Your Small Business Starts in 2016


Interested in starting a business? Ready to take that hobby to the next level? 2016 is the perfect time to take that leap of faith and become your own boss. Entrepreneurship is at it’s highest and GOBankingRates has some great tips on how to get started and why you should go into business in 2016.

According to Josh Felber, an entrepreneur and career coach, “To create real wealth, you must quit spending your future wealth on goods and services that you want today but deprive you of wealth long term. 2016 is the year to break free from mediocrity and society’s ‘norms.’ Now is time to quit your 9-to-5 job and become an entrepreneur. Start becoming the true you and creating the lifestyle you are destined for.” By cutting one purchase you make every day or week, you start harnessing your long-term goals. Direct spending towards your needs instead of your wants and true wealth will follow.

If you’re applying for a small business loan, 2016 is the perfect time to submit an application. Approval rates are the highest they’ve been in years. Wells Fargo leant small business $22 billion between January 2014 and March 2015. Small business lending is projected to increase even more in the new year.  You can also take advantage of crowdfunding resources like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe. The resources are at your disposal and technology has made it increasingly easy to acquire the audience or support you need to get your business off the ground. New SEC rules now allow crowdfunded companies to repay contributions with equity, providing an even larger incentive for supporters to sponsor your business.

For the first time in years, small businesses are valued over large corporations. With bad press and a push to support local business owners, customers tend to favor small businesses in which personalized service beats out instant deliverables. Just think back to how many times you’ve chosen your corner coffee shop over Starbucks. If you’re business offers good and services, you’ll be especially happy you started sooner rather than later.

Follow your passion and open up shop on 2016. There’s no better time than the present so make it count. The industry is rooting for you.

Largest Toy Car Collection has an Unexpected Home: Beirut Lebanon

For years Beirut Lebanon has been blighted with internal strifes that have made war and conflict a part of everyday life. Yet amidst the conflict and violence, Billy Karam has managed to find a piece of serenity in his own world. For decades, Karam has collected almost 300,000 model cars and about 400 dioramas – a Guinness World Record in both categories. Two things have influenced him to build the collection he has today: his love for cars, as well as the theft of his first car collection during the Lebanese Civil War. At a very early age, his older brother instilled in him a love for cars. Growing up he and his older brother both collected cars, creating their first collection. Unfortunately for them, their collection would be maliciously stolen during the Lebanese Civil War, stirring in him an even greater need to recover his collection. Not knowing it at the time, this event was probably one of the most influential reasons he has broken two Guinness World Records today.

What makes Billy Karam’s car collection so much more special is what he creates with it. His dioramas not only showcase his toy car collection in fun and creative ways, they also document very important historic and personal events in his life. As a racer, he and his brother raced in countless events which Karam documents in his dioramas. Many of his pieces show moments of triumph and excitement that he immortalizes.

Even more impactful are his dioramas documenting the Lebanese Civil War, a long and bloody conflict that lasted fifteen difficult years. “ We are showing what happened in Lebanon, without taking sides, to show the new generation what happened, but without commenting… We are not proud of these wars, but is there a Lebanese who was not affected?”

Now much older, he and his brother still both share a love for racing cars, as well as collecting them. He races frequently abroad, while overseeing his Museum during his free time. “I don’t want to get old, I want to stay young, and this is a way of staying young. It’s a part of me that I don’t want to lose, so I can get the best of the whole world and put it in one place.” Don’t we all.

Star Wars Toys, The Success Of The Toy Industry


This year’s Black Friday fell a little short of optimal results for the toy industry. Retailers of various industries have been experiencing light traffic, and black friday was not an exception. So what is the fate of the toy industry in these final weeks of 2015?

NPD reported earlier this year that sales in the toy industry grew 6.5% in the first half of 2015, and thus will put 2015 in an overall sales growth of 6.2% after the holidays. Unfortunately, these figures don’t seem to be ringing true. According to bloomberg business, consumers are becoming more and more likely to spend money on experience and services rather than material things.

A possible foreshadowing of the toy industry’s success, was this year’s closing of FAO Schwarz and now the Times Square Toys R Us. After almost 15 years, Toys R Us of Times Square will not be renewing their lease come January 2016. CEO, David Brandon, says after seeing over a decade of challenges against big box stores such as Target and Walmart, the company had to re strategize. Thus, the cut back on their almost $2million a month location in Times Square.

Although numbers thus far aren’t promising there is still hope for this quarter. So what can retailers expect to see going forward this holiday season? Motion pictures, inevitably, will always increase toy sales, assuming there’s a product. The new Star Wars movie, set to be released December 18th comes at the perfect time. With Star Wars being the most anticipated movie of the year, retailers are positioning themselves for the fans that span across generations. Toy experts expect the Star Wars franchise to bring in between $1billion and $1.5billion to the toy industry this year.

Seeing as the first Star Wars movie was released in 1977 the spectrum of age within the Star Wars fanbase is like none other. While this holiday season there will likely be an overwhelming amount of new Star Wars fans there are still those fans of the 70s, and they too will be looking to collect the new Star Wars toys. Retailers across the industry are packing their shelves with merchandise and are already seeing great sales within the franchise. With over 100 licensees, including Hasbro, Legos and Spinmaster there is an abundance of choices in product for Star Wars fans.

While Black Friday has come and went there’s hope for the coming holiday weeks. Expectations for the success of the Star Wars franchise are immeasurable, but fortunately for the toy industry, likely attainable.

Online Purchasing: Image Inspection


Buying online can be frustrating when the item you receive isn’t as expected. In most cases, an item may be damaged or altered in transit. Occasionally, the seller may have purposely deceived you; however, it’s more likely you managed to overlook flaws and defects when examining an item on a reseller site like eBay or Amazon. Collectors need to take the utmost care researching and analyzing antiques when bidding or shopping online. Here are my suggestions:

1. Double, triple, and quadruple check for any flaws or defect.

Look through all photographs provided by the seller and examine for conditional issues, discoloration, missing pieces, chips, or cracks. If  you’re purchasing a model car from the 1950s, check for paint damage. Is the car missing a wheel? Are there defects in design? If these things are overlooked, you may be disappointed when the collectable you receive is valued significantly less than you anticipated.

2. Ask the seller for more details.

If you have suspicions that the item may not be in the condition advertised, ask the seller to give you more origin details, the model number, or disclose defects that may not be visible to the naked eye. Conversing with the seller will also give you a good idea whether or not they should be deemed a reputable source. Do not continued with a transaction that makes you uneasy or you feel isn’t secure.

3. Know how to spot reproductions and fakes.

So often, sellers on eBay claim to have 100 percent authentic vintage items, yet when you finally get the item in your hands, the G’s on your Gucci bag are actually Q’s! If you’re buying a handbag, know the designer’s stitching patterns. If you’re purchasing antique furniture, know the type of material the craftsman used in the time period it was claimed to have been made. Did they use redwood or cedar? How about stained glass detailing?

4. Feel free to request additional photos.

If you do not feel the images posted on the listing are adequate, it is well within your right to ask for additional pictures. Be specific about where you want the photographs taken. For instance, are you looking for missing patches of hair on a doll’s head? Do you need to see the underbelly of a plane? Make sure the seller knows which area you’re asking to see to save time on both ends of the transaction.

 5. Make sure you clearly understand the return policy. 

Not every seller is obligated to present you with a money-back guarantee. In the case of antique and collectables, many transactions are final sale. If the seller’s return policy is not clearly stated, ask them to explain it to you so that you can avoid strained, awkward situations down the road. Many services like eBay do offer buyer and seller protection programs, however, websites like Craigslist do not. Moreover, independent websites will operate on their own terms, so you’ll want to be clear on each site’s stance. Don’t make assumptions.

I hope these tips will help guide you through online purchases and aid you on your journey to becoming an even better collector.

Tatsumi Kimishima: The New President of Nintendo

nintendo After the unfortunate and untimely passing of Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s former president, Nintendo announced its new company president. Although many speculated it would be the legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, human resources director Tatsumi Kimishima was selected instead. Although a seemingly underwhelming selection, since 2000 Kimishima has been the chief financial officer for the Pokémon Company, President of Pokémon USA, and president of Nintendo of America. Needless to say, he is highly qualified.

Nintendo, currently stuck in a difficult situation as the Wii U struggles and the 3DS spirals into self-destruction, the company intends to dive headfirst into mobile gaming. Nintendo is also working on it’s next-generation console codenamed, ‘NX’. Earlier this year, Nintendo detailed its plans to make mobile games with mobile portal and eCommerce giant DeNA. The new game console, NX will don new hardware, and replace the current Nintendo membership service to incorporate multiple devices including the Wii U, 3DS, PC, and smartphones and tablets.

As Wii  U continues to decline in sales and consumer interest, Nintendo has its back against the wall. According to new president Kimishima, “There will be no change in President Iwata’s fundamental objectives and strategies.” Although some were eagerly awaiting news that Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of beloved titles like Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and Pikmin would be succeeding late president Iwata, Nintendo decided to select a more business and financially minded individual. Regardless of conflicting opinion, at this point, Nintendo has to make the best possible decision and can’t afford yet another hitch in their path.

Satoru Iwata started at Nintendo in 1983. He help develop some of Nintendo’s most memorable titles like EarthBound and Kirby. In 2002, he became the first person to lead Nintendo who was not an original member of the founding Yamauchi family.

Target Goes Gender Neutral

Target Store
Very soon, a Target store near you will begin phasing out gender labeling for children’s toys. This roll-out will include Target’s home and entertainment sections as well. These days, concerns over appropriate gender identification has come to the forefront of discussion and critical analysis. For Target to set such a precedent at this crucial moment in history has rubbed some customers the wrong way. Customer support runs the gamut from apathetic to supportive and indignant.

In a statement released by Target, they claim,

We never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented. Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender… we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.

While some customers don’t necessarily see the need in arguing against such a stance, others claim that removing gender labeling will make it difficult for them to navigate the store. The push to remove gender related labeling came to a head when an Ohio mother posted a photo on social media showing two different aisles dedicated to “Building Set” and “Girls’ Building Sets.” Like this mother, many failed to see any logical reasoning for such a distinction.

Comments relating to the matter range from the indifferent: “I don’t think it’s that big a deal. As a parent/grandparent I’ve never had to be told whether certain toys are for boys or girls. Parents buy what they want without being told what they should or shouldn’t buy.”

The pro: “Fifty years ago toys were more gender neutral than they are today. Back then toys were just toys and kids played with what they liked. By labeling toys as specifically for one gender or the other, we’re causing kids to feel shame and confusion when they like a toy designated for the opposite sex.”

And the con: “Yet another store in which I will never spend another dime.”

What are your thoughts?

The Secret Story of TOYS: Vimeo

And you thought your job was amazing? From the abstract to the extreme and grotesque, check out these ultra talented people design, sculpt, and paint toys. Their dedication and patience is unmatched!

The Secret Story of TOYS from Anthony Ladesich on Vimeo.

Lincoln Logs, K’NEX, and LEGOs: The Building Blocks of Childhood

Legos in a pile

LEGOs galore~! Just don’t step on one!

Today, any adult over the age of 18 is sure to remember their favorite childhood toys. A mental highlight reel would expose a few big names: Barbies, Toy Soldiers, Barrel of Monkeys, G.I. Joe figures, Polly Pockets – the list goes on and ranges from the stuffed and fluffed, to the complicated and creative. Among these gems, LEGOs easily present a case as one of the most memorable. These small, multi-colored, angular plastic pieces were used to make any child’s imagination come true.

LEGOs allowed kids to build the highest towers, most majestic castles, simple suburban homes, or even replica buildings from their favorite flicks. Much in the same vein were Lincoln Logs and K’NEX. Never gaining quite the same popularity as the LEGO, K’NEX and Lincoln Logs allows children to be just as creative. What was it that set these three mediums apart, what made the LEGO in particular so popular, and how, after all these years, have these toys maintained a position in childhood play?

Lincoln Logs: The National Toy Hall of Fame-r

Lincoln Logs, the oldest of the three, are notched, miniature logs that emulate the design of a log cabin. Connecting to one another, the logs are typically used to build symmetrical structures in rectangular formations. The logs are three quarters of an inch long and approximately two centimeters in diameter. Additional toy parts can be purchased to construct roof tops, chimneys, windows, and doors. John Lloyd Wright designed the toy in 1916 with the help of his father, modeling it after the Imperial Hotel in Japan. Today, the toy sets and brand are currently sold under the K’NEX distribution label. After years of success, Lincoln Logs were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999, and continue to be popular with parents and childcare organizations around the country. The K’NEX website currently posts that for the first time in 50 years, Lincoln logs are now made in the USA with a combination of plastic and 100% real wood parts – “just like you remember!”

A Lincoln Log Cabin

Lincoln Log Cabin with Soldier

The Lincoln Logs appeal is heavily tied to its WWI origins, and patriotic nod to former president Abraham Lincoln. Because of this, the toy sets continue to sell old fashion designs such as “Wolf’s Lodge,” “Mountaintop Hideout,” “Colt’s Creek Command Post,” and “Frosty Falls Ranch.” The allusions to old-timey America keep the Lincoln Log tradition alive; however, the apparent disconnect with 20th and 21st century youth is apparent. This, combined with conspicuous simplicity in design gave way to the colorful, Denmark based LEGO brand by the 1950s.

Today, LEGO generates billions of dollars in revenue, employs over 11,700 people, and is a worldwide household brand. The company has released extravagant themed sets containing any number of colors, piece, shapes, and figurines imaginable. Some of the most coveted sets include: Architecture, Bionicle, City, Super Heroes (DC & Marvel Comics), Pirates, Minecraft, and the list goes on. Children have the opportunity to build practically anything simply with LEGO pieces. Interestingly enough, even though The LEGO Group had already successfully dominated the construction toy market, K’NEX joined the competition in the early 90s, offering children a different approach to building their dream structures.

K’NEX: The Educational Tool

Man with KNEX

K’NEX Roller Coaster

K’NEX, and its entire toy system, can be credited to Joel Glickman. The toys were introduced to the U.S. in 1992, and currently fall under the umbrella group, K’NEX Industries Inc. “Building Worlds Kids Love,” and “The K’NEX Big Thing,” are the two (very 90s sounding) K’NEX slogans. Unlike Lincoln Logs or LEGOs, K’NEX relied on a flexible plastic rod and gear design. Children could use these rods, gears, wheels, and connectors to build more abstraction objects such as race cars, bridges, animals, or amusement parks. Unlike the inflexible designs of Lincoln Logs and LEGOs, K’NEX aimed to appeal to older children from ages 5 to 12, providing them with complex, fun designs. Because of this, K’NEX were often used in educational setting to represent 3D DNA models, simple machines, or basic geometry. Even the K’NEX website has a dedicated “K’NEX Education” section. For this reason, K’NEX still survives today, ranging from basic $10 kits to $1000 luxury, full-scale designs. However, LEGO has somehow retained its dominance over the brand.

The first reason for LEGO’s dominance could be explained in the following way: LEGO has become an iconic brand to such a point that the pieces are no longer being used simply as toys, but also a means to create and design other forms of art by adults. From designer bags to social commentary, LEGOs have been used to create masterpieces. In addition to this, LEGO introduced the first LEGOland, a family-oriented theme park, in Billund, Denmark in 1968. Ever since, LEGOland has expanded to other parts of Europe, North America, and Asia. There’s even a LEGO Digital Designer that helps you create virtual plan before constructing in real life.

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LEGO: The Cream of the Crop

LEGO transcends the realm of “children’s” toys and extends into the general world of art. Furthermore, LEGOs have entered into the world of pop culture via video game and cinema. The 2014 LEGO movie was extremely well received and particularly impressive with an IMDb rating of 7.8 and an Oscar nomination. The LEGO Movie, directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, features some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities as voice actors, including: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman. The film was a huge success, grossing $257 million in North America and $210 million in other territories for a worldwide. A sequel is scheduled for May 18, 2018.

Lincoln Logs and K’NEX have safely remained in a niche sphere of child development, created a natural distance in playing field between them and the mighty brand of LEGO. However, all small differentiating details aside, it’s safe to say that Lincoln Logs, K’NEX, and LEGOs have a special place in our hearts. Children from generations past and generations to come have the opportunity to use these tools to build some of the best structures their minds can imagine. And for that, we have to appreciate the years of service these tools have provided.

A Medium Post On Leadership

Joel Magee posts a Medium article on what exactly it means to be a leader. These days, the term leader is thrown around quite often, making it difficult and overwhelming to develop leadership skills. However, leadership is simply the embodiment of a few favorable qualities. Anyone can be a leader! Below is an excerpt from the write-up.

Any promotion, raise, or annual review is undoubtedly attached to a description reading: “demonstrates strong leadership characteristics”. But what exactly is a leader? Does one have to become commander-in-chief to be a leader? Fret not because leadership can be viewed through a broader lens than simply “in charge” or “not”. Below are 5 qualities of a leader and how these qualities work.

Stop Procrastinating Today!

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Benjamin Franklin

We’ve all been there. It’s the middle of the day and instead of getting any work done, you’re sitting at your computer surfing the web. You’re roaming the office, playing a game on your phone, or simply dozing off. What you’re really doing is procrastinating!

Some may start even earlier than midday. How many times do you set the snooze button on your alarm clock? Some people set up to 5 alarms just to get out of bed in the morning. This person is procrastinating before they’ve even gotten out of bed. As impossible as it sounds, it’s common. We live in culture where it’s acceptable to over schedule, under promise, and push things off to the next day.

I’ll start my diet tomorrow!
I’ll wake up super early and hit the gym tomorrow!
I’ll pack up now and finish my client work at home, maybe after dinner and a glass of wine.

Procrastination doesn’t build business nor does it make dreams. If you’re passionate, eager to advance, or ready to take your life to the next level, you’ve got to get in the mindset of working for today. Here are some tips to get you motivated and ready to take action:

joel-magee-notesThink about the type of person you are and where you work best. Some people are unable to work at home, distracted by the TV, video games, roommates, neighbors, or the spontaneous urge to cook and clean. And yes, you can procrastinate one task by doing another. That sudden urge to tidy up your work space or living room is simply another way to delay what really needs to get done.

After you’ve analyzed your work needs, make a list of everything that needs to get done and when you need it done by. It doesn’t matter how small the task, write it down. Some like to color coordinate their tasks or use sticky notes. Use whatever method works best for you, but don’t spend unnecessary time deciding. Once you’ve gotten in the habit of doing this, you’ll find that crossing items off of your list is a fair gage of just how much you get done and will increase your motivation. Even if you’ve gotten only half of your list done, you’ll feel a whole lot better than not having make one to start.

joel-magee-clockPractice good time management. Don’t spend too long on details that don’t need it. If you’re heavily debating between Cambria and Georgia font for a staff memo or whether to write in blue or black pen, don’t bother with it. You’re wasting time for minute details that ultimately won’t matter. You’ll make better use of your time if you break it up in a meaningful way. After 30 minutes of hard work, reward yourself with a 5 minute break. Walk around the office, get a snack, or simply rest your eyes. Spend those 5 minutes checking text messages or tweeting. Another suggestion: allow yourself buffer time. This refers to time to proofread content, conduct research, or even ask for second opinions. This drastically improves the overall quality of your work.

Commit to realistic assignments. Don’t tell yourself you’ll finish a 5 page paper in 20 minutes – you’re setting yourself up to fail. Often when we procrastinate, we find ourselves rushing assignments, speaking negatively to ourselves, and neglecting the overall quality. For high quality and efficiency, work little by little. AND COMMIT! If you make a note to email your client, do it. Not only will the client thank you, but you’ll thank yourself too.

These little things can push you in a positive direction for growth. If you’re trying to start a business, or you own one, procrastination is a habit you definitely need to break for long-term success.

Good luck!