I Can Go Without

One of the biggest criticisms of internet activism is that it does nothing except make you feel good. You can share a status, sign a petition or change your Facebook profile pic and feel your job is done when it’s anything but. I Can Go Without hopes to change that with a new app that gives conscious consumers the chance to go without daily purchases like a cup of coffee or a cab ride and give that money to the efficient, sustainable charity of their choice immediately.

“The conscious consumer is the single largest potential force for good in the world,” said ICGW co-founder Paul Rowland in an interview at this month’s Jeudi d’Apollo. “They’ve already revolutionized the whole cosmetics industry to be more aware of what they’re doing. Everybody recycles now, that’s conscious consumerism.”

The team came up with the idea over breakfast. There was a famine happening at the time with a billion dollar shortfall in aid. Realizing that Facebook was close to getting its billionth member, they thought that one group of people could help the other.

Paul Rowland I Can Go Without
I Can Go Without co-founder Paul Rowland outside Les jeudis d’Apollo (photo by Valeria Bismar)

“What if everybody today went without one coffee and just gave that money to this fund? Let’s say it’s a three dollar coffee,” Rowland recounted their thinking, “they would have three times the money they needed. It’s this social hive philanthropy of people getting together. That’s the ultimate dream.”

While the ultimate goal may take a while to reach, ICGW already works with charities like the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, Dans La Rue and Oxfam. They’re also in talks with businesses whose models they find ethical and sustainable, to have them match donations the organization receives from individuals.

“When you get involved in this stuff you realize there are a lot of ethical companies trying to do some good,” Rowland observed, explaining that “if you go without, they will go without, too.”

That doesn’t mean that ICGW would take money from just anyone. Access to water, health care, shelter, food and education are the five pillars of the organization and companies whose practices counter any of these pillars wouldn’t be a good match.

But what if, say, a company that makes plastic water bottles, which is not sustainable and works against one of their pillars, came to them with a million dollars? Knowing all the good that they could do with that money, Rowland admits that it wouldn’t be the easiest decision they would have to make,  but their principles would definitely play a huge part in it.

“It’s a whole jigsaw puzzle,” he explained, “and all those pieces interact with each other and have an effect, so if we’re supporting water and trying to make sure that it is accessible to everyone, then advocating plastic bottles, it doesn’t make any sense.”

This could be one of the reasons why their focus remains squarely on small amounts from individuals. After all, it’s not like they’re asking people to give up their Ferraris (though Rowland admits they wouldn’t say no if someone did want to go without a sports car and donate to a cause).

“I love beer, I love wine,” Rowland says, “but I’m pretty sure that in one month I could drink one less beer or have one less glass of wine. It’s not really a big ask.”

For more information or to download the app, please visit ICanGoWithout.com

PledgeMusic logo

Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of Pledge Music, kindly sat down with us to explain how he plans to revolutionize the way that artists and fans interact by allowing fans access to the creative process of music making. Pledge Music is not equivalent to a crowd-funding company. They bring something unique and valuable to artists and fans alike. Read about how they deliver their unique and tailored service:

Can you start by telling us about what you’re doing at Pledge Music, a brief rundown of how you help artists and what the benefit is to both sides.

I was an artist myself and I made five albums over about nine or ten years. I was obsessed by the fact that fans wanted to be a part of what I was doing as an artist and what my band was doing. It was very much a participatory thing. When I was going into a town, they’d be like, “don’t stay at a hotel, come stay with us, we’ll make you dinner.”

What we found was that if you offered fans a kind of online version of that experience, I always thought in my head, if fans could be a part of that wherever they are in the world, that would be kinda cool. I was lying in bed one night, and saw in my head, artists, fans, charities. So the concept was, rather than say, “buy my album, it’s coming out August seventh,” we say, “pledge here to be a part of the making of my album.”

And from day one you get access to a special part of the site that has on it rough mixes, live tracks, demos, video blogs.  It tells a story of the album as it’s being made. And private video blogs. It’s not just posting on You Tube. It’s private for the pledgers. At the end of it, if you make more that what you needed, a part of the profits can go to a charity of your choice.

So the artist wins because they get the fans involvement early.  The fans win because they get to see this process unfolding. The charity wins because someone shows up with a cheque.  And within that, the producer, the engineer, the manager, everyone else gets something because it’s not reliant on selling it all after the fact.

We often get compared to crowd-funding companies, which are like, “please give us something, we will go make something and then we will deliver it to you at a different time.” To me that’s just another form of consumer commerce, if you will. But if you say to the fan, “we’re going to go into the studio today and as we do that, at the end of every day or every couple days, we’re going to share something with you.”

We’ve got an iPhone app that literally says, “hey, I’m in the studio. Come check it out, I’m going to beat my drummer over the head with a stick because he can’t keep time. We’ve had a great day, have a listen.” Then it auto-feeds the artist’s account on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m a fan, that same update can feed my Facebook and Twitter, so what you end up seeing is a thirty second clip and you can pledge to see the rest of it.

Really I think what it was, was I think there’s a place in music for just selling to consumers. But what the industry has never addressed is how to sell to fans. Fans are the ones that want to be a part of something larger than just the moment that they go into a shop and buy.

There’s still a place for retail. There’s still a place for labels. What we try to do is build a tool that means an artist and fan can have a direct connection and that the label can also use this tool to foster that same thing, because it’s coming from the artist in real time.

benji rogers
Benji Rogers

You can’t go back and have the experience. You’ve got to have it while it’s drawing out. It’s like a gig that unfolds in real time. If you don’t offer that, then the fans simply can’t be a part of it. All they can do is go to a shop and buy a CD or go to iTunes and download it.

We did a study with Nielsen (SoundScan) in the U.S. and what they found was that there’s between 0.5 to 2.6 billion dollars available to labels and artists if they open this method up. All fans want to do is connect. They want to be a part of it. You want to say, “I was there. I got the signed vinyl that says ‘I was there.’” That’s really how I view us.

It’s part crowd-funding because there is an element of reaching a hundred percent goal and doing that, but we never display how much money is being raised because I think it distracts from the point of it, which is not how much is being raised, but the music. So I don’t care if they’re raising $5000 or $500 000. I care about how good the bass is sounding, personally.

So that’s basically how it started and I built a tool as a musician that I would want to use.  I launched the company on my own EP and it works really well.

Compared to crowd-funding programs, we tried to start it as a larger way of releasing music than just a show up and buy it, or fund it and then I’ll make it.  It’s about the participation all the way through.  So we just elongated the way in which you can do this.  Rather than say, “we’ve got six weeks to sell, fund and make an album,” you’ve got six months.

I think this is a brilliant idea because what you end up doing is you get music fans for life.

That’s a great one. You’re right.

In today’s world with social media especially, everything’s happening so fast. People want things right away and if you’re not constantly in their face, there are other things that will come along.

And also think of it this way. If you post on social media, “hey, we’re in the studio, day one.” That’s a broadcast to everybody. What can I do about it?  Nothing. I can stare it, I can comment on it, I can like it, but what have I done?

What if you could pledge on it at that moment? Then, all of a sudden, you know that the album will show up. You bought in. Then all you have to say is, “whatever we’re doing on a social level for everybody, we’ll create another layer in between,” and all you need is an iPhone to do it. We don’t have an Android app, sorry.

Really what I think it’s about is that the artists are creative people. They’ve never been given a tool that is this creative to release music. People who work at the record labels are creative people. They’ve never had this tool to use. So we provide not only the tool, but the team who will help get it done as well. That’s a big key to it.

Apocalyptica-on-PledgeMusic
The band Apocalyptica on PledgeMusic

 How do you choose who you work with? Do you take anyone on?

We have A&R reps who go out and find artists to work with who are at the right cycle, who are making an album or have made an album. We have a sign-up process and artists can sign up on a platform and one of our team will work with them to help get their campaign ready to go.

We don’t say no, we say, “not now.” Unless it’s something racist or sexist, or offensive. We look at whether artists can do what they want to do in the time they want to do it, and if not, let’s not let them fail. Let’s work with them to get to where it makes sense.

Millions of crowd-funding campaigns launch all the time and die because no one takes the time to just say, “that won’t work. That’s just not possible.”  I didn’t want to do that.

How does it benefit Pledge Music as a company?

We commission whatever comes into the platform and the artist owns the rights all the way out. We take fifteen percent and that includes the credit card processing fee. So it’s slightly more expensive that other straight crowd-funding companies, but what you get for that is us and we’re the guys that help make it happen.

It’s been a good year. We saw 176% increase in pledges! Our CFO said that to me. I think that’s good.

Wow!  I’ve never run a business, but I’d hazard a guess that that’s extremely good. Geographically who do you take on?

Global. Anywhere where credit cards or PayPal can be used, we operate there.

So all languages? All genres?

All genres. We have a Spanish version of the site, a German version of the site and English. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how we’re going to grow and give Canada what they need to work, but then we have to do a French Canadian version of the site. If you know anyone! I’m a big ice hockey fan too.

What are hoping to achieve from this point forward?

I think there’s not going to be one album in the next twenty years that wouldn’t have a better experience for everybody involved if it had Pledge as part of it. So my goal is that all albums begin their life in this way. With me being a part of it. With me being able to be a part of it as a fan.

It’s not working the way it is. It’s not effective anymore. You can’t just say “go buy stuff in shops, go buy stuff on the internet.” That’s not working. So we have to reinvent the way in which music and art gets to be built.

People who have done crowd-funding campaigns have said they feel bad going back to the well. My thing is abolish any concept of the well.

Do you stop making albums because the last one was the best you’re ever going to get? No. You just make a better campaign, a better way of doing things.  Our job is to help with that.

Foonzo

FoonzoWhat would you say if I told you that there was a place you could play boardgames, video & arcade games and pinball totally for free. And it has beer. And cheesecake.

It would be a little like dying and going to geek heaven, wouldn’t it?

It’s real, and it’s in Montreal.

For just a shade over a year, Cafe Foonzo has been home-away-from-home for the various breeds of gamers in Montreal. And we couldn’t be happier.

Foonzo is in the basement level of a mid-rise on Drummond Street, and when you get down the stairs and through the heavy fire-door, it’s as if you’d stepped into another world.

The walls are decorated with gorgeous pop-culture art and colourful, frolicking video game characters. A dessert case beckons from the bar. There are turtles (!!) splashing around in an aquarium. There is the cling and clash of pinball machines, the muted war of digital warfare and the impassioned groans and cheers from brave Settlers of Catan. Truly, this is a place of wonder.

Head to head street fighterTo your left is a cafe and bar, several good-sized tables, a manga and comic book shelf, and a couple of turtles. Further on are real antique pinball machines and then the coup de grace is are several custom built gaming stations for shooting games and RPGs (Fighting games?). The other whole half of the cafe is filled with pairs of big, red Ikea couches around low, wide tables. The shelves underneath these tables are stuffed with almost every board game made, and on the wall between each set are flat screen televisions linked up to a network of thousands of video games.

Just a sampling of the games on offer include:

  • Street Fighter
  • Mortal Combat
  • Zelda
  • Halo
  • GTA
  • Wii
  • Magic
  • Cranium
  • Pinball
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Dungeons & D

All of those games, activities and machines, as I mentioned above, are FREE to use for clients.

Phoun Alain Veillette Owners Phoun Siriphong and Alain Veillette are no slouches when it comes to the gamer/cafe business. They are well aware that by offering WiFi, the consoles, boards, books and extensive library of games for free they are:

  • Absolutely cementing client loyalty.
  • Encouraging an atmosphere of camaraderie.
  • Letting games be played the way they were meant to be played – with friends, food and drink.

The fact that they offer good quality, inexpensive food and Sapporo on tap seals the deal.

Foonzo Cafe plays host to a variety of tournaments attended by enthusiastic gamers from across north America. Guests all have the same thing to say: “We need one of these at home.” When I asked (hope a-glimmering in my eyes) if there were plans in the works for a second (third, fourth?) location anytime soon, Phoun gave an answer that I think assures this cafe’s success.Foonzo Pinball Machines He said that they would certainly love to have more locations, but first, it was important to really establish Foonzo, work out all the kinks and get used to business ownership. If more restaurateurs thought this way we’d have many more quality places to eat in this city.

I said it and I meant it: Disneyland has nothing on Cafe Foonzo!

Open seven days a week, 3pm to 1am.
1245 rue Drummond corner St. Catherine

Connect with Foonzo on Facebook

Photos by Chris Zacchia

jeudi apollo

If you are a young mover ‘n shaker in Montreal there is one hot ticket event you should know about. Les Jeudi D’Apollo is a monthly event thrown by Eric Sicotte and l’Agence Apollo and it’s a networking event unlike any other in Montreal. The evening features local up and coming Montreal artists and entrepreneurs and gives them the opportunity to present their latest projects to a room full of other young affluent Montrealers. This Thursday’s event marks the 1 year anniversary of Les Jeudis D’Apollo.

The evening takes place at the offices of L’Agence Apollo (in old Montreal) which doubles as an event space as needed. The setting itself is absolutely stunning, as the open air loft is illuminated by about 25 chandeliers and the exposed wood and brick really bring character to the space. The food and drinks are kept flowing by local sponsors while people are given the oppourtunity to mingle between musical performances and presentations. There are tasting stations set up featuring delectable treats as well as make-up and styling stations to help you look your best!
Last month ForgetTheBox members Jason C. Mclean and myself were there with our newest partner in crime, Jordan Arsenault (editor 2Bmag.com) to present our latest project, ItCouldGetWorse.com. Our new website is a single serving site dedicated to fighting the Conservatives Crime Omnibus Bill. We managed to stir up some great awareness against the bill and are still fighting to stop it, but ItCouldGetWorse.com will soon be taking up other causes, and will be acting as the activist wing of the FTB network.

This anniversary edition of Les Jeudi Apollo is about bringing together many young artists, entrepreneurs and even activists so that we can talk about our projects, and meet other young doers. At this month’s event we will be treated to presentations by Marc Andrew, Zwerg, Eric Santerre, Dan Green and DJ Justin Adler AKA James Krown among many others. Below is the flyer for the event with too many names to list off here. Hope to see you there!

 

Jeudi Apollo

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small-business-saturday

Listening to the radio this week tuned me into a new “shopping holiday” being promoted this year. Conceived by American Express, Small Business Saturdays will be having its second go around on November 26th across the states. (That’s last year’s image above)

This is a fantastic idea!

I’m no huge fan of American Express, one of the down-and-dirtiest credit companies in terms of fees, customer support and terms of service, but I think they’re doing the right thing here.

Why don’t we see more of this?

There is so much focus, politically, in journalism, in the news media on big companies, huge, leviathan organizations operating on an international scale, that often the small, local businesses get overlooked, particularly these days. And that’s not right. Running a small, locally oriented business takes guts. It takes skill. It takes belief and money and time and more hard work than you can imagine.

And almost no one cares.

It’s amazing that big business is finally getting some of the criticism it deserves, but I worry that smaller business owners get caught up with the herd, or overlooked entirely. That’s the issue that Small Business Saturday (by function if not by intent) is trying to address.

So, on November 26th spend some time and some money with small, local, independent retailers. If you celebrate a winter holiday by exchanging gifts may I please offer you the following suggestions? The following are Montreal independent merchants who have, in the past, knocked my socks off with awesome:

briimstone chocolatesBriimstone Chocolates: The woman who runs this store is a delight and the chocolate is amazing. She   makes her own marshmallows. ‘Nuff said.

Argo Bookshop: Small, selective, cozy, store cat. I love this bookshop for the catered, old-book feeling. The place really is small, so the owners have made sure that ever book is a friend.

Boutique Fly: The proprietor of this shop has excellent taste and is a master of sales. After three minutes of conversation, she’ll hand you a pile of garments to try that fit perfectly and make you look ten times cooler than you thought you could.

Friperie St-Laurent: Old Luggage, cool hats, cowboy boots, Bakelite and tons of vintage clothes make Friperie St-Laurent one of my go-to places when it’s time to go shopping. There are actually several killer Friperies on the same block, so it’s always worth a trip.

La Jolie Boutique: I think we all have a soft spot in our hearts for Toystores, and La Jolie Boutique is one of the best. The staff really curates the products they sell, and the service as always fantastic.

These are five of my favourites, but the list needs more. Which are your absolute favourite local retailers? Let us know in the comments. Please provide a link so that we can all visit them online!

PS. Please don’t use a credit card! Especially not Amex!

Megan Dougherty is a Montreal blogger and marketer trying to carve out the smallest bit of respect for new writers, freelancers, interns and the otherwise entry-level over at Hire-Me-Dammit.com. She likes fall vegetables, skirts that reach her knees and chubby felines.

occupy-wall-street-story-top

The great thing the truly amazing thing, about the Occupy Wall Street movement is its lack of unified voice. Every person who is a part of it or who seriously thinks about it is forced to decide for themselves if and how the status quo needs to be changed. Brilliant.

In following the Occupy Wall Street protests and the sympathy demonstrations around the world, I had to consider my own thoughts on the matter, and I came up with one obvious, glaring, pernicious facet of the world we live in: Corporate Personhood.

I believe that the best way to actually make changes that can be seen and felt in the world is by demanding status of the corporation change from a legal “person” to that of a company run by real live people. People who have real liability, responsibility and accountability, and will face real consequences for each and every action taken by that company.

This point was hit home to me recently while reading a novel recently published by an old business school friend of mine. When we were class mates, back at the University of Ottawa, and we had many an ideological discussion about corporate personhood and what it meant. Justin Mazzotta went on to fully imagine a world wherein corporations were not ethereal, legal technicalities, but actual breathing, walking and talking people. He wrote a book about it called Psych. Co: The Corporate Awakening.

It was one of the most horrifying pieces of literature I’ve ever read.

The premise of the book is that across the world, corporations are taking over the bodies of humans and using them to conduct business in the real world. They lie, cheat, steal and kill to make money. They admit it. They have no problem with it, because to a corporation none of those things are wrong.

The reason people are standing up and clamouring for change right now is because, at the fundamental level of our economy people don’t matter as much as profit. That’s not conjecture, and that’s not hyperbole that’s fact. A corporation in its current form is legally obligated to generate the maximum amount of profit before anything else and if people get hurt that’s just too damn bad.
In the novel, you get a picture of what it would be like if corporations were things you could talk to, but in the real world they’re not. They’re entities that affect our daily lives in myriad ways and have no concern are allowed to have concern – for the individual, for the environment, or even for the law. If the potential profit is greater than the cost of breaking a law… well, we’ve seen the result of that often enough.

I doubt that corporate personhood is an issue that will factor strongly in this round of dialogue, and that’s okay. There are scores of ways improvements to the system can be made without touching the matter, and there is an argument to be made about limiting personal liability in order to facilitate business. I’m not certain I agree with it but it’s there.
Whether or not corporate personhood is something that bothers you – the status quo must, and so it needs be changed. We can no longer tolerate the fact that large entities, who no one elected, and who bear no responsibility for their actions get to make decisions about our nations, our environment and our lives.

So protest. Demonstrate. Write articles, and blog posts. Shoot videos and write plays. Make your voice heard. I’ll do it because I believe that corporate personhood is wrong and allows otherwise moral human beings to take actions that would make any dictator blush. You have your reasons too.

The scenario painted in Psych. Co is a little too close to reality for my comfort.

Have you demonstrated? Will you? Why?

Ed note: We are glad to welcome back Megan Dougherty. Megan used to write The Lemonade Stand for FTB and has successfully been working on several other business ventures that have kept her very busy (too busy to write for FTB). Megan Dougherty is a Montreal blogger and marketer trying to carve out the smallest bit of respect for new writers, freelancers, interns and the otherwise entry-level over at Hire-Me-Dammit.com. She likes fall vegetables, skirts that reach her knees and chubby felines.

This week, ForgettheBox.net looks at three of the hottest tech startups in Montreal. The local tech community has been growing very quickly recently and is something Montrealers should pay more attention to. Our city is a fertile place for young, savvy entrepreneurs (like you didn’t know that). This week we will look at Wajam (read our feature on Wajam), Artfox and MConcierge.

Wajam Great Minds Think Alike

Wajam is a social search tool that allows users to search their social graph for pertinent and relevant information. Wajam indexes user’s Twitter, Facebook and Delicious accounts to aggregate search results from the people you trust.

The Latest Update from Wajam

Wajam’s latest update added two features to enhance the service. The first addition is the toolbar that is added to the website link you clicked. The toolbar shows your friends that have clicked/shared that link before and if they left any comments regarding the website you are visiting. You also have the opportunity of sharing that link with your social profile as well.

Another great feature that was added to Wajam is a full-fledged search engine of aggregated social content. This is unique because it completely removes established search engines result pages from the selection process. This means that Wajam is no longer enhancing Google, Bing and Yahoo but competing with them. Although this may seem like a daunting task, the big three have yet to execute social search well.

The Future of Wajam

Wajam has taken the first step in the right direction by adding more substance to its overall product offering despite there being a lot left to do. The ability of aggregating content is one thing, but serving up relevant data based on specific keywords that are being used by users is another thing. For example, if a users searcher the term “diamond necklace” chances are they are looking to purchase a diamond necklace. More specifically, if they search for that term in Wajam, chances are they are searching for a diamond necklace their friends have worn and would recommend to them. This is an important factor when developing a search engine.

ArtFox.com Work in the Arts and Entertainment

Artfox is an online platform for professional artists to expand their opportunities in the industry.

Its Value Proposition

The Artfox platform provides tools to help people find jobs, collaborators, manage job applications, get recommendations, showcase work experience and create a detailed account. In a nutshell, Artfox looks to be the LinkedIn for the arts.

Artfox is still at its early stages but has a portfolio of companies using their platform located primarily in Montreal while its user base is from around the world. These companies include the Montreal Jazz Festival, Cavalia, Sid Lee and EA.

Why It Will be Successful

It is still very early to tell if Artfox will be a success or not, but they surely are hitting on a niche that can desperately use the help. It is very difficult for artists to find work and promote themselves so providing them with a platform makes perfect sense. Although LinkedIn is ‘the’ professional social network, they’ve had issues with serving industries that require an emphasis on visual works or portfolios.

MConcierge Client Loyalty Beyond the Client Desk

MConcierge is a hotel concierge on your mobile device for select hotels located around the world. It has recently been funded by Real Ventures, a Montreal Venture Capital fund and is looking to make a splash in the hospitality industry.

What it Offers Customers

MConcierge offers users a quick and easy way to unlock a hotel’s amenities. The user has the ability to order room service, wake-up calls, transportation and any other hotel service directly. The application also provides links to local directories so users can access information about local restaurants right from their mobile device.

A lot will be riding on how many hotels MConcierge will be able to partner with. The more hotels that are on board, the more chances they have of users adopting the application.

What it Offers Hotels

MConcierge offers a new revenue-generating application for hotels because it provides visitors with a tool that easily bridges the gap between ordering services and receiving services. In addition to hotel staff, MConcierge offers clients an additional means of ordering services and acts as a platform for advertising the services available. Clients will have access to a list of amenities and prices that they will be able to order and charge to their room directly.

There are lots of exciting tech related companies and startups in Montreal right now. We would recommend checking these websites out and seeing what they can offer. They would truly appreciate the feedback and the support you can provide them. If you see another interesting company or something else tech related that you think we should know about, leave us a comment below.

Artistic images from ArtFox.com homepage artists: Giorgio Fratini (top), Julie Larocque (middle)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Alex Galasso writes for various websites on the subjects of startups and video games. Alex’s latest venture is Groupideo, a social video application to watch videos with friends in real-time. For more information, please contact him at alex [at] groupideo [dot] com.

JazzyBlues Creations…..no this is not a band. Although artistically, its creations could very well compare to the random fun and deep characteristic feeling of Jazz and the cool smoothness of the Blues.

Founded by local Montreal artisan, Stephanie Lavoie Trottier, who has worked with many different mediums such as painting, collage, and recently, candle and soap making. Stephanie’s fun business-like, nature loving, hippie personality shines well through her artwork.

Using a handmade process from the comfort of her own kitchen, Stephanie creates works of art, sculpting different types of waxes and integrating strong refreshing and therapeutic scents into decorative candles ready to be set alight. She uses both paraffin wax and palm wax. Parrafin wax, her most common ingredient, is a byproduct of the oil refinement industry and has a clean burn which goes straight through the candle, leaving the edges intact and making much less of a mess. Meanwhile palm wax has a much more cleaner and faster burn. It will melt the wax in its entirety and is also completely biodegradable.

Among her vast assortment of styles are pyramid shaped single, double, and tri-color multi-scented designs. She also has cute cupcake-shaped, almost edible models, and classy café lattés and sheik martinis for those interested in the more “fancy” side of life. She’s even gone so far as to add sweet and creative designs using natural products and integrating her collage experience to form her “chunky” variations. Each candle, of course, has it’s own particular name, such as luscious lavender and green tea mint.

Her therapeutic bath salts come in many invigorating scents including camomile and sea salt which helps to freshen and soften the skin while giving off a delicacy of aromas for an enlightening experience. All of the salts are delicately placed in old fashioned glass containers which can be easily be kept afterwards.

Stephanie arranges her products in gift baskets and each one can be tailored to your specific designs, including color texture and scent.   She will be having her first presentation sale at Riverview Elementary on Saturday April 30th and will also be participating in the Verdun Wellington Sidewalk sale on July 4th as a member of the Circuits des Arts et de Culture de Verdun.   This would be a great chance for you to meet with the artisan herself get a good look at her products and perhaps have an opportunity to enlighten her with some ideas for her to fine tune some of her products to your distinct taste.

All photos courtesy of Jazzy Blues Creations

I look fantastic.

Even though it’s 11:30 at night, I’ve been wearing a hat and won’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had time for a proper shower. My haircut is that good.

On the lookout for a new stylist, I’d been asking friends with excellent coiffure where they get it done. One woman directed me to Bikurious on Amherst. “A bike shop?” I asked. “Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone,” she replied.

Sold.

Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone, owned and operated by the charming JJ Levine, is the type of business I hope to run into every time I leave my house. It shares space with a bike shop, is host to a store cat named Store Cat, isn’t gender-normative, has great music, provides fantastic service, and – as if that weren’t enough – the non-traditional business model (pay-what-you-can) proves that you don’t have to sell out or fit the mold to make a living.

I had my appointment about three weeks ago, a little hung over from the election night drink/sob fest, and feeling the slight case of nerves one always has when venturing into new hair territory. Still, I was fairly confident because the friend who referred me is noted for her excellent coiffure.

When I arrived, JJ was just finishing up with another client, so after poking around the bike shop portion of the store and considering a new pink helmet, I took a seat in the admittedly snug hair-cutting nook. I eyed my seatmate with some trepidation, but was quickly won over by the purring, squirming, suck-up of a Store Cat. “Won’t be long,” JJ told me.

It wasn’t. Soon, my predecessor was standing up, dusting off and looking fabulous. I took my seat, removed my glasses and put myself into the hands of a consummate professional.

“So what would you like today?” s/he asked me. This is always my least favourite part of a haircut. I never know what to say.

I gave my standard “you’re the pro, please don’t ask me to make decisions this far outside my realm or it will end badly” reply, and we got started. I don’t have a photo of myself to show you, but rest assured the results were very pleasing, and have worn incredibly well to date.

As mentioned before, this is the type of small business that renews faith in small business, so I asked JJ if s/he would give us a brief interview to shed some more light on the concepts involved. S/he kindly agreed, so read on, then book your appointment!


How long have you been cutting hair? Did you ever study it?

I’ve been cutting my own hair and my friends’ hair since I was 14 but started cutting professionally about 5 years ago. I’ve studied different hair dressing techniques over the years with other stylists, but never in a formal beauty school setting.

What exactly is a ‘lesbian haircut’, as opposed to any other type of haircut? Good for both boys and girls, or more of a girls thing?

A lesbian haircut is anything you want it to be. The name came out of a joke unrelated to any actual hairstyle. That’s not to say that people don’t come to me for something specific though; I’ve developed a reputation for specializing in asymmetrical, edgy haircuts “for anyone.” The cuts I give (asymmetrical or conventional) are intended to work with people’s preferred gender presentations, which often amounts to a “women’s cut” or “men’s cut,” but is certainly not limited to either of those categories. I have an extremely diverse clientèle that spans four generations, and a multitude of gender identities and sexualities.

Why pay-what-you-can? How does that work for you? Do you think it would work for other types of businesses?

It is very important for me to be accessible. A good haircut is something that makes people feel good about their appearance. Not everyone has 50-100 dollars to spend on a haircut, but everyone deserves to feel good about the way they look. It works for me because most of my customers understand the “pay-what-you-can” concept. Some pay me the same amount that they would pay if they went to another salon with fixed prices because they can afford it or they recognize that my work is on par, and others can pay me the 15 dollars they’ve been saving up. It really does balance out for me in the end. I think a sliding-scale model can and should be applied to other business endeavours.

Can you describe your ideal customer? The type that annoys you?

My ideal customer is nice and respectful. An annoying thing that happens sometimes is that because of the name of my salon (Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone), people make assumptions about my gender and assume I identify as a lesbian.

How did you get into a bike shop?

The bike shop and the hair salon came into being around the same time. My ex, Danielle Flowers, started Revolution in 2006, and I started cutting hair there casually which pretty quickly turned into the salon space that exists today. When the bike store was sold to Marissa Plamondon-Lu and Mackenzie Ogilvie, in 2008, and the name changed to Bikurious, it was agreed upon that I would stay. The new owners were also interested in preserving the community-based, queer feel of the shop that Danielle and I had been cultivating for years.

Do you have any plans for the next few years? Opening your own shop? Staying with Bikurious?

I plan on staying at Bikurious as long as the shop is around!

Favourite Books/Music/Movies?

My favourites are constantly changing, but I recently enjoyed the novel Holding Still as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall, I’ve been listening to Big Fredia from New Orleans and Rae Spoon’s new album, Love is a Hunter, and I loved the Denis Villeneuve film, Incendies, from Montreal.

Any comments or thoughts for Forget The Box readers? Something interesting I didn’t touch on?

Although I am passionate about cutting hair, my true love is photography. My separate and simultaneous career as an artist is constantly growing and shifting.   Until my art practice pays for itself, I will always cut hair to make a living and to be able to afford to create new artwork. My portfolio is currently featured in a renowned and widely available Canadian art magazine called Ciel Variable, issue CV88. (Author’s Note: Do yourself the monumental favor of also checking out JJ’s art website)

If you’re planning on getting a new ‘do anytime in the near future, give Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone a try. Not only will you get a great haircut, you’ll be supporting exactly the kind of small business that makes our city so extraordinary.

Call JJ Levine at 514-625-4247 to book. Pay what you can $15-$50.

As many of you know, Forget the Box got a wee bit hacked last week.   Unfortunately, these things happen to the best of us.   No cloud being without its smidgen of silver lining, however, our website troubles soon led us into an acquaintance with Terry Cutler, the co-founder of Digital Locksmiths.

Digital Locksmiths is a Montreal-based data defence services company that helps organizations defend themselves against hackers and other malicious online activity. In addition to this, Terry is a Certified Ethical Hacker, speaker and lecturer on internet safety for kids and parents, and a regular contributor to Securityweek.com.

I was able to get in touch with Terry to get some more details about hacking, ethical hacking and being smart on the internet. You’ll find some of the highlights of our conversation below.

 

1. Ethical hacking what is it exactly? How does one become an Ethical Hacker?
Ethical hacking is, essentially, learning how the bad guys do what they do, so that you can prevent it and fix it. I got into it because I was inspired by watching shows like CSI and 24 and wondered how Cloe O’Brian was breaking into all those systems so fast. I did some research and found an organization called The EC-Council that created a course called the Certified Ethical Hacker and in 2005 I got certified through them.

2. Who hacks? (And I mean hacks for malicious intent, not ethically). Is there a profile of a hacker? What are they trying to do?
Hackers come in all shapes and sizes they can be anyone from disgruntled employees, to bored teenagers, to organized criminals. If you remember the Sony Hacker story from earlier this year, you can start to get an idea of how this type of hacking can come from within an organization as well as from without. People hack for fun or revenge or profit it’s often hard to tell what the motivation could be. There are also those hackers that fall under the title of Hacktivists. Remember WikiLeaks? This can range from what seems like espionage to whistleblowing. It’s for, in the minds of the hacktivists at least, in the public interest.

3. What can a blog like ours, or a small business owner operating online, do to protect themselves from hacking and other cyber threats? (Short of hiring Digital Locksmiths!)
Always stay current on your website updates. If you get a few updates behind you can really be opening yourself up to attack. There can also be issues with one hosting provider over another, so do your research and be willing to change if you experience problems.

4. Most of our readers have grown up using the internet for everything – it’s about as natural as breathing. Are there stupid mistakes you find people often make on the internet without giving it a second thought?
A lot of this comes down to social media these days. Most people open emails from what appears to come from someone they know and are easily fooled into clicking on links. What they don’t know is that those links can pull down malware and viruses to your PC. Have you ever gotten an invite on Facebook or LinkedIn in your email inbox and accepted it without going through to the website? This is how a lot of information gets stolen. If you’re dealing with a social media site, always manage your interactions on the site itself and not through the Hotmail inbox.

5. What do you imagine the coming years will hold for internet security? Will we all have retina scanners on our monitors?
Biometrics are a possibility, but what is really happening is increased mobility, especially smartphones. More and more is being done on cell phones pretty soon they could even replace your computer and equally open you up to malicious hacking. When that occurs, you’ll be pretty much back to square one. It’s something that we’re thinking about now, but it can be difficult to predict exactly what will happen.

 

Talking with Terry was incredibly interesting. It’s fantastic to meet someone so knowledgeable in his field and active in the community especially one so willing to share what he knows with the rest of us! Thanks Terry, from all the staff at Forget the Box!

You can find more information about Terry Cutler on his website: www.TerryCutler.com and about Digital Locksmiths at www.digitallocksmiths.ca. I’d also like to recommend you check out one of Terry’s presentations on internet safety for kids and parents. A refresher never hurts for those of us who use the internet every day!

Title photo courtesy of www.photoxpress.com, body photo of Terry Cutler from www.terrycutler.com.

I’m sorry, I don’t have a business post for you today.

I have to be honest, after Monday’s nail-bitingly tense election I’m lucky I’ve been able to function the past few days.

Nail-bitingly tense of course, for those who voted. What a showing for the NDP! What a blow to the Liberals! And the bloc! I didn’t expect to see that in my lifetime.

It was only nail-bitingly tense, of course, for those who voted. A lot of people didn’t, so despite the historic, meteoric rise of a party fighting for the values of you and I, we’re left with a majority government bent on turning us into an American vassal that was selected by 24% of the population. 40% of the country didn’t bother voting at all. That’s a lot of people. You probably know one. So I’d like you to find one of them and say:

Thank you! Thank you for helping us to live in a world where prisons and fighter jets are more important than healthcare and education.   Where our parents and grandparents can fear for their financial security. Where women won’t have equality or a forum to talk about it. Where people can keep hoping that those tax breaks for the super rich and giant corporations will really `trickle down` instead of seeing first hand that, given the slightest opportunity, small businesses will create 4x more jobs! Where we can continue to pay high rates of interest and have the worst internet service in the developed world! Where the rest of us can take our rightful second (or third, or fourth) place behind straight, white, Christian males. Thank you for making sure that when we travel to other countries we can be ashamed to claim Canadian citizenship. Where the last gasps of a dying industry are given more importance than the very planet we live on. Where we can keep looking forward to more of the same because the party in power certainly isn’t going to get behind election reform.

I could accept all of this if it was what the majority of us decided. But we didn’t. From an insidious combination of voter apathy and our archaic electoral process we are left again and more thoroughly with a government that does not represent us.

A lot of people worked tirelessly so that this wouldn’t happen, and their work wasn’t for nothing. Maybe it will take four years of the `Harper` government to make everyone else realize that what we really need is a government of Canada. That represents all of Canada.

These are some organizations working to make this happen:

www.apathyisboring.com
www.fairvote.ca
www.democracyinaction.org

Check them out, spread the word, and tell every person who didn’t vote just exactly what they agreed to. Silence is assent.

I’ve made some bad choices in my day. As the summer rolls around again, I’m reminded of them.

There are some jobs I shouldn’t have taken, things I shouldn’t have said, purchases I shouldn’t have made, haircuts I should have avoided and several guys I shouldn’t have dated.

There is one mistake, however, that rankles me more than the others. I went to a for-profit college.

Oh, I tried traditional university first, and while it wasn’t for me, I don’t regret the time or money I spent there nearly as much. It’s the for-profit school that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Is there a worse feeling then knowing that you’ve been taken for a fool?

I bought into the post-secondary myth with a vengeance. In five years I’ve tried four programs at three different schools. And at the end of the day I have to say that province-run Universities try to do their best for you. They want you to succeed and give you every resource they can. They have their problems (that’s another post or you can read this one on the student union at Concordia) but they aren’t evil.

For profit schools, on the other hand…

A for-profit post-secondary institution is pretty much what it sounds like; a school run independent of provincial legislation on a money-making basis. And do they ever make their money.

I did one year of Hotel Management at {CENSORED TO PROTECT THE GUILTY]} College, and it was passable. Barely. I was frustrated enough with the poor quality, lack of organization and lackadaisical teaching that I decided to switch out to one of their on-line programs; Multi-media techniques. The admin rep promised me cutting edge technology, convenient on-line access to teachers and resources, and industry standard, applicable knowledge. Best of all, they promised I’d never, ever have to do group work. “Sounds good!” I said, pulling out my chequebook. “Sign me up!”

I’m two thirds done the one year program now and I can’t decide if I’m more disgusted with the school for creating (and selling) such a dismal program or myself for believing what they told me, but the on-line course materials are 7 years old (I have a class on scanning. Scanning!) the servers are constantly being overwhelmed, the interface is glitchy, the teachers are your usual mixed bag (fair enough) and you can’t for love or money get a schedule until 72 hours before the semester begins. It’s disappointing to say the least. For an uncomfortably accurate description, check out this comic by Ruben Bolling

For-profit schools, particularly those that offer classes on-line are becoming notorious for unethical recruitment processes, inflated claims about job placement upon graduation and terribly low-quality learning materials. As of yet, this problem isn’t as bad in Canada as it is in the states, because many schools do take some federal money, but let me tell you the overhead is low, really low, for these on-line programs.

I don’t doubt that there are high-quality, well-run online or for profit school out there, I just think you should think long and hard before paying fees to an institution whose bottom line is more important than your education, and who doesn’t have to answer to anyone in terms of quality.

Most of these institutions make their money and maintain their enrollment from two classes of students: adults finding themselves in careers that require a piece of paper of some kind to advance more effectively, and students who for whatever reason didn’t qualify for traditional post-secondary education. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what kind of potential there is for damage here.

For any of you out there in internetland who are considering going back to school, or trying your hand at a for-profit be careful. Once your tuition is paid there’s no getting it back (the contracts are pretty iron-clad and I’m pretty sure they keep expensive lawyers locked in a broom closet just waiting for someone to try and wiggle out of them) and there is almost no guarantee that the school will live up to any of its promises. Going into debt sucks make sure you’ve got a good reason to do it.

I’ve got one semester to go and I just want to finish my year, get my receipt and never go to school again. Happy summer vacation.

Google, Bing, Yahoo…what do they all have in common? They are all trying to finish the race in enriching their search results to include a user’s Social Circle.  Well, guess what? Wajam beat them to the race! Wajam is a cool start up out of the Montreal Tech Scene. I’ve been a Wajam user for some time now [yes, I got ubercool early access].

We all use the internet to search for information, but when we’re looking we have to rely on some authority that dictates to us what we want to see. Since we’re human and social, we want to know what our friends think of things, or see if they have posted information on a topic we are looking for. I’m sure that you just like me would rather see search results from your friends since we put more faith in them than some anonymous server.

Let’s take a look at a search for the Android Homecoming, an event coming up in September for Android enthusiasts, evangelists and app builders (I will be there with start up Band Tracker), this one is done on Bing:

Now here is another search done with Yahoo for one of my classes, ECO310 a computational methods in economics class:

And here is one from my AMS 210 Applied Linear Algebra class on Google:

 

So, as we can see from all the results posted from the Generic Search Engines, I get what I want.

Now, let’s take a look at what I get when I go straight to Wajam and do a Social Information Search – something I’ll most likely start defaulting to in the future. This is what shows up for a search query for Scilab, a program I use for my AMS class:

Even though Wajam is in its infancy, as you can see it has already proved its usefulness. The more you use your Twitter and Facebook and the more your friends share information on those sites it becomes increasingly easy to find what you’re looking for without having Google, Bing or Yahoo decide for you.

In short, I’m giving Wajam major thumbs up for a solid beginning to a great product. As the world continues to evolve and become more and more social digitally, products like Wajam are going to succeed and replace those that cannot keep up with the rapid changes in the tech realm.

Wajam from Wajam on Vimeo.

About Steven P Sanderson…

Steven is a student at State University of New York at Stony Brook, currently completing a major in Economics and also studying Applied Math and Statistics. He loves computers and new technology. You can check out his own start-up www.MyBandTrackr.com and follow its progress on twitter @bandtrackr or on Facebook.com/bandtrackr.

If you like what Steven has to say, encourage him by leaving a comment below or even  by following him on twitter @stevepsanderson or on FB or drop him a line!

You’ve heard of the two guys who got sponsored for their university education. You’ve heard of the woman who tattooed a brand name on her forehead. You’ve even heard of the Egyptian family who named their daughter Facebook as a token of how important that medium was to them.

But have you heard about the Spokesbaby?

Tim Scarne and his wife are about three weeks away from welcoming their first child into the world. At various points during their long journey to parenthood, a certain snack food product featured significantly.

It was a Snickers bar.

So, the expectant parents are sending a message to the Mars Corporation, offering to legally name their child Snickers. In exchange, they ask that the Mars Corporation finance the child’s health care and education.

This is a lot to take in all at once, and before I weigh in, I’d like you to see what the father himself has to say:

A message from Daddy-to-be Tim Scarne:

So this can be seen a few ways:

Giving children “brand” names is increasing in popularity, and I don’t see that as something inherently positive or negative it merely reflects what is important to people, although it smacks a little of Idiocracy. Also, there’s no shame in turning an honest penny, and raising a child is an expensive proposition, especially in the States. Snickers Scarne also has kind of a cool ring to it, in my mind.

On the other hand, I’m not totally comfortable with this decision being made for the child while he’s in utero who knows what the little one may think when he learns that Mommy and Daddy named him after candy bar, in exchange for money.

When I think about it some more though, it’s really not that different from baptizing them, or getting their ears pierced. It’s a decision being made with the best interest of little one at heart, though arguments could be made on either side. Kids can live down names, and if he really hates it, he can change it when he grows up.

So my feelings on what the family is doing are a tentative neutral, which seems to be the prevailing opinion. Mr. Scarne, Aka, DJ Timbo says:

I personally haven’t heard any negative reactions, but considering how cynical our culture is I’m sure they exist, and perhaps they will surface at some point. A radio personality on a popular LA station made fun of me on the air, but that didn’t bother me. I thought it was pretty funny.

My feelings about what the Mars Corporation should do, however, are very strong.

They have a lot of variables to consider over there at Mars right now: the press this will likely generate, the fear of being the company that publicly turned down the needs of a baby, or that the child could grow up to be a terrible spokesperson, just to name a few.

What I think the Mars Corporation has here is the PR opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t think they should pay the Scarne’s for naming their child Snickers. They should pay for any operation that the child may need when it’s born, maybe set up a trust for it’s education and then say:

“We appreciate the thought. We really do. But give the kid a real name.”

As of yet, the Mars Corporation has not responded to the Scarnes, but I’m very interested to find out what they do. Check out www.NameMeSnickers.com or look for #Spokesbaby on Twitter for more opinions and details. I’d really like to know what you all think about this. I know it caused quite a heated debate in my household. Should Mars buy the baby’s name? Should the parents withdraw the offer? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Images and video used with the permission of Tim Scarne

Last week I cancelled my Bell internet service. Believe it or not, doing so was some of the most fun I’d had in weeks. The retention rep who got my call really wanted me to stick with Bell. This man was well informed and passionate our conversation lasted a full half hour and ran the gamut from the morality of UBB (which he believed in and I did not) to basic economic principles. The most interesting thing he said to me was that this move by the big telecom companies was a completely natural, understandable and even admirable action of self-defence, and that if any of those wee little independent isp’s ever got to where Bell is, you’d better believe they’d do the same thing.

Well that got me thinking.

Would they? Something says to me: no, they wouldn’t. That’s my first instinct to trust small business over big business. Well why not? I’m an entrepreneur myself and we like to trust our own. Whenever possible, I like to do business with people I can actually talk to and who don’t have an army of ravening, soulless shareholders keeping tabs on excessive human decency, aided and abetted by the toadying corporate lickspittles we call a government.

I think I might be biased.

So in the interests of journalistic integrity, I decided to get some second and third opinions on this. I got in touch with Danny Iny and Peter Vogopoulous, the co-founders of Firepole Marketing. They kindly shared with me their feelings on big vs. little business, what marketing means, and the upcoming election.

Firepole Marketing is “the definitive training program for small business owners, entrepreneurs and non-marketers.” Based out of Montreal and only a few months past its official launch date, Firepole Marketing blogs, coaches and tweets about how a small business can have top notch marketing, and hopefully, through that, grow into a medium sized business.

Danny Iny is a business and marketing strategist, MBA, university guest speaker and author, while Peter Vogopoulus is a lecturer at the John Molson School of Business, Guerrilla Marketing strategist and business coach. It is safe, and I think fair to say that these gentlemen understand both sides of the coin.

Megan: Should a consumer choose an independent business over a corporate (read: Corporate Canada/America, not merely incorporated) one? Why? What if they have to pay a premium?

Peter: It’s a very loaded question as well as a very individual decision. Yes, small and medium businesses are the drivers of the economy (over 85% of businesses are by definition small or medium businesses) and they certainly deserve our support. But I’d loathe to suggest we should always work with small businesses for this reason alone, or because, for instance, we have an intense dislike for corporate Canada.

Generally, a consumer acting out their own self-interest will always choose the “best” solution for their needs. But what makes up a “best” solution varies from consumer to consumer. “Best” includes not just tangible aspects (e.g. a quality product and good customer service), but also intangibles (e.g. this company shares my values and I love being their customer). As a consumer, you will choose the best, erm, “best” for you. Some people will place a high importance on certain dimensions of value (e.g. customer service) and be willing to pay for them. Others will switch providers to save $5.

By virtue of their size and flexibility, small businesses have the edge in that they are better able to meet the specific needs of their consumers, which in turn could justify any premium it needs to apply to deliver this value. But be aware that while some consumers will pay for this value, others won’t — their needs might only be served by some other bundle of value (a fancy way of saying different strokes for different folks.) And that’s okay. A small business owner can’t, and shouldn’t, be all things to all customers. They should clear about who they serve and we as consumers should be clear about why we patronize one company over another.

Danny: Well, sort of. I definitely think that you should avoid businesses who don’t share your values, whatever those may be… so for example, if your values are very supportive of the environment, then you shouldn’t give your money to companies that are damaging the environment. I don’t think that applies to size of business, though – ultimately, you want the best configuration of value – sounds fancy, but just means best solution to your problem for the lowest price. I don’t think small or independent businesses should get a pass on lower quality just because they’re small. There are areas in which small players can’t compete, because they don’t have economies of scale, or the same access to resources. Rather than subsidize them to continue competing in that space (which is what we’d really be doing if we buy their stuff even though it’s not the best option for us), we’d just encourage them to produce stuff that isn’t as good but costs more – that isn’t a sustainable arrangement. The bright side is that there are areas where they can provide better value; small and independent businesses are often more in-touch with their markets, can adapt a lot faster, and can charge a lot less on some things, because their overheads are a lot less. These are the areas where we should avoid big corporations – because they don’t offer us as good a solution.

Megan: Many of our readers (*cough*editor-in-chief*cough*) hate big business, have problems with capitalism in general and consider marketing as next door to evil. How would you respond to this?

Peter: I think that the negative feelings about capitalism and marketing are misdirected. They are not the problem, nor are they evil. Its bad applications of capitalism and marketing that are the problem. In its purest form, I can think of no greater “give the power to the people” system than capitalism, believe it or not. As a business, you survive on your merits and merits alone and as a consumer you exercise your democratic right every day by voting with your wallet. Furthermore, I consider marketing to be nothing more than telling people who want what you’ve got and are willing to pay for it to come and get it. Furthermore, I consider marketing the great equalizer, allowing the smallest companies to compete with the big boys with the right mix of chutzpah and creativity.

So where does it go wrong?

With capitalism, it’s when we try to “correct” it with protectionism, intervention, quotas, tariffs, etc. These are opportunities for entities with sway and special interests to game the system in their favour. That’s what we get upset about, usually. With marketing, it’s when we feel we are being coerced into our decision (i.e. from tactics that come on strong, to those that persuade us “under the radar” using a deep understanding of consumer psychology). I’d argue that this isn’t always marketing, it’s manipulation.

Danny: Hmmm… Should I be afraid to respond here? I understand where your readers are coming from, but I don’t agree. I think that capitalism is ultimately democratic, but that people betray their true loyalties with their purchasing decisions. All of the people, who care about conserving the environment, but buy American cars with poor gas mileage (or who drive when they could use public transportation, for that matter – I’ve made a conscious choice not to own a vehicle) – their concern about the environment is all talk. The car companies will stop making environment-destroying products the second that people stop buying them. The real problem, then, isn’t the corporations who are making the products, but rather the consumers who are buying them. The efforts that need to be made to fix these situations aren’t to hate on corporations, but rather to educate and empower consumers. And how do you educate consumers? What skill-set will allow you to communicate ideas in a way that makes people want to take action? Hmmm… sounds like marketing! 😉

Megan: Which party, if any, is the most encouraging to small business owners? If small business was going to be an election issue, what would you see changed?

Peter: I’d love to see taxes scaled back to help small businesses become medium businesses. At this point in their stage of growth, small businesses need that shot in the arm. As for which party, none of them have an adequate program for this in my opinion, but by all means ask the MP in your riding how he or she personally stands on the issue and what they would do once in government. Pay close attention to what they say and then snap out of it and remember that it’ll probably never happen because no one is pushing that agenda strongly enough. Small businesses need a champion. And there is no one on the horizon.

Danny: I think the key issues for small business as being lowering taxes on lower income brackets, having special tax breaks for small businesses (really small businesses, as in $150,000 in annual revenues or less… not the government definition of small, which is under 100 employees, and can often mean several million dollars in annual revenues), as well as subsidies for starting a business that include money, and other resources (coaching, infrastructure, training, etc.). I think all parties should be campaigning on these issues, because small businesses are what really drive the economy. That being said, I’m not going to pass judgment on one party or the other – if readers are interested, they should call up party headquarters on all sides and ask them where they stand on these issues.

So there you have it. Second and third opinions. Unfortunately, space was too short for me to include answers to all of the questions I had for Danny and Peter, but I have a feeling their goodwill might just extend to having a discussion or two in the comments.

Check out their blog over at Firepole Marketing, they’ve got great articles, videos, resources and a really engaged community.

What are your thoughts? Do we have a potential champion for small business on the horizon? Anyone want to go to marketing school? Are you voting with your dollars, and if so, how?

First things first: I believe in paying a fair price for
things of value to me. Most good-hearted or even just habitual capitalists do. What I consider a fair price for value and what others consider a fair price for value may differ (for the purpose of simplicity let’s agree to
the assumption that “I” includes people who had the Internet in high school and various other early
adopters. “Others” includes people who had to learn
the internet when they were well into their professional lives). As someone who has had virtually unlimited access to a wealth of high quality, virtually free information since I got my first period I’m not willing to pay a heck of a lot for it. So the new York times offering subscription levels from $15-$30 a month strikes me as, well, a little off.

There has been some buzz on the internet lately about the New York Times new “revenue stream” otherwise known as paid subscriptions. Some people applaud the move. Some people are shocked. I find the whole thing rather silly and sad. I feel for the New York Times. I can imagine the shareholder panic, the long strategy meanings, learning whole new vocabularies and the knowledge that your industry is changing radically for the first time in over a hundred years. It’s scary and confusing. But none of that is any excuse for acting like an idiot.

In a note to subscribers NTY publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzburger, Jr says the following:

“It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform,”

So let me get this straight, Mr. Sulzburger; you want your readers, your consumers, the people for whom you produce your content to become uncompensated investors? And this when there are thousands of credible, easy to access, up-to-the-minute news sources out there completely free. Your subscribers should not only stay loyal but pay a price that is more than twice that of your competition for the privilege?


Chart courtesy of Chart of the Day

Fun Fact: Canada gets to try out this new pay-model first. Honestly, is there a content provider other than Netflix out there who doesn’t want us to bend over and grab our ankles?

Not everyone agrees with me here. That’s fair. Mr Lance Ulanoff over at PCMag predicted over two years ago that the free internet is taking its leave, suggesting that the free-expecting public were being unreasonable. He now lauds the New York Times’ decision, and does make the excellent point that the paywall is so poorly instituted as to render itself moot. However, I think Mr. Ulanoff is missing the point, then and now. The point is that the NYT is ignoring some really important market forces at work here. Obvious things. The same things the record industry can’t seem to wrap its head around: that what they’re creating just isn’t worth that much anymore.

This whole deal reminds me of an article I read a few years ago, by Wired’s Chris Anderson. It was called: Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business. This article has informed pretty much every business decision I’ve made since. He posits that:

“Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.”

He’s right, and it’s even truer for written content. Any
writer will tell you that as a skill it’s not valued highly when it comes to dollars and cents, even though the argument can be made that it should be.

As consumers of content on the web, our place in the scheme of things has shifted. For many content
providers, we are the product that generates revenue.
This works because there are some things we still pay money for: personal services, physical goods, and even some information. When it comes to content words, video and music many of us are willing to pay something but the price had better be as close to free
as possible. Articles and news stories are no longer things we really buy they’re lures to get us onto a webspace so that we in turn can be sold to advertisers who have something that might really tempt our wallets.

The New York Times, being populated by a whole gaggle of smart, talented people, one has to assume that they’re just trying to shift people back into hard copy subscriptions which just reeks of desperation. It’s a gamble that consumers won’t forgo the New York Times all together in favour of a news source providing the real perceived value for price.
Is that so hard to understand?