February 10, 2016

airplaneFor the airline industry, the last few decades have been more like a rollercoaster ride than a smooth flight through calm skies. Enduring consistent losses as well as the occasional bankruptcy, companies began making deep cuts to basic services in order to keep costs down. Meanwhile, airfares continued to skyrocket even as in-air amenities started disappearing. Now it finally seems like all that belt-tightening is paying off: last year the four biggest domestic carriers together earned about $22 billion in Continue reading

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February 1, 2016

For many inventors, creating a machine that’s functional as well as popular can feel like striking gold, even if the actual material reward for their work isn’t exactly golden. That’s the situation Shane Chen found himself in since inventing the “hoverboard,” a two-wheeled, Segway-like vehicle that doesn’t quite float but has nevertheless been flying off the shelves. Unfortunately for Chen, many consumers are buying hoverboards from companies that have not paid him for his patented design. Instead, consumers are taking Continue reading

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June 21, 2015

For many environmentally conscious diners, where their food comes from is almost as important as the food itself. Followers of the “farm-to-table” movement try to avoid items made on industrial-scale factory farms in favor of locally produced, organic goods. Over the years this concept has expanded from the stands at local farmers’ markets and into mainstream foodie culture. But while this concept works for farm-cultivated products like vegetables, beef and poultry, following fish from “ocean-to-table” is trickier to pull off. Continue reading

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June 17, 2015

In the 1960s Northeast Italy’s artisans banded together to form small family-owned businesses that depended closely on one other. Each company manufactured a single part of a finished product that held the entire town’s attention. For instance, the tiny burg of Montebelluna specialized in making ski boots, with dozens of companies contributing parts like buckles and foam linings. The town eventually became famous for its high quality footwear, producing about three-quarters of the world’s ski boots at its height. One Continue reading

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June 13, 2015

While nonprofit organizations do the world an immeasurable amount of good, their restrictive structure can prove frustrating for some entrepreneurs. After all in order to stay afloat, many nonprofits depend on the generosity of donors, a source of capital that could suddenly dry up at anytime. That’s why a few startups are combining the social drive of nonprofits with sustainable business models to form benefit corporations, or “B-corps” for short.

On the surface these companies seem like normal firms: they Continue reading

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After years of declining sales, RadioShack finally seemed to be on the way out after filing for bankruptcy protection in February 2015. The electronics retailer had been a mainstay of American commerce for nearly a century, thriving off the sales of niche items like CB radios and pre-iPod portable music players. As technology became more commonplace, however, RadioShack struggled to keep up with the mainstream and settled into stagnation. Executives at the brand tried to reverse this trend by redesigning Continue reading

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In an earlier issue of the newsletter, we took a look at the methods that Chinese authorities use to curb the production of counterfeit merchandise. For the most part, these measures focused on reporting knockoffs of big names like Nike and Gucci. But combating pirated products isn’t solely the problem of multinational brands. For instance, in 2012 Jeff Sasaki took his iPhone accessory company Element Case to a Hong Kong trade show. When he arrived at the convention, he found Continue reading

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April 26, 2015

As the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, Hershey is always reshaping the way it does business in order to remain at the top. Technology especially helps the Pennsylvania-based company improve in a number of key areas. For instance, the prevalence of online shopping and self-checkout lines are hurting Hershey’s sales from impulse buyers. To encourage more “unplanned purchases,” the company plans to add small kiosks near self-checkout machines and curbside pickup stations that will give customers one last chance Continue reading

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April 2, 2015

To many amateur investors, a company that brings in more than $1 billion in annual sales would seem like a pretty safe bet. But these numbers didn’t impress Wall Street hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson when he noticed them in a report about Lumber Liquidators. From his professional perspective, this small flooring retailer should not have been enjoying such large profit margins. Suspecting that the company was cutting corners in some way, he advised his clients to sell the company Continue reading

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March 17, 2015

With Detroit officially out of bankruptcy, business leaders and entrepreneurs are looking to the city’s mighty manufacturing past as an example for its future. After all, Detroit is full of old factories that can be fixed up and rented out cheaply. But it’s not just carmakers who are flocking back to the Motor City: over the last several years at least seven bicycle manufacturers have set up shop in the area as well.

Some of these bike builders rent small Continue reading

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