Another week, another batch of clever new business ideas from around the world: German pop-up bars in Barcelona and Lisbon, a British crowd-sourcing approach to launching a band, Dutch sweaters with passports, peer-to-peer lending in China, and more. Our next edition is due on 18 July 2007. In the meantime, check out our daily postings on, send us your tips, and please don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues about us. Much appreciated!


July 11, 2007

We’ve featured ‘product life story labels’ before – brands giving detailed information on a product’s sources and background. Another example of this trend was spotted in the Netherlands, where new knitwear brand Flocks gives customers details about the individual animals that provided the wool for their sweaters and mittens.

Every item in young Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma’s collection can be traced back to its source. Since one sheep supplies exactly enough wool for one sweater, each sweater is tagged with a specific animal’s ID number, and comes with a certificate: the animal's passport. Information provided includes breed, weight, year and place of birth, and a picture of the sheep. Sweaters are priced from EUR 475.

So far, Meindertsma has only used non-dyed materials, sticking to the natural colours of sheep, rabbits, goats and alpacas. She's planning to use coloured yarn for upcoming collections, and provenance of colours will be included on separate labels. A blue scarf, for example, could be dyed with natural indigo, with information provided about the type of plant the dye was extracted from and where it was harvested. All of this adds up to an appealing story — one that customers can share with friends, and one that (re)connects them with the source of the products they consume. Which makes Flocks a great example of the still made here trend: products that have a sense of place or provenance are coveted by consumers for a variety of reasons, from environmental concerns to shifting perceptions of what constitutes status. More on that in’s still made here briefing.


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July 10, 2007

Zlio — the 'social commerce network' that lets anyone set up their own web shop in a matter of minutes — just raked in USD 4 million in funding from Mangrove Capital Partners, an early investor in Skype. So what have they been up to since we featured them in February? Two milestones were recently reached: 100,000 shops (from 35,000 in February) and 2.5 million visitors per month.

Shopbuilders now have over 3 million products to choose from, with sales handled by partners like Barnes & Nobles, which recently signed up as a merchant. Participating minipreneurs are earning up to USD 750 per month in commissions, by carefully selecting products, tweaking their shop's design and promoting it everywhere they can. Shops focus on niches from Birkenstocks to Great British TV, and Gifts Under $20 to Everything Elvis.

Some users have started operating multiple boutiques, cross-promoting and buying AdWords to drive traffic to their ZlioShops. Bloggers place widgets on their websites featuring products that appeal to their audience. As explained by a shopkeeper who blogs about mediaeval re-enactments: "Instead of being an affiliate marketer for 15 different sites, and having multiple competing ad blocks on my page, I can just select the products I want to promote regardless of the store of origin. Saves me lots of time in signing up, getting approved and designing ads from the many different websites offering affiliate marketing programs."

As both merchants and consumers become more familiar with this type of commerce, there's room for other players in this field, especially in countries that aren't yet covered by Zlio — Asian and South-American contenders to follow soon?


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July 10, 2007

After having thoroughly established that shoppers are willing to pay premium prices for natural and organic products, Whole Foods is adding premium services to match: an in-house spa and concierge services that include personal shoppers.

A Whole Foods store in Dallas is the first to incorporate a full-service spa. Located on the store’s second floor, ReFresh has seven treatment rooms, its own retail space (a store within a spa within a store) and a private veranda balcony ‘for outdoor relaxation, spa meals and retreat’. The spa is run by Whole Foods, not outsourced to an existing spa brand. The spa applies the same quality standards as the grocers downstairs do, opting for fresh, plant-based and naturally derived ingredients and only using products that haven't been tested on animals. Catering to customers pressed for time, the spa offers quick options like a mini manicure and a 25-minute Swedish massage, along with a wide range of more indulgent treatments.

Allowing customers to multi-task, Whole Foods’ concierge service offers personal shoppers. After handing over their shopping list, customers can go for a spa treatment while a Whole Foods employee dives into the aisles to gather their groceries. The shopping service is priced at USD 20/hour. Other concierge services include special (bulk) orders, dietician consultations, catering and event services and menu planning. If the spa takes off at the Dallas store, Whole Foods will add it to other locations. Concierge services are offered at a number of markets. Opportunities? Naturally, not every retailer is positioned to add a spa or concierge team to their offerings. Whole Foods Markets are mostly located in affluent areas, where consumers are willing to spend on a bit of pampering and convenience. And the company’s focus on natural products meshes well with natural spa services. Still, the focus on creating a good experience and offering consumers a combination of ease and pampering is one to learn from if you're in retail.


Spotted by: Jim Schafer

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July 9, 2007

Giving music lovers the opportunity to play an active role in the music industry, VIPbandmanager is recruiting 50,000 band managers to propel a band to stardom. For a GBP 20 lifetime fee, which is collected after 50,000 people have signed up, managers get to vote on everything from picking the band's name to choosing a drummer. After the band has been formed, members will continue to make all the behind-the-scenes decisions and plans that artist managers and record labels make: choosing producers, helping pick tracks, deciding on the band's image and promotion, organizing a UK tour and, of course, reaching the top of the charts. The latter will be aided by the viral marketing clout of 50,000 fervent fans.

What's in it for the managers? Although being one in 50,000 doesn't exactly equate to being a VIP, perks include entrance to exclusive parties, goody bags and backstage access. And, of course, the chance to influence a real band's future for less than the price of a video game. VIPbandmanager, which was launched today, is the brainchild of Mark James Bowness who also founded Tribewanted, the online/offline community that established a tribe on a Fijian island. The project's manager is Sam Bush, a participant of reality TV show Shipwrecked, whose father is active in the British music scene.

Part American Idol, with an online democracy replacing autocratic judges, VIPbandmanager also combines elements of two crowd-sourced concepts we've featured in the past: Sellaband — groups of fans funding bands — and MyFootballClub, the online community that's gathering 50,000 football fans to buy an English football team. Considering MyFootballClub signed up 45,247 members over the past nine weeks, we wouldn't be surprised to see VIPbandmanager shoot to stardom, too. One to launch nationally? Or get creative and find your own band, team, product or brand to fund and manage with a crowd of dedicated co-creators.


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July 9, 2007

Peer-to-peer lending continues to spread across the globe. We previously covered pioneers Zopa (UK) and Prosper (US), as well as German Smava and Dutch Boober.

Recently, the concept was spotted in China. Smava's Chinese cousin — look closely and you'll spot a family resemblance in the design department — is currently in closed beta and will officially launch later this month. P2P lending enters a very different market in the People's Republic, where personal credit ratings are virtually non-existent, making lending to strangers riskier business. Which is why PPdai won't be taking on loans and 'reselling' them to lenders. Instead, PPdai primarily aims to standardize and facilitate loans between family and friends, which are more common in China than personal loans from banks.

On a side note: acknowledging that trust is a key issue, another 'bankless banking' venture that's moving swiftly is Lending Club. Just 6 weeks after launching, Lending Club has facilitated over USD 250,000 in loans. What makes Lending Club different? Starting with Facebook, it latches on to an existing social network to leverage human connections that are already in place: "We believe that person-to-person lending will gain faster adoption in an environment where people feel connected to one another." More updates to follow as P2P lending develops!


Spotted by: Claus Lehmann

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July 8, 2007

Created by a Dutch IT specialist based in the Czech Republic, hopes to create a loose-knit social network of people who are willing to ‘bring some’ over for others. Some in this case means anything consumers want from another country that they can’t get in their current place of residence. Whether it’s canned coffee from Tokyo, a local brand of cachaça from São Paulo or an 80GB Sony PS3 from Seoul, encourages members to ask for them to be brought by others.

The website is a few months old and only shows a handful of requests and offers. Dave Ruzius,'s founder, plans to add features if the concept catches on, and suggests delicatessen shops might be interested in supplying the network with locally sourced products. (Bringers are free to charge a fee for shipping or bringing goods over.) While built as a tool to help friends and colleagues get the products they want from abroad, could of course pull in advertising as traffic grows. Creating a network of personal couriers makes for an intriguing business model, not unlike online swapping communities. And the focus on goods that are only available locally is a refreshing break from Big Global Brands. (See's still made here briefing for more in consumer love for all things local.)

Related: Kiosk, the New York store that switches nationalities every season and is currently limiting its wares to uniquely German items, like children's lederhosen and Löwensenf mustard. Everything in the store is sourced personally in its country of origin, making Kiosk an ideal business idea for anyone who loves travel, retail and unique products. We’re tempted to start one ourselves... ;-)

Contact: (contact form) —

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July 6, 2007

Last year, we featured a non-profit venture that takes a playful approach to bringing clean water to African villages. PlayPumps installs merry-go-rounds that are connected to water pumps and water storage tanks, giving children a plaything and their families access to drinking water. We bumped into PlayPumps again this week, this time on handbags from Vermont. Handmade in Burlington, Flashbags "carry a conversation" by incorporating artwork or other talk-worthy images. The pictures are printed, laminated and sewn into simple bags.

Flashbags' partnership with PlayPumps is part of a campaign to place 100 new pumps in 100 days. For the duration of the campaign, Flashbags will donate 20% of the sale of PlayPumps handbags (priced at USD 79) to the organization. Besides donating money, the partnership’s aim is to help spread the word about PlayPumps, using bags to spark conversations.


Spotted by: Brian Yang

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July 5, 2007

A few months ago, we featured pop-up nightclubs in Australia, which were part of a marketing effort by Southern Comfort. Australian clubbers aren't the only ones being treated to transitory clubs—in Barcelona and Lisbon, Kubik recently opened its temporary doors.

Designed by Berlin-based urban design agency ModulorBeat and light artist Andreas Barthelmes, Kubik is built from stacked, reused water tanks. Lighting in each cube is controlled separately, which makes for a spectacular backdrop that pulses to a DJ's beats. Kubik operated a temporary club in Berlin last year and has now (wisely) relocated to warmer climes. Kubik Barcelona is located in two separate locations in the Parc del Fòrum: one venue is illuminated in green, the other in magenta. It won't come as a surprise that Kubik Barcelona is sponsored by three beverage companies: Estrella Galicia (beer) Strongbow Gold (apple cider) and Burn (energy drink). Kubik's 275 illuminated cubes house a bar and lounge from Sunday through Wednesday, and a club from Friday through Saturday.

Kubik Lisbon was one of the venues for the first Portuguese Creamfields event, an outpost of the major UK dance festival, with Bacardi featuring as main sponsor. Both Kubiks will close at the end of summer. One to dance the night away in if you're interested in experiencing well-executed temporary architecture, or if you're looking for inspiration on where next to take the transient trend of pop-up.


Spotted by: Petz Scholtus

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Just in case you missed our previous edition, all of last week's articles are listed below.

And don't forget—you can access everything we've published in our idea database, which is
conveniently organized by industry.

Back of taxi with bicycle rackHybrid taxis rescue cyclists

A new London car service offers first class service in hybrid vehicles,
free water and newspapers, and... a bicycle rescue service. Bikes
are strapped to the back of the cab.

Detail of CoachDeck card Drill cards for amateur sports coaches
Education, Lifestyle & leisure

Handy reference cards with easy-to-understand practice drills help
even the most time-crunched volunteer coaches come up with
fun and educational programs.

Bed in Yotel cabin
Yotel's no frills chic | Update
Travel & tourism

Back in 2004, our sister site covered Yotel as an
upcoming example of no frills chic hotels. Now, the first Yotel finally
opened at London's Gatwick Airport.

Two NoBottles
Water 'skin' reduces waste
Food & beverage, Eco & sustainability

Pitched as a water skin, a new bottle created by French packaging
manufacturer Sidel provides a lighter alternative to traditional PET

Corner of Qbic's cubi bed
High design, low touch hotel
Travel & tourism

Qbic, a Dutch hotel chain, is using innovation in design and service
to offer guests a new experience, and investors an efficient approach
to converting vacant real estate into hotels.

Passenger in back of car, working Car rental, driver included

Forget GPS. Customers in ten major U.S. cities can now book
chauffeurs with their rental cars. Car rental giant Avis has teamed up
with WeDriveU, a private chauffeur service.

Detail of online video with subtitlesUser-captioned video
Media & publishing

Like Wikipedia for subtitles, dotSUB enlists users to create captions
for online videos. Subtitles are automatically embedded in the video
and can be viewed on dotSUB in everything from Korean to Ukrainian.

Allergy Translation CardTranslation cards for travellers with allergies
Travel & tourism

Travellers with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, who don't
want their diets to get in the way of enjoying international culture and
cuisine, are now catered to by Canadian Allergy Translation Cards.

Screenshot from PlanHQBusiness plan 2.0

While budding entrepreneurs can choose from a wide range of
standard business plan software, PlanHQ is the first we've seen that
allows for easy online collaboration.




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