Small Business

10 Meddling Questions With Local Weather Entrepreneur Spinks Megginson

Spinks Megginson has a rare mix of entrepreneurial spirit and love of weather. He also really can’t stand that weather app you have in your pocket right now and has little patience for national weather sources.

He has a bit of a radical idea- that people want to get good weather information and a sense of community while receiving it.

He launched RedZone Weather, a hyperlocal weather and information brand in early 2015. It has quickly grown into a sustainable business by serving the communities that dot Southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida. But he has dreams for bigger things as well.

Here’s 10 questions with Spinks Megginson:

1) RISE NEWS- Where did your whole fascination with weather come from?

Spinks Megginson: I’ve wanted to study weather and teach others about meteorology for as long as I can remember, and that’s no exaggeration. I am incredibly thankful for my family and their support even when I was quite young. I can remember when I was 3 or 4, they would ask me to point to the “red spot” on the television screen. That’s one of the reasons why my company is RedZone Weather.

Also when I was super young, I was learning states and geography by putting glass stick-on puzzles together on the back door. They bought me maps, atlases, and books.

We also went through Hurricane Opal in 1995 as a family, and that was a defining experience. Nine years later, I had a Gateway (remember that?) desktop computer and I was able to track Hurricane Ivan as a seventh grader.

I think there’s a natural interest there and there always has been. That, in combination with my family fostering the development of an interest, has been a real blessing.

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Spinks showing his love for weather as a young boy. Photo Credit: Sandra Morris Clements/ Facebook

2) RISE- How did that development continue when you got to high school? Did you ever express your weather love in class?

Spinks Megginson: I can see #weatherlove trending!

I worked at WEBJ Radio in my hometown of Brewton, Alabama during high school. This allowed me to learn quite a bit not only about communication during severe weather events, but also about announcing news, daily weather, and sports. I also became a student member of the National Weather Association. That gave me some insight into the weather enterprise through their publications.

I didn’t ever really express how much I enjoyed meteorology to others in class during high school, but it definitely was a known fact that I was interested in the subject. People would often ask me about weather, even then.

3) RISE- What about your college experience? How did it help you on your path?

Spinks Megginson: College was an integral part of my growth, both personally and professionally. In addition to learning a tremendous amount about the broadcast communication industry, I connected with many different people across the nation. I am thrilled to maintain these connections even now, more than two years after graduating from The University of Alabama.

My professors at UA were truly spectacular. Dr. Chandra Clark and Dr. Jason Senkbeil are the two professors that really stand out. I learned a vast amount of knowledge and acquired “real world” experience just by taking their classes. Dr. Clark is a former television producer, while Dr. Senkbeil is a former television meteorologist.

I think the specific opportunity that helped me most was being able to work on staff at WVUA23-TV during and after college. It was an honor to be one of the only weather interns to ever be offered a job at WVUA. The staff at WVUA, particularly Chief Meteorologist Richard Scott, involved me in daily operations and also in multiple severe weather events. That enabled me to learn so much more than being in a class ever could. I also worked with WVUA-FM, furthering my radio résumé.

Megginson during a light moment on set of WVUA-TV.

Megginson during a light moment on set of WVUA-TV.

4) RISE- How long have you been thinking about something like RedZone Weather then? Because it seems like you had other career options coming out of school.

Spinks Megginson: It’s true that I’ve had several job offers to do TV weather, right after college and as recently as a few weeks ago. I’m grateful to have those opportunities and I’ll certainly consider each opportunity I’m given. I consider it an honor to even have the chance to work with some of the great people in television in Alabama and beyond. I still occasionally do fill-in work on the evening newscasts at WVUA. I like to “keep my feet wet” in the TV world. Moreover, I like to be reminded of just how wonderful my current schedule is outside of television.

RedZone Weather is a bit of a culmination of my life experiences and a grandiose opportunity that I couldn’t ignore. I’ve been thinking about the concept for years, and that’s not an exaggeration. No “old media (for now, anyway).” Simply “new media.” That’s the goal. Meet people where they are already. People aren’t watching 10 o’clock newscasts. For many reasons, but that’s a discussion for another day. People ARE, however, increasingly on their smartphones and tablets all the time. The initial thought was to build a company around that. My time at UA helped me form the initial thought process on how to successfully do something like this. Ten months after graduating college, I started the company.

I didn’t, and still don’t, have all the answers. It’s a day-by-day learning experience. I’m having a blast though. I’ve done so many presentations about RedZone over the past few weeks and months that I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve met. That’s been a highlight. It’s truly a wonderful company with hopefully a bright, sunny future.

Megginson with well known Alabama weatherman James Spann at a conference.

Megginson with well known Alabama weatherman James Spann at a conference.

5) RISE- What has been the hardest part of starting your own media business?

Spinks Megginson: I’m the “everything” for this company. That means I’m the weather guy, sometimes the producer, director, janitor, PR man, IT coordinator, CEO, editor, “you name it, I do it” individual. That fact has its perks at times, but overall, I wish there were more people involved. It’s a fine balance though because I’m not interested in having a massive company right now, either.

Bruce Thompson has been with me since the start… I told him about what I wanted to see with RedZone, and he helped me set up the company as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Bruce also has been active on severe weather days with the company. He and Leigh Margaret Bostic, who is one of my best friends, have been phenomenal at producing on-screen content during the severe weather events of the past few months. I’m thrilled to not only call both of them friends, but also have them involved in RedZone Group, LLC.

It’s certainly difficult being a “one man band” at times, but so far, thankfully it hasn’t been an insurmountable challenge.

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6) RISE- So you’ve been active with it for over a year now and things have seemed to go well. Have you been happy with the response from the community?

Spinks Megginson: For me to simply answer yes would be an understatement. I’ve had so many people from around the region rally around what I’m doing. I think it’s obvious, based on the comments that are publicly accessible on Facebook and Twitter and based on the large number of positive comments people have said to me in person, that this service is truly beneficial for our community and our region.

RedZone Weather is one of those things that people didn’t realize they needed until it benefited them directly. Like on February 15 and 23rd, when two EF3 tornadoes moved across our region. It’s a hyperlocal weather service designed with rural communities first in mind. This isn’t about putting profits at the forefront, like most radio and television stations have to do. This is about helping people. Communicating urgent weather information that has the potential to save a life. Being present in the community across the region and actually caring that people know what to do during severe weather. That’s what it’s about.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I don’t know who said that quote, and evidently the Internet doesn’t either based on my Google search, but it’s exactly what I want RedZone to be about. So far, I think we’re doing alright with that.

WATCH: RedZone Weather report on the start of Hurricane Season. 

7) RISE- How do you compete with the notion that some people have that apps do a fine job of giving local weather information?

Spinks Megginson: Great question. Why should weather guys like me still be a part of a person’s life on a regular basis when he or she could easily look at the free iPhone weather app that comes preloaded on every device?

That means I’m competing with the app in almost everyone’s pocket. Android has a weather app. I assume Windows/Blackberry phones do too. I assume even most feature/flip phones have some type of weather access. That’s a pretty daunting challenge.

The difference with what I’m doing versus the apps is huge.

What most people don’t realize is nearly every weather app (including the iPhone weather app, by the way) is a view of raw model output statistics. No specific model is always right. Not one. They all have individual flaws. I take a blend of individual models AND incorporate what I know about specific recurring model errors. Models can’t do that. I can. TV weather guys can. I then apply corrections and refinements and produce a forecast.

Don’t even get me started about how many times I’ve seen the stock iPhone weather app be dead wrong. I can communicate “a line of storms will move through around 6AM Tuesday, followed by cooler temperatures and clearing skies.” The iPhone app displays nothing but a lightning icon for days in advance. The same holds true for many other apps. This isn’t a far-fetched example… It happened recently!

The media for how we communicate weather information is changing — and always will be changing. What doesn’t change is the need for people to communicate weather patterns. Weather-related models, computers, and apps are getting better. Slowly, but surely. I’m convinced that there won’t be any time in our lifetimes, no matter if you’re 4 years old or 84, that we don’t need people to communicate weather info, especially in the high-risk, panic-prone moments of a tornado or a hurricane.

Megginson teaching a class at a school about weather in their area.

Megginson teaching a class at a school about weather in their area.

8) RISE- So in a way, you are trying to push back a bit against the blandness of automated information sources like apps and broad ones like the Weather Channel?

Spinks Megginson: I view the network you mentioned and others like it as entertainment/broad information sources. Certain large weather vendors seem to have lost the local connection and the targeted focus of their past. There are a few large weather vendors that do a nice job, but that’s also a discussion for another day.

Read More: This “Funny Map” Of Tuscaloosa According To An Alabama Student Is Hilarious And Sort Of Spot On

9) RISE- Right now you are entirely focused on a specific geographic area (Southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida). How do you keep up with everything happening in your region?

Spinks Megginson: It’s impossible to keep up with a massive number of events. I do try to keep up with as many events as I can. People seem to really like the hyperlocal forecasting for specific events, so I try to incorporate as much of that as feasibly possible.

Some events are regularly scheduled, like high school and college football games. I had many encouraging comments about providing specific forecasts for those last year, and I would imagine we will do some of those again.

I’ve had requests to do forecasts for other sports and miscellaneous events. There’s a balance, though, of keeping things generalized to cater to a wide audience from across our ten county dedicated coverage area as well.

10) RISE- Where is RedZone Weather going? What do you think the future of it will be?

Spinks Megginson: I have somewhat of a grand vision for RedZone Group, LLC. I think the next step is continuing the daily grind of building the company. What does that look like? I think visiting and being a part of our local communities — and not just my hometown. I think the exposure and brand recognition in my hometown (where RedZone started) has been fantastic. I am SO appreciative to everyone who supports us in Brewton, Alabama. I think there’s more to it than strictly Brewton, however.

Presentations, lectures, helping people with weather radios, seeking opportunities to help communities around the region and around the state.

This next step isn’t as “sexy” as other things we do. It’s not necessarily “in the spotlight” for everyone to see, but I think it’s a necessary step. Getting to know people takes time and letting them know how much you care takes time.

I can’t imagine ever retiring from something like this (says the 24 year old who probably doesn’t realize what he’s actually saying). I’m having a blast. Another ill-defined quote that I love… “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I truly love what I do. It’s sometimes not the most agreeable or pleasant job, but it’s always worth it. What an honor it is to be able to talk with people about something that affects literally ALL of our lives. 100% of us are directly and indirectly affected by… Weather.

You can follow the rise of Spinks Megginson’s weather revolution on Facebook and Twitter

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Spinks Megginson.

Totally Ethnik: The African Fashion Brand That Is Proud To Be Both African And “Ethnic”

By Nate Nkumbu

When people think of fashion in Sub-Saharan Africa, they often think of clothing that is passed down from family members or hand me downs donated by the West.

But one fashion brand from the continent seeks to change those Western notions.

Totally Ethnik is a fashion company based in Accra, Ghana and they are real path breakers.

As a brand, the company mostly makes their clothes from local sources coming from Ghana, Mali and the Ivory Coast.

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According to Totally Ethnik’s public relations representative Marie Kipre, the main force behind the clothing line is for their looks to be as real as they can be to the cultural identity of Ghana.

“We keep our clothing as ethnic as possible,” Kipre said in an email to RISE NEWS. “We use wax prints [a] lot however, we fuse it with other fabric depending on the idea we want to portray with each piece.”

Kipre said that the company don’t deal with many problems being a being a fashion brand based in Africa.

However, she did say that the biggest obstacle that they face is getting the product to the global market.

“Our designs are authentic and truly ethnic making our clients satisfied anytime they wear our clothes,” Kipre said. “Our challenge is being able to get our clothing to other countries and be able to secure chain shops that will be interested in stocking our cloths.”

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According to the World Bank, Ghana is the 114th most difficult business climate in the world with very high import and export costs and a difficult trade relationship with other countries in the region including Nigeria.

But despite some of these structural difficulties, Totally Ethnik is plugging ahead and making progress into being a widely known fashion brand.

“African fashion has been accepted all over world now and continues to grow and Totally Ethnik as a brand is one that people will love to be associated with,” Kipre said.

To learn more about Totally Ethnik, you can visit their website: http://www.totally-ethnik.com

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

The Dollar High Club Is Trying To Revolutionize The Way People Get Weed Supplies

Are you a smoking aficionado? Ever run out of smoke supplies and get too slumped to leave your couch?

Well then Dollar High Club’s got you covered.

Dollar High Club is a monthly subscription service that discreetly delivers smoking supplies (intended for tobacco…right).

“A lot of people don’t have access to affordable smoking supplies, and we want to change that,” Harrison Baum, the founder and CEO of Dollar High Club told RISE NEWS.

For only a dollar a month you can receive 1.25 size all natural papers, all natural filter tips, 3.3’ organic bee wick and a matchbook.

That’s a good amount of smoking supplies for a dollar.

They also offer the option to subscribe for the Connoisseur package for $12 a month that comes with 7-9 products or the El Primo package for $30 a month that comes with 10-15 products.

Essentially, it is the smoking equivalent of the Dollar Shave Club.

When I first heard about the company, I was eager to learn more and my question to Baum was, how did you come up with this idea?

“It was a idea I came up with while browsing Reddit Trees and Reddit Entrepreneur,” Baum said. “I put the idea on Reddit, it topped r/Trees, and then I quit my day job that week and it changed my life.”

Sometimes the best ideas hit you out of nowhere, and that’s exactly what happened to Baum.

“We want to change the stigma surrounding smoking, by making it accessible to the everyday person worldwide,” Baum said.

The company has its own warehouse and can ship products to anywhere around the country.

They plan to get the word out using more grassroots means via social media including humorous content creation on YouTube and Facebook.

With that being said they just released a new video on Youtube that topped Reddit videos for a short time. It is a parody of the famous Dollar Shave Club commercial.

Check it out:

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

 

Cover Photo Credit: Dollar High Club/ Facebook

Could Miami’s Next Fashion Icon Be This Home Grown FIU Student?

This story was originally published on risemiaminews.com on June 24, 2015.

By Jose Vicenty

Miami is known for many things – beautiful beaches, tourist attraction, nightclubs and great fashion.

With the Miami Design District and Miami Fashion week, Miami serves as a city that sets trends and grooms innovators in becoming part of the illustrious fashion industry.

Add Miami-bred Valentina Quiroga to the list of local trendsetters.

Valentina’s fascination with fashion began at the age of five. She started with a love for Abercrombie and Fitch.

Read Another Great Story: Miami Fashion Blogs Rise In Importance As Local Scene Grows

“I remember when I was like five I would see Abercrombie and Fitch, not being able to fit, and want to wear it because I knew that was what was in style,” Quiroga said.

As she grew older so did her love for the fashion industry and with the help and support of her parents, she was able to begin selling her own merchandise on eBay while still in high school.

“One of the most memorable moments as a business owner has to be when I sold out of my first item 9 hours after posting it on my eBay store,” Quiroga said. “That moment will never be forgotten”.

However, as amazing as it was to be a young owner, it was equally difficult.

“I think one of the hardest things I had to learn to overcome was when I had an eBay and eBay store and other sellers would say that my items were offensive or went against the selling rules of the sites,” Quiroga said. “The site would take the item down for seven days at a time and this would happen to like two or three of my items at once”.

Although she experienced a rough beginning, Quiroga saw the silver lining and decided to open her own website where she is able to sell directly to the costumer. That’s how Valdesigns was born.

Photo Credit: Valdesigns/Facebook

Young CEO Valentina Quiroga. Photo Credit: Valdesigns/Facebook

Valdesigns is a clothing site that sells everyday wear with fashionable phrases for men and women, as well as pets.

Moreover, she’s doing it with the help of social media but she owes most of her success to her parents.

“My parents have basically been the backbone for the business,” Quiroga said. “They are my investors to start new projects, they help with the design, and they make sure I do not lose motivation. If it was not for them Valdesigns would not exist, no exaggeration”.

As far as being a young owner- she is still a college student at Florida International University, Quiroga said that she has enjoyed the process of starting a business.

“Being a young owner is great. I do get a lot of praise because Valdesigns is not something I tell people right off the bat, I let them figure it out through my social media so it’s shocking for them when they find out,” Quiroga said.

What’s next for Quiroga and Valdesigns?

“I am definitely planning on expanding the business, getting custom materials to make shirts, maybe some bathing suit,” Quiroga said. “We’ll see but Valdesigns is not only going to stay in the fun phrase t-shirt sector, it will grow hopefully with support of customers and friends”.

In addition, she said that the company is looking into releasing a workout line next.

To learn more about Quiroga and her clothing line, you can visit Valdesignsonline.com. You can also check out her pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #Valdesigns.

For $99 a Month, MealPass Gets You Gourmet Lunch Everyday Of The Week

Adulting is hard, and having to feed yourself everyday is arguably the hardest part about it.

If you’ve got the cooking thing down, you probably spend hundreds of dollars each month on groceries and hours each week preparing your meals.

If you opt for buying your meals everyday, you’re probably spending hundreds of dollars on delivery orders, expensive salads and pizza cravings.

A potential solution?

MealPass. For $99 a month – breaking down to about $5 a day – you get lunch every weekday from one of the best restaurants in Downtown Miami & Brickell.

Launching this week, the platform seeks to provide locals with affordable lunch options while helping restaurants put their name and menu on the map.

Here’s how it works: Starting at 7 p.m. the night before, users can log in to see the menu for the following day, make their pick and head out to pick up at lunchtime. Participating restaurants offer one prix fixe meal a day.

On Thursday, Jan. 14, MealPass hosted their official launch party with more than 300 eager foodies in attendance for a sneak peek at the restaurants on board.

Tasting were available for Miami staples including Suviche, Brother Jimmy’s, Novecento and Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita.

According to conversations I had with participating restaurants, they take a portion of the subscription dollars and are mostly eager for the added revenue on the backend through exposure of their restaurant.

“This will help people tell others about our location, come for other meals throughout the day, and we anticipate to start seeing more traffic,” said a team member from Spaghettino. “We are very excited to be a part of this program.”

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The gathered crowd at the MealPass kick off event Thursday Jan 14 in Miami.

MealPass founders Mary Biggins and Katie Ghelli were inspired to launch the program from their own dining experiences in college. They enjoyed finding new places to eat and wanted to consolidate the options in Miami to help locals expand their dining routine.

“We’re excited to help consumers easily discover all the best lunch options in Brickell,” Ghelli told RISE NEWS.

Mary Biggins is also co-founder of a similar and widely successful program, ClassPass.

With ClassPass, subscribers pay $99 a month to take classes at dozens of different fitness studios in a given city.

The company receives a bulk discount on classes from their providers in exchange for helping them reach new customers. According to the company, more than 10.8 million reservations were made in 2015 – a 700% leap from the year before.

Unlike ClassPass, which has a three-time per month limit per studio, MealPass does not have restrictions as menus will rotate daily and the company doesn’t anticipate users will want to eat the same thing every day.

The menu has a wide selection.

Gourmet salads and acai bowls from Cold Pressed Raw, hearty pasta dishes from Garzon on your “cheat day,” even decadent dessert and crepes from YUZU.

Friday’s menu included Chicken Teriyaki from Sushi Maki, Chicken Mac & Cheese from American Social, Sausage, Egg & Cheese from Toasted, Cheese Quesadillas from Batch, Couscous Fish Salad from Fit2Go, and more than 50 other decadent options to choose from.

If you’re looking to indulge in lunch from some of the best restaurants in our city for only $99 a month, you can sign up at www.mealpass.com.

You can also follow MealPass on social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mealpass
Instagram: @mealpassapp
Twitter: @mealpassapp

Do you run a start-up or small business? We might be interested in writing about you! Send us a story pitch to editor@risenews.net.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Photo Credits: Lissette Calveiro/RISE NEWS.

These Miami Dating Experts Say They Know What’s “Wrong” With Howard Stern’s Daughter

This story was originally published in the South Florida Reporter.

By Mark Young, SouthFloridaReporter.com Managing Editor

In a recent interview in the New York Post, Howard Stern’s daughter, Emily, talked about her attitude towards men and dating.

Emily said in the piece that she is currently not dating anyone and has been turned off by the dating world due to her father’s strong emphasis on sexuality.

While she and her famous dad say there are inaccuracies in the article, Barbara Black Goldfarb and Nancy Gold, PH. D, matchmakers extraordinaire and co-founders of Elegant Introductions, a South Florida based dating company say that many children from high profile families share many of the same feelings as Emily.

“At the end of the day everyone is looking for the same thing…someone who will love you, unconditionally, regardless of your last name or fame,” Barbara Black Goldfarb said.”We all want to come home, close the door and have a shoulder to lean on.”

Lovingly known as “The Girls”, Barbara and Nancy are passionate about their work and put their reputation on the line with every match they arrange in the hopes of helping people, from ages 20-80, find love.

According to Dr. Gold:

“It takes inner strength to deal with the pressures of always being ‘observed’.  Emily wants/needs a substantive relationship with someone who has similar core values, lives by them and shares a strong commitment to Jewish practice and causes.

We’d love to talk with her or lend our expertise and services. The great thing is that she would maintain complete anonymity. So whomever met her, would meet her (Emily), not the daughter of her famous father!”

READ MORE at SouthFloridaReporter.com

Cover Photo Credit: Ted Van Pelt/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

 

Start Up Miami: LiveAnswer Leads The Way In South Florida Tech Innovation

By David Drucker

LiveAnswer, a proprietary sharing economy platform that specializes in providing phone support (customer service, technical support), is setting an example for new businesses not only in Miami, but also around the globe.

After a successful first year, the company is preparing for a national startup competition and the integration of new age components into its call service all while doing what they can to help other Miami startups succeed.

CEO Adam Boalt has seen his company experience rapid success in a short period of time. After launching in 2014, the Miami-based company entered Tech. Co’s Miami Startup of the Year Competition that summer.

Although Boalt’s company did not claim victory in its debut year, they learned from the experience and reevaluated how their business should operate.

Now as the winners of best pitch at Tech Co’s competition in July – of the 13 finalists, they ended up with 40% of the final votes – LiveAnswer is now gearing up for the national competition in early October.

“When we first pitched LiveAnswer last year, we focused a lot on the software standpoint and not as much on its value to the community,” Boalt said. “This year, we did it all differently and spoke about the value of what we were providing to the local community.”

Although they have a flight booked for Tech Co’s national competition in Las Vegas, the Miami startup has not forgotten the city in which it got its start.

LiveAnswer is in an active partnership with Enrique Iglesias’ Atlántico Rum and Pipeline Workspaces, a partnership forged at this summer’s Social Media Day South Florida, where the companies teamed up to work towards making Miami #1 in startup activity on the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity by 2016.

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LiveAnswer’s new “multi-channel platform”. The company says that the new product will add email, chat and social media to its voice capabilities in a move to improve client experience. Photo Credit: Live Answer

The partnership will continue its mission through their sponsorship of Social Media Week Miami, a sold out conference running until September 18 at the Miami Ad School in Wynwood.

The multi-day event will host some of the top social media analysts from around the country to help businesses in Miami better understand the increasingly connected world through digital media.

LiveAnswer is also actively working towards improving its own product through the release of their multi-channel platform. The company says that the new product will add email, chat and social media to its voice capabilities to improve client experience.

For Boalt, pushing his business forward has always been about choosing the right team and knowing where to invest his energy.

“100% of succeeding is being hyper-focused,” Boalt said. “Sometimes our minds can wander and think ‘it’d be nice to have this, it’d be nice to have that.’ You have to rope yourself back in and ask yourself what’s the difference between ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ and stick to the ‘must-have’s’.”

Do you know of a cool start up? Own your own small business that is doing something revolutionary? We are interested in writing about it! Send us a tip to editor@risenews.net.

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