Business Profile: Lulu

Lulu is one of the neatest services I’ve seen in a long time, and I have been meaning to talk about it for a while. What is Lulu?Lulu provides short-run manufacturing of books for self publishers, among other things. It basically allows anyone to write and create a physical, paperback book. In addition, Lulu provides services for reviewing content, editing, formatting, and promoting your book. The Pros The service is flexible. You can choose to print one copy, one hundred or one thousand. The quantity is up to you. The prices are  pretty affordable. 35 copies of a 150-page book, black and white and bound = $243   ($6.92/copy) 100 copies of a 85-page book in full color and bound – $1550   ($15.50/copy) Lulu offers a free online store front to help you sell your masterpiece without the upfront production cost commitments typically associated with printing. You can get your ISBN number A wide range of services for editing, formatting and promoting your work. The Cons Lulu doesn’t give cash advances to authors to allow them to quit your day job while you work on your masterpiece. Lulu doesn’t provide data about the number of authors who sell fewer than 500 copies to strangers (most) or just how many books get published each year (thousands). Feedback/InsightHave you or someone you know used Lulu? If so, let me know. I have been thinking about writing a basic guide to marketing for a while and Lulu seems like the perfect route for it. Any feedback you have would be much...

Yoonew – A Game Changing Company

I recently heard about Yoonew, a company that essentially runs an open market for sporting event tickets.  How Yoonew WorksAt Yoonew, fans can bet that their team will make it to the championship game.  (i.e. the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series, etc.). If the team that the fan bets on make it to the championship, the fan receives a ticket (or many tickets, depending on the bet) to that sporting event for the price that they locked in earlier in the season. If the team doesn’t make it, the fan loses the initial amount. Yoonew uses the losers’ money to purchase tickets for winning bidders –and brings in revenue through transaction fees. The company claims they’ve never failed to deliver a ticket to a winning bidder. Why Yoonew is interestingYoonew allows fanatics with extra cash (and a knack for gambling) the opportunity to get tickets for well under face value. With Super Bowl XLII this week, and tickets reselling for $4,300 on average,  Yoonew seems to have found a niche that will certainly be around for a while. More on YoonewRead more about Yoonew at TechCrunch, The Boston Herald and Fast...

Kiva Gift Certificates – The gift that truly keeps on giving

In case you haven’t heard of it, Kiva is one the neatest organizations in the world. It is a nonprofit that is focused on microlending/microcredit. It finds people in developing nations that need money for their business. The person decides how much money they need to start or continue a business and then people can make loans to those individuals. The best part is that Kiva allows you to buy gift certificates (perfect for the holidays). This is really the first gift I’ve seen that can truly keep on giving. The Burning QuesitonAccording the Kiva Web site,     "Of the $2,208,060 of loans with completed loan terms, the default rate is 0.2%." However, Kiva does note that there are three risk factors that should be considered: the entrepreneur, the field partner (person that distributes/collects loans), and the...

Customer Service in action; Print Place shines

Late Friday afternoon (3:30 – 4:00pm) I was ordering brochures. I placed the order online and then submitted my artwork to the Web site by uploading the files. Then comes the curveball. Rather than being able to view my proofs online, both front and back, I was only able to see one side. So, I called a customer service representative. I actually spoke with this same representative beforehand, to ask about the ordering and artwork submission process. During my second call, she mentioned that they were having problems with the electronic proofs. She assured me that the problem would be resolved, but she didn’t know when. Since I could wait until Monday, I stopped worrying about the problem, trusting that it would be corrected by then. It turns out, not only did the problem get corrected, but the same customer service representative followed up via e-mail on Saturday afternoon. So, if I did need the brochures soon, I could have quickly reviewed the proofs and sent them to press. I’d like to give a tip of my hat to the customer service team at PrintPlace. Many companies would have sent out a mass e-mail to everyone that had ordered after a certain time. Not this employee, nor this company. She took it upon herself to follow through, with a personalized e-mail, to a customer with whom she’d work with earlier. As a display of gratitude, I sent her a personal e-mail saying thanks. Now, I have a relationship with her and her company. The next time I need printing done, there is no choice. It’s already made. If you...

The American Nightmare

Cashcall.com, loans that fit your lifestyle, is a great example…of horrible business practice. I saw an ad for cashcall.com while I was watching a program that I recorded. I paused when the terms of the loan(s) appeared on the screen. Below is the screenshot (click on the image for a full-screen display). That’s right, the average APR on a loan of $2,600 dollars is 99.25 percent. 99.25% APR. I did some further investigation on this company. First, I went to the company’s Web site. Then, I looked at the careers section of their Web site. Here is a link to one of the positions they posted yesterday. I called Adolph, the contact person for the position, and asked him how the loans work. He very frankly replied, "the interest compounds daily." So, not only do you have an unbelievably high APR, but you also get the accrued interest on your loan compounded daily. This is a one-sided business. One wins. One loses. It’s a blowout. On a related note, below are some statistics on the payday loan industry that I found on Wikipedia. Stephens Inc. estimates that in 2006, the payday advance industry extended credit to 19 million U.S. households. There are an estimated 24,200 locations offering payday advances across the country, employing more than 50,000 people. Stephens Inc. estimates that storefront payday lenders have an annual loan volume of $42 billion. Internet payday lenders have $5.65 billion in loan volume. There are an estimated 24,400 storefront locations offering payday advances. The numbers for this industry are astonishing. The Big Deal: In a world of businesses and people driven...