Monday, November 18, 2019

“How lawyers at Fredrikson & Byron are reaching out to help young minority businesses get footing - Minneapolis Star Tribune” plus 1 more

“How lawyers at Fredrikson & Byron are reaching out to help young minority businesses get footing - Minneapolis Star Tribune” plus 1 more

How lawyers at Fredrikson & Byron are reaching out to help young minority businesses get footing - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Posted: 17 Nov 2019 10:34 AM PST

Last week, Meda, the growing business adviser and lender to minority-owned firms, named a new CEO.

It is fitting that John Stout, the Minneapolis business lawyer and a founder of Meda 50 years ago, also last week was working with a young colleague at the Fredrikson & Byron law firm and a client who was brought to Fredrikson by Meda.

The client is a three-year-old retail-software firm called ASDAL, led by a 25-year-old entrepreneur named Darrin Levine.

Stout, 79, who also has an international practice in corporate governance that doesn't include many 25-year-olds, was holding his own with a 25-year-old entrepreneur, a 28-year-old Fredrikson colleague and a 30-year-old banker in a meeting one morning last week.

A half-century of board-and-client work for Meda must be part of the secret sauce that keeps Stout trim and youthful.

"This is flat-out fun," said Stout, chuckling about several wee-hours telephone calls with Levine this year. "I will sometimes call him at night from home. I know he's usually going to be working at his [northeast Minneapolis] office or sleeping on the office couch."

A couple of years ago, Stout, who with several other Fredrikson lawyers have long done pro bono work for nonprofit-Meda and some of its clients, formed the Accel Group, as in business accelerator. A dozen Fredrikson lawyers from different practices work with early-stage businesses such as ASDAL on issues such as intellectual property, advisory boards, ownership, finance and governance.

The Accel group works for nothing-to-little during the formative years. That's a formalization of Fredrikson's long-standing commitment to Meda and the growing minority business community that Stout long has championed.

And, if Meda and Fredrikson are right, more of these fledgling businesses will grow and prosper to the point where they will become full-pay commercial clients.

– and maybe even keep the firm going — in the formative years.

"I feel like I've gotten a degree in startup law, intellectual property and forming a board," said Levine, a tech-oriented entrepreneur who studied computer science in college and worked in IT for Target.

This endeavor also is important for Meda, Fredrikson and this town because minorities, including immigrants, are the fastest-growing component of the economy and disproportionately start new businesses. They often are vexed by lack of capital and connections.

ASDAL offers smaller retailers a software solution, complete with four dashboards that track everything from sales to inventory and analytics, for use on commercial websites such as Amazon and

ASDAL was one of 10 finalists in this fall's Meda Million Dollar challenge that drew 500 applicants. The nine-employee firm has several significant customers, posted several hundred thousand dollars in revenue and is looking for more equity investment.

Darnell Cage, a 28-year-old Fredrikson attorney, has been working with Levine on several aspects of the business.

"First, we had to get Darrin to just slow down a little," Cage said. "He's got a lot of energy.

"One thing is that he, initially, didn't think he could patent any of the [software logic] used for his customer dashboards.

"But we sat down and drew out the logic … and he has one software tool that influences all the other tools that feed into the dashboards. We changed the software-development strategy to 'scoot this' and develop the tool further so that it will result in a better service for clients who hop on a dashboard. We're also evaluating a possible patent."

Cage and the Accel team also helped Levine negotiate a better deal with a venture capital firm.

"Darrin was willing to give too much of a percentage of his company for the money and the contract terms were murky," Cage said.

"He got the money, the terms were clearer and he had to give up less ownership. He felt more comfortable with the improved relationship."

Levine was introduced to Fredrikson by Samuel Ndely, a business adviser from Meda, which also loaned about $75,000 to ASDAL.

"We're not looking to make 10 times our money," Ndely. "We want to help [Levine] with debt-equity gap financing as he gets into more [permanent] equity financing."

ASDAL is on a stronger footing thanks to Meda and Fredrikson. And better prepared to negotiate another round of equity capital that should enable several-employee ASDAL to scale up to a $3 million-plus in annual revenue in 2021.

"Our subscription-based software is user friendly and robust," asserted Levine, who has been fascinated by programming since high school. "We tested the hypothesis with [trial] companies as we built the software.''

And it fires up Stout to hang with these young guys.

"Entrepreneurs are a special breed," he said. "They go way beyond what is normal for the rest of us.


Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at

How Yapta CEO James Filsinger maintains culture while growing corporate travel startup - GeekWire

Posted: 17 Nov 2019 12:07 PM PST

Yapta CEO and president James Filsinger and his wife Nancy traveling on the Oregon Coast. (Photo courtesy of James Filsinger)

When James Filsinger took over as president and CEO of Yapta, the Seattle-based online travel company had 15 employees.

Seven years later, Yapta has grown more than fourfold, expanding to 70 employees. For the third year, the company is ranked among the 500 fastest growing North American technology companies, and 15th in Washington state, according to Deloitte. More than 8,000 corporate clients use Yapta to book travel and track related expenditures. Its revenue has spiked more than 300 percent from 2015-2018.

The growth has created its own challenges.

"The thing that I focus on most as we've grown is maintaining our culture," Filsinger said. When it was a small team, it was easier to make sure that "we were all in the same boat, rowing in the same direction."

And culture is key to Yapta's ability to recruit and retain workers and customers alike.

The company's values, he said, include: responsibility and accountability for your actions; collaboration; having a competitive mindset when it comes to winning customers; having integrity and trust with clients; and having a good time with colleagues, which includes everything from ping-pong to team outings to movies and baseball games.

"We're a work hard, play hard kind of environment," Filsinger said. "We can't compete with the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook on salary, so we compete on culture."

When Filsinger came to Yapta from Orlando-based EZYield, which was acquired by TravelClick during his tenure, it was a homecoming of sorts. Filsinger grew up in the Central Washington city of Richland, a third of the Tri-Cities, and he graduated from Washington State University with bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting.

He was excited by Yapta's potential.

James Filsinger. (Yapta Photo)

When the company started in 2006, it targeted consumers, helping them track flight prices and receive refunds on airline tickets if prices dropped after their purchase. Shortly before Filsinger joined in 2012, Yapta announced a move to serve business clients, seeking savings on multiple aspects of corporate travel for its customers. The company calculates whether customers are getting the best deals possible and how to make corrections if they're not.

What the company offered its corporate customers was "a value proposition that sounded too good to be true," Filsinger said.

He thought that he'd be able to rapidly ratchet up Yapta's sales, but that's where another lesson came in.

"It is hard to sell to corporate clients," Filsinger said. "They are large clients that make slow decisions."

With time and by building trust, the company started landing more customers, and those successes led to additional wins. Yapta has clients in 46 countries and is looking to continue its geographic expansion.

"We have a chance to be a multi-hundred million dollar business," Filsinger said. "Growth will continue."

We caught up with Filsinger for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: I work in Pioneer Square, a neighborhood in downtown Seattle, and live on Bainbridge Island.

Computer types: I'm an Apple guy, so I have a MacBook Pro for work and an iMac at the house.

Mobile devices: iPhone 11 Pro Max and an iPad Pro

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: It's a bit old-school, but Google Chrome is my go-to for pretty much everything. I'd also have to say Sonos for streaming my iTunes music library, and Netflix and Prime Video for streaming movies and TV.

James Filsinger's workspace at Yapta. Office highlights include ping-pong, darts and a kegerator. (Yapta Photo)

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Our offices are in two locations at Court in the Square in downtown Seattle just north of CenturyLink Field. It's an historic, high-ceiling, brick office with large wooden support beams throughout. It provides a tech vibe with cables spanning the ceiling along what looks like metal dinosaur spines. Our space is very open, which is core to our success as it hits on our #ShareIt value of collaborating and communicating within and across teams. We have a ping-pong table, dart board, video game setup (currently a Switch), and a kegerator to help bring some levity and fun to what we do. One of our company hashtags is #YaptaRocks and we want to make sure our work environment captures that.

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? In this always-connected world, I'm essentially on 24/7. One thing I take advantage of is iPhone's 'do not disturb' functionality when I'm with family. Another thing I try to do is based on some advice I received. When on vacation, get up early, allocate two hours in the morning to work, then disconnect and spend the day actually on vacation. Do this rather than periodically checking in throughout. It's great advice, though admittedly I haven't been as successful as I'd hope.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I'm not a Facebook user and really don't participate in much from a personal social network standpoint. That said, I have a Yapta Twitter account and do use LinkedIn regularly.

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? OK, this is embarrassing, but according to Outlook, it's 2,625. But I use my inbox as a pseudo filing/follow-up system, so my actual count is probably around 200. Still embarrassing. My apologies to those of you waiting for my response.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 15

How do you run meetings? Depends on the meeting type, but generally speaking I try to start on time, determine the desired outcome and expectations for the meeting, discuss the topic at hand and drive to a decision/conclusion. I don't currently use a "no PowerPoint" directive or have any hard and fast rules for meetings. I expect and respect everyone's input, and essentially drive to consensus.

Everyday work uniform? We're pretty casual as a tech company. I wear jeans and a variety of shirt types depending on the weather.

How do you make time for family? I really try to dedicate the first couple hours that I'm home to my family, i.e., not plug back in immediately upon getting home. I also make sure there's time on the weekends for BBQs, movies, outdoor activities, etc.

From left to right, James Filsinger with his sons Austin and Jared at an Apple Cup, the annual faceoff between the football teams of Washington State University, Filsinger's alma mater, and the University of Washington. (Photo courtesy of James Filsinger)

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? My best stress reliever is exercise. I get up every morning between 4:45 and 5 a.m. and workout before heading into the office. My favorite way to unplug is to go on a ride with my wife on my Triumph Tiger 1200 around Bainbridge Island and the surrounding areas. How I unplug on a more routine basis is by watching sports, movies and the occasional TV show.

What are you listening to? I listen almost exclusively to classic rock. Eagles, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, KISS, Sammy Hagar, AC/DC, Van Halen, Joe Walsh, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Creedence, Lynyrd Skynyrd … the list goes on. I'm also a big '80s music fan. Best decade for music, IMHO.

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Being in travel technology, I read a lot of trade pubs for the industry. The Beat, The Company Dime, Phocuswright, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Daily News. More generically, I read TechCrunch and GeekWire, and a variety of news sites. Favorite site is ESPN.

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? I just finished Vince Flynn's "Protect and Defend." It's book 10 in a 16-book Mitch Rapp character series I've been reading about a black ops CIA operatives. Page-turner, edge-of-your-seat kind of action thrillers. Next up is "Extreme Measures" which is book 11.

Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? I'm an early riser. I'm normally in bed by 10 p.m. and up at 4:45 or 5 a.m. I'm generally a good sleeper, and my wife tells me that I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Where do you get your best ideas? That's a tough question. I'm a collaborative type of person, so I rely on the input of many different viewpoints and try to draw on others' expertise and insights for ideation. I think the best ideas typically aren't born in a bubble, but instead are prompted by the challenges and perspectives of a broader community.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I've always been a fan of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. I think he's a visionary who follows his passions and pursues excellence. I'd love to get to meet him and pick his brain.

Kent County non-profit helping people with special needs get jobs - WXMI FOX 17 West Michigan

Kent County non-profit helping people with special needs get jobs - WXMI FOX 17 West Michigan

Kent County non-profit helping people with special needs get jobs - WXMI FOX 17 West Michigan

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 02:56 AM PST

LOWELL, Mich. -- A West Michigan non-profit is on a mission to give people with disabilities a chance to work and volunteer once they finish school.

While it may not seem like a big deal for some, being able to go to work everyday or volunteer for an event is something people with special needs look forward to each day.

"It makes me feel happy", says Phillip Vineing who got help from Beyond 26, a Wyoming non-profit that connects people with disabilities with jobs and volunteer opportunities.

"We're not government funded, we are a faith based organization and we have a simple process for taking in our job seeker applications and then turning around and finding them jobs in our community," said Dirk Bakhuyzen, executive director of Beyond 26.

"I get to sweep the floor, dust the windows, and clean cabinets, mop floor, wash windows," Vineing said, who has become part of the family at Mike Curtis' Farm Bureau Insurance office.

"Phil came in probably a week later and he's been working here ever since then," said Mike Curtis, who owns the insurance agency. "He's been great, he brings his positive attitude to the office every day, works hard, gets his stuff done, and we get to hang out for about a half hour after work and just talk about life, so, it's been really good for the office," he said.

"Our goal for the year was to place twenty job seekers and so far we're, I think, at 29 or 30," Bakhuyzen said. "We're well over our goal and next year we hope to place over 100 job seekers.," he said.

An opportunity, people like Phillip look forward to everyday, being part of society and a workplace.

"I'm working so hard, get paid every Friday," Vineing said.

"It just makes everybody be in a good mood when he's here which in this industry it's kind of hard to be in a good mood while we're here working all day," Curtis said.

"Everyone looks out for each other, it's changing their team culture, so it's a good thing," Bakhuyzen said.

"It's great to help these guys out and give them some work to do around the community and then they help us so much as well," Curtis said. "It's really a win win situation so I would encourage anyone to take part."

If you are interested in a career with Beyond 26, the organization is in need of job coaches for those of you looking for a job. The best way to contact them and apply is on their website. 

Strengthening Stark jobs platform logs open positions, salaries - The-review

Posted: 17 Nov 2019 03:37 AM PST

There are 6,549 jobs available in Stark County.

There are 6,549 jobs available in Stark County.

More than half of them are in the hospitality and logistics industries. More than 4,600 of the open jobs pay less than $50,000 a year. Most don't require a college degree.

This data comes from Stark County's online jobs platform, which is a new tool the Strengthening Stark team created to show people what jobs are in-demand here.

Strengthening Stark is a countywide economic development push with a big goal of building greater personal capital and improving quality of life for everyone. It has three big focuses: preparing residents for employment and matching them with jobs; marketing available sites and making Stark County more visitor-friendly; and attracting, retaining and growing businesses.

The effort is rooted in a 2017 report that determined the county's population was shrinking, aging and becoming less wealthy — trends that have held true, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

To combat all that, the Strengthening Stark team has convened groups of local leaders to start brainstorming and testing ideas. Part of their work has included creating several online tools related to employment, business growth and poverty.

The Strengthening Stark public jobs database is the first of its kind in Ohio. It pulls information from OhioMeansJobs and the U.S. Department of Labor to log how many open jobs there are in the county, what levels of education they require, what they pay, and who's hiring.

November numbers were updated within the past week. Here's what they show:

• The most in-demand jobs in Stark County are truck drivers, retail managers and retail salespeople.

• The employers with the most available jobs are Aultman Health Foundation (291), The Dollar General (163) and Anthem, Inc. (136).

• This is the lowest number of open jobs in Stark County since before March.

• Canton and North Canton have the most open jobs.

• The industry with the fewest available jobs is legal services.

The database, which has resources for students, employers and job seekers, has been presented to local school officials, students and Leadership Stark County participants.

The platform is one of the projects Strengthening Stark's talent development committee is working on. During a meeting last week, committee members who work in education or with educators said they look at the database all the time and send it out to people.

Stark State College President Para Jones, in talking about the data, asked what the colleges were doing to help fill available accounting positions. (There are 57 accountant and auditor jobs open.) With so many strong accounting programs in the county, she said, maybe that's something the colleges could work on collectively.

The only thing the jobs platform can't do is let a person apply for a job in only a few clicks. To apply for a job listed in the database, the person has to find the job again through an OhioMeansJobs search — something Stark Economic Development Board President and CEO Ray Hexamer joked might take someone until retirement age.

To see the jobs platform, visit

Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or

On Twitter: @amatasREP

Wondering about job news from the Census? | Biz Bits - Chico Enterprise-Record

Posted: 17 Nov 2019 03:50 AM PST

If you are among those who have applied for a job with the U.S. Census for the next round in 2020, a recent call I got may be helpful.

The caller said she applied online and didn't hear anything back — no thanks for your interest, or a timeline for an answer.

So I called Marna Davis, my media contact with the Census. She said that hiring notifications will be coming out in January. As I recall, the paid training starts in March and the work in April, according to what she told me in October.

These employees will be on foot, trying to connect with those who have not responded in other ways to the census, by phone, mail or email.

My caller also shared some good information with me. She said she actually found an initial response from the Census but it went to her spam folder.

So if you haven't gotten an answer, you might want to look there first.

Once again, interested applicants are advised to file an application online at

Curves award

I am always glad to pass along good news after bad, knowing how therapeutic the positive is.

I felt that way when I was interviewing Jeni Harris, who owns the Curves gym in Paradise for our Camp Fire one-year anniversary.

She was the comeback kid, going back into the burned building when it was renovated, and providing extraordinary support for her members when she herself lost her house in Magalia.

As she did last year, she headed to the national convention in Waco, Texas, just days after the fire (and hours after the fire anniversary). What a surprise she was to get.

She was recognized by the corporation's president and vice president, and earned the Comeback Award.

I was impressed with her enthusiasm and support for her members during our interview. She definitely deserves this award, and how lucky her members are to have such an involved person.

Just an aside, there is another Curves gym in Oroville, but none in Chico.

Another chance to shop

Starting to shop for Christmas? Yeah, I know it's not even Thanksgiving. But if you're sending items to other states or countries, it's nearly too late.

Mark date Nov. 30 on your calendar, and place Made in Chico on it if you're looking for Honey Run Covered Bridge souvenirs.

The bridge nails heart keepsakes will be on sale in front of the store from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you're an out-of-town shopper and unable to make that date, the bridge association is putting some of the nails online on eBay.

Karin Willhoit of Chico told me last weekend that she's been getting inquiries from outside the area, and is trying to help them secure that memory. Check the Facebook page for more information.

Hockey oops, good news

My apologies to those who might have read last week's column about a hockey tournament in Hamilton City. I got the date wrong.

The roller hockey tournament was the day before, on Saturday. However, there was adult hockey on Sunday evening at the Hamilton City Rink operated by North Valley Hockey and Sports Complex.

The nonprofit hockey league has youth and adult games.

But there is a postscript to the Sunday column. I've learned from folks at the Paradise ice rink that some new ice-related events may be coming to the ridge. So you ice and blade fans, stay tuned.

“The influencer who sells overpriced gold to Republican seniors - Quartz” plus 2 more

“The influencer who sells overpriced gold to Republican seniors - Quartz” plus 2 more

The influencer who sells overpriced gold to Republican seniors - Quartz

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 03:00 AM PST

Part two of the series, Mining for Silver on Facebook

Lucas Asher says in a YouTube video that he's an investor in tech world darlings like Spotify and Palantir. He's founded a few startups of his own, including a music-sharing app called Revo. He admires Silicon Valley visionary billionaires like SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

But he's also the force behind a very different kind of company,, according to former business associates, court documents, and internal company communications. Those sources say is a boiler-room-style operation, akin to the one depicted in the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, about one of the 1990s' most infamous scammers, Jordan Belfort. The Beverly Hills-based sells overpriced gold and silver coins to seniors, using a high-pressure pitch about impending economic doom. It's an old-school scheme, bolstered by 21st-century methods: an elaborate system of Facebook ads that baited conservative retirees.

Asher is one of the two principals of The other is CEO Simon Batashvili, but he's more of a family guy focused on the business side of the operation, say former business associates. (Batashvili did not respond to a request for comment.)

Asher is a different story, according to his social media accounts, interviews, and internal messages and videos reviewed by Quartz. He's an indie rock musician and a philosophizing, verified Instagrammer—alongside his day job leading's team of salespeople.

Asher favors red leather jackets worn over all-black outfits, accessorizing with sparkly shoes, like a pair of gold, studded smoking slippers—a uniform that underscores the rockstar vibe he strove for, according to former business associates. Three former business associates spoke on the condition of anonymity because they said they feared retaliation. Asher's indie band Faulkner recorded a song called "NY Anthem" with the rapper RZA, of Wu-Tang Clan fame. In it Asher sings about taking over the world.

Asher has more than 233,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts a mix of typical influencer fare, like sunsets and exotic locales, side-by-side with portraits of him in front of a raging fire. One, in which he wields a military-style weapon, is captioned: "Our thoughts, if directed and aligned, in the right frequency, are like this RPG missile. 🚀" In another photo, he perches on a luxury sports car, with a caption saying: "Choosing money over consciousness is like choosing dirt over gold."

Asher's online philosophical musings often refer to the "Omertà Cortex," which its website says is a "code of consciousness," and a group of "consciousness pirates," including him and model and influencer Jay Alvarrez. (There is no indication that Alvarrez has any affiliation with Omertà is the mafia's code of silence. "Omertà Cortex" is also the title of a video series in which the pair rides two scuba-scooter-powered, faux giant squids in Bora Bora, ostensibly to save coral reefs.

It seems Asher aspires to be a Silicon Valley-style serial founder. Aside from, he's founded Revo and Best New, a music discovery site for influencers. From 2012 to 2016, he was listed as the owner of a website for "Contra Cartel," which sold "contrabands," leather bracelets with a music-filled USB drive for a clasp; the only band whose music was listed as available for the bracelets was Faulkner, Asher's band. And Asher and Batashvili are the principals of Tower Equity, a self-described private equity firm that says it has holdings in companies including Palantir, Slack, Spotify, and SpaceX, along with

Although it seems less a buzzy startup and more of a traditional sales operation, according to the company's spokesperson fits in with the other ventures. "We're not really a gold and silver company, we're a technology company," said the spokesperson, who said his name was David Rubenstein. He added that uses machine learning and A/B testing to determine the best price for the metals.

Before he and Batashvili struck out on their own, Asher spent time as a broker selling gold at the Malibu, California-based International Bullion Exchange, another gold and silver brokerage oriented at retirement accounts, according to court documents. That company sued both men in 2014 for allegedly stealing customer lists to use at their own gold-and-silver brokerage. (That suit and a countersuit alleging fraud and breach of contract were both dismissed.)

A few years earlier, Asher apparently got a taste of the startup life when, as "Luke Thomas," he co-founded a company called, a video-based e-commerce site for used cars. The company, which was reportedly backed by investors including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, was written up in several mainstream publications, but after some initial success, it fell apart. (Wozniak did not respond to a request for comment.) Historical web domain registrations for and other sites, found in the DomainTools's Iris database, show Asher using the same email address and mailing address with the names Lucas Asher, Luke Erb, and Luke Thomas.

Who's who?

Besides those Lukes, the International Bullion Exchange lawsuit listed other aliases Asher had purportedly used, including Luke Emmanuel, Luke Francis, Michael Walker, and Henry Davis.

Some of's staff also used pseudonyms, according to former business associates. Customer Stephen Matteo spoke with a salesman who said his name was Luke McCain. Customer Richard Craighead spoke with a salesman who gave his name as Deric Scott. In fact, both were the same man, Deric Ned. That's according to a former salesperson and a single email reviewed by Quartz that says it was sent by both Deric Scott and Luke McCain, and also lists Deric Ned's email address. Ned didn't respond to requests for comment left at the office and sent to him via email and text message.

In a 2016 court filing, Chase Metals (the prior name of's parent company) acknowledged that a salesman other than Deric Ned also used a fake last name in the course of his work for Chase Metals.

"Everyone uses their real name," said a spokesperson for the company, who said his name was David Rubenstein. Quartz was not able to confirm that a person named David Rubenstein works for the company. When three people who had worked with Asher listened to a recording of Rubenstein, all three said Rubenstein sounded like Asher. Asher didn't reply to a direct question about this.

Company culture

In internal Telegram messages between several dozen employees obtained by Quartz, Asher was the sales team's pep-talk guy. He posted, for example, a meme with a quote from the millionaire sales trainer and real-estate mogul Grant Cardone, "There is no shortage of money on Planet Earth; Only a shortage of people really going for it," over a background of $50 and $100 bills. From himself, Asher added: "There is no shortage of money on this planet; There is a shortage of courage; Let's crush every obstacle!"

In the mornings, there'd be meetings about how to approach the sales work. "Think Wolf of Wall Street. These meetings are just like that except without the coke and hookers," a former salesperson said. There'd be yelling, a lot of energy and excitement, according to two former business associates. (Rubenstein said that at 9 am, every morning, the company has a "compliance meeting.")

"All they care about is money. They even will say that's all they care about," the former salesperson said.

The Telegram messages reflect this. One employee even shared a meme from The Wolf of Wall Street in which Leonardo DiCaprio, as Belfort, is throwing money into the air. There is talk of red Ferraris, of "intercepting money," and quotes from Glengarry Glen Ross, another movie that is an indictment of predatory sales tactics.

One employee, after Asher and Batashvili praised the sales team in the chat, quipped "All I see is 💰💰💰."

As an incentive, the office had "cash grabs," which involved a version of a machine, known from TV game shows, that blows bills around for contestants to grab; a salesperson who met special sales targets would stick their hand inside's miniature device to grab as many bills as possible. These "grabs" are referred to in the Telegram messages, and the former salesperson said the cash grab machine dispensed real money, often $100 bills.

Bárbara Abbês for Quartz

Rubenstein, the spokesperson, acknowledged that the machine existed, but said that it didn't contain real cash.

It's not entirely clear how much actual cash the company brings in. But there's a hint. grossed $58 million from July 2017 to July 2018, according to a lawsuit from the former vice president of sales, who said he was supposed to be paid a bonus based on the company's gross revenue. Asked directly about the $58 million figure, Rubenstein didn't dispute it, instead saying the former VP had no knowledge of the company's gross revenue; denied everything claimed in the lawsuit, which is still ongoing.

The pitch 

Asher pushed his salespeople to start their calls with a political narrative, according to the former salesperson. It was important to get potential investors to connect with and trust them. Customers had to be conservative, with little faith in the government or the economy. "If someone says they're liberal or they don't like Hannity, you just hang up," said the former salesperson.

Successful sales approaches were written down and circulated among salespeople, the former salesperson said. One such script shown to Quartz began, "I'm part of a conservative team… we help Fox News / Hannity / Limbaugh / Levin." Another says: "I don't know what your religious beliefs are, but I'm Christian. Did you know that there are 700 references to gold and silver in the bible."

While the wording in the scripts is corroborated by other documents and Quartz's own phone calls to, the documents themselves have not been independently authenticated.

Sales pitches were based on frightening their targets, the former salesperson said. "Fear sells." A common line in the phone calls would be: "Do you think Wall Street [has] your best interest at heart?"

To reinforce the pitch, salespeople emailed customers links to articles cherrypicked from credible news sources, such as MarketWatch or CNBC, suggesting doom-and-gloom perspectives that fit the given narrative.

"I personally am not an advocate of the 'bear market is coming' pitch," Asher posted in the Telegram chat. "If a prospect disagrees with you it's not really a winnable narrative (because nobody knows). Stick with Jim Rickards [an advocate for investing in gold], Debt Bomb, Chinese Kill Switch, Illegal immigration, DEEP STATE, ICE-9, fedcoin narrative because the President of the United States is your source and it's proven to move capital," he writes, referring to obscure right-wing financial theories about a collapse in the value of US currency.

[ If you or someone you know lost money in a gold or silver scheme, here's how to get help. If you have tips or information that might help us further cover this story, you can email us at or reach us more securely. ]

Under the header of "Deep State has been hard at work," another written script described the "Fed Coin" as a supposed plan in which "Feds want you to turn in your dollars for crypto currency." (No such plans are known to exist.) The scripts also mention scenarios of an attack on the US with an electromagnetic pulse or war with North Korea.

Rubenstein said political narratives were not an important part of's sales process. "I would say macroeconomic narratives are a big concern people have right now. Political narratives are not that important."

Asher even used a news piece from the outlet France24 about solar outbursts to strengthen the pitch. "Narratives everywhere…NASA is concerned about the power grid being wiped out and causing 2 trillion in damages per year," he said in the Telegram chat.

In addition to being conservative, the targets had to be close to retirement, the former salesperson said. The idea was to play on fears of the economy crashing suddenly, like it did in 2008. (Rubenstein maintains the company sells to all ages.)

A particularly effective image, the former salesperson said, was one that painted their immediate future in the event of such a collapse, bagging groceries at their local stores for income.

"I think about it daily, what I was part of, and what I was part of doing to people," the former salesperson said. "It's everything these people had. I'm putting people in an early grave."

Help and information

If you or someone you know lost money in a gold or silver scheme, here's how to get help.

Let us know if you know more.

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300 Examples Of Business Ideas To Help You Start A Successful Business - Entrepreneur

Posted: 01 Aug 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Are you looking for a business idea? But you want to make sure it's profitable first? You can learn from these 300 businesses to ensure your start-up launches on the right foot.

10 min read

You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Starting a business is tough, and not a lot of start-ups make it. To ensure your business is as competitive as possible, you'll need to do lots of research into your competition and see what other innovative businesses are doing. 

This can take a significant amount of time, so we've compiled a directory of 300 innovative business and insights you can gain from them. These 300 businesses are divided into the following categories – choose a section you feel best applies to what you're doing and gain a much needed competitive advantage: 

1. Examples of Food Business Ideas

So, you've decided to start a food business, but how do you differentiate yourself? What are successful food businesses doing to put themselves a topping or two above their competitors? When starting your food business ensure you incorporate the lessons from these companies to ensure your food business idea is a success.

2. Examples of Home Service Business Ideas

Everyone is busy these day. After work, no one wants to have to climb up on a ladder to try and fix a hole in the roof or a shorting light fitting. This creates a business opportunity for you. Here are 10 home service business ideas and examples of successfully operating businesses:

3. Examples of Personal Trainer Business Ideas

There is a growing number of people looking for an interesting way to get their daily/weekly dose of exercise in. You can offer an innovative personal trainer business idea to capture their interest and continue to engage them. Before you launch, it's always beneficial to find out what your competition are up to. Find some examples of personal trainer business ideas here:

4. Examples of Childcare Business Ideas

Parents sometimes need help looking after their children, no matter what age. If you have experience with children and a youth development, education or caretaking qualification, you can start your childcare business idea. Here are 10 examples of childcare business ideas you can use to get your business off the ground:

5. Examples of Educational Business Ideas

There is a growing emphasis on students to improve and increase their education and on adults to continue improving their education. With this solid demand in the educational industry, you can launch a business either improving on skills or teaching brand new skills.

6. Examples of Writing Business Ideas

You can start your writing business from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a solid internet connection. However, there are tips and tricks to ensuring your writing business remains profitable, here are 10 examples of writing business ideas you can use to launch the best possible version of your writing business:

7. Examples of Film-Related Business Ideas

The film industry continuously to grow year-on-year increasing its opportunities for film entrepreneurs. You could start a business doing voice-over work, scriptwriting and even costume design. Before you launch your start-up, here are 10 examples of film-related businesses you can gain insights and strategies from:

8. Examples of Photography Business Ideas

If you have the right equipment and experience you can offer your photography services to both local and international customers. There are a lot of opportunities for someone with a good eye for images. Before you get going here are 10 examples of successful photographic business ideas you can learn from:

9. Examples of Business Consultancy Business Ideas

A business consultant offers advice to companies in their area of expertise. You can consult businesses on everything from leadership development to stress management. Here are 10 examples of business consultancy businesses you can learn from to help give your consultancy a competitive advantage:

10. Examples of Personal Services Business Ideas

Personal services can be anything from housesitting to personal shopping, if you think you have a particular talent for helping others manage their lives, then this could be the business opportunity for you. Before you launch your business here are 10 examples of personal services businesses you can use to ensure you remain competitive within the industry:

11. Examples of Pet Business Ideas

Pet owners are happy to spend money on their pets, whether it's training, boarding or day-care, there are a lot of opportunities in the pet space. If you're an animal lover and want to work with them all day, here are 10 successful examples you can use to ensure your business remains competitive:

12. Examples of Clothing Business Ideas

There is always a demand within the clothing industry, whether you're helping someone to improve their look or repairing their fabric-covered furniture. If you have the talent and the experience you can start a clothing business. Before you get started here are 10 examples of clothing business ideas you can learn from:

13. Examples of Retail Business Ideas

Do you want to sell finished products directly to consumers? The retail industry could be the business opportunity for you. You could open anything from a clothing shop to a gaming parlour but before you get started you will need to know what strategies to employ and what you should offer. 

14. Examples of Online Business Ideas

Advancements in technology have enabled entrepreneurs to create businesses that are wholly operated in a digital environment, resulting in decreased overheads and the freedom to run a business on the move. Before you launch your business learn a few strategies from these examples of online businesses:

15. Examples of Manufacturing Business Ideas

There are many small-scale manufacturing business ideas that can you can convert into a sustainable and profitable business. There's a market for you whether you're launching a manufacturing business that makes shoes, wigs or cosmetics. Here are 10 examples of manufacturing business ideas that can give you insights into starting your own manufacturing business:

16. Examples of Social Media Business Ideas

Social media enables businesses to directly reach and engage with their customers and target markets. If you have the right skills, you can launch a successful social media business.

Before you start your new business, you'll need to see what is happening in this industry. Here are 10 examples of social media businesses to give you a snapshot of this industry:

17. Examples of Tourism Business Ideas

Since South Africa is known for its natural beauty, tourism will always hold numerous business opportunities, especially if you live in a popular tourist destination. Your business can offer everything from tours to accommodation and experiences.

18. Examples of Party Business Ideas

You can offer your services to ensure your clients have the best possible party experience. Starting a party business doesn't mean you have to be at every event, you can help clients find vendors or rent party supplies. 

Here are 10 examples of party business ideas that you can use to gain insights into the entertainment industry and strategies to ensure your business' success:

19. Examples of Cannabis-related Business Ideas

Selling cannabis itself is still illegal, but you can launch a business to support this growing industry. Since users are allowed to use weed within the comfort of their homes, there is the opportunity for support businesses to grow and offer users services. Here are 10 examples of cannabis-related business ideas:

20. Examples of Transportation Business Ideas

Transportation is vital to the progress of every city. There's always something or someone that needs transportation, and someone willing to pay for this to happen. There are numerous potential transport business ideas you can start; from Uber driving to specialised medical transportation. 

Before you launch your transport business you can gain some strategies from these 10 transport business ideas:

21. Examples of Environmentally-Friendly Business Ideas

There is a growing demand by consumers to be more environmentally-friendly. This has created a growing number of green business opportunities. You can open any business from services helping others to be more eco-conscious or offering environmentally friendly products. 

22. Examples of Rooibos Business Ideas

Rooibos naturally has numerous antioxidants and natural benefits. This has made it the cornerstone of several product lines. If working with a natural and beneficial ingredient is exactly what you're looking for then these could be the rooibos business ideas for you:

23. Examples of Drone Business Ideas

Drones and their various applications continue to grow in popularity as entrepreneurs find more and more uses for them. If the idea of running a drone business and offering very niche, specialised services appeals to you, this could be the business idea for you.

24. Examples of Sharing Economy Business Ideas

The sharing economy continues to grow in high demand as consumers look for more cost-effective ways to fund, purchase and find items. You can launch anything from a jewellery rental business to an errand running platform. Before you start here are 10 examples of sharing economy business ideas you can learn strategies from:

25. Examples of Home Décor Business Ideas

Not every person is gifted with the skills and talent to decorate and furnish their homes and gardens. There are customers that will need your help to create the perfect home. If you're passionate about home décor, then this could be the business idea for you.

26. Examples of Film-Related Business Ideas

The film industry continuously to grow year-on-year increasing its opportunities for film entrepreneurs. You could start a business doing voice-over work, scriptwriting and even costume design. Before you launch your start-up, here are 10 examples of film-related businesses you can gain insights and strategies from:

27. Examples of Vegan Business Ideas

Veganism continues to grow in demand across the world, with more people than ever choosing a plant-based diet. You can tap into this market by starting your own vegan business idea. Before you start researching, here are 10 potentially lucrative vegan business ideas you can learn from to ensure your start-ups success:

28. Examples of Elder Care Business Ideas

There are numerous business opportunities available for someone looking to support the elderly community. If this is a passion close to your heart, then this could be the business idea for you.

Before you can start a business, you first need an idea, here are examples of 10 elder care business ideas you can gain insights and strategies from:

29. Examples of Design Business Ideas

Creating and designing something new, innovative and interesting continues to be exciting in numerous industries. If you're good at creating something from scratch or designing something never before seen, then this could be the business idea for you.

Here are 10 examples of actual design businesses you can learn from to ensure your company has a competitive advantage:

30. Examples of Financial Services Business Ideas

You can use your financial experience to start your own business for private individuals or businesses. You can offer numerous services from bookkeeping to expense reduction analyst and tax accountant. Before you launch your business here are 10 examples of financial services businesses you can gain strategies from:

Extra: 10 Examples of Businesses That Could Inspire Your Next Business Idea

Whether you're interested in starting an online life coach business or developing technology for virtual reality or offering a decluttering service. Before you launch your business, here are 10 examples of different kinds of businesses you can gain insights and strategies from:

Examples of Film-Related Business Ideas - Entrepreneur

Posted: 24 Jul 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Are you an up-and-coming film entrepreneur? Here are ten examples of film-related business ideas you can gain insights from to ensure your business becomes a success.

7 min read

You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

The film industry continuously to grow year-on-year increasing its opportunities for film entrepreneurs. You could start a business doing voice-over work, scriptwriting and even costume design. Before you launch your start-up, here are 10 examples of film-related businesses you can gain insights and strategies from:

1. Scriptwriting

Do you have creative writing experience? Do you want to diversify your offering to include scriptwriting for movies, tv series and adverts? Then this could be the film-related business for you. Before you launch your new writing business, here is an example of a film-related business you can learn from:

Business Name: Express Writers


Established Date: 2011

About the business:

Express Writers offers content to marketers, entrepreneurs and agencies. They have a fast turnaround and offer writing, editing and account management for their clients.

Innovative business offering

In addition to their writing and editing services, they also have highly experienced writers who are industry experts and have SEO and content writing methodologies.

2. Become An Actor Or Actress

An actor or actress is a self-employed entrepreneur. As an actor you would play characters in a film or TV series and bring to life a scriptwriter's words. Before you launch your new career choice, here is an example of a film-related business you can gain some strategies from:


Business Name: Kate Hackett


About the business:

Kate Hackett is an actress who has done television and web series, as well as film and theatre productions. She is self-taught and uses multiple methods to find her characters.

Innovative business offering

In addition to Kate Hackett's acting skills, she also offers writing and producing work, allowing her to not only act in a project but also contribute in both writing and producing.

3. Decorate And Rent Out Properties For Shooting

Film companies are always looking for interesting and unique places to shoot their films. Do you live in an interesting looking home? You can design your home with film shoots in mind. Before you start redecorating your home, here is an example of a film-related business you can gain some insights from:

Business Name: Location Gallery


About the business:

Location Gallery represents a collection of properties for film shoots, curating a selection in the best interests of location owners and production clients.

Innovative business offering

In addition to properties for filming, Location Gallery also offers properties for photoshoots and photography projects.

4. Become a Movie Editor

A movie editor is the person who comes in after all the shooting and stitches the numerous separate shots together. If you have experience with this, this could be the film-related business idea for you. Before you start advertising your services, here is a film-related business you can gain insights from:

Business Name: Seadog Creative Co.


About the business:


Christian Grobbelaar offers film and advertising editing services to his clients around the world. He has won multiple awards through his university and through international work.

Innovative business offering

In addition to his film and advert editing services, Christian Grobbelaar is himself a filmmaker and offers screenwriting, directing, graphic design and motion graphics, and photography services. He also runs and producers his own podcast.

5. Become a Movie Auditor

A movie auditor keeps track of all the production costs and ensures the film or TV series stays within budget. You'll need to keep track of every cent spent.

Business Name: Logicca


Established Date: 2006

About the business:

Logicca have a dedicated team experienced in all aspects of the film and television industry. They assist their clients through the financial and tax elements of production. Logicca can ensure their client's project meets the necessary requirements towards final tax applications and refunds.

Innovative business offering

In addition to offering film auditing services, Logicca offers traditional audit services, as well as online accounting, succession planning, superannuation fund compliance and taxation advice.

6. Become a Talent Agent or Hunter

A talent agent's job is to hunt for talented performers of all kinds. If you're good at spotting talented performers this could be the film-related business for you. Before you start approaching great performers, here is a film-related business you can gain some insights from:


Business Name: Select


Established Date: 1998

About the business:

Select aim to find the perfect actors, talent and celebrities to make an advertising campaign unforgettable, elevate fashion brands and make movies a success.

Innovative business offering

In addition to their talent services, Select are also a model agency and can help their modelling clients to find the perfect campaigns and projects.

7. Freelance Voice-over Work

If you have an interesting sounding voice or you can do numerous accents, or you know multiple languages, then this could be the film-related business idea for you. You don't need an actual studio and you could make this a full-time business from home. Before you start making demo recordings, here is a film-related business you can gain strategies from:

Business Name: Voice Talent Online


About the business:

Voice Talent Online offers high-quality international voice talent across all languages. They also provide end-to-end audio localisation in all language pairs.

Innovative business offering

In addition to their international voice talent services, Voice Talent Online also offer post production editing and Q&A services to assist their clients with editing projects and to ensure they remain a one-stop-shop for all their client's needs.

8. Movie Marketing

Do you have tried-and-tested marketing skills? Are you passionate about film? Then this could be the film-related business for you. Before you launch a marketing business that specialises in movies, here is an example of a film-related business you can gain strategies from:

Business Name: Happy Media


About the business:

Happy Media is a full-service video marketing agency that offers complete management of their clients' video budget and video strategy. They offer storytelling that aligns with their client's strategy.


Innovative business offering

In addition to a full-service video marketing agency, Happy Media also offers broadcast promos and trailers, as well as fast, effective videos to advertise their client's film or series.

9. Costume Designing

How a character looks plays an important role in the theme of a movie. If you love create clothing and you're good at it, then this could be the film-related business idea for you. Before you start investing in various fabrics, here is an example of a film-related business you can gain insights from:

Business Name: Rae Donnelly


Established Date: 2001

About the business:

Rae Donnelly offers professional costume design services for feature film productions. Several of the films she worked on were shot abroad, which allowed her to travel, but she is currently based in Cape Town.

Innovative business offering

In addition to her costume designing services, Rae Donnelly also offers costume designing for theatre and commercials. She has won two SAFTA's for her costume designing work.

10. Scene Construction Management

Are you good at construction and design? Are you passionate about film? Then this could be the film-related business for you. Before you start building sets, here is an example of a film-related business you can gain insights from:

Business Name: Sets Non-Stop


Established Date: 1997

About the business:

Sets Non-Stop aim to provide superior on-location or in-studio set design and construction services to the film and media-related industries. They focus on remaining flexible, which allows them to seamlessly integrate with other production departments.

Innovative business offering

In addition to set construction services, Sets Non-Stop also offers hardwearing sets for theatre and television, exhibition stands, installations and activations, as well as event construction and venue preparation. They also offer painted finishes and backdrops, as well as special-effects rigs.


Beware of Seasonal Employment Scams - WHNT News 19

Beware of Seasonal Employment Scams - WHNT News 19

Beware of Seasonal Employment Scams - WHNT News 19

Posted: 17 Nov 2019 05:05 AM PST

Occupation job search employment issues job classified ad unemployment searching

Are you among the many people who look for seasonal work over the holidays? The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that retailers could add as many as 590,000 new temporary positions over the 2019 winter holiday season. Many consumers are scrambling to apply but some of those postings may not even be real.

During the holiday season, scammers look to take advantage of those seeking temporary work. Employment scams were the riskiest scam of 2018 according to the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. This scam specifically targets consumers age 18-34 and has a median loss of around $1,200.

How does it work?

Scammers post fake job postings online that promise a large salary for minimal effort or skill which appeal to a wide range of applicants. Many of the positions seen in employment scams are work-from-home offers, secret shopper positions or jobs with generic titles such as caregiver or customer service representative.

Even if you are an excellent candidate for the job, beware of offers made on the spot or after a brief online chat. Victims of employment scams are usually offered the job without submitting a formal application, meeting the employer, or even having an interview.

After being hired for the position you are asked to supply your new "employer" with tons of personal information including your social security number and bank account for direct deposit. Some employment scams even request payment from the victim in order to purchase a "startup kit" to perform job duties from home.

Remember: You should always be wary if someone wants you to make an advanced payment or buy materials to start working from home. You should not have to pay money to start a job.

How do I lose money?

Employment scams can take many forms, but one is an over-payment scam. This can also be a type of fake check fraud. Frequently during an employment scam, victims are paid via check. Before depositing the check, your "employer" contacts you to explain that you have been greatly overpaid. You are then asked to immediately wire back a large portion of the check's value. Days later the check bounces and you are now out the funds you attempted to deposit as well as the money you wired to your "employer."

Remember: No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask him/her to wire the money elsewhere.

BBB offers the following tips to remember when looking for holiday employment opportunities:

Nowhere is scam-free. You may think that sites like LinkedIn and other well-established, reputable job sites are free of scammers, but they aren't. Employment scams are everywhere. Whenever you receive unsolicited contact from a recruiter or employer, whether it be on a website, email, or by phone, be careful.

Businesses are often impersonated. Scammers will often pretend to be from a real company, create look-alike websites and send emails from addresses that appear legitimate. Look up the company independently through a search engine and go to the company's website to verify the position is posted. If not, get in contact with someone from the business to make sure the job exists, and it isn't a scam.

Do your research. Look up the business online. Start at to see their BBB Rating and if there are red flags in their complaint history and past reviews. Look at other review websites and see if there are negative reviews about the business or if it has been impersonated in the past.

No contact information. Be cautious if a company is trying to get you to accept a job but does not have a physical location or address available. A cell phone number and website are not enough to prove the business exists.

Refusal to give you full details in writing. Ask for complete information in writing. Look carefully at any documentation they might provide to make sure it answers all your questions. If they won't give details or don't respond to questions, don't do business with them.

If you encounter an employment scam, make sure to report it to BBB Scam Tracker.


Work from home: Top 15 companies hiring for part-time jobs in 2019 - - Clark Howard

Posted: 19 Jul 2019 12:00 AM PDT

If you're looking for work, now is a good time to hit the job market: There are plenty of part-time jobs out there, especially if you want to work from home.

More people are actually interested in part-time jobs rather than working freelance, according to FlexJobs. The job site recently released a list of the top 30 companies hiring for part-time, remote work.

FlexJobs: These companies are hiring for part-time, remote jobs in 2019

To come up with the list, FlexJobs analyzed more than 50,000 companies that hired between January 1 and June 30, 2019.

Trying to get a part-time, remote job can be just as competitive as landing a full-time position. As you look at the job list below, make sure that you meet all of the requirements before you apply, including:

  • Availability: Many jobs on this list are for working 35 hours a week or less, but they list distinct times for work shifts. Make sure you're available for the respective schedules.
  • Location: Some of these virtual jobs require that you live in a certain state or within a certain distance of an office or center.
  • Technical: The most basic equipment for many of these work-from-home jobs is a strong internet connection. Of course, they will likely supply other devices you may need.

Get your resume up to date and check out FlexJobs' list of top part-time, work-from-home jobs:

1. Landi English

2. VocoVision

3. Grand Canyon University – GCU

4. U.S. Department of Commerce

5. Cozymeal


6. Supporting Strategies

7. Robert Half International

8. GreatAuPair

9. Rosetta Stone

10. Kaplan

11. Strayer University

12. K12

13. Independence University

14. Profit Factory

15. Yelp


You may see a lot of jobs online, but there are also a lot of scams. What makes FlexJobs different is that the jobs site charges a $14.95/month membership fee.

FlexJobs filters out the junk postings so that you can trust that the jobs you're seeing are legit.

To learn about more remote job opportunities, see Clark's Work From Home Guide. We also have a list of some of the most popular job scams and how to avoid them.

More job search resources: