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The Floppy Disk Business

Talk about being in a niche market! This fascinating article talks about Tom Persky the self-proclaimed “last man standing in the floppy disk business.”

See a Need, Fill a Need

Leveraging his experience outside of the floppy disk business as a tax attorney and software developer, Persky found opportunities to offer sales, recycling, and data transfer services.

Because we were a tax-oriented company and had specific tax filing deadlines, we only used our duplication equipment once every quarter. For 89 days in a row, the machines would be unused and then, on a single day, we would punch out thousands and thousands of floppy disks. At some point, I looked at the machines and how they were unused for so much of the time, and I had the idea to take in other people’s laundry.

Client Feedback

Persky had a business model in mind but shrewdly pivoted to include other service offerings at the request of his customers. Clearly a business should not listen to every whim of their customers. However, the service should be added if the cost-benefit analysis indicates a profitable expansion. Contact us for help with this analysis.

In the beginning, I figured we would do floppy disks, but never CDs. Eventually, we got into CDs and I said we’d never do DVDs. A couple of years went by and I started duplicating DVDs. Now I’m also duplicating USB drives. You can see from this conversation that I’m not exactly a person with great vision. I just follow what our customers want us to do. When people ask me: “Why are you into floppy disks today?” the answer is: “Because I forgot to get out of the business.” Everybody else in the world looked at the future and came to the conclusion that this was a dying industry.

Luck

Luck is ALWAYS a factor in business. However, it takes skill to be able to survive long enough for a chance for luck to come your way.

Over time, the total number of floppy users has gone down. However, the number of people who provided the product went down even faster. If you look at those two curves, you see that there is a growing market share for the last man standing in the business, and that man is me.

Circling back to seeing a need and listening to customers. Opportunities will present themselves when you keep your eyes and ears open.

Another thing that happened organically was the start of our floppy disk recycling service. We give people the opportunity to send us floppy disks and we recycle them, rather than put them into a landfill. The sheer volume of floppy disks we get in has really surprised me, it’s sometimes a 1,000 disks a day.

Know Your Market

Persky knows his market. A.K.A. customers. Your market (customers) are not only those that you’ve identified but also those you did not know use your (or your competitor’s) product. Knowing your market takes a lot of research and asking questions.

Take the airline industry for example. Probably half of the air fleet in the world today is more than 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in some of the avionics. That’s a huge consumer. There’s also medical equipment, which requires floppy disks to get the information in and out of medical devices. The biggest customer of all is probably the embroidery business though. Thousands and thousands of machines that use floppy disks were made for this, and they still use these.

Tom Persky truly fell into the floppy disk business but made smart decisions to capitalize on the opportunities that came up. Part of it is luck, but part of it is also making the right decisions long enough to be lucky.

See our posts: Importance of Niche-ing, See a Need, Fill a Need, and Product Life Cycle for more related information.

The Case for Small Businesses

The case for small businesses is a strong one. From job creation to patents filed, small businesses are a major driving force in the economy.

Small Businesses are an Engine for Job Creation

Despite losing 9.1 million jobs in the first two quarters of 2020, small businesses’ job growth rebounded swiftly following the COVID-19 recession. In the four quarters following, small businesses have gained 5.5 million jobs, making up for 60 percent of the decline during the early pandemic. Small businesses have generated 12.9 million net new jobs over the past 25 years, accounting for two out of every three jobs added to the economy. Source.

Small Businesses are Drivers of Innovation

Experts often use patenting activity as a proxy for innovation. Data from the National Science Foundation show that small businesses that engage in R&D generate more patents per employee than larger businesses that engage in R&D. However, small business patenting activity fell significantly following 2010.

The decline is now reversing. Small businesses recovered to two-thirds of peak patent application levels from 2015 to 2018 and recovered to half of peak patents received levels in the same timeframe. Source.

Small Businesses Need Support

Unfortunately, more than 90,000 restaurants that have closed across the U.S. in the past two years. Restaurant industry sales in 2021 were down $65 billion from 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. A touching article in High Country News tells the touching story of the last day at DeDe’s, a mom-and-pop restaurant in St. George, UT.

She suffered a stroke a year ago and hadn’t been able to visit. “When DeDe found out, she made my mom’s favorite meal — a ham, mushroom, and spinach omelet with Swiss cheese and a slice of cantaloupe — and delivered it to the care facility,” Feesago said. “It’s more than food. DeDe made us feel like family.”

This type of value-added service without an exorbitant surcharge would be unheard of in a corporate restaurant scenario. The personal touch is also gone. Optimizing for profit results in diminished customer experiences. The typical story of a small company that grows until it catches the eye of a larger firm is common. The value and brand that the small company created are gutted to make room for shareholder value creation. The original loyal customers eventually leave because the magic is gone. This is done over and over again until Main Streets throughout the US begin to look exactly the same with the same 15 corporations.

The tragic irony in all this is that corporations spend a considerable amount of resources trying to recreate a “we treat you like family” environment that customers want. Unfortunately, it is just marketing, and the user experience is not genuine. The corporations would do better as a holding company that lets the small business operate with minimal interference. The parent company could provide occasional funding for expansions, hiring, and process improvements.

Small improvements can lead to significant benefits. Our blog post Competitive Advantage and Coffee talks about how a simple gesture such as remembering regular customers’ names can result in higher coffee sales. Another example is DK’s Donuts a small independent donut store in Santa Monica, CA that has been in business since 1983. Even when mega-chain Dunkin’ Donuts opened a block away, business did not suffer because the user experience, customer service in other words, was not there at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Launch and Grow Your Business

Contact us today to discuss how you can start your own small business.

The dominos are starting to fall in the U.S. economy.

From NPR’s Morning Edition:

The dominos are starting to fall in the U.S. economy.

As the Federal Reserve pumps the brakes on the economy, many American companies are retrenching. There is a growing fear that as the central bank aggressively hikes interest rates to fight high inflation, it could tip the U.S. economy into a recession, and executives are cutting back.

A host of companies have announced job cuts or hiring freezes in just the last two weeks. They range from Tesla and JPMorgan Chase to Redfin and Coinbase.

Netflix last week announced a second round of job cuts for the year, this time eliminating around 300 positions. Earlier this year, the entertainment company announced it had lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade. Since then, Netflix has eliminated roughly 450 positions.

Read the rest of the article here.

Contact us to find a strategy to weather this upcoming storm and put you in a stronger position.

More Recession-proof Businesses

Is a recession on the horizon? U.S. stocks slumped lower Thursday, giving back all of yesterday’s post-Fed decision gains and pulling the Dow below the 30,000 point mark for the first time since early last year, as investors re-set prices on risk assets around the world in anticipation of faster near-term rate hikes and relentlessly high inflation.

The Federal Reserve delivered its biggest rate hike since 1994 yesterday, boosted its Fed Funds rate by 75 basis points to a range of between 1.25% and 1.5%.

What to do in a Recession?

Adaptability Charles Darwin - Your Startup Guru

As Charles Darwin observed, the most adaptable wins. We’ve been here before, a looming recession and people are worried about losing their jobs. Now is the time to think of the strategy that will help break one free of the whims of cost-cutting management.

Recession-proof / recession-resistant businesses

In a previous post, some recession-proof / resistant businesses were listed. Adding to that list are several more businesses that deserve consideration:

  • Gym / Fitness: Although fitness centers took a massive hit during COVID-19, it wasn’t for the lack of demand. According to the IHRSA, a global health & fitness association, the industry has been long thought to be, if not recession-proof, at least recession-resilient. Revenue from North American fitness clubs in 2009 (during the Great Recession) rose nearly 4 percent in 2008 from the year before, and membership grew by more than 10 percent, according to the IHRSA.
  • Independent contracting / Freelance services: When a recession hits employers turn to independent contractors as an alternative to hiring full-time employees. So, freelancing is a viable alternative to the traditional career path. The great thing is you can diversify your services so you can create multiple revenue streams. Most workers have a diverse set of skills that they can leverage. Also, there are many platforms such as Fiverr where you can easily share your skills.
  • Health and senior services: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare and other services for seniors are expected to grow by 23% by 2024. This service sector has already been expanding rapidly over the last decade. In fact, in 2019, there were 71.6 million Boomers making them the second-largest demographic behind Millennials with 72.1 million. As life expectancy continues to increase, the wide range of needs this market demands is large and profitable.

Sell Shovels in a Gold Rush

If you’re saying to yourself, “but I don’t have any experience in these fields.” Keep in mind the saying, “Sell shovels in a gold rush.” What this means is don’t be one of the thousands or millions of competitors jockeying for one goal. The thousands or millions of competitors can now be your customers. Find a product/service that meets their needs. Look to your transferable skill sets and network for inspiration on how to pivot into a career.

Feasibility Study

Once you have an idea of some pivot options you have to do a feasibility study to see which one is the best option for you. A feasibility study is a curtailed business plan-like document where you outline your product/service, the business model, your competitors & your customers, and expected revenues/expenses/startup costs. A well-done feasibility study can save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in sunk costs.

Contact us today to create a feasibility study for you.

Doing the research for you

The business plans and pitch decks we create for our clients are meticulously researched so that the most crucial and actionable information applicable to their business is found.

Contact us to get started on your document today.

The COVID Small Business Boom

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

The Commerce Department said on Thursday, July 15, 2021, that business applications reached a seasonally adjusted 448,553 in June, 2021. In total, Americans have started 6,714,318 new businesses since the pandemic began last March, which is an all-time record.

According to Julia Pollak, an economist with ZipRecruiter, COVID created a very unique set of circumstances that made ideal conditions for people to start a business.

  • Many people were laid off on furlough and suddenly had time, but they didn’t have time that they needed to use to spend desperately searching for work because they also got a little bit of fiscal support. So there are many people who took that stimulus check and decided to take their $1,000 and use it to start a business.
  • Also, starting a business now is really fast and really cheap. You can register your business for just a few hundred dollars. And a lot of these companies are really little. It’s like a little store on Amazon or on Etsy. The startup costs for these businesses are super-low, so a stimulus check for $1,000 can make it happen in a way that it couldn’t have even 10 years ago.

If you are ready to start your business, contact us and let’s discuss the right path for you.

What Angel Investors Prefer

Not all industries get the same attention, and there is a pattern to what angel investors prefer. For example, according to a recent report based on an analysis of 2,492 transactions across 2,444 companies, all completed in 2019, angel investors are more likely to prefer certain industries and deal structure types (e.g., convertible notes).

Selected portions from the report below:

Industry

The 2019 data revealed a first-time decline in the information technology/software segment as a percentage of total transactions relative to other investment segments (2019/2018) — 29% of the investments (2019) were in information tech, compared with 38.6% (2018). Yet Information Technology still remains the dominant segment for angels.

Angel Investors Prefer: Consumer Products / Services sector saw significant growth, up from 18.2% (2018) to 25.75%.

If Healthcare and Biotech were combined, they would comprise 21% (2019) of transactions versus 18% (2018). We added Biotech as a discreet sector to track in 2019, but for comparison sake, you can observe that even without Biotech, the Healthcare segment continues to be a major category for angels.

We also noted an increase in Financial Services’ Fin Tech in 2019, which was too small in 2018 to warrant its own category. In 2019 companies in this sector participated in 3.55% of all transactions. The Energy sector also rose to over 3%, with a few related Environmental companies included.

And for this year, we found enough companies to warrant adding Ag Tech (1.2%) as a separate category and clearly growing. While Info Tech and Software is still the leading category for angel investing, but by a much smaller margin than in the past, we also acknowledge that Info Tech / Software is often a necessary core component of many other sector investments.

Deal Structure Type

While we continue to see the use of SAFE notes, they are a minor percentage of all Seed transactions at 4.7%. The primary structures were 51% Convertible Notes and almost 41% Priced Preferred. SAFE’s are not reported in our data as frequently as we hear them discussed amongst early-stage entrepreneurs.

Series A transactions were (as expected) Preferred Stock 86% of the time, with 12% standard Convertible Notes associated with a Series A, typically a bridge to Series A, but distinctly beyond the Seed stage.

We did find SAFEs were most frequently used in Mid-Atlantic Region at 12%. The Mid-Atlantic use of SAFEs may be heavily influenced by US Federal DOE, NSF, NIH, and other grant money, which does not permit debt as a liability while grant funds are in use; hence early-stage companies who do not wish to price their round are opting for SAFE notes.

California was #2 in SAFE usage at 10%, influenced by California incubators and possibly by science companies vying for Federal grant funds.


There are considerable pre-money valuation and round size discrepancies when it comes to the various demographics of entrepreneurs. This highlights a disturbing flaw in the angel investment community, but that goes beyond the scope of this blog post.

Launch and Grow Your Business

Your Startup Guru fundraises for clients from a broad spectrum of industries, including restaurants, SaaS, fintech, and more. Capital ranges from $10,000 to over $10 million have been found.

We have solutions for you even if your industry is not what angel investors prefer because capital is sourced from private equity, banks, economic development authorities, grants, and more.

Contact us today for your fundraising needs.

Pandemic led to U.S. housing boom, reduced credit card debt, New York Fed says

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Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

Last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released their quarterly report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Although the ravages of the pandemic are still massive and widespread, there were some glimmers of a silver lining. Some takeaways being:

  • The coronavirus pandemic changed the way U.S. consumers use credit, as lower interest rates spurred a boom in home buying and refinancing and virus-related shutdowns led to a drop in credit card use and an increase in paying off debt, according to a report released on Wednesday by the New York Federal Reserve.
  • Home buying and refinancing took off last year after the Federal Reserve slashed its key overnight interest rate to near zero to fight the economic fallout from the pandemic, leading to lower mortgage rates. A massive shift to working and learning from home also bolstered the housing market, as some families searched for properties with more living space.
  • Credit card balances increased by $12 billion in the fourth quarter but balances were still $108 billion lower from a year earlier – the largest yearly decline since the report was launched in 1999.
  • In total, all household debt not related to housing – including credit card debt, auto loans, student loans, and other debts – increased by $37 billion during the fourth quarter but was still below pre-pandemic levels seen at the end of 2019.

Read the full report here.

Economics of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day Shoppers Plan to Spend $21.8B in 2021

In 2021, about half of  U.S. adults plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day and spend a total of $21.8 billion, down from $27.4 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).23 But 2020 was a record year, and the 2021 anticipated spend is still the second highest since the NRF first published its annual Valentine’s Day spending survey in 2009. 

Read more about the economics of Valentine’s Day here.

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