The Next Big Thing - Page 6 of 8

The Next Big Thing

solid resources that can provide training and advice as they head out on their own.

Since leaving the corporate world, Craig-Hart’s income has outpaced her corporate salary: “In my first year, I hit $75,000 gross,” she says. “Second year, $155,000, and this year will be close to $200,000.”


By now, most of us would probably admit to being pretty experienced, if not experts, when it comes to grabbing great deals online. We know the usual hotspots for comparison shopping, clipping coupons, and getting discounts on hard-to-find products. But do we really know how to ferret out the best bargains?

Vickie Perry Barker, 31, knows the art of finding a deal. As a virtual paralegal and marketing assistant, and mother of two, the busy entrepreneur says whether it’s for her business or family, every online shopping trip starts with the “big G”–Google. She uses the company’s services not just to check e-mail but also to coordinate payments with clients and services through Google Checkout. “Before I start any research, I go to Google. I also use more popular sites like eBay and,” she adds.

The latest in online shopping are personalization and social networking sites. Consumers are talking to each other and demanding a more tailored shopping experience., an online eyeglasses shop, lets customers upload photos of themselves to do a virtual try on, then share the images with friends via the site’s social network, the Wall of Frame, or via Facebook. And Leverage Inc. lets users buy, register, manage, and swap gift cards online. Gift cards registered from participating retailers on never expire, offer insurance in case the retailer goes bankrupt, and earn interest over time. In Beta testing at press time, iStorez provides up-to-the-minute details on store specials. Shoppers can search by item type, retailer, occasion, theme, and even personality.

Small Business

It seems that these days, businesses can choose to keep doing what they’ve always done and face the battered economy by protecting what they have or be bold enough to shred the box. That’s what Mike Johns, CEO of California-based UrbanWorld Wireless, did. The distributor of mobile content, ranging from hip-hop news to ring tones, could have stayed in his comfort zone, but instead he expanded his firm’s reach by recently inking a deal with Urban World Ltd.–a similarly named but unrelated British company–to extend distribution into the United Kingdom.

Johns says the opportunity to grow his business comes with risk because better or worse, his company’s overseas reputation is now linked to the UK firm.

But then there’s the upside–by breaking out of the U.S. market, Johns expects to boost UrbanWorld’s revenues from $1 million in 2007 to $1.7 million in 2008. He plans to keep capitalizing on the world’s fascination with hip-hop by expanding into continental Europe, Asia, and Africa. “You have to take calculated risks, and I think that is applicable to all businesses,” says Johns, whose 7-year-old company employs nine people.

Now is a good time for entrepreneurs to take such risks, including wooing employees of weakened rivals