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The Entrepreneur Factor

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Starting a new career at any age can be scary, but leaving a comfy job with a great salary to start your own business can be downright terrifying. It can also be quite satisfying and exhilarating to see a product you’ve thought up and developed brought to life and sold nationwide. Launching her own company was definitely a mixed bag of emotions for 30-year-old Brandy Jans, who gave up her job developing beauty products and rented out her condo in New York City so she could afford to launch Boo-Boo Cover-Up, a unique concealer that hides bruises, bug bites and other imperfections all over the body.

Jans moved back in with her parents in the suburbs of Detroit so she could put the money she would have spent on her mortgage and other expenses toward her new business venture. The move allowed Jans to pay for photography and a commercial for Boo-Boo Cover-Up. She also revamped the Web site and created materials for print advertisements and in-store displays. She launched the company with about $75,000 in seed money and states that she still has some of that left. Although it would have been easier for her to network while in New York, Jans probably would have paid three times as much to have her commercial and photography shot if she were living in the city.

Jans is very involved in the day-to-day aspects of her company. She primarily works on marketing/press and communicating with buyers for the majority of each day, although she does spend some time on product development as well. Jan’s Boo-Boo Cover-Up is available through a variety of online retailers, including and Currently the formula only exists in a medium shade, but light and dark shades are in the works, as is a formula to cover scars.


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More than 70 years ago, Prussian psychologist Kurt Lewin and several other researchers conducted studies to identify the different types of leadership. Their work became invaluable in later research that established three basic leadership styles: authoritarian, participative, and laissez-faire. Authoritarian or autocratic leaders set clear expectations and dictate orders to subordinates. This style works when applied uniformly and fairly, when decisions must be made quickly, and when the person in charge possesses the most knowledge. Prisons and the military both rely on authoritarian leadership structures. However, abusers of the approach can become overbearing, demanding, hypercritical, and dictatorial.

Participative or democratic leaders offer guidance to a group, and engage in discussion with and permit input from group members. Charlie Ditkoff, Vice Chairman of Corporate and Investment Banking and Head of the Global Healthcare Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has become a leader in Wall Street healthcare banking and utilizes this method of leadership. While Mr. Ditkoff has ultimate decision-making authority for those areas under his purview, his employees feel their opinions matter, so they are more motivated and engaged in their work. The democratic style of leadership typically is the most effective.

The third type of leadership, laissez-faire or delegative, generally produces the lowest productivity among workers. A manager who offers no guidance and leaves decision-making to others is rarely effective. While the laissez-faire style can be effective in the short-term, ultimately it results in poorly defined roles that drain the motivation of employees.

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For Jeff Miller, one of the founders of Wheelz, finding sustainable transportation solutions is a way of life. After graduating from Northwestern with a bachelors degree, Miller earned an MBA from Stanford and an MPA from Harvard. He’s worked for the Boston Consulting Group as well as the United Nations in Kenya, and he spent three years working on sustainable transportation solutions with Better Place.

Wheelz is a company that facilitates car sharing among students at Stanford University. Students with cars can sign up with the service that allows them to rent their vehicles out for any length of time, from an hour or two to a couple of days. The company installs security hardware in each car that allows users access via a smartcard. Vehicles enrolled in the Wheelz program are insured up to $1 million during rental periods, so the vehicle owners are not responsible for damage that occurs when someone rents their car.

The company has raised nearly $14 million in venture capital in its first round of funding and plans to launch the service at the University of California, Berkeley next week. Programs at the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles will follow.

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Alexa von Tobel earned a degree in psychology from Harvard College. When she realized she was about to graduate from college and she hadn’t taken one course in personal finance, she launched LearnVest. She was about to start a job as a trader for Morgan Stanley, but she had no idea about credit scores, Roth IRAs or mortgages. Von Tobel tried to learn about personal finance on her own using the Internet, but she soon realized that there were no resources that targeted young women.

Von Tobel enrolled in Harvard Business School in 2008, but she took a leave of absence shortly thereafter when LearnVest was named an Astia company for 2008-2009. The company raised $1.1 million in seed funding and was named a TechCrunch50 Company in 2009. Led by Accel Partners, LearnVest has raised more than $25 million in funding to date.

The company’s goal is to help anyone learn how to manage their finances and make smart financial decisions. Their Web site offers easy to use interactive tools that anyone can use to improve their finances. The site offers checklists and allows users to create profiles and save their information. The company also offers e-mail bootcamps on a wide range of financial topics that help people get a jump on their finances. Bootcamp topics include tax help, how to reduce costs, getting out of debt and budgeting for a baby. LearnVest has helped more than a million women take control of their finances, get out of debt and start planning for the future.

Von Tobel is also a cofounder of Lwala, a 501c3 non-profit organization whose goal is to fight HIV and AIDS inAfrica. Although the main goal of Lwala is to improve the health of the people of Africa, the organization also improves infrastructure and public health programs, which lead to increased attendance in schools and promotes economic growth.


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An app that helps improve your nightlife experience? Yes, there’s even an app for that now. The man to thank for this ingenious little app is Ben Silbert. His app Bar & Club Stats (BCS) pulls four pieces of data from every driver’s license scanned at a bar or club’s entrance and transmits the information to the BCS Web site using the bouncer’s iPhone or iPod. The app reports how many people are at a specific venue and provides real-time data on age, location and gender, so you’ll know if a club or bar is worth visiting before you wait in line or pay a cover charge.

The BCS scanner collects and transmits the demographic information anonymously, so the patrons’ names and addresses are never in danger. This demographic information can also be used by the management of the establishment to refine their marketing and get a better idea of who their key audience is. Many of the scanners currently used by bouncers to verify driver’s licenses offer this information as well, but the management needs to plug the scanner into a computer via a USB port and extract the information. With BCS, they can visit the Web site and gain instant access to the desired information.

BCS is currently being used in about 20 venues in New York and New Jersey. The consumer app is expected to launch in June.

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Plato said it best when he philosophized that necessity is the mother of invention. This is definitely the case with Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old engineer from Cameroon, a country about the size of California located on the west coast of Central Africa. The young engineer created a touch-screen medical tablet that can record test results and transmit them to a doctor, who can interpret them.

Cameroon has approximately 30 cardiac surgeons to service a population of more than 20 million. To make matters worse, these surgeons are all located in two of the country’s largest cities: Douala and Yaoundé. Those living outside of these two cities must travel long distances to the nearest city to receive a consultation from a cardiac doctor. Oftentimes appointments must be made months in advance, and more than one patient has died while waiting for his appointment to happen.

The Cardiopad comes with a module that allows nurses or other medical professionals to connect electrocardiogram (EKG) leads to the tablet. The medical professional then performs the EKG and transmits the results wirelessly to a cardiac specialist who can interpret the results. If further testing or treatment is needed, the patient can be transported to the nearest cardiac surgeon.

Several tests have been performed using the Cardiopad, and Zang states that the accuracy of the tablet is greater than 97.5 percent. These tests have been validated by the medical community in Camaroon. Zang’s Cardiopad is the first touch-screen medical tablet in Africa. Zang is currently seeking venture capital to mass-produce the device for commercial use. He hopes that the use of the device in Camaroon and throughout Africa will significantly reduce the cost of a heart exam and make it possible for all citizens to receive the necessary tests without having to travel such long distances and wait months for appointments.

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Most people know LL Cool J is a rapper and actor, but did you know that he’s also an entrepreneur? In addition to launching a record label in the early 1990s, LL Cool J launched in 2008. His new venture is a record label, music Web site and social media site all rolled into one. The site allows aspiring musicians to create and upload their music as well as promote it through the social media side. Users can listen to the tracks and rate them. also offers musicians tools that allow them to collaborate with other artists in real time and a virtual digital studio in which they can record music.

Born James Todd Smith in Bayshore, New York, in 1968, LL Cool J has released 13 albums to date, some of which went multiplatinum, and has appeared in a number of movies and television series, including “Deep Blue Sea,” “Last Holiday” and “S.W.A.T.” He also launched his own clothing line in 2008 and has published four books, including a children’s book and a fitness book.

The Grammy-award winning musician demoed his virtual recording studio at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month by recording his new single live. LL Cool J used his Web site to connect with his engineer, who was in New York at the time, along with a Dolby-enabled laptop to ensure the best sound quality. Although the studio portion of is currently in Beta testing and is only available by invitation, the rest of the Web site is open to anyone who wants to join. Musicians can upload their tracks and even offer them for sale through iTunes using the site. If you are interested in the recording studio, there is a waiting list you can add your name to so you’ll be notified when it becomes available.

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