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College Hunks

Junk Hunks in the Driver's Seat

The equation was simple but perfect. Add two idle college students at home for the summer, plus one beat up moving van, then factor in one very insistent mother. The solution? A company started on a lark that's grown into a multi-million dollar junk hauling franchise, with friends Omar Soliman and Nick Freidman in the driver's seat.

Back in 2003, childhood buddies Soliman and Friedman were home from college for the summer and trying to rustle up some work. It was right before their senior year in college; Soliman was at University of Miami and Friedman was attending Pomona College. Soliman's mother, who owned a furniture store in the Washington, DC area, suggested he use her moving van to do odd jobs. It sounded good to the boys, who playfully called themselves College Hunks Hauling Junk. Fliers plastered on street corners resulted in enough calls to generate a fast $15,000 in cash, but the demand for their services didn't end with the summer. “I was in class a month later, and I'd still get calls on my cell phone,” says Soliman. It struck him that his little company might actually be a bona fide business. So he entered College Hunks' business plan in UMiami's Leigh Rothschild Entrepreneurship Competition; he won, and pocketed a $10,000 prize.

College Hunks Hauling Junk »
Chalkboard China

Instant Messaging at the Dinner Table

More often than not, personal interests and passions are the springboards for entrepreneurial start-ups. And so it was for Candace Neff Randolph, a co-founder of Cooper & Brinkley's, a product design company in Dallas. In June of 2008, the company launched Chalkboard China, a product line inspired by Randolph's love of entertaining and tabletop items. Vases, charger plates, platters, and wine glasses are coated with a sleek chalk-friendly black slate finish that allows hosts and diners to customize place settings and serving items.

"It's a versatile finish that you can change to fit any theme," says Randolph. "You can get a calligrapher to write on the charger plates in formal font for a wedding, or you can give it to five-year-olds at a birthday party and tell them to go to town." Also among Chalkboard China's fans: parents who decorate vases with holiday themes for their kids' teachers (and the teachers who can erase the drawings when the season's over!); and caterers who can label drink pitchers and serving platters to take the guess work out of nibbling.

Chalkboard China »
Mom's Choice Awards

Great Kids' Products Get a New Stamp of Approval

In a world filled with an ever-increasing number of consumer products, it’s tough to stand out in the crowd. Tara Paterson, the founder of Mom’s Choice Awards (MCA), thinks that her company is doing its part to “give quality content and products a voice.” Paterson, who is based in Purcellville, VA, started her company in 2004, modeling it after the prestigious Parents’ Choice and Teachers’ Choice Awards. The idea was to give high-quality children’s books, toys, and other products a stamp of approval from an independent panel of judges.

Companies pay $300 to have their product evaluated for 200 categories of awards. “Each category may have a number of winners or no winners,” says Paterson. “Each product is reviewed by a panel of five judges and no judge knows who else is looking at the same products.” All products must comply with US Food & Drug Administration and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards, says Paterson. The company calls upon 155 volunteer judges nationwide and they include medical and media professionals, librarians, educators, performing artists, and even a celebrity or two, such as Julie Aigner-Clark, the creator of Baby Einstein and LeAnn Thieman, the coauthor of seven Chicken Soup For The Soul books. When the scores are collected, products earn a gold or silver award, or nothing at all. In 2008, for instance, 1,200 products competed for Mom’s Choice Awards and only 300 were selected as honorees.

Mom’s Choice Awards »
Burn

A Burning Edge for Digital Photographers

Five years ago, Andrea Fremiotti was working as a freelance photo assistant when two things struck him: photography was quickly moving away from film and toward digital capture; the digital equipment required for very high resolution images was beyond the financial means of most independent photographers. So at age 26, he started his own company, Burn Photo, to rent top of the line equipment to photographers who were doing high resolution work. The company has offices in Brooklyn and Atlanta.

“Our clients are typically doing advertising and fashion photography,” says Fremiotti, whose inventory includes cameras that might retail for between $30 -$50,000 – the kind of equipment needed to capture an image that might, for instance, end up on a billboard in Times Square. Photographers can drastically reduce their fixed costs by renting the equipment, along with one of Fremiotti’s digital technicians to assist with the photo shoot. Burn Photo’s equipment and technicians have been all over the world, including Buenos Aires, Alaska, and a multi-week photo shoot in Europe.

Burn Photo »
Network for Good

Revolutionizing Fundraising and Donations Online

These days, we seem to manage almost every aspect of our lives online, so it makes perfect sense to add charitable giving to the mix. That’s the thinking behind Network for Good, a not-for-profit organization that was launched by AOL, Yahoo!, and Cisco right after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. “So many people wanted to act and be philanthropic that those organizations came together and said “let’s make giving online as easy as shopping online,” says Rebecca Higman of Network for Good, which is based in Bethesda, MD.

The organization’s mission is twofold. It offers donors a searchable database of over 1.5 million charities, allows them to make donations right on the site, and keeps detailed records of their giving for tax purposes. Network for Good is a donor-advised fund; it re-grants donation funds to the charities, retaining 4.75% for training and supporting nonprofits in their fundraising efforts. Donors can opt to add a tax-deductible 4.75% grant to Network for Good during the donation process so that 100% of the donation amount will be granted to the charities. The organization also matches potential volunteers with not-for-profits through a partnership with VolunteerMatch.

Network for Good »

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