Another week, another batch of smart new business ideas from around the world. Included this week are eco-friendly clothes hangers with room for advertising, an e-commerce solution for minipreneurs with nothing to sell, an ice cream truck for adults, 'live' opera at the movies, and more. Our next edition is due on 22 February 2007. In the meantime, check out our daily postings on www.springwise.com, send us your tips, and please don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues about us. Much appreciated!

 

 
February 16, 2007
 

While indoor bike rides through pre-recorded video landscapes are nothing new, Connect18 has added a twist: immersion learning. Not only is this a fabulous example of multitasking, but combining exercise and education makes them both more enjoyable. Connect18 Group Tours offers the opportunity for a team of riders on stationary bikes to learn Spanish, for instance, while cycling through rural Mexico. Or to virtually tour the California Wine Country while learning about the region’s whites and reds. Certified instructors help motivate and encourage interaction among the group, and the scenery goes by more quickly or slowly based on the instructor's pace.

While Connect18 has yet to expand its reach beyond San Francisco and surrounding areas, the potential market for this revolutionary fitness and learning concept stretches across the map. And the potential to expand on this idea may be even greater. Not only is the variety of subject matter for courses nearly limitless, but workouts could be adapted to all manner of fitness equipment, including treadmills, rowing machines, stair climbers, elliptical trainers and cross-country ski simulators. An obvious enhancement (and business opportunity) would be individual DVD tours that could be done in front of home television screens.

A focus on learning and skills is something trendwatching.com has identified as a major trend, grounded in a shift in consumer values: “In economies that increasingly depend on creative thinking and acting, well-known status symbols tied to owning and consuming goods and services will find worthy competition from status skills.”

Website: www.connect18.com
Contact: John Ford, john@connect18.com

Spotted by: Helene Goupil

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February 16, 2007
 

Something to look forward to this summer: an ice cream van for grown-ups. Scoop, which appeared at The Old Truman Brewery as part of their 'Sunday UpMarket' sessions last autumn, will be visiting England's festivals and weddings this summer. All dolled up with somewhere to go, Scoop sells frozen delights from a glam pink and black van covered in blackboard paint (perfect for doodling).

Scoop Girls in sassy uniforms sell ice cream in flavours like Criterion Ice’s Brown Bread, Vintage Marmalade and Turkish Delight, served in small, glossy black Chinese take out boxes. The brand's fun and sexy design touches should come as no surprise, since Scoop is the brainchild of Adam Ellis, Design Director at London agency Coley Porter Bell. Adam came up with the idea as part of the agency's internal Blue Sky competition which awards two weeks holiday and GBP 2,000 for the winner to explore a new creative endeavour. (Which is a great business idea in itself!) His idea was to rekindle the magic and excitement associated with childhood memories of ice-cream vans on a hot day. Sounds good to us. One to quickly set up in other urban areas, just in time for the northern hemisphere's summer?

Website: t.b.a.

Spotted by: Leigh Odimah & The Cool Hunter

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February 16, 2007
 

We previously covered an umbrella vending venture, British Umbrolly, which is going strong in the UK and is focusing on rolling out its new battery-powered mini-machines.

Still, we're surprised umbrella vending isn't yet a universal feature at shopping malls and other high foot-traffic areas around the world. Which is why we were happy to spot Uport in Singapore. Uport currently operates six vending machines in Singapore, with more on the way. For SGD 6 (USD 3.90 / EUR 3), customers get a good quality umbrella dispensed in a can.

Uport, which launched in December 2006, is seeking investors and franchisees for expansion to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.

Website: www.uport.com.sg
Contact: contact@uport.com.sg / investors@uport.com.sg

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February 15, 2007
 

Layovers at Washington Dulles, Seattle-Tacoma and Sacramento airports just got more sophisticated. Vino Volo, a play on the Italian words for “wine flight,” offers weary passengers an escape from the chaotic food courts and loud bars that are all too familiar at major airports.

At Vino Volo, customers can sample wines either by the glass or in tasting flights. Plates of cheese, cured meats, salmon rolls and other gourmet fare complement the flavours of the wine in a relaxed, upscale atmosphere. The experience doesn't have to end when a flight begins boarding: wines are available for purchase by the bottle and can be shipped to a customer’s home (subject to state law).

Plans are in the works to expand to 10-12 additional airports this year, starting with JFK and Baltimore. The early success of Vino Volo goes to show that airline passengers are indeed willing to indulge on a little luxury as they await their flights – even if they may have pinched pennies on their airfare. For more ‘being spaces’ for travellers, see trendwatching.com’s briefing on transumers. Examples include airport spas and gyms.

Website: www.vinovolo.com
Contact: info@vinovolo.com

Spotted by: R. Alpin Genc

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  You know you need to do at least one trend session this year...



 

 
February 14, 2007
 

3.5 billion wire hangers are tossed into landfills every year, and that's just in the United States. While the hangers are light, inexpensive and sturdy, they're not exactly bio-degradable. Hanger Network has developed an alternative: a dry cleaner's hanger made entirely from recycled paper. EcoHangers are sturdy and cheap. And because they're paper, they can be completely covered in full-colour advertising.

Everybody wins: Hanger Network creates a media network of up to 3.5 billion in-home 'views', and advertisers gain valuable entry into consumers' bedrooms for less than the price of a stamp. Dry cleaners get free hangers (wire hangers are about USD 0.08 each), and consumers no longer have to struggle with awkward tangles of wires. And on top of it all, it's an earth-friendlier solution. What's not to love? ;-)

Hanger Network has a distribution deal with Cleaner's Supply ('America's largest direct supplier of dry cleaning products') and currently has network capacity of over 50 million hangers per week. The company just raised USD 8 million in venture capital, which will allow it to expand from the New York area to the rest of the US. One to partner with and quickly set up in other countries!

Website: www.hangernetwork.com
Contact: www.hangernetwork.com/html/contact.html

Spotted by: TreeHugger

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February 14, 2007
 

In trendwatching.com's recent trysumers briefing, navigation is touted as 'the new laissez faire', since it's less risky for consumers to try out new destinations, routes and neighbourhoods if their car is equipped with a Garmin or TomTom device.

According to independent research presented today, personal navigation devices have another important benefit: a positive influence on traffic safety. Part of the research focused on data collected on 115,197 drivers of lease cars. Those without PNDs had a 12% higher rate of damage incidents, and damage costs were on average 5% higher.

Research also showed that drivers with navigation devices were less distracted, ignored fewer traffic signs, felt more in control and less stressful. All of which is being rewarded by Dutch insurance company Delta Lloyd, which co-commissioned the research with Dutch makers of PNDs TomTom. Customers who send in their TomTom product number will receive 10% discount on their Delta Lloyd auto insurance. (Related: Eco-friendly car insurance.)

Website: www.tomtom.com / www.deltalloyd.nl

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February 13, 2007
 

Starting this season, The Metropolitan Opera is going to the movies. The Met is broadcasting six Saturday matinees to movie theatres around the Northern Hemisphere, live from New York. Audiences are treated to high-definition video and surround sound, excellent sight lines and comfortable seating, all for a bargain price (around USD 18 for the ‘decentralized’ version, vs. USD 80-375 for the real deal). Larger than life close-ups of performers and natural ambient stage sounds combine to create an intimate experience, and since the broadcasts are live, they retain a sense of occasion and exclusivity.

Tickets for the Met’s broadcasts, shown in over 150 cinemas in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan, are almost all sold out. Close to 30,000 opera lovers flocked to movie theatres to see Mozart's Magic Flute. The first season of Movies at the Met continues for another three performances: Eugene Onegin on February 24th, Il Barbiere di Siviglia on March 24th and Il Trittico on April 28th.

It's a great way for 'high-culture' institutions like the Met to reach cities that don't have their own opera houses, and also to tap into a wider and potentially younger audience. The same concept would work for everything from exclusive jazz concerts to star-studded plays with limited runs. Trysumers—transient, experienced consumers who are becoming more daring in what they consume—are willing to take on a wide range of new cultural experiences, especially from the comfort of their local multiplex. One to study if you're in the live entertainment business!

Website: www.metoperafamily.org

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February 12, 2007
 

We've featured various eco-friendly car hire firms, from Boston based PlanetTran (which just launched in the San Francisco Bay area) to London's greentomatocars. Green livery services continue to pop up everywhere, as demonstrated by three recent spottings from different corners of the world.

In London, Ecoigo is encouraging passengers to 'make the switch' by offering outstanding service at competitive prices, while being as green as a car hire company can be. Not content with being merely carbon neutral, Ecoigo aims to be carbon positive, offsetting double the emissions from every trip as well as from the energy used by its office. Ecoigo uses sleek black Toyota Priuses and extras include eco-friendly bottled Belu water in bio-degradable bottles. Offsetting is taken care of by the World Land Trust (which we featured last year: Carbon offsets by sms).

LA's Evo Limo, which has been around for a while, has a mixed fleet of hybrid vehicles and Chevy Suburbans that have been converted to run compressed natural gas (CNG), a clean-burning, abundant, domestically-produced fuel. Though it cuts back emissions, Evo doesn't skimp on luxury: its vehicles have LA-worthy high luxury, custom-built cabins.

Meanwhile, Australia's first environmentally friendly car hire service got started in Melbourne in December. Ecolimo (not related to Ecolimo in Los Angeles) uses the Lexus GS450h luxury sports sedan, an electric/petrol hybrid that produces 45% less carbon dioxide emissions than the average limousine. The service is priced the same as other limousine or car hire services. Owner Don Pyke: "It shouldn’t cost more to choose the green alternative; people who care about the environment and are interested in reducing their impact on it, can feel confident they have made a good choice without compromising quality or comfort". We couldn't agree more. Now go out and eco-conquer all those cities still sorely lacking four-wheeled green transport!

Website: www.ecoigo.com | www.evolimo.com | www.ecolimo.com.au
Contact: info@ecoigo.com | Evo: (310) 642-8600 | booking@ecolimo.com.au

Spotted by: Frank Marquardt and others

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February 12, 2007
 

French Zlio lets anyone set up an online shop in 5 minutes. Shop owners don't actually need to have anything to sell. They don't have to worry about stock or shipping, either, since orders are fulfilled by large online retailers like Amazon.com, eBay and Buy.com. This leaves Zlio shopkeepers free to focus on curation (selecting an appealing array of products) and promotion.

Zlio was founded in France in November 2005 as a recommendation service, letting users recommend favourite products to their friends and family in exchange for small commissions. Which is comparable to other social affiliate schemes like FavoriteThingz and MyPickList.com, which were featured in trendwatching.com's briefing on Generation Cash.

In September 2006, Zlio switched gears and moved to its current model, which makes opening an online shop as easy as setting up a blog. How it works: a user signs up, picks a shop name and design template, and then selects the products he or she would like to sell. Users can currently choose from 75 merchants in France and 25 in the US. Since that includes giants like Amazon.com, users have millions of products to choose from. The business model is simple: when customers buy products from a Zlio shop, commission is split between Zlio and the shopkeeper. French shopkeepers are also rewarded for clicks through to merchants, with the US to follow.

Zlio facilitates micro-shops for every niche interest imaginable, catering to consumers interested in subjects as diverse as Woody Allen, above ground swimming pools, Dora the Explorer, sudoku, sushi making and Isaac Asimov. (Related consumer trend: nouveau niche.) While Zlio shops are easily integrated with a minipreneur's own website or blog, some of the most popular shops don't have any other type of web presence and are promoted solely by word of mouth or Google AdWords. Keyword marketing is of course a natural fit, since it can be targeted as narrowly as Zlio shops.

Following the September 2006 relaunch, over 35,000 shops have been created in France alone. Since Zlio just launched in the US last week and will be adding the UK soon, now's the time for English-speaking minipreneurs to seize the best shop names and get started.

Website: www.zlio.com
Contact: help.zlio.com

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