Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
One entrepreneur's journey from Cisco to organic turkeys. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the Washington Post has the interesting story of Sandy Lerner, one of the co-founders of Cisco, who now spends her time raising turkeys at her organic farm near Middleburg, Virginia. Lerner and her then-husband Len Bosack helped start the famous computer system company, which went public in 1990. Despite owning nearly a third of the company, Lerner was fired and left the company with roughly $200 million. Ever the entrepreneur, Lerner started the successful Urban Decay cosmetics company in 1995, eventually selling it in 2000 for a tidy profit. Her love of animals led her to start her organic, humane Ayrshire Farms in Virginia. If you want one of her turkeys on your Thanksgiving table, be ready to shell out some big bucks. One of Lerner's certified organic, certified humane, heritage-breed turkeys will run you about $230 for a 22-pounder.
Family businesses on the rise. What happens when parents and children go into business together? Emotions fly high, toes are stepped on and successful companies are built, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, which chronicles three startups run by parent-and-child teams. With parents getting laid off and kids unable to find jobs, many families are now giving it a shot. "It makes perfect sense," says Wayne Rivers, co-founder of the Family Business Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. Parents have the expertise and connections built up over a long career; kids are web-savvy in a way earlier generations can't beat. And there's nothing like a genetic bond to cement a business partnership. But he warns: "There's always the parent-child dynamic, and when you add a business, with all its moving parts, it's complicated."
Private equity goes Hollywood. Equity investors in California are nothing new, but The New York Times reports that, lately, some of them are moving south from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. According to the Times, "falling salaries, rising subsidies and a thinning of competition [have] turned the financial equation in favor of the investor." Some recent hits financed by new-to-Hollywood investors are "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," which were inexpensive to create and yielded a huge turnout at the box office. As one big oil investor explains, "We've always made our living by buying when things are down," and as traditional studios have become more wary of investing the past few years, Hollywood seems to be the perfect environment for investors looking to get in when the going's tough.
Cheap tweets. Why pay millions for a celebrity endorsement when you can have the editor of The Onion tweet for you for a fraction of the cost? The Wall Street Journal reports that some marketers are turning to cheaper, more powerful, alternatives: "Young social-media influencers who have strong online followings." Lexus, the subject of the article, has hired a number of popular social media personalities to leverage their already established networks to promote the company's message, which, the article notes, can "give a brand more credibility with younger shoppers than hiring high-priced celebrities."
Snicker-worthy product names. When Sara Lee said Tuesday it would sell its North American bakery to a Mexican company, a lot of people got a chuckle. Not that anything about the $959 million sale was funny...except the Mexican company's name: Grupo Bimbo. Sure, it's supposed to be pronounced "beem-bo," as some of the company's marketing pleads for Americans to do. But today the Chicago Tribune's Barbara Brotman writes an open letter to the company: "We're still pronouncing it 'bimbo,'" she says of herself and, well, the American public. Yes, it's as childish as snickering at the name of the seventh planet from the sun, but Brotman laughs: "Would you like a piece of Bimbo?" "Can you butter my Bimbo?" Sure, the case of Bimbo illuminates the need for careful international branding, but also raises the question: is a bit of instant name recognition--even if it's childish--ever a bad thing?
The perks of being the boss. Or at least one of the big guys like Gregory B. Maffei of Liberty Media Corp., that is. Maffei pulled in a total direct pre-tax compensation of $87.1 million in 2009, four times what he made in 2008 and enough to put him atop the Wall Street Journal's latest CEO pay survey. Collected by the Philadelphia-based consulting firm Hay Group, the survey found that annual bonuses rose nearly 11 percent among companies with annual revenues of more than $4 billion during the last fiscal year. And though Ray Irani of Occidental Petroleum topped the best-paid list in April, he fell to No. 3 in the most recent survey and brought in a paltry $52.2 million for the year. Rounding out the rest of the top five were Larry Ellison of Oracle at $68.6 million, Carol Bartz of Yahoo at $44.6 million, and Leslie Moonves of CBS at $37.6 million, up 83 percent from 2008.