What Does a Healthy Business in the 21st Century Look Like?

Photo Courtesy of Ursa Major.

Two New Yorkers left the city life to build a “healthy” business in Vermont.   No, it’s not a health food business, but rather, a balanced, holistic business model that the founders of skincare company, Ursa Major, say is still missing in today’s discourse.

“A lot of the businesses we were seeing were just not healthy.  By that I mean, the culture, the way they treat people, the authenticity of it,” says Oliver Sweatman, co-founder of Ursa Major.

Sweatman and his partner, Emily Doyle, had lived in the city, working corporate jobs.  Sweatman was in finance, a career that tested his limits in many ways, he says.  “I worked like a dog.  Yes, it paid well.  But I spent most of my 20s working.”

When he and Doyle set out to start a business, they wanted to build a model that was more balanced.  “We would spend our weekends in Vermont and the lifestyle, mentality, everything just became more appealing to us.  Here people work hard during the day but then after 5 pm, they’re out riding their bikes, hiking, doing yoga, or just relaxing.  That’s the norm.”

Founders of Ursa Major, Emily Doyle and Oliver Sweatman. Photo Courtesy of Ursa Major.

Founders of Ursa Major, Emily Doyle and Oliver Sweatman.  Photo Courtesy of Ursa Major.

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Slovakian architects’ pod makes tiny houses seem enormous

For house hunters a bit on the nonconventional side, here’s an edgy idea:

A new off-the-grid home comes with a kitchen, shower, bed and sitting area. But it’s only 86 square feet — smaller than a tiny house — and can be towed behind a car. If you happen to drive an electric vehicle, it’ll even charge the car for you.

The Ecocapsule, designed by a Slovakian architectural studio, is an egg-shaped abode for a single person or a snug residence for a small family. Powered by solar and wind energy, it’s completely mobile: no water or power hookup needed.

A filtration unit collects rainwater and stores purified water. With a 750-watt wind turbine that pops up, it looks as futuristic as it sounds — ideal for adventure-seekers with a nomadic lifestyle, families looking for life beyond the suburbs or millennials and empty-nesters seeking attention-grabbing affordable housing options.

It’s currently available for pre-order in limited quantities for a little more than $90,000 (shipping from Slovakia not included). Since revealing the design at last year’s Pioneers Festival in Vienna, the design team says it has received more than 50,000 inquiries.

Read the full story in The Washington Post.


Photo Courtesy of Ecocapsule


How This Hotel In India Is Redefining The Business Model in Hospitality

Running a hotel in India can quickly turn into a social endeavor — something that entrepreneurs in hospitality may not see coming.

In Pondicherry, a town with unique French architecture nestled on the east coast of the subcontinent, two stylishly dressed hotels Villa Shanti and La Villa are having an impact in the community by preserving heritage and local livelihoods.

Segiyane Sylvain Paquiry is a hotelier who returned to his native India after living in Paris for nearly a decade.  Raised in Pondicherry, Paquiry wanted to start a business that would meld elements of both worlds.  Working with partners, including two French architects Tina Trigala and Yves Lesprit, Paquiry opened Villa Shanti in 2012 and its newer cousin, La Villa, last year.  The vibe in both properties is cosmopolitan, minimalistic, and yet, intrinsically Indian with touches of handicrafts, tile work, local textiles, and murals depicting slices of India.

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How This Nashville-Based Small Business Is Competing With The Big Guns Of Fashion

Tired of hearing about slow fashion, sustainable fashion, ethical fashion?

You might not be the only one. Didactic fashion campaigns can get tiresome, saysNisolo founder Patrick Woodyard.  That’s why he’s putting his startup on a different track that’s ready to compete with the big guns of fashion — in branding, aesthetic, and social media.

Started 5 years ago, Nisolo, which means not alone in Spanish, is a brand devoted to its supply chain.  It began in Peru, employing a team of artisans, crafting leather shoes.  Woodyard, working in the microfinance world, was stunned by the workmanship but frustrated by the lack of a market.  So he founded a company, specializing in leather shoes and catering to the American market.  LA-based designer Zoe Cleary partnered with him to create classic designs, with everlasting appeal (transcending seasonal fashion trends).

Five years since, the brand has grown and acquired other companies as well, branching out beyond the confines of leather workshops in Peru to exploring new domains — handbags and even jewelry out of Kenya.

There’s one lesson that defines Nisolo’s journey, according to Woodyard.

“The story matters.  But the product and design is just as important, if not more important,” he says in a phone chat from the company’s Nashville headquarters.

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YouTubers FunForLouis And Dave Erasmus Embark On Global Journey To Fund Social Entrepreneurs

YouTubers Louis Cole and Dave Erasmus are a comical, charming, and adventurous duo. Their friendship is evident through their travels: snowboarding in Canada, salsa dancing in Cuba, and jazz sessions in New York.

Yet, recently, I met them in Delhi embarking on something bigger: a 30-day tour around the world called The Solvey Project.  The aim is to find social entrepreneurs who could use a nudge: financially and emotionally.  The duo will fund 7 ideas (or individuals) with a minimum of $1,000 a piece at the end of this whirlwind tour.

It’s a pitch competition unlike others — not centered around massive funds, but learning, listening, and seeing where their small doses of capital can spark a change, says Erasmus.

Cole, who is famous for his Youtube channel, FunforLouis, which has nearly 2 million subscribers, sees Solvey as a way to start a “revolution.”


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This Could Be The Future Of Hotels: Going Beyond A Bed And A Bath

The Wayfarer is a “hotelish” property.

It’s a new concept that’s been making waves in the hospitality industry with the rise of boutique hotels that offer a variety from shared rooms with bunks to larger, more traditional private rooms.

Family-run Pacifica Hotels, a company that started out with a concerted focus on California coastal hotels, recently opened one of these “hotelish” properties in Santa Barbara, a town known for skyrocketing hotel prices.  At the Wayfarer, which sits on State Street, residents can get a bed for $70 a night — a bargain in downtown Santa Barbara.

The company just bought a property in Downtown Los Angeles, an area that has been gentrifying rapidly, attracting a younger crowd, startups, and more tourism.  Given the success of the Wayfarer, which offers a mix of private rooms and bunk beds, Pacifica is entertaining a similar model for its upcoming DTLA hotel.

“When we think of hostels, we have this image of traveling through Europe, in our youth, and staying in hostels that had vomit in the sinks, old mattresses.  It wasn’t the most pleasant,” says Matt Marquis, CEO and President of Pacifica Hotels.  “But this is a very different take on hostels.”

The Wayfarer feels much more like an upscale boutique hotel than a playground for just backpackers.

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How A Bootstrapped Idea Made It Onto Apple’s Online Store

Say hello to the future of filmmaking — on an iPad or smartphone.   A small bootstrapped startup is now selling an aluminum and urethane contraption on the Apple Store that can turn any iPad into a movie-making machine.

Since DSLR cameras start at $500 (for a very basic kit) and lenses alone can run upwards of $10,000, filmmaking can be an expensive hobby.  That’s why Josh Apter, a filmmaker and founder of the Manhattan Edit Workshop, created the Padcaster.  “I literally took my iPad to a framing store and had it framed like a picture,” he says.

Perched on a tripod and with space to attach a microphone, a light, and even lenses, the $400 iPad in this “crude prototype,” as Apter refers to it, had transformed into a proper filmmaking camera.

He took the first iteration to the NAB Show, a massive conference for all things film, technology, and content.  Though Apter was there primarily to promote his film school, he attracted more attention for this one-eyed, odd-looking contraption.

Apter started testing it out at events, illustrating to consumers that this device could give rise to what he jokingly calls, “Video Twitter”  After interviewing folks, he’d do a quick edit on the tablet, using iMovie, and then post the video online on social media platforms — all within hours, if not minutes.

“People were amazed by the speed.  They expected to see it up online in a week or two, not in an hour.  Their mouths hung open. And that’s when I knew that we had something. That was the draw.”

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