The Performance-Based Accountant

buisnessEvery year around tax time I get frustrated with the complexity of filing my business and personal taxes. I’d love to hire help, but have had some not-so-awesome experiences with professional accountants in the past.

Most recently, I felt like I was doing all the work and the accountant was simply punching the numbers into the forms. For $1250 or something crazy like that. OK, I’ll figure out how to do it myself for that rate.

But what I would really VALUE as a customer is some sort of guidance and consulting. If my $1250 would save my $2500 or $5000, or they uncover some new tax-saving strategy I can take advantage of, I’d gladly pay it.

In fact, I could justify paying much more, because it’s “found money.” Much like a salesperson’s commission, a performance-based accountant could collect a fee on how much they save you over a certain pre-determined baseline amount.

(To be sure, there’s a challenge in figuring out what a fair baseline would be.)

When I tweeted out this business idea, a CPA friend informed me that accountants are actually forbidden by law to engage in a business model like this, but I believe there are some creative workarounds possible.

For instance, Lyft, the ride-sharing service, collects fees on “donation” rather than on time/mileage fares — because regulatory burdens prohibit them from doing so as they’re not a licensed taxi company.

I think there’s a HUGE opportunity for tax accountants to really prove their worth with this sort of pricing set-up.

They could even run some sort of “Beat the Box” promo or awareness campaign where they pit themselves against Turbo Tax software and see who comes up with the best results.

I guess it’s similar to when H&R Block offers to “double check” your return for free, but maybe on a more personal scale.

What do you think? Would you be more likely to hire a tax professional if you knew they were going to save you money? What’s a fair “percentage” of the savings to pay them?

The Maternity and Baby Clothes Rental Service

Mother and Son PlayingThe global market for children’s clothes is a reported $150 billion industry. But the problem with kids, and specifically babies, is they grow out of their clothes in a matter of months.

I believe there’s room for disruption in their business by a baby clothing rental service. It’s painful to buy something you know won’t have any long-term use or purpose, so a smart company could create a value proposition by offering to lend the clothes instead.


A lot of money is spent on baby clothes that will be outgrown in a few months but won’t be “worn out” by any stretch of the imagination.

Cut a family’s clothing budget in half by renting them quality baby clothes. The family saves money, the company can rent out each outfit several times (cleaning in between each swap), and ultimately fewer clothes end up being manufactured and landfilled.


Even with the best in-between washings and guaranteed cleanliness, I can imagine some new moms being reluctant to start their child’s life in borrowed clothes. There’s a certain stigma that comes with renting that would have to be overcome.

Starting Up

This is a company that would require some start-up capital, especially to scale quickly. You would have to buy the inventory, invest in some web presence, develop a system for shipping and returns, and have a facility for cleaning.

Actually, one way to save money would be to ask the parents to wash the clothes before dressing the kid the first time, because honestly they will probably do that anyway.

What do you think?

Probably not the most glamorous business idea in the world, but one that a lot of people could definitely benefit from. A strong value proposition and a green element, too.

The Airport Gym

While traveling to South America and back last month, I spent a LOT of time in airports. I had 26 hours of travel time one way: 2 hours in the Buenos Aires airport, 3 hours on a flight to Santiago, 8 hours in the Santiago airport, 10 hours on a flight to Dallas, 2 hours in Dallas and a 4 hour flight back to Los Angeles.

airport gymAlmost all of that time was spent in a sitting position. My body stiffened up and I definitely felt very unhealthy from the lack of exercise and having to eat airline food.

It occurred to me that I would be willing to pay $15 for one time access to an airport gym where I could get in a good workout. I would pay $20 if that gym also had a basketball court.

There are tons of other businesses that operate beyond TSA security in airports (restaurants, gift shops, etc), why not a gym? I mean some airports even have those weird smoker aquariums so it only makes sense that someone should build a small gym to let people burn off some energy before their flight.

It could be monetized on a pay-per-use basis or with monthly or annual memberships for frequent travelers. The airport gym could be a franchise opportunity for an existing brand like 24-hour Fitness to widen it’s reach.

Getting some exercise would have been extremely good to help get my body moving again and pumping out all the toxins just sitting in my extremities. Traveling is inherently unhealthy in that you’re sitting idle for hours at a time, breathing in recycled air and probably not eating the healthiest food.

I think a lot of other people are like me out there and would happily pay a fairly large fee to get access to a gym with free weights, machines, and possibly a basketball court. Add in carry-on sized lockers and showers and you’re all set.

It would take some investment to lease a space in a busy terminal, but wouldn’t take long to prove if the concept would work or not. A major hub like LAX would be a good place to start because many travelers are coming in from (or about to embark on) long-haul flights and may have a lengthy layover — and would probably love to get some exercise.

5 Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Moms

Do you ever get the feeling life is passing you by because you’re always stuck in the house?

Even if you go out and do things during the day it still might not be enough. You chose to stay home and look after the kids, which is great, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try to make your life a little more exciting.

Have you thought about what you could do to pass the time when you have any available? Why don’t you try and start your own little home business?

Moms don’t need to sit around doing nothing and if you have an entrepreneurial spirit it’s quite easy to make a little cash on the side. At the end of the day, it doesn’t even need to be about the money, but watching your bank account increase is fun even if you aren’t struggling to put food on your table.

You might even be able to turn it into a bigger business once the kids have grown up, so if you’re interested we can look at a few ways you can get started building a home business.

Baking Cakes

Fresh Fruit Upside Down Cake

If you are great in the kitchen you could easily bake cakes all day at the same time as looking after the children. The cakes you make will depend on your skills, but if you could get people to order birthday or wedding cakes you could easily turn a nice profit.

You don’t have to limit yourself to making cupcakes for the village fair. You will need to do a big of marketing to generate some business, but once you have started word of mouth could help you along.

Selling Clothes


If you love designing your own clothes you could easily bring your creations to life faster than ever before. Once you have the proper machines you just need to go around collecting the materials and you’re set.

If you make a few garments for people you know they can show them off to everyone and rave about you. People are always looking for custom clothes that are unique and it means there should be enough people who will order from you.


#76 - The Harvest Writer

If you love writing then doing it at home with the intention of selling books is easy. You can easily write them all day long and upload them to somewhere like Amazon for free.

In the beginning it’s going to be tough, but after you built up an audience that loves your work you can easily sell a decent amount of copies. You might not become the next best-selling author, but at least you will have fun doing what you love.

Build an Online Business

If you were a businesswoman in a previous life you could start your own online business that can slowly be built up over the years. If you don’t have something to sell online you could think of something, or you could even provide a service to other people.

As your company grows you could slowly start to hire more staff and because everyone can work from home they will be easy for you to manage. You just need to find something the market wants.


Family, Hawaii

Some moms are not so lucky and they have to keep working because there might not be enough money coming in. That means they need someone to look after their small children.

You could start a little daycare center in your home because you’re going to be looking after your children anyway. If you love children it could be a fun way to pass the time, plus if you see how much daycare centers charge these days you’ll know you can make a nice bit of money.

Creative commons image credits:

Kish Winner is the author of today’s guest post and also an expert blogger. You might be interested in his Guide to franchise article, which gives tips on starting your own franchise.

The Treadmill Desk Revolution


Study after study after study keeps coming out with new findings about how bad sitting is for you.

Employees and employers are both starting to take notice. In recent years, we’ve seen dramatic increases in the number of alternative workspaces: desks with adjustable heights, exercise balls for chairs, standing desks (and chair-less conference rooms), and even the holy grail of them all — treadmill desks.

treadmill desk 5The Opportunity

There are literally millions of office desks in the US and all around the world that will be replaced with more “healthy” models. Understanding the long-term health risks of a sedentary environment, workers will begin to demand it, and employers will need to make the investment to attract and retain the best talent.

In the coming decade there is a HUGE opportunity for a motivated entrepreneur to step in front and ride this wave. Remember, “find a parade and get in front of it?” Well I sincerely believe this is going to be one giant parade.

Even if you only manage to capture a tiny fraction of the market, the office furniture business is a huge one, and it’s ripe for some serious disruption.

The Product

A treadmill desk, if you’re not familiar with the contraption, is simply a tall desk that stands over a treadmill. This way, workers can walk at a slow pace while they work. Of course it also works in “off” mode as a standing desk for when people get tired of walking.

I wouldn’t try and manufacture the treadmills yourself, but rather find a reliable existing model and look for either an adjustable desk you can customize around it, or have the desk portion manufactured.

One modification that will likely be necessary to the treadmill is some sort of noise dampener.

I built mine over a year ago (and absolutely love it!), but it is noisy. Both the treadmill and desk were acquired on the cheap on craigslist. The motor casing is just cheap plastic; I think with a little foam or other noise insulation it would run much quieter.

The benefit of sourcing from an existing supplier is you don’t have to worry so much about maintenance or warranty issues — done right, customers can be covered under the manufacturer’s product warranty.

And of course there’s the additional profit center opportunity of selling extended warranty plans for each treadmill.

The Competition

The treadmill desk idea has been around for a few years, but many entries in the marketplace are very expensive. Like $2000 and up!

At the other end of the spectrum are the hacked together DIY-jobs that are potentially unstable and loud, especially for an office environment.

An opportunity exists for a quality product with a middle-of-the-road price point. Do you think you can build and deliver that product to world full of unhealthy office furniture?

Next Steps

Begin researching the marketplace. How are office furniture sales typically made? Who are the decision makers? Make some calls and find out. Imagine landing an entire floor of an office, or an entire call center or complex as a client.

Find a suitable treadmill manufacturer. Inquire about volume discounts or wholesale pricing.

Do the same for the desks.

OK as I’m writing this the more and more I think this could really be a viable venture with a giant market. Anybody interested in checking it out and testing the waters?

The Craigslist Arbitrage Game

In every big city, there is a healthy Craigslist community. Among the many sections of the giant classified ads site is a popular section for free stuff.

craigslist arbitrageOf course, a lot of this stuff is pretty junky but in many cases it still has some value. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

Last week I posted a dresser to the free section of Craigslist. I probably could have sold it, but it had been through several moves and was pretty banged up. Within 10 minutes I had half a dozen calls from people to come pick it up.

The family that made the first call arrived with a passenger van (seats removed) full of stuff, presumably all from Craigslist as well. It made wonder if they were running this as a business.

Here’s the basic premise:

  1. Find free or otherwise undervalued stuff on Craigslist or Freecycle.
  2. Re-sell it for a profit.

What you’d need:

  • A pickup truck.
  • A garage or other safe place for storage.
  • Cleaning supplies, tools, fix-it know-how, and a nice camera to take pictures.
  • Salesmanship.

For example, today I found an almost-new rowing workout machine listed for free:

“Wife bought, didn’t use. Can you? If so, come & get it. Please.”

workout machine


Brand new, the same item sells for more than $300 on Amazon!

Think you could turn a profit when you’re “cost of goods sold” is zero?

I like this business idea because it’s very simple, requires little to no start-up capital, and can be done without any specialized training or skills.

Be quick and courteous on the phone, grab the goods, clean/fix them up, take some nice pictures and re-post the items for sale.

I’ve actually heard of people doing this quite successfully with used cars (which is essentially what dealers do with trade-ins), but there is a lot more red tape to deal with in the car-flipping business.

As an added benefit, you can donate to charity any items that don’t sell and take a small write-off against your business profits.

I thought semi-seriously about doing this during college when I had a truck but never pulled the trigger. What do you think? Is playing the Craigslist arbitrage game a viable business idea?

The Playground Sports League

Beer league softball and flag football have been around for ages, which shows there is a strong demand for adult recreational sports.

Rec sports are popular for many reasons. For instance:

  • They give you a chance to burn some calories in a fun way
  • They offer face-to-face human social interaction
  • They let you relive your athletic glory days

Recently, I’ve seen a rise in “non-sports” sports leagues. Kickball leagues have taken off. A friend of mine even plays trampoline dodgeball on Monday nights!

Naturally, there’s an opportunity there.

Could you build a league of your own (or collection of leagues) that specializes in playground, backyard, or bar games?

Beyond kickball and dodgeball, what about:

  • Wiffle ball?
  • HORSE?
  • Ping pong? or Beer pong?
  • Shuffleboard?
  • Darts?
  • Croquet?
  • Capture the flag?
  • Kick the can?
  • Frisbee golf?
  • Ultimate frisbee?
  • Tag?

If you have access to public spaces for the games, you could start with almost no overhead. All you’d need is a website to promote sign-ups.

The challenge would be in creating a critical mass of players and teams, but after that, many will stick around season after season if you provide a good experience. In that sense, it’s a lot like a membership site in that it becomes a recurring income stream.

People are busy, but shouldn’t be too busy to have fun with friends and meet new people. Plus there’s always the nostalgia factor of playing some old-school games. Retro is in, if not just for the irony!

The Midnight Dentist

The Concept

Midnight Dentists is a website and network of dentists that specializes in after-hours dentistry.  All of the members of the dental network would have hours of operation after 6pm (local time) and would be open until 1am.

The Problem It Solves

Your average secretary, office worker and young professional has a challenge.  How to get dental care without having to take the day off of work.  A day off of work equals a net loss in income, productivity, and also exposes them to negative consequences depending on the establishment.  Even if they have dental benefits, they may not use them if they open themselves up to these negative consequences in order to exercise those benefits.

How It Solves The Problem

The Midnight Dentist network has a a wide connection of dentists all of which are open after normal business hours.  The user merely types in their zip code and a host of dentists in their area that can take them as patients.  A user can book online, request more info about the dentist’s education, rates, length of practice and whether and what kind of benefits they accept.

The Nuances

The average person these days that does not have a dentist already is concerned with a few things.

  1. Does my dentist take my insurance?
  2. Does my dentist have hours that accommodate my schedule?
  3. Are their positive (and negative) reviews available to tell me about her performance, office demeanor and ethics?  (Does she push for unnecessary services.)

A user will not be so consumed with whether or not the dentist went to Columbia or USC as much as they are concerned about other items.

How to Launch

I propose that you approach dentists already in place and ask them if they would be willing to have 2 days where their hours are 6pm to 1am.  If not, ask them if they would be willing to sublet their space for our purposes.

Effectively keeping the office open for later hours, but installing another dentist in their place.  Obviously their motivation would be the rent paid to them (plus money for use of the equipment.)  This would make for substantial savings over opening new offices and would keep the dentist ‘density’ the same.  In some cases, new offices would need to be opened in order to have full coverage in that area.


1-800-DENTIST – my plan would entail leveraging their database in lieu of a stock position in Midnight Dentist.  We would contact the dentists in their DB and offer them the the opportunity of working with us.  Not only does not hurt 1-800-DENTIST, but it actually improves their level of service!

Our dentists would be available through their network, but we could not offer the same to theirs as the hours are not appropriate.  However, this could easily become Win-Win.

In doing my research, 1-800-DENTIST was the only serious competition of any kind.  The other websites that specialize in Dentist search were cheesy and extremely localized.

How to Launch

I propose taking Los Angeles first and then working out the bugs, spread to NYC, Chicago and Houston.  Having the four major US Cities under our belt would give momentum to taking on the other 200 demographic zones or so zones in the US.

Need For Capital

The initial need would be for salaries and startup equiptment.  Rent, Internet access and  utilities for three months.  Initial outlay to purchase contact lists of local dentists, unless a partnership is established with 1-800-DENTIST and the like.  Need would hover about $50,000 to start with.

First Steps

Hire someone that has massive experience in building this sort of network.  Next, analyze how 1-800-DENTIST stands alone in its field.  I just sent in my info and was greeted with a polite email and also will be getting a call tonight.

They offer 3 referrals; all free.  Obviously the dentist is paying for the service.  It’s pretty ingenious.  Our program would do well to imitate what is working and improve on what is not.  It does not look like you can book online at 1-800-DENTIST, I was thinking we could offer that.  Unless there is a compelling reason not to.


Obviously developing a base of users quickly is the main challenge.  Aside from getting a list of 30 or so dentists to buy-in at the onset (for Los Angeles only.)  So money would be needed for massive advertising.  To get the ball rolling.  Probably $20,00 over the first 3 months.

Beer Delivery Marketplace for Fraternities

Do you have a liquor license and sell beer? Do you want more customers? Do you want customers that order several hundred dollars of beer at once? Is there a fraternity nearby?

If the answer to all four questions is yes, then you should start a beer delivery service.

The concept is pretty simple. Fraternities have large parties, which require lots of alcohol. At Sigma Phi Epsilon from 2002-2005, we purchased between 30-90 cases of Keystone Light and Keystone Ice at a time for our parties. We made large purchases on average 4 times per month.

Certainly delivery is more convenient than having to find a truck to go pick up the beer. Beer stores nearby want fraternity business due to the large order sizes. Charge an additional fee in exchange for delivering large quantities of beer.

From the fraternity social chair’s perspective (the person who organizes the parties), the ideal scenario would be to input the desired order into an online form (for example – 40 cases of Keystone Light and 20 cases of Keystone Ice) — and get quotes back from beer stores within X miles. The quotes would contain the quantity of beer (& brand), as well as what the delivery would cost if they choose that option (delivery should be optional).

What’s required:

  • Liquor license & store
  • Nearby fraternity
  • Truck and labor to deliver up to 100 cases of beer
  • Email & phone
  • Software chops to build a simple request and respond marketplace (if you want to go the extra mile)


The Ultimate Resource for Local Happy Hours

Who doesn’t love happy hour? I think we can all agree that leaving work early to grab some cheap food and drink with friends is pretty great.

And I think we can also all agree that reliable information on local happy hours is hard to find. There is no central resource or database for happy hour locations, times, and specials.

Which is why it would make a great business.  This is something that can start locally and expand to new geographic areas like Yelp did.  And, like Yelp, much of the content can be crowdsourced.

In real life, we’re most likely to hear about a great happy hour from friends through word of mouth. This business (a website and mobile app) simply takes that experience online and scales it.

I’ll even give you the name. How about Happy Hour Hero?


Once you have the userbase and eyeballs, restaurants and bars will be happy to pay you to get in front of these new customers.

But like any operation, it’s crucial to nail the user experience first. Reach out to influencers and connectors and see if you can’t begin to gain some critical mass.

Restaurants and bars can also be a great source of information, and should be invited to submit their happy hour details on the site as well. A smart proprietor or franchisee will recognize the low barrier to entry into this new platform and jump at the opportunity to pitch his business in another new avenue.

What do you think? Let’s discuss over drinks at happy hour!