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5 Successful Businesses That Started With Simple Ideas

5 Successful Businesses That Started With Simple Ideas

Many of us have heard that small business is the backbone of our economy. Mega-corporations like Walmart and Apple started off as small businesses. Some people are dissuaded to start one. They turn to statistics that say “most new businesses will fail within three years” to justify their reason for not starting one.

Starting a business is simple. It begins with an idea, some paperwork, and a storefront and/or website. However, creating a successful company is not as easy, but it can be easier when the business model is based on a simple idea. Here are five successful businesses that started with a simple idea.

1. Cheekd

Lori Cheek, the founder and CEO of Cheekd.com, started as an architect. After working 15 years in the industry, Lori abandoned the career to immerse herself in the tech world.

She was forced to get extremely creative about funding the business since she was living on her savings.

To offset her expenses, Lori managed to make $75,000 by selling designer clothes on eBay, walking dogs, doing focus groups, secret shopping, and selling her stuff on Craigslist.

She no longer wanted to build structures but rather build relationships. So, Cheekd was born. It is a dating app that makes missed connections obsolete. The app connects people in real time rather than virtual time, which allows people to begin meeting in person before continuing online.

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Her biggest break came when she got accepted to be a contestant on ABC’s Shark Tank. While her idea was shot down by all five Sharks, she left them with a message. “Trust that you will all see me again,” she said. Within 48 hours after the episode, about 50 investors wanted to invest in her business.

The New York Times has called Cheekd, “the next generation of online dating.” She has been featured in The Huffington Post, Inc Magazine, and TEDx. Cheek’d has customers in 47 states and 28 countries.

2. Air Ad Promotions

Marty Buckholt started Air Ad Promotions in 1989.

One day, he was looking through Entrepreneur magazine and came across an ad of an advertising balloon. He pitched the idea to his roommate, agreeing that he would fund the venture and his roommate would use his sales skills to start generating income.

A couple of weeks later, his roommate found a job and opted out of the partnership, leaving Marty with an advertising balloon and $3,000 less in his bank account.

When Air Ad Promotions started, cash flow was the biggest challenge. In their startup days, credit cards and lines of credit were scarce. So, besides the profits of the business, bootstrapping was the only option. However, with patience and relentlessness, Air Ad Promotions was able to make $100,000 in revenue within their first year.

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Marty attributes his success to anticipating the needs of his customers. He admits that he is still figuring things out after being in business for 25 years. However, the company now generates over 6 million dollars in yearly revenue.

3. Fundrise

Fundrise started with a simple question: “Why can’t everyone invest in real estate?” The founders, who were also real estate developers, had an idea to buy a debilitated building and convert it to a mixed-use retail and restaurant space.

Their most difficult challenge was raising capital. When they went out to search for funding sources, their prospective banks did not see the opportunity in the project. Fortunately, the founders were able to bootstrap the business for the first three years.

Despite being denied by banks, they persisted after receiving validation from the local people in nearby communities.

They earned $12,000 in their first year of business and it has continued to grow each year thereafter. Last year, the business received $35 million from a Series A round led by Renren, a Chinese tech company.

Fundrise has now over 50,000 members who have invested in 55 projects across the country and has received over 50 million from investors to fund real estate projects. They are on target to make $3 million dollars this year.

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4. Underdog

Josh Goldstein is the co-founder of Underdog, a small technology startup that started with a simple idea.

He created a simple form that took a minute for candidates to complete. He and his team of four take that information through a process of analyzing, tagging, and grading candidates. Once that process is completed, they feature the best candidates to a network of startups who in turn pay them a subscription fee.

Josh started the business in April 2014 and was determined to make his business the curated marketplace for talent. He worked for startups in the past, which gave him the experience in dealing with the stress, inefficiencies, and lack of capital.

From the start of his business until now, he remains a bootstrapper. He and his team run the business at The Founder Collective in New York City.

Underdog is doing well over $500,000 a year and works with over 120 NYC startups.

Even with Underdog’s amazing success, Josh admits that he and his team are overwhelmed with work. In the beginning, it was much worse since they were utilizing a manual process rather than their current streamline system.

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If there is one thing that Josh and the Underdog crew care about the most, it is their customer service. “We love to hear from candidates that found new jobs through our platform. And it is nice to be charging such a small fee to our customers. You can be a customer on Underdog for four years and make one hire, and it is still cheaper than using most recruiters,” Josh said.

5. Le Club Des Douze

Three and a half years ago, Alex Rizos would feature a curated selection of 12 menswear products with hopes to eventually become an online clothing retailer. “When I launched, the business was basically just an idea. I was not anxious to launch, but I wasn’t sure which direction it was going to take. Therefore, I decided to fund it all on my own to make sure that it would not cost more than I had.”

Within a year in the business, Alex took a different route and started to add content to make it resemble a blog. While the business earned him about $200 a month in the first few months and almost $8,000 within his first year, it only accounted for 10% of his income.

Alex wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to invest his current income from the business to develop it further. He pushed even harder and was able to earn a full-time income in his second year of business.

Le Club Des Douze now generates over $100,000 in annual revenue and have partnered with hundreds of independent brands.

For the aspiring business owner, Alex shares a good nugget of wisdom. “Having a vision is not enough. You need to have the drive and an action plan to turn your idea into a profitable business.”

Featured photo credit: citirecruitment via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

Businesses rely on talent to generate and sell value. Without skilled people to create its products, manage its operations and execute its strategies, a business would inevitably fizzle out of the game and leave better-staffed competitors to take the field.

This is the reason why ambitious companies go great lengths to attract top talent,[1] shelling out millions of dollars in the process and bending traditional work policies just to bring highly skilled but demanding candidates into the fold.

Clearly, the contours of business are changing. But so are the demographics of work.

Millennials have become the dominant generation in the job market in terms of population, and some have already transitioned into leadership roles. Most millennials consider opportunity to learn and grow more important than overall compensation.[2]

Companies also today expect employees to come equipped with razor sharp business acumen.[3] Unfortunately, there is an alarming discrepancy between the actual skills businesses need and those currently possessed by job candidates.

To stay in the game, employers need to continually upgrade their training and skills development strategies to cover the entire employee lifecycle.

What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

Learning management systems are software-based solutions for authoring, presenting, consuming, storing, and tracking educational content and training materials. These systems aim to centralize all instructional content (e.g., lessons, training modules, instructional videos, presentation slides, worksheets, online quizzes, ebooks, takeaway notes, etc.) in one place.

LMS enable instructors to design and deliver learning experiences to students, with the added capability of evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials and grading the learning progress of students.

On the other side of the equation, learners use LMS to develop skills and acquire new knowledge virtually anytime and anywhere via the different channels and content formats made possible by digital technology.

Over the years, a wide range of features and technologies have been integrated into learning management systems to help enhance the experience of training designers, instructors, and learners. These include cloud and mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsive design, scheduling, gamification, data analytics, and interoperability with other applications.

5 Best All-Purpose Learning Management Systems

There are dozens of LMS vendors catering to the general market or to specific segments such as K-12 learning, higher education, and corporate training.

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With so many options available, selecting the right LMS solution for your needs can be complicated and costly, especially when you end up adopting a platform that doesn’t exactly match your goals or requirements.

Short of conducting a comprehensive audit of your needs and finalizing a learning roadmap, the safest bet would be to adopt full-featured but affordable LMS solutions.

Based on user reviews, here are the 5 best LMS to help people gain knowledge, build skills, and achieve mastery:

1. Canvas Network

Launched by Instructure as an open source software in 2011, Canvas is an end-to-end cloud-based service originally engineered for the education sector.

Widely adopted for K-12 and Higher Ed learning, Canvas can be repurposed for anything that involves an instructor, a subject matter, and a student.

Used around the world by people of all ages and organizations of all types, Canvas arguably has the largest learning and support community in its class. It works on desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.

To get a glimpse of the platform’s fresh interfaces, you can visit the Canvas Network, a learning community that provides educational and instructional materials created by colleges, universities, corporate businesses, independent course developers, and other knowledge-sharing entities around the world.

Hosting hundreds of interesting topics from data science to horticulture, the learning network also serves as evidence to the scope, capabilities, and popularity of the Canvas LMS platform.

Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, which enhances the platform’s reliability, speed, scalability, and overall online performance.

Additionally, platform adopters enjoy a low-risk environment since cloud-based solutions require no hard stops for version updates, upgrades, or system migrations.

The Canvas website does not show a price matrix but says the service adopts a simple formula for computing fees: a one-time implementation fee and an annual subscription fee based on total number of users. It also promises free basic services for teachers who want to use the platform.

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In addition to Canvas, Instructure also offers Bridge (an LMS designed for corporate environments), Arc (a video platform for online learning), and Gauge (an assessment management system).

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Canvas Network:

2. Google Classroom

This free service from Google aims to improve the teaching and learning process using cloud technology, web apps, workflow simplification, and seamless communication between students and instructors.

Using Classroom, educators can easily create and schedule classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and grade quizzes all in one place. By streamlining processes, Classroom helps teachers save time and organize classes more effectively. Both students and teachers can also work using any device anytime and anywhere.

Classroom works perfectly with other Google tools, having been launched initially as part of Google’s G Suite for Education. This LMS solution taps Google Drive for content storage and distribution, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for the creation and sharing of instructional materials. Meanwhile it integrates Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail for communication.

With G Suite, other communication channels such as chat messaging, video conferencing, and a dedicated website are enabled.

Easy to set up and manage, Google Classroom is free to use. One of my very first courses was actually hosted on Google Classroom.

Going beyond the classroom environment, Google offers G Suite Enterprise for Education for large institutions. This suite provides enhanced search and analytics capabilities as well as advanced tools for enterprise communications.

3. Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

If budget and capability equally top your list of LMS adoption criteria, then Moodle might just fit the bill. Which is to say there’s none (i.e., bill).

Moodle is a free and open-source learning solution for distance education, workplace training, flipped classrooms, and other pedagogical environments.

It is also a full-featured LMS supported by a robust community and a thriving developer ecosystem. Not surprisingly, Moodle is used in more than 15 million courses by more than 130 million users in 230+ countries.

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Among other things, Moodle enables administrators and educators to create a dynamic and dedicated website to host organic, easily accessible, and highly customizable courses that can be experienced on desktops and mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

Moodle provides a personalized and intuitive dashboard as well as a host of collaboration tools for content designers, teachers, and learners. A universal calendar, an efficient file management system, an automatic notification system, multimedia integration, and a progress tracking tool all come with the package.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Moodle:

4. Absorb

This platform recently bagged PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best LMS.

Co-designed and built by former course authors, Absorb takes learning experience to the next level. This turnkey LMS solution is responsive, full-featured, and highly customizable for maximum impact.

Course developers can orchestrate a wide range of experiences depending on audience or learning situation. In addition to surveys, polls, and e-commerce integration, Absorb supports formal online learning and certifications standards such as AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can.

The user interface can also be modified to match the learner’s location, group, or department, allowing for a different look and feel for customers, channel partners, management trainees, and newly hired employees.

Absorb supports all personal computing devices from desktops to mobile phones. There are also native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android.

The only possible drawback to the platform’s powerful feature set is its pricing. The service reportedly implements a flat, one-time setup fee depending on your business and training requirements. According to the site, any plan comes with a dedicated success team for your account.

Although small companies are welcome to try, midsize to enterprise-scale organizations are probably the best segment to readily adopt this LMS solution.

Take a look at some examples of Absorb in this video:

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5. Watershed Collaborative

Created by a group of educators, this nonprofit rethinks the priorities of an LMS, asserting that too many systems miss the most essential elements of what makes learning stick. They promise a better user experience – emphasizing Learning before Management and System.

Watershed aims to support an inquiry-based learning experience through an integrated mix of online and in-person learning strategies and interactions designed expressly for teams – including collaboration, reflection, and dialogue.

While Watershed was founded initially to serve the K-12 education market, the company has since expanded its scope to cater to all types of teachers and learners with its video-rich, state-of-the-art platform.

If you’re a mission-driven educator, content creator, institution, or business, this LMS may be the one for you.

Watershed specializes in assisting you with the instructional design of courses and provides content production services to ensure top-quality video assets with lasting value. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners.

Pricing varies based on products and services, but revenues support the nonprofit’s ability to make its platform and courses available at little or no cost for high-need educators and educational settings.

Honorable Mentions

There are dozens of LMS vendors in this growing market and the brands included in foregoing list are by no means the only viable options for companies or learning institutions looking to upgrade their learning infrastructure.

Many other excellent services are worth checking out. These include:

  1. Docebo is an LMS designed for hyper-engaging students, employees, customers, and other learners. The system helps organizations identify and resolve competency gaps with strategic learning interventions.
  2. Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, training, and performance management solution offered as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). This service enables learners to create personalized playlists of instructional content.
  3. Lessonly is an LMS solution that makes it easier to recall and reinforce whatever skills or knowledge you have learned through quizzes, coaching, and constant practice.
  4. Skillsoft is an online training and corporate learning platform developed by a two-decade old and billion-dollar company with the same name.
  5. D2L BrightSpace is a learning management system that has all the basics for delivering excellent, rich-media experiences for classroom or workplace training.

Conclusion

There are many ways to learn but some are more effective and meaningful than others. Whether you are a teacher looking to enhance classroom learning or an HR manager creating a long-term talent development plan for employees, the key to impactful learning is to understand and bridge the needs of learners, the goals of your institution, and the actual capabilities of the learning tools you are considering.

Note that using multiple LMS platforms is possible although not recommended. On the other hand, adopting other learning solutions beyond LMS (such as podcasts, mentoring, and onsite in-person workshops) may significantly improve learning outcomes. Always go for products and plugins that seamlessly integrate into your core LMS tool.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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