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Helping radio experiment and innovate at WBUR
By Janco Damas

Meg Siegal describes herself as a “rogue agent” working within the confines of WBUR, Boston University’s National Public Radio station. But the 39-year-old director of the station’s “BizLab” is no loose cannon: General manager Charlie Kravetz has given her full license to dig up growth from all pockets of the NPR affiliate station. (read more)

Recent Dispatches from Haiti
By Janco Damas

Passion for supporting the work of entrepreneurs takes me outside the country to Haiti for a few weeks each year. Firms I volunteer with in Haiti include a commercial bakery producing 4,000 units daily and a distributor of purified drinking water that sells about 1,200 gallons of potable water in poor communities each week. (read more)

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Local sailing executive pushes the sport to the inner city
By Janco Damas

Sailing, complemented with education in science and navigation, is part of a national push to revive interest in the sport. However, the new crop of sailor in the Bay State is not coming from yacht clubs but instead Boston’s inner-cities, according to David DiLorenzo, executive director of the Boston nonprofit Courageous Sailing. (read more)

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Cask ’n Flagon sees big business when Red Sox play
By Janco Damas

In the ’80s, the Cask ’n Flagon was a “dive bar” where guys went to watch Red Sox games and often stirred up trouble, according to the tavern’s 45-year-old owner, Dana Van Fleet. By the mid 1990s, change was in the air. As a newly minted bartender, Van Fleet saw more women were coming to games. He said a more civil atmosphere ensued. “It became a much friendlier place,” he said. Today, the Cask employs about 125 people at its Fenway location and another 125 at a second location in Marshfield. On a typical game day, the Fenway location will serve between 3,400 and 4,000 visitors. (read more)

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A gaming company embraces print and digital
By Janco Damas

Jen MacLean, StoryArc Media president, has seen the best and worst of the gaming industry. MacLean, who started gaming at 7 years old, now builds online games that help millions of kids have fun while learning. Prior to joining StoryArc, she was an executive at 38 Studios, the gaming company founded by former professional baseball player Curt Schilling. That story ended abruptly with the company defaulting on a $50 million loan from Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corp. With everything she’s learned, MacLean is building a kids entertainment company across print and digital. (read more)

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Health care and higher ed dominate Massachusettes largest employers list
By Janco Damas and Joe Halpern

This year’s Boston Business Journal list of the 50 largest employers in Massachusetts, which excludes government jobs, totals more than 410,000 Bay State employees. Led by No. 1-ranked Partners Health Care System’s 67,600 Massachusetts employees, the 13 health care companies on the list alone comprise more than 172,366 (in some cases this includes per diem and temp workers) of those employees. (read more)

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UMass Lowell event highlights revenue potential of entrepreneurship, innovation programs
By Janco Damas

University of Massachusetts Lowell is behaving like a budding venture capitalist these days, supporting programs in entrepreneurship and innovation with an eye toward potential payoffs down the road. A recent example of the opportunities at hand: UMass Lowell secured $3.8 million earlier this year from its ownership stake in Anterios, a biotech startup driven by intellectual property created on campus. Anterios, which developed a topical version of Botox that can be applied on the skin rather than through needle injection, was sold to global pharmaceuticals company Allergan for $96 million in January. (read more)

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Startups make their pitches at Brigham and Women's Hospital Digital Health Expo
By Janco Damas

Brigham and Women’s Hospital last week invited more than a dozen startups to pitch their products to an audience that included investors and hospital executives. Representatives from 16 startups lined along a hallway just outside the small encampment that is the hospital’s Innovation Hub at 70 Francis St. The majority of startups there were developing consumer-facing, health-related apps — everything from a digital pill box to an app for end-of-life planning. (read more)

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With Trump in Boston for fundraiser, protesters take to streets
By David Harris and Janco Damas

Dozens of protesters took to the street in front of the Langham hotel on Franklin Street in Boston, where presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump held a luncheon fundraiser. The scene outside — filled with protesters with signs that read "Trump: Outsourcer in Chief" and "Boston rejects racism" (read more)

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After much speculation, Mark Cuban says this isn't his yacht docked in Boston
By Sara Castellanos and Janco Damas

The internet was alight with specious reports over the weekend that Mark Cuban's 288-foot yacht had been docked in Boston's North End. That Cuban might have sailed to the shores of Boston was actually believable, since the entrepreneur, investor and Dallas Mavericks owner has backed several Boston-area startups. (read more)

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My experience running the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston
By Janco Damas

While years of teamwork in the trenches can’t be easily replaced, quick camaraderie can be found by collectively free falling into a competitive run without much warning. We were called to arrive on Charles Street between Boston Common and the Public Garden for a 7:15 p.m. start. The race actually began earlier that morning for us. In the office after receiving shirts and racing tags, there was a heightened sense of imminent exhaustion, but the intensity with which we refused to be bothered by the challenge also increased. (read more)

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Despite Little Revenue, News Organizations Bet on Video
By Janco Damas

Scott LaPierre, a multimedia editor and video journalist for the Boston Globe, is busy planning for a future where more news is being consumed in visual formats. Although companies such as Pixability are sprouting up to help companies advertise in videos, video as a vehicle for advertising remains barely tapped producing just, 10 percent of all digital ad revenue according to a 2014 study by the Pew Center.  (read more)

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How to Build a Skyscraper Expeditiously
By Janco Damas

Last week, Boston’s newest skyscraper “topped off.” The crew at that time had erected the tallest point of the construction.The feat comes two years since the very day construction broke ground on September 17, 2013. At the ground breaking commencement then-mayor Thomas M. Menino, with developers and a sizable crowd, watched as confetti fell in celebration. Mayor Menino concluded his term on January 6, 2014 after two decades in office. Menino died October 30, 2014 at the age of 71. He had advocated strongly for the construction of the Millennium Towers particularly as the old Filene’s site lay fallow in 2008. (read more)

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To build a protein shake machine requires one part protein, several parts grit
By Janco Damas

Jayme Olaughlin had an idea.  The idea was to help gym goers maximize their workouts with a premium protein shake.  When prompted by a customer the machine adds fresh protein powder atop cold water in a single use cup with lid which then can be shaken to mix.protein powderthe machine adds fresh protein powder atop cold water in a single use cup with lidMany of us have had disruptive ideas of a similar type, but how many of those ideas survive the long haul to implementation? (read more)

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Energy conference sheds light on need for back end software solutions
By Janco Damas

Energy has been a hot area for graduates of the last 10 years.  Particular areas of interest at the conference were consumer facing technologies and back end software systems for utilities.  There was a good mix of nascent technology still under development alongside proven solutions already in the market.  Salient themes in the conference were “old” working with “new” and “big” working with “small” towards modern energy systems.  (read more)

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8 hardware innovations from campus design lab
By Janco Damas

This year’s Product Design and Development course at Babson College introduced 8 new hardware products to the world within a few short weeks.  Students who enrolled in the Fall offering of the course were divided into teams and challenged to come up with a new product innovation that solved a problem in a given industry. (read more)

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10 Babson Startups to watch in 2015
By Janco Damas

Last year brought about all sorts of interesting discussion amongst the entrepreneurs at Babson.  Ongoing was the discussion of how to better shift desktop platforms for an increasingly mobile audience.  That particular discussion has changed the way founders approach new ideas as many are starting with a mobile-first strategy, such was the case with the first company on the list, WineKick.  The list of startups to watch in 2015 is primarily looking at those entrepreneurs who are responding to change.  It’s important the community pay attention to their progress as they define a response to this year’s market opportunities.  As these founders are already traveling down the unbeaten path, look to see what new insights they can offer about responding to perceived needs that will appear in 2015. (read more)

When ownership is out of reach
By Janco Damas

Imagine working in the same garage for 23 years. That's how long Rahul has worked at the Sunoco gas station at the corner of Washington St and Breck Ave in Brighton. He was hired at a starting salary of $400 a week. Five years later he got a raise and then earned $600 each week. He kept that salary for more than 10 years while raising two sons. When the owner died and left the business to his eldest, again Rahul got a raise and now earns closer to $800 each week. In a push to be more entrepreneurial, he's offered to rent the shop at a fixed monthly rate so his pay would reflect his efforts to increase sales. The owners however insist their current arrangement is best.

It's a Long Search for Aspiring Business Owners
By Janco Damas

Nick Vail’s search to buy an existing business approaches 15 months and he expects it to pay back soon.

 

Vail, 31, worked as an accountant for First Citizens Bank and then became a partner in Maritime Market, an independent grocer in Bald Head Island, North Carolina. When he assessed what he wanted most out of a career was financial freedom provided by a certain amount of cash flow, he also concluded that climbing the corporate ladder would not get him there any faster. Buying an existing business seemed a savvy way to meet his professional and lifestyle goals. However, after casting a relatively wide net from Boston to California’s Bay Area­­, Vail expresses frustration that he is not yet a business owner since starting his search 15 months ago. 

 

Like nearly 50 percent of Americans, Vail says he dreams of owning a small business but he's not a startup guy. "I have plenty of ideas for startups but I’d rather get involved in something less risky that allows me to do the things I want to do with my free time." He is looking at businesses generating around $1.5 million in revenue with cash flow of around $500,000. For a business with that amount of cash flow, Vail expects an asking price around $1 million. Vail does most of his searching on the leading business listing website, bizbuysell, but complains about the lack of options and opaque company information tightly guarded by business brokers. Company valuations are also a common pain point in small business transactions. "Owners perceive their companies to be worth more than they are by market standards" said Vail.

Buying small businesses as a day job
By Janco Damas

Bill LaPoint is a principal investor in Boston based Aly Holdings and an adjunct professor at Babson College where he has taught “buying a small business”. He says one reason a qualified buyer may not find a business is because the listed businesses are not actually for sale. Owners will often list their businesses in order to gauge what people are willing to pay or the market value of the business. Another problem is that the leading listing websites are loaded with convenience stores, laundry mats, and other ‘mom and pop’ businesses that are heavily dependent on the existing owner working 70 hour work weeks, a schedule out of sync with lifestyle goals of some buyers.

Owners discover their businesses are not built to sell
By Janco Damas

With two months left on his lease, Ali Roozbehani owner of antiques dealer, Dining Room Showcase, in downtown Boston is still hoping to find a buyer for the business. After 35 years of selling fine antiques and furniture throughout greater Boston, rising rents in the Downtown Boston area have cornered Roozbehani between a last minute sale to a new owner and liquidating his business. If Roozbehani does not find a buyer in time his business will close.

The story of Dining Room Showcase is incerasingly common. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counts national business closures in its “Business Death Rate." The ominous term brings to light a potential crisis for the country. The office of Bureau and Labor Statistics found that the number of business deaths has outpaced the number of business births each year since 2008. Prior to 2008, business births had been greater in number by about 100,000 per year. 

Roozbehani, 65, hired Stoughton based Lee Business Brokers to help find a buyer. The broker soon had him in touch with a painter interested in buying the business. The deal fell through because the buyer “had no experience refinishing” explained Roozbehani. In addition to selling antique furniture, Dining Room Showcase also makes money through repairing, refinishing, appraising, and reupholstering. A new owner would need to learn these jobs and also be passionate about antiques.

Roozbehani takes pride in selling unique treasures, many of them over a century old. The appraised value on his merchandise can be as high as $10,000 for the silk hand woven Persian Rug that is signed by its creator. When the business was listed for sale at Lee Brokers website on January 16, the asking price was $400,000. The price however may be negotiable. Large displays in the store windows inform that everything is on sale 50 to 80 percent off “Going out of Business."

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