Posted on February 21, 2011
Filed Under (Advice, Ecommerce, General Business, Marketing) by jennifer

As many home bakers and sellers of food products have found out, you have to be one tough cookie to be successful at selling food online. Not only do you need a good ecommerce site, you need good packaging and a good shipper. You also need to make sure you are in compliance with local health department regulations.  (For government information about selling food, go to the FDA’s Food Industry site.)

To help you determine if running on an online food business is right for you — or to help you make your existing ecommerce food business more successful — I spoke with three successful online food sellers (Hope, Faith & Gluttony Bakery, Venissimo Cheese, and Peanut Butter & Co.) who shared their recipes for selling food online.

To read what they had to say (and save yourself some potential heartburn), check out my article for Small Business Computing titled “Small Business Ecommerce: How to Sell Food Online.”

To whet your appetite, here are the Five Questions to Ask Before Selling Food Online:

“The foods that sell best [online] are ones that you can’t get within driving distance of wherever you live, or they’re something you can’t make yourself,” explained Venissimo Cheese co-founder and cheese wiz Gina Frieze. “You have to offer something unique and different,” added Peanut Butter &Co.’s founder and president Lee Zalben, who suggested prospective online food sellers ask themselves the following five questions before opening an online food store.

  • Is the product temperature sensitive? “If it is, that could be an obstacle,” he said.
  • Can the product be packaged in a way that’s easy and safe to ship? If it can’t be, you may want to think twice, as the cost could be prohibitive.
  • Is this something that people can easily buy someplace else (like their local grocery or specialty food store)? Before you sell something online, be sure to check out the competition and determine what extra value you add.
  • Is the presentation or the assortment or the product unique in some way? “If not, it’s a problem,” he said.
  • What kind of shelf life does the product have? “If it’s something fresh that has to be prepared every day and then shipped in one or two days, then that could be an obstacle,” said Zalben.
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Posted on February 15, 2011
Filed Under (Advice, General Business, Green Business) by jennifer

This post was put together by the research team at Green Irene.


Taking up green initiatives with your business is a strategy offering a wide range of benefits. Whether your company is looking to save money, build your customer base, create a healthier work environment for employees, or make your brand stand out among competitors, going green plays an increasingly important role in business operations.

But your office doesn’t need to invest in solar panels or install a green roof to start on the path to sustainability. Smaller steps can make a big difference. Here are some of Green Irene’s top five green tips for small businesses:

1. Reduce Paper Waste

The EPA found that the average office worker uses an incredible 10,000 sheets of paper every year, of which only about a third is recycled. To cut down on paper waste, start a paper awareness campaign in your office, asking workers if they really need to print out that document or email. Also, make recycling easy for your employees by providing a bin at every desk, and posting signs reminding everyone to recycle their paper waste. And make sure paper recycling is also available in common areas like copy rooms and mail rooms. Other things you can do to cut down on paper waste (and costs): have workers do two-sided printing and photocopying; have workers access presentations via their workstations rather than printing and handing them out; and use recycled paper.

2. Choose Energy Efficient Lighting

Lighting accounts for 44% of an office’s annual electricity use, and more efficient bulb choices can reduce energy costs significantly. Many offices have overhead fluorescent fixtures that are more than 10 years old and generally use a T-12 style tube. Newer technologies use improved T-8 and T-5 tubes. These won’t work in the older fixtures, so they’ll require fixture replacement, but the new tubes offer better color, less flicker, and a 20% savings in energy cost over the old T-12s.

LED (light-emitting diode) lighting options are also increasingly available and affordable for businesses. LEDs use up to 75% less than most fluorescent bulbs, with lower maintenance, a longer lifespan, and no mercury concerns!

3. Watch for Water Leaks

Keep an eye out for leaky faucets–a faucet that drips once per second can waste 3,000 gallons per year, making up 8% of the average water bill! Check for toilet leaks regularly, and repair dripping sinks as soon as they’re noticed.

Some quick fixture changes, like adding aerators to all sink faucets, and reducing toilet water use with simple items like a toilet tank bag or a toilet fill diverter, can also offer significant savings for water conservation efforts.

4. Choose Toxic-Free Cleaners

Regular use of hazardous cleaning products by office cleaning staff has been associated with higher rates of many chronic illnesses, including asthma. The fumes and residues left behind by cleaning chemicals is also one of the major contributors to sick building syndrome. Eliminate this risk by purchasing only toxic-free cleaning products, or insisting that your cleaning company use them.

5. Green Your Supply Chain

Consuming green is important when there is a need to consume. Working with vendors and suppliers to green your purchasing can extend the impact of your environmental efforts to far beyond your office. Consider including environmental standards and requirements in your contract documents to push improvements down the supply chain. Ask suppliers to recommend their most environmentally-friendly products, and to use minimal, biodegradable, and recyclable packaging.

Green Irene maintains the largest network of independent eco-consultants in the United States, and we have dedicated ourselves to giving businesses the personalized advice they need to succeed in the green marketplace. We know that taking on environmental issues can help businesses redefine their brands and boost their profits, because we see the results every day!

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Posted on February 5, 2011
Filed Under (Advice, General Business) by jennifer

Consider this my love letter to many of the small businesses I’ve covered over the years, who create wonderful treats that would be perfect for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day.

So before you order chocolates or brownies from some big-name site or business, consider getting your special someone one of these  unique and yummy Valentine’s Day gifts, created with love by a small business.

Does your Valentine like chocolate? (While in my house that would be a rhetorical question, there are, in fact, some people who do not like chocolate. Bizarre, but true. And I am related to two of them.)

Then check out the heavenly looking organic gourmet chocolates from Intemperantia. (They also sell vegan gourmet chocolates.)

Or if you think she’d fancy some yummy chocolate-covered strawberries (like I do), head on over to CC Berries. (I can personally vouch that their dark-chocolate-covered berries will make her day — or night — or yours.)

Or maybe she would fancy a little cake or cupcake, or some brownies, or special Valentine’s Day cookies.

In that case, check out Hope, Faith & Gluttony Bakery. (I am seriously obsessed with Hope’s Linzer Hearts.)

And for some really unusual cakes that you can’t find anywhere else, click on over to Smith Island Baking Company, whose coconut-layer and chocolate-and-peanut-butter cakes make me drool with anticipation. (Good thing my keyboard is drool proof.)

And if your Valentine happens to reside in Paris, the city of amour (or you are planning on taking her there), tell her you love her with cupcakes from Sugar Daze (formerly known as Little Miss Cupcake). Best. Cupcakes. Period.

Finally, if your Valentine is a little nutty, why not get her a jar of gourmet peanut butter (or three) from Peanut Butter & Co.? Three words for you: Dark Chocolate Dreams (which is peanut butter mixed with dark chocolate).

Btw, if sweets aren’t her thing, there’s always jewelry! For icing of a different kind, check out Rosena Sammi Jewelry, which has been featured in InStyle and has some of the most stunning (and exotic — in a good way) bracelets, earrings, and necklaces I’ve seen, and Style Folio Jewelry, which sells one-of-a-kind, big and bold pieces.

Wishing you a sweet and successful Valentine’s Day. Oh, and if you know of some great small business that makes great Valentine’s Day (and/or, say, Mother’s Day) goodies, let me know via the comments!

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