DVD Rentals – from Your Neighbors

You’ve probably heard of ZipCar. But you probably haven’t heard of GetAround, a startup in San Francisco my friend Jon Sterling showed me over coffee a few weeks ago. The difference between the two — GetAround connects you with locals who put their own cars up for rent.

Extend the same concept to DVDs to take on RedBox with a true person to person DVD sharing platform.

My friends’ family has a wall of DVDs and Blue Rays at least as big as the photo to the right (and more like twice as big). There is a RedBox about a quarter of the mile away, but I still stand a better chance of finding a movie I want to watch if I walk two doors down and borrow one from my neighbor.

There are four challenges to this approach in my mind:

  1. Convincing individuals to upload their entire DVD inventories – How do you convince individuals to upload their entire library to make it searchable (and tagged to a lat/long)? It seems the only real way to do this is to build the upload tool straight into DVD players, so that every time someone watches a DVD, it auto submits that to their digital library.
  2. Making it worthwhile for individuals – Users should get paid, maybe $2 per rental? Is that even worth the hassle of loaning out their DVDs for days at a time?
  3. Pick Up – how do you organize picks and drop offs when the DVDs are sitting in living rooms across the country?
  4. Reaching scale – how do you get to a point where anyone that uses the site can find someone to borrow a DVD within a mile or two of their house?

What do you think? Would this work, or is getting individuals to upload their entire DVD libraries too much of a hurdle for not enough financial gain?

[Photo via http://tyedyedork.blogspot.com/]

Rent a Puppy

A Rent-a-Puppy service is a business we always joked about starting in college.  A sunny day at Green Lake in Seattle, and you could have a booming business.  The basic premise was guys could rent a cute puppy as an icebreaker to meet girls.

Your Rent-a-Puppy service could set up shop near parks and popular walking trails and gathering spots.  You’d charge by the hour and by the size of the dog.

Customers would agree not to leave a certain radius with the pup.

There are obviously some major flaws in this plan and I’m sure PETA would throw a fit.  For example how do you keep the animals safe from creeps, where do they live when they’re not working, and how much play time is too much?

But no business is without challenges, so maybe some enterprising animal lover could make it happen.

To get “inventory”, maybe you could partner with local breeders and share the fees with them.  Or work with the Humane Society to promote exposure and encourage adoptions.  Expand to more locations through strategic franchising.

From a customer standpoint, it would be a unique opportunity to play with a lovable pup without the 10-14 year commitment of dog ownership.

What do you think? Would people be willing to pay for an afternoon of puppy love?

A Sports Bar in City X

The Fours new restaurant in Norwell, Boston

Every city with a decent expat population and a thriving tourist scene needs a really good sports bar, at least in my opinion. But I’m still amazed at how few places seem to have one. Whether it be college football, NBA, rugby, soccer, or Major League Baseball — chances are good every guy (I’m guessing most of those reading this are guys) loves some sort of sports. Meaning the market is there.

As a guy who is not a sports fanatic, but definitely a fan — I still want to watch all the big games no matter where in the world I am. However, I found no venue to watch the march madness final live in Chiang Mai a month ago. In Siem Reap, there was only one bar playing the super bowl live at 6 am (the bar was packed).

Of course, the business idea here is to open a killer sports bar in whatever city you want to live in — and provide a great sporting experience for expats, tourists, and locals alike.

What’s needed for a killer sports bar?

  • TVs
  • TVs
  • More TVs
  • Comfortable seating
  • Satellite Cable — access to live events all over the globe. You need the ability to play multiple games at the same time as well (I know some satellite services don’t allow this). Make sure American football, baseball, college basketball,
  • Willingness to open your place at extremely odd hours to play large sporting events such as the super bowl and the NCAA final LIVE

If you like watching sports, what’s not to love about this business idea?

Have You Considered a Franchise?

This is a guest post by Carly Messmer of FranchiseClique.com.

Finding the Right Franchise Fit

While making the decision to open a franchise can be an easy decision for some, it can be a scary decision to others. One of the biggest benefits of opening a franchise is that there is already a successful business and marketing plan in place. Because of this, it may not be as scary to open a franchise as some may think.

When selecting a franchise, it should be a business that you will not only be excited to own and operate, but also make financial sense. Your franchise should make you money while you enjoy running it. Though you may be your own boss, you do not want to dread going to work everyday.

Research Your Options

Finding the right franchise for you requires some research. Stop by different franchises to see how the operation works, traffic volume and cleanliness. Speak to a franchise owner to get some tips, ideas and as much input as you can. Gather as much information as you can about the franchises you are interested in and carefully read through each one’s Franchise Disclosure Document.

Select a Type of Franchise

Ask yourself if you will be able to meet your goals and dreams running a franchise. You may want to select a franchise that fits your likes and lifestyle. For example, if you enjoy cooking or entertaining, you may want to consider opening a restaurant. Or if you enjoy camping, a sporting goods store may be the best option.

Determine Financial Investment

Find out how much it will cost to sign up as a franchisee. Ask if your initial investment will include initial inventory and store build-outs. Does the investment include any training, marketing assistance and other business related resources.

Determine how much money you can invest upfront and how much you will need to finance. Ask if the company offers financing or do you have to get your own loan. Consider future finances and ask to see if you can make the payments for the financed part of your investment.

Finding the Right Location

Check different areas to see if there are any stores already open, because you do not want to open one close to another. Next, consider which areas in your town offer easy access for drivers and walkers. If your location is easy to get to, customers will be more likely to come back on a regular basis.

Opening up a franchise take time and should be completely researched before you sign the contract. FranchiseClique.com offers entrepreneurs resources to find the perfect franchise. We offer an easy to use comprehensive directory that lists hundreds of the best franchises and business opportunities for sale. We’ve got all the information you need to identify which business is right for you.


A Tuk Tuk Team that Serves Beer

As you likely know, marketing any business is an expensive undertaking. To combat that, “teams” are used in many verticals to share marketing expenses and resources amongst a group that has similar goals (as well as to pool together individuals with complementary skill sets).

While spending a few weeks in Siem Reap, Cambodia about a month ago, I noticed a theme — many Tuk Tuks were branded (mostly with super hero characters). There was the spidermobile. The batmobile. The super batmobile. But also a few car brands such as Ferrari and BMW. Not sure why I didn’t see the Thor-mobile or Hulk, but maybe in another 5 years, a tuk tuk driver will get a creative and go beyond the most well known heroes.

The business idea I came away with is quite simple: create a tuk tuk team. Organize a group of tuk tuk drivers (10-20 to start), pick a theme that provides some flexibility and fun elements to play off of, and brand all the tuks tuks with similar colors and logos. Then blanket the city. What kind of themes? Personally, I think a movie theme would be quite fun. Image a team of tuk tuks, and each one is painted with one or two characters from famous movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Old Skool, Star Wars, Gladiator, and Braveheart. But any common theme could work. Sports teams. Car brands. Famous artists.

And a bonus to take the business to the next level? Serve ice cold beers from an ice chest. Particularly for tours of Angkor Watt that last a day or two — who WOULDN’T want a few ice cold beers while being driven around? Come to think of it, a “Beers of the World” branded tuk tuk team would be a no-brainer.

Why I like it:

  • SUPER Simple – a little paint, and away you go
  • Conversation Starter – a common theme is an easy way to stand out from the bland, unbranded tuk tuks that litter the city

Tuk tuk teams could work anywhere, not just in Siem Reap. Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Dar Es Salaam, etc.


Mobile Laundry Service

Successful businesses often get paid to solve a problem for their customers.  And for a lot of people, especially in urban areas without on-site facilities, laundry is a problem:

It’s time-consuming, menial, and costly.

It sounds like an opportunity to create a mobile laundry service that lets busy people outsource the chore.

I invision this as a weekly or bi-weekly pick-up service. Just like the garbage man, right?  You come by and grab the bags of dirty laundry and return them freshly cleaned.

Customers no longer have to worry about going to the laundromat, buying detergent, finding enough quarters, and killing time waiting for everything to finish.

Why I like it:

  • Recurring Revenue Model.  It’s a membership system; as long as you keep customers happy, you can collect income week after week, month after month, and year after year.
  • Start Small.  Starting out, you can make pick-ups in your own car, and maybe even use your own washer and dryer.
  • Upsell Opportunities.  Depending on how you price your service, folding and ironing could be extra, and you can add-on services like dry cleaning.  In the beginning you can partner with a local laundromat or dry cleaner and they will probably be happy to offer some volume discount in return for your business.

I HATE ironing and I can’t be the only one!

It’s All About the Story

Convincing people to change their habits is never easy, but it can be done with a compelling story.  You’ve probably seen the Dollar Shave Club video that’s been making the rounds lately.  They’ve got a great story and there’s no reason you can’t create something similar for your mobile laundry service.

You’re selling convenience, yes, but you’re also kind of selling a lifestyle.  ”Laundry?” your customers will say. “I’ve got people for that.”

Two Challenges to Overcome:

  1. Security — how will you arrange pick-up and delivery so clothes don’t get stolen?
  2. Privacy — how will you make customers trust you with their underwear?

What do you think? Done right, I bet something like this could take off in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, or other apartment-dense cities.

Junk Hauling Service

Americans have more “stuff” than anyone else on earth.  In fact, we don’t even have room for it all so we built a billion-dollar industry out of self-storage.

But with great amounts of stuff comes great opportunity.  It all has to go somewhere, and that’s where you come in with your junk hauling service.

Sure, there are competitors in this space already, but here a few reasons I like it:

  • Low Start-Up Costs.  You can get a cheap pick-up or rent a moving van.
  • Potential Multiple Income Streams.  People pay you to take their stuff away, and if it’s worth anything, you can sell it on craigslist or ebay.  Now how many businesses can you think of with a negative cost-of-goods-sold?  Alternatively, you can turn around and donate it to Goodwill and take the write-off.
  • Easy to Expand.  Expanding into new territories is as easy as getting another truck and driver, and expanding into other verticals like moving or delivery services is as easy as saying you’re a moving/delivery company too.

Your Strengths:

Junk removal can be a boring business, so you have to find ways to make it fun and exciting.

For marketing, you could make videos about the biggest/smallest/weirdest/most worthless stuff people asked you to haul.  Maybe your drivers wear crazy JunkBusters uniforms a la Ghostbusters.

Two Weaknesses:

  1. One downside is many customers will view this as a commodity service, so it might be tough to avoid price wars with competitors.  Build a recognizable and desirable brand and you’ll be golden.
  2. With junk hauling, most customers will be one-time clients.  If you can master customer-acquisition/sales and potentially find some repeat business on the side, I think it can still work.

One man’s trinket is another man’s treasure, and there’s definitely no shortage of trinkets. Time to back up the truck and make some money!