Five businesses that are the last of their kind in America. Outsourcing and the sands of time have taken their toll on these five companies, profiled by CNN Money, which are now the last businesses of their kind in the U.S. From "iconic products" such as sparklers and Limburger cheese these bastions have managed to survive as their products fell out of favor or became available for less from abroad. For example, it would be cheaper for Diamond Sparklers to shut down their factory and simply import the Fourth of July favors from China, but they have the local community to think of. "There are 20 full-time employees in our factory in Youngstown, and as long as we can sell these products in our own venues, then we're going to keep doing it," says the company's VP of sales Jerry Bostocky. For a lesson in diversifying when sales of your star product start to sag, see how this hot tub maker stayed afloat.
Should entrepreneurs lie? That's the question posed in the Harvard Business Review by Babson College professor Daniel Isenberg. The Sunday school answer is that it is never okay to lie, but most entrepreneurs can recall a time when they have had to embellish the facts in order to keep their business's wheels from falling off. Isenberg gives a number of real life business examples where entrepreneurs were forced to decide whether it is okay to "stretch the truth" in order to keep their businesses going. What do you think, is it okay to tell a lie to save your business? Should how we lie depend on the culture we are working in? Check out the comments section for a lively debate on whether or not it is okay to tell a few fibs for the good of the business.
Search advertising pioneer unveils new paid Twitter search engine. A new service called TweetUp will allow Twitter users to bid on keywords that will give their posts top ranking, The New York Times reports. They've also developed an algorithm that will organize posts according to how often they are reposted or how often other users click on their links. Bill Gross, who was behind Overture (formerly GoTo), the company that introduced search engine marketing, has already secured $3.5 million in financing and signed deals for the service to appear on other Twitter services, like Seesmic and TwitterFeed, as well as websites Answers.com and BusinessInsider.com. "We feel Twitter is unbelievably powerful, but finding the thoughtful tweets amid all the noise in unbelievably hard," Gross tells The Times. "What we're bringing is a new sort-order to tweets."
Business plans vs. business models. Serial entrepreneur and Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Steve Blank has some business plan advice for start-ups: "no plan survives first contact with customers." Using a few former business school students as examples, Blank compares one team that spent three and a half months building and testing a business model to another start-up team that spent four months crafting a plan and honing it into 15 perfect PowerPoint slides that quickly fell apart in the real world. The first team "didn't spend a lot of time justifying their assumptions because they knew facts would change their assumptions," says Blank. Instead, Team One got critical feedback on their hypotheses and tested landing pages, keywords, and other critical assumptions. Only after that did they go the PowerPoint route. Blank isn't suggesting giving up business plans altogether. But plans are made to be rewritten, not stay static. (Via peHUB.)
How smart are your Twitter followers? A new app called Stupid Fight wants to help you find out, Mashable reports. Apparently, the service gauges the mental capacity of your followers by scanning the last 100 "@" replies to your page for pesky abbreviations like "OMG" and egregious implementation of exclamation marks. You can also pit the followers of two celebrities against each other in a battle of wits. The folks at Mashable, for example, plugged in tween pop singer Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher, and found the results to be a bit disturbing, "seeing as how 'Justin Bieber' is an extremely popular trending topic."
JASON DEL REY was a senior reporter covering technology, branding, and company culture for Inc. magazine. Before joining Inc., his work appeared in Newsday, The (Newark) Star-Ledger, and the Staten Island Advance, and on ESPN.com. He lives in New Jersey. @DelRey