New Research Shows Big Opportunities for Small Businesses

(NewsUSA) – Today’s technology has changed the shopping experience. While many of us still enjoy trying on clothes at our favorite department store, we also relish the ability to buy specific and unique items through an e-commerce app, or research product details via our smartphone.The changing nature of retail has opened tremendous opportunities for small businesses in the past decade. According to new research, "Charting the Growth Journey: From Product to Profitable Business" from GS1 US, a not-for-profit product identification and standards organization, the most successful small businesses are those that develop diverse strategies for growth. Specifically, small brands that demonstrate a solid understanding of retailer requirements and seek the expert advice and services of external partners are better equipped to take advantage of today’s "always open" shopping environment.There are three ways small brands are finding growth opportunities in today’s rapidly-evolving retail landscape: They focus on their product, build a complete channel strategy, and partner with professionals to accelerate success.Focusing on the product Small business owners are often driven by a passion for bringing their unique product to market. According to the study, 61 percent of respondents cite customer demand for personalized services and products as a top trend. Almost as many (58 percent) anticipate that changing customer habits – such as where they make purchases (online or in-store) – will impact their brand’s growth."Building the story, the brand, and trust, is critical. Otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom on cost," says Steve Lange, co-founder of It’s All Good, a line of clean personal care products.Focusing on customers and their needs is important, but finding the right balance and managing diverse business challenges such as lack of time and resources, are major concerns for many of the brands that participated in the study.Building a complete channel strategy Small businesses must look beyond the immediate pressures of starting a business to position themselves with the right retail channels for their products. These can include online marketplaces, national retailers, local retailers, kiosks, craft fairs, or their own stores or websites. High-growth leaders (respondents who experienced 25 percent or more growth in the past year) know the importance of channel mix and leverage an average of 3.1 channels to sell their products, while laggards (those with revenue declines in the past 12 months) report using just 1.3 channels.Proving credibility to retailers is also a major hurdle for small brands. The study found that 59 percent of leaders see a direct correlation between providing complete product information (such as images, product origins, and more) in their online listings with the number of products sold. Additionally, 57 percent of these same growth leaders indicated that using UPCs in their product listings helps customers more easily find their products online."Incomplete product information and UPCs show a lack of experience to potential retail partners. It’s important to understand that you need consistency from retailer to retailer," says Erik Elfstrum, founder and CEO, pureLYFT, an all-natural caffeine alternative beverage.Partnering with professionals Seeking outside business support was also identified as an important growth factor among small brands. Such partnerships help them build a more sustainable business model and offer opportunities for expansion. The study found that more than half (55 percent) of high-growth leaders agree that partnering with a retail broker or consultant has been critical to growing the business. Specifically, 83 percent of small brands that leverage online marketplaces and national retailers say partners (such as barcode services, software providers, business consultants and more) improve their understanding of product information and its impact on their business.For help finding the right partners to support growth, many small businesses have found credible options through the GS1 US Solution Partner Program, a network of certified solution providers that provide guidance and a range of services to support retailer requirements.More information can be found at, it’s a new world for shoppers and businesses alike. The research shows that maintaining a holistic view of the opportunities available to small businesses is a major contributor to long-term growth. To learn more and for the full research report, visit

How to Benefit From The Competition for Your Money

In the latest sign that the competition for your money is as hot as Texas in August, Fidelity Investments says that customers who open individual brokerage and retirement accounts will now automatically have their uninvested cash directed into a higher yielding money market fund. The move will especially benefit those who leave substantial amounts uninvested for a long time.

That goes against the typical industry practice of sweeping the money, by default, into a low-yielding account at what’s typically an affiliated bank.

Estate Planning: Most People, Alas, Fail to Make Crucial Decisions

(NewsUSA) – How best to put this delicately?We’re all going to go at some point, and – just because you’d rather not think about it – doesn’t make you somehow immune.And then what?Maybe you think your estate will all get miraculously sorted out, and that squabbling relatives are only the stuff of TV dramas. But you’re not just leaving an estate. You’re leaving what Ken Cella, an executive with the financial services firm Edward Jones, calls "a legacy.""You want to be the one who’s in control of what happens to what matters most to you, such as minor children, dependents, financial assets, even your own health care decisions," he says. "Without a properly planned estate, or legacy strategy, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive and very public process where relatives and creditors can gain access to records and even challenge your will."And yet, according to a recent survey by Edward Jones, while 77 percent of Americans believe having such a strategy in place is important for everyone – not just the wealthy – only 24 percent have even taken the most basic step of designating beneficiaries for all their accounts. To avoid one of those "then what?" moments, here are some of the key elements to consider:• A Will. What’s the worst that can happen if you haven’t written one? "Plenty," as US News & World Report has written, "depending on your situation, the personalities of the people in your life – and the estate laws that your state has on the books."In other words, not only could some court judge be deciding who gets everything down to your Beatles records if your family can’t agree on their own, but he or she could also wind up appointing a guardian for your minor kids.• A Living Trust. Do you own out-of-state property, a la a vacation home, say? Or maybe you want to leave more to one child than the others? Assets you register into a revocable living trust are there for your benefit during your lifetime, can be managed by your named trustee if you become incapacitated, and – here’s the kicker – are harder to contest than wills.• A Health Care Directive. The same way you don’t want some judge deciding who gets your Beatles albums, you definitely don’t want the courts having to settle an inter-family fight over whether you’d rather go on living in a vegetative state or be taken off hospital feeding tubes.And, yes, it’s happened.Shivering at the thought? Then you’ll recognize the importance of appointing someone to carry out your medical treatment wishes in the even you’re no longer able to communicate of incapable of giving consent.• Beneficiary Designations. Suffice it to say you don’t want to be among the 76 percent the survey found hadn’t even bothered, for starters, to fill in a beneficiary’s name on accounts like their 401(k) or other savings.For some, estate planning is as simple as a written will. But a financial advisor, like a local one at Edward Jones, can work with you and your tax and legal professionals to employ a strategy that among other things potentially avoids the court process known as probate – there, we said the "P" word – while also making sure your investments are aligned with your goals. 

Escape to the Caribbean for Stress-Free Holidays

(NewsUSA) – Summer vacation season may be over, but it is never too soon to start planning a Christmas- season getaway.Christmas in the Caribbean means a stress-free change of scenery with warm weather and a serene setting.Calabash Cove, a secluded boutique resort on the island of Saint Lucia, welcomes adults of all ages, such as empty-nesters who want to relax and reconnect, young adults looking to establish their own holiday travel traditions, or anyone looking for a unique Christmas vacation.Visitors to Calabash Cove at Christmas can enjoy discounts of up to 53 percent, and the longer you stay, the more you save. A stay of seven paid nights or longer includes a complimentary car service to meet you at the airport in Saint Lucia. The resort’s unconditional all-inclusive package covers all meals including room service, and all beverages including premium liquors and a variety of wines from an extensive wine list.An all-inclusive holiday package at Calabash Cove includes Christmas dinner with ham or turkey, a New Year’s Eve gala dinner, and complimentary champagne. New Year’s at Calabash Cove features a stunning fireworks display that can be seen from the resort’s restaurant or bar, or from the private balconies of the elegant guest rooms.Other reasons to consider visiting the Caribbean for Christmas:- Romance: The holidays are prime time for proposals, and what better place to pop the question than a tropical island? Planning a holiday wedding? A Caribbean destination is an ideal option, and resorts such as Calabash Cove work with couples to plan the ideal ceremony and other events. And wedding guests feel pampered, too. Holiday honeymoon? The intimate setting of Calabash Cove lends itself to honeymoons and anniversary trips.- Restoration. A boutique resort offers the ultimate setting to recharge your batteries and prepare for the new year. Calabash Cove’s Ti Spa treatments, including massage, facials, and mani/pedis, are a popular way for guests to relax. Meanwhile, those who want to burn off stress with exercise can take advantage of the infinity pool and cardiovascular fitness center with inspiring ocean views. In addition, Calabash Cove staff can help arrange off-site activities, including kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and diving.For more information, visit to discover how you can make the most of a Caribbean Christmas that you’ll never forget.

Virologist’s Book Warns of Coming Lethal Flu Pandemic

(NewsUSA) – Scientists have long held that it will not be weapons of mass destruction that kills the human race, but rather a biological one.Case in point: the flu pandemic of 1918, colloquially known as the Spanish flu, occurred during World War I and spread worldwide during 1918-1919. Published research suggests the final death toll may have been as high as 100 million.Despite decades of developments in biology and virology at the cost of more than $80 billion, the U.S. is unprepared to handle a flu pandemic of a similar scale if one should occur, contends Dr. Steven Hatfill, a specialist physician and virologist with additional training in medical biochemistry, and experimental pathology.After more than a decade of study, Dr. Hatfill and his team have published a book, Three Seconds Until Midnight, in which he revisits the challenges of the 1918 pandemic and highlights the limitations of the current public health system in the U.S. in the event of a serious pandemic on the scale of the 1918 event."There are worse viruses out there in nature than another 1918-type pandemic. They are simply waiting for the right conditions to jump into man," says Dr. Hatfill.In addition, "the overwhelming majority of Americans assume that the CDC and public health authorities are capable of rapidly detecting when a new outbreak of infectious disease is occurring and that they will quickly respond with a vaccine, drugs, and other measures to contain the event. In reality, none of this is true with respect to a serious pandemic," he emphasizes.In the book, Dr. Hatfill and his team point out how the U.S. has an insufficient public health workforce and lacks the "surge" medical capacity needed for a pandemic situation with mass casualties, and that no programs are currently in place to train personnel how to handle a pandemic.Vaccine distribution is another problem, says Dr. Hatfill. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) documents show that in a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 event, a minimum of 123 to 125 million Americans will not receive any anti-viral drugs or vaccine until at or near the peak period of infection and death. Historically, the poor, socially disadvantaged urban communities will be hit the hardest.Citizens are uninformed on how to care for family members at home if they contract a contagious and possibly lethal infection, and entire households can become ill, Dr. Hatfill says.Dr. Hatfill’s book outlines how the government can salvage its preparedness plan by considering more involvement by the military in a disaster response mode, similar to the role played by the Armed Forces after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.The major problems in pandemic preparedness occur not with the federal government but with the local city authorities who continue to be unprepared to manage an outbreak of a serious lethal infectious disease on a 1918-type scale. This includes having rational methods to manage worker absenteeism, organizing alternate care sites, expanding mortuary capabilities and teaching non-pharmaceutical interventions to the public."We now live under population densities that are a new phenomenon in human civilization and we have no precedent to indicate if we are nearing a threshold or not". As a consequence, every individual alive today is participating in a great on-going global biological experiment," says Dr. Hatfill.Three Seconds Until Midnight will be available for purchase online via Amazon or Kindle in approximately mid-October. For more information, visit

Transforming Your Under-Stair Space

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – If you live in a multi-story house, chances are you’ve looked at the no-man’s-land under a set of stairs and thought: That space could be made to look and function much better. The classic solution is to fill the unattractive void with a closet, which is a perfectly serviceable idea. But there are other, more imaginative possibilities – home office, mini-library, powder room, wet bar, dog kennel, to name a few – creative hardwood built-ins that can transform those formerly awkward architectural cul-de-sacs into a visually interesting, highly practical, value-adding features in your home.
“Today’s homeowners look on such unused square footage as a wasted resource,” says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center, “Solid hardwood built-ins not only provide the customization needed in an awkwardly configured space, but also bring the warmth and character of natural wood to a gloomy, uninviting spot.”
“If you do it right, an under-stairs hardwood built-in becomes a combination of a fine piece of furniture and a strong, reliable workhorse that should last a long time and be a sound investment,” says Laura Bohn, a New York interior designer. “Make sure that whatever you install addresses some real requirement in your daily life. Storage is usually a good choice, but think about what kind you need most – for wine, maybe, or a collection of vintage LP records. Functionality never goes out of style, so make sure it works for you.”
“No matter how thoughtfully designed, any type of under-stairs hardwood built-in should be well-made and carefully installed,” advises Melissa Morgan of San Antonio-based M Interiors. “And don’t forget the details. Make sure moldings, trims, and other decorative elements match existing millwork. Hinges, handles, or any other hardware should be chosen for beauty and stylistic appropriateness as well as functionality and durability.”
Finally, look for inspiration in books, magazines, and online. For example, staircases are often built against external walls. Architect Matthew Kerr of SOK Design Studio in Sandpoint, Idaho, took advantage of this fact by installing a fan-shaped window under a stair to create a naturally illuminated nook. He then designed a simple built-in daybed comprising a full-length twin mattress on a painted hardwood base with pullout drawers, like a cozy bunk on some old sailing ship. Even though the nook is small, it doesn’t look or feel claustrophobic, thanks to the window. The result is a delightful spot to relax, read a book, take a nap, or even accommodate an overnight guest.
Visit for more about under-stairs built-ins and other applications and products using American hardwoods.

Copper Can Help You Cope with Colds

(NewsUSA) – Finding relief for the common cold remains frustrating for doctors and cold sufferers alike. However, a simple copper device may help prevent colds and reduce the spread of infection.The science behind the CopperZap device is that bacteria, viruses, and other microbes die quickly on copper surfaces. Researchers believe copper’s high electrical conductance interferes with the delicate balance of a microbe cell and destroys it in seconds.In fact, some hospitals are experimenting with adding copper to high-touch surfaces such as faucets and call buttons to help kill bacteria on contact and reduce the spread of infection, according to a recent story in The Washington Post.CopperZap is a tool made of pure copper with a nasal probe at one end. The probe is designed to be rubbed gently in the nose for 60 seconds at the first sign of a cold coming on. In addition, touching the device can help kill illness-causing bacteria on the hands and fingers."Copper is great at killing superbugs," says Dr. Bill Keevil, a pioneer in researching copper and infectious diseases.In particular, copper can kill a type of virus known as a coronavirus that causes respiratory problems ranging from the mild discomfort of a common cold to potentially lethal pneumonia, according to Dr. Keevil. Other researchers have found that copper is effective against flu viruses and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).Copper has been used for a variety of health purposes since ancient times; evidence suggests that Egyptians and Greeks used it to purify water and to disinfect ulcers and other infections on the skin. Reports from the Civil War document the use of copper to promote healing in battlefield wounds.In 2012, Dr. Doug Cornell, PhD, an American inventor, learned about the microbe-killing power of copper and saw the potential for a handheld device to combat viruses. Dr. Cornell designed the CopperZap to combat cold and flu viruses in the nose and on the fingers."Over 99 percent of people who used it and reported results say it worked to stop a cold they felt about to start," Dr. Cornell says. Other users report that the CopperZap has stopped flu symptoms, cured cold sores, and relieved sinus discomfort, he adds.For more information, visit

Helping Manage The Cost of Asthma And COPD Inhalers

(NewsUSA) – With the intense summer heat and horrible air quality, some people across the California Central Valley and other areas of the country are finding it difficult to breathe. When this happens, they quickly turn to their asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) inhalers. Greater use of these devices means more refills are needed.For many middle-class families, the ongoing out-of-pocket costs for asthma or COPD medications is a growing burden. When money runs low, some people will try to stretch the use of their inhalers for as long as possible; others try to get by without them at all, placing their health at risk.Asthma affects about one in every 13 Americans, one-fourth of whom are under the age of 18. It is the third-leading cause of hospital stays for children. COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases that obstructs airflow. Some 16 million Americans suffer from COPD, 70 percent of whom are 45 and older.While many patients and caregivers struggle with these complex conditions, the high-cost insurance premiums, along with steep deductibles, copays, and poor prescription coverage, can prove a significant barrier. This is compounded by the fact that 75 percent of patients are not taking their medication correctly. And the impact of nonadherence can mean a visit to the hospital.Asthma and COPD require an arsenal of medications. And, it is not uncommon for people suffering from one of these conditions to be impacted by other chronic conditions.Rather than point fingers at medication costs or insurance company profits, it is important to help people find solutions.Copay assistance cards, also called copay coupons, can help take the financial sting out of the cost of medication. Go to to obtain one, and look for the button, " Click for Asthma and COPD Recommendations."Please remember to start with your local pharmacist. He or she is the most informed about prescription medications.And if you are uninsured, there are programs that often cover close to 100 percent of your costs. Try this website,, offered by the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s trade association.Cost should never be a barrier to care.Jeffrey Lewis is president and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock Ca.Mr. Lewis’ email address is 

Yes, There May Be A Positive to Come Out of the Student Debt Crisis

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Are all those stories about crippling student debt having an effect on college campuses? Just ask post-Millennials now trying – albeit not always successfully – to avoid being saddled with the same heavy burden of debt as their predecessors.
According to Fidelity Investments’ new “College Savings: Lessons Learned Study,” not only did 83 percent of current college students surveyed consider what their total costs would be before matriculating – just 69 percent of recent graduates had such foresight – but 39 percent of them said the potential price tag was such “a huge factor” that they purposely limited their choice of schools to the most affordable. Only 32 percent of recent graduates, alas, had shown similar restraint.
“It seems today’s college students are perhaps more aware of the financial situation they entered into than those who graduated before them,” said Melissa Ridolfi, Fidelity’s vice president of retirement and college leadership. “That’s a positive development.”
All told, student debt in the U.S. now totals more than $1.5 trillion – second only to mortgage debt, Forbes reported. And the 69 percent or so of the Class of 2018 who took out student loans graduated with an average debt balance of $29,800.
So you can understand why recent graduates would be so stressed out over whether they’d ever be able to pay off their loans that they’re now having second thoughts about their decisions:
* 40 percent said that while they don’t regret going to college, they would’ve made different choices in hindsight.
* Only 14 percent felt the value of their education was worth more than the money they’d spent.
Oh, and future college students should listen up for this sage advice from the more than 4,000 respondents surveyed – all recent graduates, current undergraduates, and parents of either or both – on what would’ve done wonders to ease their own stress levels.
“When asked ‘If you knew then what you know now when it comes to school selection, what would you do differently?’ the number one answer for all respondents was ‘I would’ve started saving earlier,'” Ridolfi said.
Which logically brings us to another key finding of the study: Only 17 percent of current students and recent graduates had taken advantage, prior to college, of what’s arguably one of the best ways to fund higher education: 529 savings plans.
Unlike regular bank savings accounts, they provide a tax-advantaged way to save money to cover tuition, books and other education-related expenses at most accredited two- and four-year colleges, universities and vocational-technical schools.
The key phrase being “tax-advantaged.” Meaning, earnings grow federal income tax-deferred and withdrawals for qualified expenses are free from federal (and, in many places, state) income taxes – thus affording the opportunity to have even more saved for college.
Significantly, Ridolfi said families using a 529 plan managed by Fidelity have been starting to sock money away earlier than ever before, with contributions beginning on average when the child is about age six and a half. Thirty-six percent of Fidelity 529s are even opened for beneficiaries under – yes – age 2.
You say a child hasn’t even uttered his or her first complete sentence before they’re two? Probably not. But just so you’re not bushwhacked when they suddenly hit their late teens, free online resources like Fidelity’s College Savings Learning Center and College Savings Quick Check – a calculator that even shows you the impact of saving a few dollars more a month – can help prepare you for what lies ahead.
Think of them as your own first baby steps.

Eco-Smart Company Keeps Landfills Free of Old Textile Fibers

(NewsUSA) – You probably don’t think much about the fate of old, worn-out uniforms from restaurants, stores, healthcare facilities, sports teams, and other industries. But the fact is that many end up in landfills. However, one company is doing its part to lessen this carbon footprint by repurposing these old uniforms into new.Eco Tek 360, a forward-thinking fiber technology company and a division of Global Fiber Technologies, Inc. a public company, (GFTX), has developed a proprietary technology that removes the fibers from fabrics that have reached the end of their useful life cycle. The fibers are extracted from a landfill-destined garment and used to create yarn, make new fabric, and then get sewn into fabric which is turned into "rejuvenated" uniforms. Each time the uniform comes back to the client, the process creates a true circular economy and reduces carbon footprints."It takes between 500 to 700 gallons of water to grow one pound of cotton and Eco Tek 360 can help save billions of gallons each year through utilization of its patent- pending process," says Chris Giordano, president and co-chairman of Global Fiber Technologies."We will take corporate uniforms at the end of their useful life that would otherwise head for disposal and re-purpose them back to the same company as sustainable, high quality uniforms for their employees," says Giordano."Our primary raw material is sourced from uniforms being disposed of by our corporate clients, allowing us to be competitive on price," says Paul Serbiak Global’s CEO.There are three steps to the ECOTEK process:- Recovery: Companies collect old uniforms and send them to Ecotek. Customers earn a credit towards new uniform purchases.- Rejuvenation: Rejuvenation is the heart of the Ecotek philosophy. The company uses a patented procedure to remove old fiber from fabric, restore it, and create new fabric. The rejuvenated fiber is soft, strong, and comfortable, and looks like new.- Re-creation: The fabric made from the rejuvenated fiber is then used to make new uniforms."The entire process takes place in the USA, ensuring fair labor practices and extremely high quality standards," according to the company. Ecotek will offer customized design in large and small batches with quick turnaround times.Buying uniforms made with rejuvenated fibers not only saves water and energy, it saves money, and allows employees to feel proud and look great with options for customized style and sizing.Surveys show that a majority of entry-level employees prefer to work for an environmentally friendly company and more than half of consumers prefer to buy from companies with a green reputation.For more information about how your company can go greener and look great doing it, visit