Reader Mail: July/August 2011
Our story about the battle for national cupcake dominance ["Toughen Up, Cupcake," May] inspired some company owners. "This is a great article about how entrepreneurs can revamp and re-create a simple cake to finally make them the center of attention," wrote Florian Bellanger, a judge on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars and co-founder and executive pastry chef of Mad Mac Macarons in Paterson, New Jersey. "The war is on, and we love it!" But other readers wondered what all the fuss was about. "I love Inc., but I am really sick of hearing about cupcakes!" Deanna Holford wrote on Inc.'s Facebook page. "I may just hide all Facebook updates until this trend blows over."
Under the Weather
Meg Cadoux Hirshberg's column about how entrepreneurs deal with illness [Balancing Acts, May] struck a chord with many readers. "As a cancer survivor and someone who spends my days working to improve the quality of life for millions facing the disease, your article truly resonated with me," wrote Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Livestrong in Austin. "A cancer diagnosis impacts an entire family and all aspects of their lives." Brian Page, an entrepreneur in Deerfield Beach, Florida, who recently spent two years caring for his ailing father while working on a business plan, agreed. "I was not successful in launching the business, and Dad passed away last July," Page wrote. "From time to time, I wonder if I did the right thing, but if I could go back, I would do the same thing again. Your article was another confirmation that priorities must, and should, change sometimes, and that I am not alone."
Saving the World
Our story about Brenda Palms Barber and the company she founded to train former inmates ["Start a Company, Change the World," May] resonated with Frederick Meltzer, CEO of Hoffman's Chocolates in Greenacres, Florida. "During the past two years, my chocolate company has hired half a dozen individuals from a work release program," Meltzer wrote. "At first, I was apprehensive, but I learned that the program was for nonviolent offenders, many of whom are educated and have excellent skills. If these ex-offenders are unable to find employment, then the prospects of turning their life around is slim. Hopefully, this story will inspire other employers to give them a chance."
Andrea Butter, owner and president of Patch of Shade and Maui by Design in Menlo Park, California, expressed her displeasure with the new Q&A format for Norm Brodsky's Street Smarts column. "Norm's column always gave me insight for my own business," Butter wrote. "Now, the questions are so specific that the answers barely pertain to me." Instead of tackling questions from three entrepreneurs each month, Butter suggested, Brodsky should tackle just one, which would give him room for a broader response. What do you think? Let us know by e-mail or letter.
UPDATE: Groupon Switches Gears
When we wrote about Groupon last October, the online daily-deal site was busy acquiring imitator sites springing up across the globe. "We're building by partnering," declared Rob Solomon, then Groupon's president and COO. Between August and January, the company purchased 10 daily-deal sites in several countries, including Singapore, Japan, and Russia.
Over the past few months, however, Groupon appears to have switched gears. Since February, all of its international expansion has come in the form of newly created sites, including Stardeals.com in Australia and GaoPeng.com in China. The company, which now has ventures in 45 countries, has also unveiled Groupon sites in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea.
Groupon also seems to be toughening its stance toward some imitators. In January, founder Andrew Mason announced in a blog post that the company was suing an Australian copycat, Scoopon, for purchasing the Groupon.com.au domain name and trying to register its trademark. "As Groupon became internationally known, opportunistic domain squatters around the world started to buy local Groupon domain names, thinking that we'd eventually be forced to buy them at an insane price," Mason wrote.
Groupon, which filed for an IPO in June, declined to comment on whether it has undergone a wholesale change in its global strategy. But this spring, Solomon was replaced by Margo Georgiadis, a rising star from Google who now oversees Groupon's international operations. An Australian court is scheduled to hear the case involving Scoopon in August. —Ryan Underwood
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