-grade nicotine you would find in a standard tin of chewing tobacco). It’s about the taste, the feel and, most importantly, the ritual.

That’s why the team spent years developing a dip without tobacco leaf or stem that is so close to the authentic product that even tobacco farmers themselves can’t tell the difference. They respect the time-honored traditions of this American ritual, and they have created a smokeless tobacco alternative that their customers love. With the CBD and cannabis spaces reaching peak consumer levels, I envision we’re going to start seeing a lot more of these tobaccoless consumer alternatives. 

The Rise of 100-Calorie Beer

For some people, there’s nothing more enjoyable than cracking open a cold one after a long day in the hot sun or joining a group of friends for a couple of brews on Friday night. But brewers have always struggled with the balance between better flavor and lower calories (hence the famous Miller Lite slogan, “Tastes Great, Less Filling”).

Recently, however, innovative brewing techniques have led to an onslaught of new kinds of beers that are taking off, as reported by The Takeout. Out of the top 25 brands that saw growth in 2019, 10 boasted healthier options like fewer calories or lower carbs.

DogFish Head Brewery has begun rolling out its “active lifestyle” brands with huge success, and alcoholic seltzers are on the rise. Independent craft breweries are jumping on the lo-cal wagon as well, with a well-rounded selection of light ales and IPAs that will satisfy beer drinkers of every caliber. I can see this space continuing to heat up, including the rise of low-calorie IPAs. 

Glossier’s Unicorn Success

We certainly have come a long way since putting lead and arsenic into on purpose; but unfortunately, lead still makes its way into lipsticks and eyeliners in trace amounts.

The lack of regulation in the cosmetic industry results in the intentional and incidental use of other known toxins and carcinogens like formaldehyde, asbestos and phthalates. Add to this the fact that animal testing is still a widespread practice for many beauty and skincare lines, and it’s enough to make any consumer want to stick with brands that are completely transparent.

Glossier’s founder, Emily Weiss, wanted to provide just that when she launched the company in 2014 with four products. The company’s direct-to-consumer model means that customer relationships are the most important aspect of the business. The company is forthright about its product ingredients, focused on and certified as cruelty-free.

“Democratizing beauty” has paid off immensely for Glossier. By 2018, the company was valued at more than $1 billion and bringing in $100 million in annual revenue. It is one of the most well-funded privately held businesses in the beauty industry, and Weiss has been hinting at an IPO in the future. The beauty industry is notorious for poor environmental practices, and any product that uses cruelty-free sustainable ingredients will carve out a competitive advantage. 

New Business Opportunities on the Horizon

Consumers are making it abundantly clear that they prefer products they know they can trust. They will spend more money on a brand that is transparent with its agricultural and supply chain practices; they are concerned about environmental and social causes, and they want brands that provide pleasurable experiences while keeping health and wellness in mind.

While large companies like Unilever are finding new ways to grow by providing a line of products that take these needs into account, smaller businesses are well-positioned to slide in and start connecting with customers right where they are.

Independent craft brewers are filling that space with beer-drinkers who want to be social and stay healthy. Glossier’s direct-to-consumer business model is creating products based on needs identified through direct communication with customers. And Black Buffalo has found a way to help people get all the things they are looking for in their tobacco products, without the tobacco or its cancer-causing chemicals.

Related: The Best CBD Oils for Stressed-Out Entrepreneurs

This is an exciting time for consumer marketing. It will be interesting to see how established businesses adapt to an informed generation of consumers, and how new businesses will shape the market when they are designed to serve customers that demand something better.

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Tech Entrepreneurs and Mentors Help Students Join Tomorrow’s Workforce

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With most of America’s 76 million students currently being homeschooled, this gives the nation’s school systems an opportunity to improve decades-old practices. I’m always seeking the silver lining in things, and in my opinion, this is a great use of time and energy during shutdowns. 

Kids have access to many apps and platforms, but school districts, teachers unions and colleges have been resistant to change. Mentors give students a perspective outside of the traditional system, as well as offer a glimpse of what things are like in the real world. Such is valuable in fields like business, technology and sciences, where there are many insights to be learned not found in textbooks. 

Mentoring also helps future graduates to join an evolving U.S. in which 52 percent of workers will be gig workers by 2023, according to a 2018 study by MBO Partners. The practice is effective in the corporate world, too: CNBC reported that 91 percent of workers who have mentors are satisfied in their jobs. Here’s how mentors help mentees join tomorrow’s workforce.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Great Mentor

Forward thinkers view education as a service, not a brick-and-mortar location. U.S. STEM education needs a major overhaul after ranking 38th in math and 24th in science out of 71 developed countries in 2015. That’s after significantly outspending Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development () countries; America spends $12,800 per student on elementary and education (compared to $9,500 for OECD countries) and $30,000 per student at the post-secondary level (compared to $16,100 for OECD).

Great mentors provide a perspective on professional trends, the global economy and post-secondary education, whereas relying solely on teachers and guidance counselors could limit one’s perspective.

Tech entrepreneurship programs for kids like Alex Hodara’s Rocket Club and Elon Musk’s Ad Astra School are changing the STEM landscape by teaching and gamifying entrepreneurship, engineering, networking and other professional skills. New York-area Rocket Club also features a program of successful entrepreneurs including Mr. Wonderful, Marcus Lemoni and Chris Zarou, founder of Visionary Music and a Forbes “30 Under 30” honoree. 

Mentors like Chris advise Rocket Club’s 7-14-year-old members throughout the launch of their first businesses while teaching members business lessons not found in textbooks. “Our members are learning the art of entrepreneurship during a time of their lives when they have so few limiting beliefs,” says Alex Hodara, founder of Rocket Club. “Being able to discuss their business model, branding, income statement, etc. with mentors like Chris is something that I wish I was able to do when I was a kid.”

Each day, students participate in Rocket Club Live, where they engage in engineering and entrepreneurship trivia, ask questions to industry leaders and interact with like-minded peers.

Aside from offering sound advice, a good mentor often holds a mentee accountable in a way that others can’t. That’s partly because mentees typically share their professional objectives, and therefore have an objective third party who reminds them of challenges and milestones ahead. A good mentor discourages a protege from getting distracted or discouraged and provides a morale boost when school, or life in general, gets tough. In high school and elementary, too many kids fall through the cracks simply by not having an emotional support system.

Learning From Subject Matter Experts

Another trend is bringing subject matter experts into virtual classrooms and training programs. A longstanding criticism of traditional education is its emphasis on passive reading of outdated texts. Students are graduating into a competitive marketplace that demands updated skills in fields like programming, digital marketing, blockchain, artificial intelligence and robotics. 

When education is viewed as a service, there’s a premium placed on curated content, not brick-and-mortar classrooms. It’s expert content and practical skills that give future job applicants an opportunity to find high-paying employment.

Affiliate Institute (Ai) is an online source for anyone who wants to start an affiliate marketing venture. Founder Mathieu Jang provides instruction on “what works now” and only brings in the best marketing experts. He views traditional education as offering outdated or irrelevant content. “Affiliate Institute has helped earn over $100 million for the businesses our students work with,” says Jang, whose intensive 12-week Accelerator Program helps students to optimize their affiliate marketing operations. Students of all age groups receive a certificate that gives them the option of finding employment after completing the course.

Related: The Secret to Finding a Great Mentor — Don’t Ask to Be Mentored

One of my favorite Confucius quotes goes like this, “I hear and I forget … I do and I understand.” Mentors give students an edge when it comes to navigating their educational and professional careers. I’m also a huge believer in learning by practical application, and this mentor-experience movement is a perfect example of that.

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10 OG Prison Tips to Get Your Mind, Body and Soul Right During Quarantine

8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yes, we’ve all heard it: “Quarantine feels like a prison!” Well, I’m here to help you debunk that myth. There are myriad reasons why it’s not even close, but here are just a few that stand out: I’m assuming there are no prison riots in your home; you don’t have to worry about getting shanked while you sleep; you don’t have house correctional officers raiding your bedroom looking for contraband; you can use the bathroom at your leisure (what an amazing luxury); and most of you probably have cold, clean drinking water. I can go on, from food not made for human consumption to no daylight to shackles on your feet and hands when moving units.

So, while quarantine can totally suck, you’re still not quite in prison. Plus, there are a million ways to use your time wisely while dealing with the lockdown. And, please don’t let my sarcasm take away from my empathy towards the current situation though. No matter the scenario, nobody wants to stay locked up in a confined space all day every day. I feel you on that. 

You’re probably wondering: Well, what makes you an expert? “Well, Jim,” as a young man, I went to prison and was institutionalized more times than I like to admit and have learned these invaluable life and business lessons by intimately experiencing the great challenges of life in lockup. Yes, yay me! You can read more about my life story on my website. I also wrote a comedy book about prison called Don’t Drop the Soap that shares some life hacks, workout and even food recipes. Go check it out if you want a good read during quarantine. 

Related: Managing Your Company Culture Virtually

In prison, inmates focus daily on something they refer to as their “program,” which is essentially their daily routine. It is the backbone of a successful prison term, because it keeps you focused and active. Most inmates live and die by their program, and as a freshly minted quarantine-ee, I recommend you do the same. 

Here are my 10 OG quarantine tips.

1. Learn a new skill

While I was in prison, I taught myself how to build websites using my #2 pencil, textbooks and a notepad, so I don’t want to hear your excuses. (I even have a course you can take.) This is a great time to learn a new skill to make a bunch of money, expand your mental capacity or to make the best use of your time. 

2. Read daily

Over the course of two years in prison, I read well over 300 books. Reading keeps your mind sharp, expands your imagination and improves your vernacular. Even fiction has its place, especially in a confined space. What are you reading currently? I’d love to hear. Send me your list on Twitter @andrewmedal

3. Write daily

As entrepreneurs and leaders, we must always strive to be the best communicators and learn how to clearly articulate our messages and words. In prison, your written word becomes your voice on the outside while being cut off from other communication means (like in-person communication, emails, calls, texts, etc.). Writing daily in prison had a profound effect on how much stronger I communicated, in all areas of my life, upon my release. If you don’t know what to write, keep a daily journal of your thoughts, ideas and feelings. Start writing and set dedicated time aside each day. 

4. Work out daily

You don’t have weights? Who cares! Body-weighted workouts can destroy you and get you super-ripped. Plus, the dopamine and discipline you’ll reap from working out far outweigh the physical benefits, especially as an entrepreneur. 

5. Connect with your higher power

Harvard research studies of meditation have shown benefits against an array of physical and mental conditions, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The most “woke” people I’ve personally ever met in my life are inmates doing life in prison, most of whom have dedicated their life to daily meditation or some form of spiritual connection. There’s something about captivity that reminds you how insignificant the human species is and how there must be more to life. It is also the secret formula for living with empathy and looking outside of yourself, which is much needed in our modern society. 

6. Get a side hustle

The underlying fabric of the inmate prison system sits atop an unbreakable entrepreneurial foundation. Every single inmate in prison has a hustle. That hustle can be the yard’s tattoo artist, the laundry guy, the sports bookie, the yard chef and a million others both legal and not so legal (I mean, it is a prison, so what do you expect?). Side hustles on the outside are all the rave, and this is the perfect time to do it. The quickest way to create a side hustle is to monetize your skills and hobbies. For example, if you like to write in your downtime, create a content agency, or if you have a passion for baking, start selling your baked goods to friends and neighbors. A side hobby can net you an extra couple of bucks per month, and everyone loves extra money. I share tons of side hobby ideas on my Instagram account, so go connect with me there @andrewmedal

7. Find a new hobby

The prison yard is full of hobbies, from drawing to working out, chess, reading, handball and playing cards 24-7. Inmates are unfortunately forced to pass the time, but it becomes a nice way to escape their current circumstances. This is a great way for you to do the same. One of mine and my wife’s new favorite hobby is playing cards after dinner once we put our newborn baby girl down for bed. We’ll even throw in a little bit of cash in the pot for bragging rights. This new hobby has been something we look forward to all day and provides a fun way to escape and bond. 

8. Learn a new language 

If you’re looking to improve your memory, your decision-making ability and overall cognitive health, you better dust off that ‘ol Espanol dos libro and get to studying. Prison language is a dialect unto its own, and as a fresh fish, if you want to survive without getting gutted, you better learn how to communicate with the other inmates fast. I previously wrote a useful article titled “13 Prison Slang Terms You Should Use with Co-Workers” for anyone wanting to learn some handy prison slang. And instead of using with coworkers, you can use it with your quarantine mates and on Zoom calls.  

9. Share stories

Sharing stories in prison is almost a rite of passage. Inmates gather around the yard sharing their most epic stories from the streets. Sharing stories is an amazing way to entertain, teach, and learn about one another. As a species, our culture has been built on storytelling and this is an incredibly useful skill to build as an entrepreneur. Storytelling can help you raise capital, gain new customers, and create brand loyalty. We live in the attention economy and there’s no better way to gain an audience’s attention than through a good story. 

10. Program. 

I spoke briefly about what programming in prison above and how it becomes the lifeline for every inmate and how they manage their day. Creating a consistent schedule and routine becomes the most effective way to do time. Programming teaches discipline, provides structure and is a super-useful productivity hack. I’ve applied programming to my life as an entrepreneur and have reaped massive benefits in my ROI of time and energy. During quarantine, it can become too easy to just forget your normal routine and let the day run away. 

Related: Use These 3 Strategies to Embrace Hope and Eliminate Fear

For fun, here’s also a quick hit list of things to avoid during a lockdown: uncontrollable gambling, drugs, treating quarantine like it’s an extended spring break and excessive TV binging. Some of these vices are how inmates get into a wreck while doing their time, and you may as well learn from them what not to do too. Make the best of your quarantine time and come out of lockdown smarter, more jacked and with a side hustle. Then, you too can have that “slammer swagger.” Stay safe!

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