STEP 5: Share the load

By Jennifer Alsever


Getting outside feedback and vetting new concepts doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Dig into your Rolodex to find a partner or vendor who might be interested in sharing the time and money to see if an idea is viable, says Scott Anthony, author of The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times.

Blinds.com owner Jay Steinfeld says he has boosted his margins per customer visit by 25% for the past eight consecutive quarters by striking cross-promotion deals with Cooking.com, Flowers.com and OmahaSteaks.com, which have similar customer bases.

Shoppers who spend a certain amount at any of the four companies receive coupons that can be redeemed at all of them. Blinds.com and Cooking.com also split the cost of entering these customers into a sweepstakes for a kitchen makeover. "This is very low-cost marketing," Steinfeld says.

Then there's the lowest-cost labor of all: student interns who work for college credits.

"Students are hungry," says Travis Hollman, 40, a serial entrepreneur in Dallas who regularly enlists Southern Methodist University students to do market research. In recent years Hollman has started a film company, a toy manufacturer that made marshmallow shooters and, most recently, a relaxation drink called ViB.

The students were instrumental in ViB's development. None of them even wanted to taste an early version because of its thick texture and "gross-out" shade of green. So Hollman hired a food scientist to craft a new concoction. The students tried it and loved it, as did consumers they interviewed. A year after its launch, the drink is expected to bring in $5 million in 2009 sales.

"When it comes to ideas and energy, students are on top of it," says Hollman. "They don't work for you, so they're not afraid to tell you something is dumb."

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Questions & Answers



QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.19%4.23%
15 yr fixed3.18%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.34%3.45%
30 yr refi4.15%4.14%
15 yr refi3.17%3.16%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,067.56 -30.89 -0.18%
Nasdaq 4,598.19 17.92 0.39%
S&P 500 2,002.28 -1.09 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.42 0.08 3.24%
Data as of 10:14pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.27 0.18 1.12%
Apple Inc 103.30 0.80 0.78%
Staples Inc 12.63 0.95 8.13%
Facebook Inc 76.68 1.86 2.49%
Intel Corp 34.57 -0.35 -1.00%
Data as of 4:02pm ET

Sections

Georgia dealers say Tesla shouldn't sell its cars directly to consumers. It's also one of the most popular markets for electric vehicles. More

If approved by Los Angeles city council, the plan could raise wages for 567,000 workers by 2017. More

The latest celebrity photo hack shows your digital life doesn't end at your phone. If your stuff lives on "the cloud," you don't control the data. More

If approved by Los Angeles city council, the plan could raise wages for 567,000 workers by 2017. More

A scam where fraudsters impersonate IRS agents has now stolen $5 million from taxpayers, and this woman - who lost her entire life savings -- is just one of its victims. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.