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Raising Money On The Cheap

You’re looking to raise funds fast for your charity or personal cause. There are a lot of promotional items to choose from but you’ve only got a limited budget. What product should I go with? The answer is clear: Custom silicone wristbands.

What are custom silicone wristbands, you ask? Think “livestrong.” Those iconic yellow wristbands once hawked by the now notorious Lance Armstrong became a staple in the early 2000’s. They could be seen on the wrists of 5 year olds, high school kids and 85 year old grandmothers. This wide ranging demographic appeal is attainable to this day because all of these people were not wearing simply a wristband. Instead, they were wearing the cause of cancer research pretty much right on their sleeve. And causes like fighting cancer are pretty darn popular across all age groups.

So you’ve got a worthwhile cause that you know those around you will support, but you’re light on cash to get the fundraising started. No worries. Custom silicone wristbands are one of the cheapest fundraising products out there. When ordered in bulk they often cost less than 50 cents a wristbands. When you weigh that against the intrinsic value of the band when associated with your cause, the product is a no brainer. You’ll easily be able to demand $5 a unit to the people who want to help.

Another benefit of such a small per unit cost? You can throw the wristband in as a secondary free item and not hurt the profit margin of your larger sale. For instance, if you’re fundraising by selling t-shirts for $20 that may seem expensive to a potential buyer. But if you include a free wristband for every t-shirt sold, you’re giving that buyer $5 back in intrinsic value. This leads to more sales of the higher ticketed, more profitable item.

And then there’s post-sale. Your client walks off into the ether with a smile on his face and a silicone wristband on his wrist. And the best part? A lot of these people will be wearing your wristband on their wrist every day for weeks or months at a time. Some people don’t even take them off to shower! So you’ve ensured, through one sale, that your important fundraising cause is being advertised wherever that person goes. Just think of it: Have you ever been sitting at lunch with a classmate or coworker and asked them about their wristband? I’m sure you’ve gotten a glowing, meaningful and informative response. And in some cases I’d bet you’ve sought out the fundraiser and bought a wristband of your own.

All of these factors combined lead to one simple conclusion: Silicone wristbands can’t be beat in terms of shoe-string budget fundraising.

Drought and Soil Tests

Only the youngest farmers in our country will find the idea of a drought to be shocking.

The fact is that whatever the meteorologist and climate scientists say, most farmers above a certain age will have seen several previous cycles of unseasonably good or bad weather. Whether the frequency of such events is increasing or not is a subject of scientific and political debate but unusually dry weather or a full-blown drought is something that is part and parcel of farming at times in our country.

You probably don’t need to be told that a severe shortage of water or for that matter, lots of it in excess, can significantly change the soil to an extent that is going to be a big issue for farming in almost any sector of the industry. Now while many that work the land have vast experience and can tell at a glance what the prevailing soil conditions are like, it’s also true that not everyone is so naturally gifted – even with lots of experience!

For those and perhaps even for some of the cynics who say it’s not needed, soil test kits can provide an invaluable aid.

Now the history here is a little ‘interesting’.

Culturally, soil testing in laboratories has traditionally been viewed as being expensive and even unreliable. Some farmers may even have been suspicious about links between some soil testing laboratories and the larger industrial concerns associated with farming.

So, you might have expected that soil testing kits would be much more enthusiastically appreciated but perhaps surprisingly, many farmers continue to see them as being ‘gimmicky’ and of no proven reliability or value.

Why is that?

The reasons may vary from one farm to another but it’s possible to speculate as follows:

• The above-mentioned tendency to think that nobody knows the land better than the farmer that works it is deep-seated in our culture.

• Having been told for decades that soil testing was high-tech science, so as to justify its high cost, suddenly being offered a box with some tubes in it seems absurd to some.

• Many farmers claim to simply not have the time to go around their land taking random samples in lots of different places.

• Occasionally, the results generated by such kits have been held up to non-specific ridicule.

So, what’s the reality?

In fact, today some testing kits can test for a variety of soil components including things such as pH, phosphates, lime requirement, nitrate, magnesium, calcium, potassium and so on.

Secondly, studies have shown that the results generated from such kits are surprisingly reliable when compared against tests conducted in professional laboratories.

So, at least some of the traditional farming community objections to using such kits appear to have relatively little foundation in fact. Other issues, notably lack of time, are rather more subjective when you are trying to deal with them.

Ultimately it’s possible to make a case for saying that we are too busy to do anything but that is largely dependent upon whether or not we believe the thing we don’t have time to do has any value or not. If you believe that understanding the chemical constitution of your soil is unimportant, then testing kits will continue to be seen as a luxury that can’t be supported.

Of course, people once made similar arguments about powered agriculture machinery!

On the other hand, if you believe understanding the science of your soil will add benefit to your farming then these testing kits are something you should be thinking more about.

Evaluating, Financing, and Starting Your Farm

Over the past several years the United States has seen an increase in people’s interest in “back to the land” lifestyles and businesses. We see evidence of this in products boasting “green” or “eco-friendliness” for added value and tiny homes are the new design rage. As a result there are a variety of opportunities for entrepreneurs capture this niche market.

Starting a farm business is a great way to create a new source of income and live a particular style of life. Some of these farming entrepreneurs may be starting from nothing, while others may be transitioning to farming as another career choice. Those shifting careers may already own land and need help developing a plan that works with their property and goals. Those without land will have the added challenge of finding and purchasing (or leasing) land. Once land is found; determining what to grow and how to sell it are the next steps in starting and growing your farm.

The first step in evaluating your farming prospects is to identify personal and group goals. These goals can include knowing ones desired work schedule, is this a full time operation or a part time hobby. Another goal is determining how much money your farm needs to mark. As you are getting started with these goals and reasons for farming, take time to write them down, this will be the first draft of your business plan.

Once thought has been put into developing goals and reasons for a farming business, it is time to evaluate resources. Resources can include finances, experience, land, facilities, contacts and marketing techniques. These available resources may limit or even determine your enterprising opportunities. Make a list of these identified resources, how they can be obtained or provided, and possibly the importance or reliability level of specific resources. Keep this list with your draft of goals to continue building the business plan.

After defining goals and resources available, it is time to evaluate the market. Before choosing a market to focus on, one needs to consider location and types of products or resources the land can realistically provide. Keep in mind the farm should be the center of the business, but it will need to be structured in such to add value through other means. Research local farm tours, community supported agriculture programs, farmer’s markets, and local food distributors in order to better gauge market possibilities.

Now that goals, resources, and market research have been explored one can start to brainstorm what products and services can be offered. The Alternative Farming Information Center has a list of agricultural resources to consider, such as field crops, fruit and nuts, livestock, horticulture, farm and home services, and on-farm processing. Comparing the AFIC list to the business plan can help entrepreneurs choose where to get started and how to prepare for added value in the future. As one is looking at which fields to focus on, it is important to always evaluate the resources needed for the specific venture and the risk associated with them.

Marketing is another important factor to consider in the start-up stages and to define in a business plan. Marketing can take many forms and will be determined by the specific farm’s location, product, services, and personality. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program has marketing assessments available for farmers.

Financing is directly connected to setting goals, writing business plan, keeping records, access to land, equipment, seeds, and other materials. As one goes through developing goals, resources, and marketing options, finances must be constantly re evaluated. Even individuals who start with access to land and equipment rely on efficient financial management. Options for financing include traditional lenders, commercial banks, loans, state agricultural development programs, grants, personal savings, and friends or family. It is important to demonstrate good financial management, especially during the farms start up. Watching cost expenditures and minimizing financial risk is a continuous process through the farm’s business life cycle. Create a good plan that shows evidence of the farm cover expenses required, if needed, re-create your business plan before implementing actions that may be harmful in the business future.

Farming is a rewarding lifestyle and job occupation, however, like most entrepreneurial endeavors, come with inherent risks. When evaluating the decision to start a farm the first step is to identify your personal lifestyle goals and what is realistic to expect from the indented farmland. Second, research and develop the products and enterprise options that work with available resources. Documentation of these steps and processes will be the foundation for business plans and you will more familiar with tools, systems and processes with which one would need to be familiar in order start, operate, and grow a farm business.

Agricultural Lubricants: The Vital Facts

AgricultureWe all know that for many industries, large machinery is a must in order to ensure efficient operations which, is why whenever we think of factories we envision row upon row of scary looking machinery that is crucial to the manufacture and production of products. Machinery makes the world go around and that doesn’t stop at factories; they play just a crucial role in farming too.

From tractors to ploughs and combines; modern-day farming has developed and is now far more efficient and productive thanks to a range of machinery. For farm owners, within today’s competitive market it is increasingly important to ensure that constant care is provided in order to keep these machines in working order. From regular maintenance to annual checks and services, a lot of attention is given to these machines including the use of agricultural lubricants.

Designed to ensure the efficient and smooth operation of machinery; agricultural lubricants play a great part in the success of today’s modern-day farms. With numerous oil companies throughout the country alone providing a range of lubricant products, it has never been easier to look after machinery

Whether you’re new to it all or curious as to just what agricultural lubricants are and can do, below are the basic facts…

There are a range of lubricants available but they all operate with the same functions in mind; to protect and seal. By reducing the friction between different parts, agricultural lubricants will allow a machine to easily function without issue.
The engines of large machinery can be subject to rigorous use which is where agricultural lubricants come in as they are designed to help in today’s operations by minimising the risk of wear and tear.
The right agricultural lubricant can both optimise the performance of the machine and maximise the component service life.
The majority of lubricants can be used in a number of environments and natural settings.
Lubricant oils can vary by viscosity; this refers to the physical ability of the fluid to maintain lubrication under different speeds, temperatures and pressures. The more powerful the machinery, the higher the viscosity of lubricant oil you will need.
Lubricant oils are classed by grades (grades are given depending on the viscosity of the oils as mentioned in the above point). Different machines will require different grades; this can be determine by the make and model number.
The majority of lubricants will have been tested and approved by major machine manufacturers.

Large farming equipment requires a number of different components, not just the engine, to work efficiently but like all machinery; wear and tear is unavoidable. With the use of the right agricultural lubricant, components can be protected from damage and the capability and general operation of the machinery in question can improve.

7 Levels of Recurring Revenue

Recurring RevenueThe most successful companies put tremendous emphasis on having recurring revenue streams. Are you looking at recurring revenue in the right way? Which level of recurring revenue drives most of your revenue? The higher the level of recurring revenue, the more predictable your revenue stream becomes. The more predictable your revenue stream, the better you scale your operations. The higher the level and greater the volume, the higher you valuation goes. Every company should be constantly asking “How can we strengthen our recurring revenue position?”

Not all recurring revenue is equal. Think of it as pyramid-shaped. The higher up the pyramid you move, the more valuable your company becomes. Think of the pyramid as a way to first increase consistency and predictability, then business scalability, and ultimately market-share dominance, where customers find switching providers more costly or problematic.

Level 1 – Basic Repeat Customers

At this level you have customers that like doing business with you and come back to you repeatedly even though there is no contractual obligation to do so. A good example is a supermarket or gas station. The problem with level one is the barriers and switching costs are usually limited. So, while having repeat customers is far better than not having them, your revenue stream remains risky because you can’t count on your customers sticking with you. Many firms in this mode have built loyalty programs or personally branded products in an attempt to create stronger brand preference and make their offers “stickier”.

Level 2 – Network Effect

What this means is that the more someone uses the company’s product or service, the more each individual customer gets out of the experience. This “network effect” creates a barrier to that customer leaving, namely, the perception that no other network is as good. Automobile Association of America Membership is a good example. You may consider joining other networks, but for anyone who is already a member, it makes no sense to switch because their membership bases are so large that their value streams have pay their members back in multiples. With that said, the cost of switching is still low, and while you can differentiate who is in your network, everyone has access to multiple networks that can provide similar benefits.

Level 3 – Capital Investment with Consumables

In this case a customer has made an investment in a product, and now they need to keep buying consumables to support their investment. The longest standing product and stickiest product in this category is the copier. Later followers to take advantage of this strategy have been desktop printers and coffee machines. However, these later examples failed to really be as sticky because the price point to buy new ones at the consumer level is not high enough to prevent someone from jumping ship. And when it comes to coffeemakers, if they like your coffee, you still get to provide the consumables, just in a different machine. Consumables are usually a high-profit recurring revenue item.

Level 4 – Capital Investments – Subscriptions

Customers make a sizable investment in capital equipment and then pay subscriptions to use the equipment. In this case, they usually do not buy the equipment. They lease the equipment due to the significant expense for the equipment, software, maintenance, and upgrades required. Great examples are WestLawNext or Bloomberg which are staples in the legal and investment communities, respectively.

Level 5 – Sequenced Product Purchases or Service Subscriptions

The idea behind this approach is to create recurring income by encouraging your customers to consistently upgrade to new product and service offerings. Consider the example of Google Drive. It starts out as free. As you begin to use it more and more to store your data, you must pay to upgrade for more storage. Next thing you know, you are using Google Photos, and they have captured another revenue opportunity. Even if the company can convert just a fraction of its customers over to the premium service, it can create an extremely valuable recurring revenue stream. This revenue stream tends to be stickier because your customer prefers (knows how to use) your product, and the cost of switching in terms of time, effort, and costs outweighs the simplicity of staying with the current vendor.

Level 6 – Good-Until-Canceled Revenue

The best examples are bank accounts and credit cards. What makes this model powerful is when it’s based on an “opt-out” model where the customer has to terminate your relationship with them. For instance, I hate my bank. They send me a new credit card almost every 4 months because of their so-called “fraud protection” department’s suspicions. So every 4 months I have to change every recurring payment to come from the new account number. It is a nightmare! Plus, they send policy changes every 6 months, usually raising fees and reducing benefits. But do we change providers? No!, because of the trouble and loss of credit history. How often do people cancel their credit cards or close a bank account? Credit cards or bank accounts are an extremely powerful way of keeping customers over the long haul.

Level 7 – Longer-Term Contracts

The longer the contract the better! Think about the contract you signed when you got your new cell phone. I do not know about you, but I feel like when I signed on with Verizon I married the mob! Not only did you agree to pay a certain amount of money each month depending on the plan you select, you usually agree to keep paying for two years. If you are like me, each family member starts at a different time, so to get out gets prohibitively expensive, becomes a family debate, possible new phones get involved, and tons of time dealing with it. I just got chills thinking about it. This is an extremely valuable model because you can predict with a higher level of certainty what your recurring revenues will be both in the short-term, as well as over the longer term.

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