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Business Rx: Checking up on last year's entrepreneurs

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Monday, January 10, 2011

With the new year under way, we decided to check in with a few of the entrepreneurs we talked to in 2010 to see how their businesses are faring. Some entrepreneurs are building on with their business ideas and others have moved on to different ventures. Here is what they had to say:

The business: YourTensils, reusable flatware to keep in your pocket and bring to casual restaurants instead of relying on throwaway plastic.

The original question: How do I make a product from my idea?

The advice: Test the market by getting your friends to try it out.

Since we talked to Alison Willman in April: "I've put YourTensils on hold for now because college students didn't want to spend money on the product, even though they liked the concept. I think YourTensils still has a lot of potential, and I continue to use my set of YourTensils and pitch my idea to anyone who asks about them."

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The business: FanMobilizer, a marketing agency for musicians that specializes in grass-roots campaigns in which "street teams" of promoters pound the pavement distributing fliers, postcards, etc. to spread the word. Alan VanToai said the inspiration for the agency came from a previous employer.

The original question: I like my employer's idea and would like to use it for a start-up in the D.C. area. What do I tell my boss?

The advice: Be very upfront with your mentor so you can maintain a good working relationship.

Since we talked to Alan VanToai in May: "FanMobilizer is going mobile. Using smartphone connectivity, we're working to develop and market a mobile app for street team promoters to immediately upload photos or videos of marketing work in progress. Managers and clients can then log into a secure Web site where they can verify the promotion work with reports, pictures and videos uploaded by the street teams. It's a completely different model from what we had before. Instead of managing campaigns and creating marketing teams ourselves, we're going to be developing and selling a product that makes it easier for others. Companies that used to be our direct and indirect competitors will now be potential customers."

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The business: Skincando Inc., an organic skin-care company that created the Combat-Ready Balm. Combat-Ready Balm is used by both civilians and many in the military to combat dry itching skin, eczema, bug bites and sunburn. Skincando allows customers to go online and donate the product to a member of the military.


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