Everything You Need to Know, Without Leaving Your Laptop

Taking a brief intermission from the exciting world of entrepreneurs, today’s post will focus on websites like Boston.com’s Mass.Facts and other websites that compile public information into databases. Mass.Facts allows public records and other public information, like corporate filings, property value and even the number of Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks in towns throughout Massachusetts to be easily accessible via the Web, allowing individuals to become better informed citizens. No longer is it necessary to trek down to the Statehouse to find out how many graduates from your high school are heading to college this year—you can access the information right from your home computer.

However, a vital (at least, I think of as vital) piece of information that is unavailable on Mass.Facts is the number of public restrooms in each town. Think about it—how many times have you been walking around Boston, exploring a new area, or shopping at your local town square or strip mall when you realize that you really have to go? And maybe you don’t want to stop at Starbucks and buy a coffee just so you can use a restroom—the coffee will just make you have to stop somewhere else again soon. So I think a breakdown of public restrooms throughout each town in Massachusetts would not only be interesting to see—it would also be really, really useful in certain circumstances.

If the number of public restrooms in each town is exceptionally high, the breakdown could be number of restrooms per 10,000 people. Included in the digital map of public restrooms could be a specification of where the public restroom is located, whether it be a convenience store, a gas station, ect. That way, individuals will know what kind of venue they will be encountering when they visit that restroom, or it will be easy to see if the town is providing a public restroom unaffiliated with a venue for its public.

ProPublica.org includes an “Eye on the Stimulus” feature, where individuals can find out information on stimulus projects. A stimulus project near my hometown of Westwood, New Jersey is the funding allocated to the Education Department. I thought this would make a good investigation as well as newspaper story because recently, Governor Christie cut funding for schools, causing many teachers to lose their once-stable positions. The reduced funding also threatens to eliminate pension plans for teachers who refuse to retire.

From ProPublica.org, I can find that New Jersey received $10,382,172,910 in funding from the Education Department, while the total allocated throughout the U.S. was $429,936,120,742. I can also see the breakdown of the allotment to each county in New Jersey. It is interesting to see that Mercer County received $6,514,502,735, while Sussex County received a meager $24,852,333.

If I were the editor of a local New Jersey newspaper, I think it would be interesting to compare the amount of Education Department funding allocated to each county with the number of education jobs recently cut, to show just how necessary — or perhaps unnecessary — these job cuts are. I also think it would be a good idea to look at why some counties are receiving a much larger amount than others, and how they plan to use these funds.

A third website that allows the average individual with access to a computer to look up public records without leaving their house is the New York Times’ Toxic Waters database. By simply plugging in a zip code, one can view “polluters” throughout different zip codes. By plugging in my hometown zip code “07675” I can see that the Haworth Water Treatment Plant in Ridgewood, New Jersey is a “polluter.”

This may not be interesting by itself, however, the Haworth Water Treatment Plant is right next to the Oradell Reservoir, where much of the drinking water comes from in Bergen County. The database lists that the last inspection was held in July of 2002, and that the Plant has had 28 violations in the past.

The fact that this “polluter” is so close to the reservoir, combined with the overwhelming number violations, would be something to investigate to see if the “polluter” is in any way damaging the reservoir. As a newspaper editor, I would look into this as well as whether or not the Plant should be shut down since it has caused 28 violations in the past.

Though perhaps no concrete or breaking-news stories may come from this information, the fact that this information is readily available on the Internet and in reach of all journalists just goes to show the advantages the Internet holds for journalists and reporters.

Photo Credit to Maiak.info via Creative Commons.

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Obama Gives a Shout-Out to Entrepreneurs in SOTU

Entrepreneurs got a big “thumbs up” from President Obama during the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, motivating entrepreneurs and small business owners to continue turning their ideas into successful companies. Those in need of a recap online can refer to this article from the Entrepreneur Daily Dose that breaks down what Obama had to say regarding entrepreneurialism.

Among Obama’s discussion about investment in biomedical research and clean energy technology, as well as defending the health care law, most viewers were most interested in what he had to say about economic recovery. To address the failing economy, Obama recalled the 1950s “space race” which created millions of jobs through new spending in research and education, citing it the “Sputnik moment” of our generation.

Also while addressing the issue of the struggling economy, Obama emphasized the role small-businesses and entrepreneurs aiming to create businesses could potentially have on the economy. ‘Small businesses can do big things‘ seemed to be the theme of the night.

“In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living.”

Referring to the success of small-business owners (as many entrepreneurs are) as an important “measuring stick” that will help get the economy out of its slump, he went on to stress the opportunities Americans have, and the potential for Americans to turn their ideas into profitable businesses (that can, in turn, help jump-start the economy).

“We measure the progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

He then went on to motivate Americans who have big ideas even more, stating that America has more inventors and entrepreneurs who are creating successful companies, gaining grants and being awarded patents than any other country. And that, is why it is a great time to be an entrepreneur — even the president thinks so!

Photo credit to Robert Couse-Baker


Looking to Brand Your Company? Facebook Can Help

Many college students are accustomed to using Facebook, the social network site created by Mark Zuckerberg during his undergraduate years at Harvard University, for keeping in touch with friends, sharing pictures and creating event invitations. No longer are formal calls or hand-written cards necessary–Facebook does all that work for you.

Facebook

Today, older adults and professionals are also using Facebook for their own personal or professional needs. My mother (who, no offense, is not the most technologically-savvy person in the world) even uses it to get in touch with friends from high school and college. The fact that being “friends” with me on the site means she can check up on what I’m doing at anytime is just an added bonus.

With the high rise in popularity of Facebook, and its capabilities exceeding far beyond anything the simplistic model the original version held, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Facebook can be used in a professional settings to advance businesses. An interesting article from Social Media Today highlights the ways Facebook can help entrepreneurs build their brand. The article gives entrepreneurs advice on how to create a professional persona on the site, by maintaining a “limited profile”  with a designated area that allows one to tell their entrepreneurial story and has links to their business website. The article also advises that individuals turn their “About Me” and “Work Info” sections into segments of self-promotion:

“Treat those areas as more of an advertisement than personal content.”

One entrepreneurial business I have been following is Brewspy, a website created by Northeastern student Tyler Smith, a senior finance major. Brewspy.com features bar deals and discounts throughout the Boston area, helping college students to reduce the financial strain of going out in an expensive city.

The Facebook page for Brewspy is proficient and professional, yet keeps a fun, personal feel at the same time. The Facebook page includes a brief description of the company’s cause, and links to Brewspy’s Twitter page and the company’s home page. I think it’s a perfect example of how entrepreneurs and young professionals can use Facebook to publicize and brand their business–Brewspy’s Facebook page has 1,830 fans, making it a perfect place to promote company news and information.


Entrepreneurial Resources on the Web

While many young entrepreneurs may be limited to the amount of resources they have due to financial restrictions, there is always the saving grace of the Internet to help them pursue their dreams. The Internet is home to infinite amounts of websites devoted to the success of entrepreneurs, including websites that share business strategies and marketing tips as well as websites detailing what other entrepreneurs are doing with their independent businesses.

Some sites even allow the entrepreneurs themselves to divvy out and take in each other’s advice by establishing forums where people can log in and interact, creating a network or community of aspiring entrepreneurs that want to help each other succeed. By clicking through several websites I have listed below, I hope to provide readers with up-to-date news about people who are creating their own careers, and the strategies, applications and Internet capabilities that allow them to do so.

Want entrepreneurial tips and news surrounding new techniques and strategies that can make your comp any flourish? Visit Entrepreneur Daily Dose, an informative website that features successful entrepreneurs and persuades them to share some of their business strategies and ideas. The writers also spotlight up-and-coming techniques and applications available to entrepreneurs through the Internet, such as “using QR code to promote your business” — if you know what that means.

The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation‘s website profiles the nation’s top young entrepreneurs and shares their success stories with the world. Hey, if it worked for them, it could work for you too, right? It also shares some “scary” stories from entrepreneurs, aiming to help readers avoid certain new-business mishaps.

Under30CEO is another website that encompasses both insight from entrepreneurs themselves and “how-to” tips from experts that aid others throughout the entire process of starting and maintaining their business. The website incorporates information about new inexpensive applications and tools that can be useful for companies, and their article titled “Permission to Make Mistakes Usually Leads to Fewer of Them” makes us want to browse it right away.

If you’re interested in how “Gen-Y” does business, check out Unstrapp’d. The website is a breeding ground for new insight into social media, and shares with readers the “brutal facts and real life stories from experts and peers right there with them in the trenches”. Unstrapp’d reveals facts, opinions and figures about productivity, time management, college business, internet marketing, social media, branding, and bootstrapping. Unsure of what “bootstrapping” is? Check out the website.

The last website I chose to feature embraces both blogging and entrepreneurship, cleverly titled Blogtrepeneur. Founded by three men in their early 20s, the site recognizes the relationship between online  businesses and blogging and features interviews from those who have had success with the two. Featuring an article about Scott Gerber’s book, “Never Get a Real Job” the site help explains the surge of young entrepreneurs hoping to make it big in their new business.


Dead Ends in Job Market Lead Many to Create Their Own

It’s no secret that the suffering economy has had a deafening effect on the job market. Many who once felt secure with their jobs have been left unemployed or with less than half the benefits they once received, and recent graduates and college students are realizing now more than ever just how difficult it is to obtain a full-time job or start a career after graduation.

The amount of available jobs is shrinking, but the number of people qualified to get said jobs is growing. Though analysts predict that job openings will increase in 2011, the job market will remain competitive and futures will remain uncertain.

Instead of sitting around and waiting for the perfect (or any) job to come along, many young people are taking their fate into their own hands and starting  their own businesses, websites and companies. Since “going to college” these days does not necessarily gaurentee a job, entrepreneurship can be considered a career path.

Take Mark Zuckerberg, for example: He created the social networking site Facebook while attending Harvard. Today, he’s a billionaire and was featured as Person of the Year for 2010 in TIME magazine. He even had a movie made about him–The Social Network–which I highly recommend seeing.

This blog will attempt to capture and feature other young entrepreneurs (like Zuckerberg, but perhaps not nearly as famous) and the businesses they create, as well as follow the success (or downfall) of their businesses.

Whether they are creating an innovative digital magazine specfically for college women, such as HerCampus‘ Stephanie Kaplan, Annie Wang and Windsor Hanger did, or furthering their love for wine by establishing a company devoted to educating Millenials about the different forms of the drink, like Tyler Balliet and Morgan First of Second Glass, these young entrepreneurs are entering markets previously unexplored, and getting others excited about them.

According to an article from the New York Times, entreprenuialism is easier now more than ever:

“Thanks to the Internet, there are fewer upfront costs. A business owner can build a website, host conference calls, create slide presentations online through a browser, and host live meetings and web seminars — all on a shoestring.”