Monday, May 28, 2012

How Start-ups Help Employers Find the Best Job Candidates

Harqen Ceo Kelly Fitzsimmons
               With signs that the economy is warming up, a bevy of new start ups stand ready to help companies and employees make the right match. While admitting that during the recession, “the hiring space was hellacious,” Kelly Fitzsimmons, CEO of   Milwaukee-based HarQen, made good use of the time to improving existing systems and to work on new products.  Founded in 2007, HarQen considers itself “a pioneer in the virtual interview space,” with its application called Voice Advantage that allows recruiters to use their phones and a simple web-based dashboard to create and distribute customized, prerecorded phone interview questions. On their part, job candidates  take the interview at their own convenience by clicking on a link through email or on the web; they type in a phone number and answer a callback a second later to begin. Once the interview is completed, recruiters can review the exchange and forward it to others who play a role in hiring. Hiring managers, says Kelly, like the product because it is “a real timesaver, eliminating scheduling hassles”.  And so do job seekers. HarQen reports that 90% of candidates complete the interview within the first 24 hours and 40% of them take the interviews evenings or weekends.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Farming For Agritourism Dollars

Farming for Agritourism Dollars

Jane Eckert in the orchard
    A 6th generation farmer, Jane Eckert grew up with a first hand view of the rigors of farm life “where one night of bad weather can wipe out a year of hard work.” So after picking up a business degree, she left home to work at Atlantic Richfield in L.A. After several years in executive marketing positions, Jane decided to help the family fruit farms in Belleville, Illinois develop  agritourism business because “it is very hard to make living selling wholesale crops.”  The farm now features  Eckert’s Country Store,   which offers a full line of produce, meats, wines, bakery, and deli  products, as well as country favorites such as preserves, pickles and buckwheat pancake mixes; it also has added  a  320-seat restaurant.  Because Eckert Farms,  currently managed by 5 family members, attracts some 500,000 customers a year, Jane’s marketing reputation spread quickly.  In 2001 she founded  Eckert Agrimarketing with a  lofty  mission “to help the family farm—the backbone of our country’s heritage-- thrive and survive in future generations.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mother and Daughter Entrepreneurs Build A Health Food Chain

     Mother and Daughter Entrepreneurs Build A Health Food Chain

Green Acres in Wichita Kansas

     As Barbara Hoffmann likes to say, her vision for Green Acres, a small Midwestern chain of organic and natural food stores, grew out of her aching back. Born into an entrepreneurial family who started a wholesale plant business, Barbara first  transformed her family business into  an interior landscaping business, Tropical Designs, providing plants and trees for offices and shopping malls. But after years of heavy lifting of plants,  Barbara developed chronic back pain and underwent several surgeries which didn’t solve her problems.  Finally, she took matters into her own hands and began to find relief in alternative treatments, diet changes, and nutritional supplements. The deeper she waded into the growing area of healthy eating and therapeutic supplements, she realized she had stumbled onto a concept—building better health—that she wanted to convert into a business.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Finding the Next Generation of Art Buyers and Collectors--Online

Jen Bekman at work:  credit: Paul Costello
          In 2003, when Jen Bekman opened an art gallery near the Bowery in Manhattan, she admits she had never bought art, though she always wanted to.  But once she started living with art, she really enjoyed it. Soon  her mission  grew to something more than decorating her own walls. In short, she wanted “to democratize art. My business arose out of frustration. I realized that the reason I had never bought art was that no one had ever tried to sell it to me.”  But one of Jen’s early observations about customers is that they “came with a lot of baggage about buying art. They saw it as an intimidating experience. They had the means because I saw them in my gallery with expensive clothes and accessories; they just felt at a loss about how to make an art purchase. I wanted everyone to enjoy art, but I couldn’t’ reach everyone just with  my gallery.”