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When corporations donate to charity, it’s often far-flung global causes that benefit. That’s still entirely commendable, of course, but British grocer Waitrose recently launched a locally focused giving program that enlists customers’ help in focusing on issues closer to home. Kicked off last month, Waitrose’s Community Matters program assigns each store GBP 1,000 each trading month to donate among three local organisations such as community groups, schools or local divisions of national charities. Customers nominate the organisations to benefit, and Waitrose’s local democratic bodies make the final selection. Customers are then offered a token each time they shop that can be inserted in any of three Perspex tubes–one for each of the selected charitable groups. At the end of the month, the pile of tokens donated to each organisation is weighed and the beneficiaries receive a corresponding proportion of the cash. Following a trial in four Waitrose stores, the Community Matters program is scheduled to be in place at all branches in the next two weeks. A similar program is in place across the Atlantic at upscale chain Whole Foods, where customers who bring their own bags are rewarded with “wooden nickels” that can be deposited in boxes assigned for donation to select local charities. And as interest continues to grow in all things local (see our sister site’s still made here briefing for more on that trend), consumers will increasingly appreciate having a direct hand in choosing who to help in their local community. One to emulate around the globe! Spotted by: Maria Dahl Jørgensen When we wrote about Texas-based uShip last year, we noted that there were few–if any–equivalents on other continents. As if on cue, earlier this year a new company with a similar model entered beta in the United Arab Emirates. Like uShip, Dubai-based Darrb (which means “way” in Arabic) is a delivery service marketplace that aims to connect people who have something to send with people who are willing to do the delivering. In eBay fashion, the process begins when a user posts an item they want to have delivered. Those interested in handling the job–known on the site as “Darrbers”–then bid for it with the lowest price and fastest delivery time they can offer. Darrb sorts all bids by both price and promised speed, with a third factor–quality of service, as measured by the deliverer’s past customer ratings–available as a deciding factor. Once the user selects a Darrber and the job is done, he or she can enter feedback and ratings that get attached to that shipper’s account for use by future users. Using Darrb during its beta period is free, and will remain so for users, the site says. Shippers will eventually be charged membership fees. More than 100 Darrbers have signed on with the site since its launch, and those numbers will likely increase soon: Earlier this month the team behind Darrb launched eMapia, a map-based online marketplace that lets users search by country for things for sale around the world, and it plans to promote the use of Darrb for shipping those items. Profits await those who can capitalize on the intention economy, as we’ve noted before in several related examples. Nice to see the concept spreading around the globe! (Related: Ride-sharing for packages.) Spotted by: Susanna Haynie We’ve written about a site that makes it easier for architects and designers to create green buildings, but a separate challenge is helping eco-minded consumers find those green apartments, homes and offices, since their sustainable nature is not always obvious from the outside. Enter GreenRenter, a new site that aims to connect owners of green buildings with tenants who might want to rent them. Launched earlier this year, GreenRenter offers a guide to the green commercial and residential property in the Portland, Ore., area. Separate sections for residential and commercial offerings list a variety of homes, offices, restaurants and retail space–searchable both by what’s out there in general and what’s currently available–with integrated Google Maps to show prospective tenants where they are all located. Buildings included need not be LEED certified, but they must include at least one feature in any of seven key green areas: energy, water, building materials, operations, building surroundings, certifications and awards or other innovative green features. Ultimately, GreenRenter plans to rate buildings listed on its site, it says, as well as to expand beyond the Portland area to other US cities. It’s also working on a separate site focused on sales of green buildings. Using GreenRenter is free for both owners and tenants. It’s not yet clear how GreenRenter will become sustainable itself, but the site’s “business philosophy” section mentions both the triple bottom line and the prospect of future products and services. One to partner with in cities around the US and the rest of the world? Spotted by: Susanna Haynie Nightclubs may operate seven days a week in many cities, but working professionals who partake in their late-night offerings outside of the weekend tend to regret it the next day. With such schedule-bound partiers in mind, Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel recently launched an earlier alternative that still lets revellers get to bed on time. The Gladstone’s Granny Boots series of dance parties take place each Wednesday night beginning at 7:30 and ending promptly at 10–“so you can go home, watch ‘Law and Order’ until 11 pm and go to BED,” as the hotel puts it. The events are held in the Gladstone’s Melody Bar, which is already famous for weekend karaoke nights, and feature different performances and livingroom DJs each week. Admission is free. We also spotted something similar in Belgium, where Bart Van Orshoven’s After Work Parties draw large crowds–and corporate sponsors–in various venues in Antwerp, Gent, Leuven and Brussels. The parties start at 7 pm and doors close at 9 pm to ensure a decent-sized crowd from the start. At 1 am, everyone is sent packing. Of course, in addition to the legions of business people and other working stiffs out there who can’t afford to stay up late, there’s also the substantial crowd of older people who still like to party but simply don’t want to be up during the wee hours. Catering to such consumers could be the key to attracting a whole new segment. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm–or, in this case, the entertainment dollars! 😉 Spotted by: Anita Windisman A new restaurant project has joined the crowdsourcing fray: Arne Hendriks is asking fellow members of Instructables to participate in creating a restaurant in Amsterdam. In his words: “I will open an open-source restaurant that is completely made of, and only serves food based on the original instructables all the members on have made or will make. I mean, every chair, dishwasher, menu card, light etc and all the food, will together be the restaurant. And I would like to ask you guys for your brilliant, funny, original ideas concerning all aspects restauranty. Inside the restaurant everything will be presented with the original instruction and accreditation to the maker.” Suggestions from Instructables members have started to pour in, from using graph paper table clothes to adding a “making space,” as well as thoughts on names for the restaurant and what the wait staff should wear. This isn’t the first restaurant project Hendriks has developed; he also created the Night Garden, a temporary restaurant and “sub-technical indoor garden” that served over 30 types of sprouted micro-greens. While there are similarities with another crowdsourced restaurant we recently featured, Hendriks’ project is cleverly tapping into the creative talents of an existing community, and has a very strong focus on MIY (make-it-yourself). As he points out: “In some restaurants you can buy the stuff you see, in this restaurant you’ll go home knowing how to re-create what you just enjoyed, be it the food or the chair you sat on.” Nice! Spotted by: Franziska Luh All that’s old is new again… Last week, we wrote about a bank that brought back the shoebox as a no-tech organizing system for their time-starved clients. Now, one of our spotters alerted us to the return of the milkman. Delivering organic milk to customers’ doors in glass milk bottles, the Manhattan Milk Company is reviving old-fashioned dairy delivery. For a USD 5 delivery charge, Manhattanites can get a weekly delivery of fresh milk. The company’s driver loads up his truck on Wednesdays at 4 am and delivers to all of Manhattan, picking up empty bottles when he drops off the full ones. The milk is sourced from 51 Amish farms in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, about 160 miles southwest of New York City, and is also sold at the Batch store on 150B W. 10th Street. While we hope MMC switches to electric or pedal-powered delivery vehicles for its many stops and starts in the city, the concept has an undeniable still made here charm that will appeal to consumers’ sense of nostalgia. And what about combining dairy delivery with the community supported agriculture ventures that deliver organic fruit and veg from farms to households across the world? Convenience, charm, organic and local–combine that with business smarts, and it’s hard to go wrong. (Related: High-end dessert trucks.) Spotted by: Esther Chang Faber & Faber, which describes itself as one of the last of the great independent publishing houses in London, recently launched an academy for aspiring writers. The Faber Academy‘s inaugural creative writing course will take place from October 9-12 at Shakespeare & Company, the fabled English bookstore in Paris. Novelist Tobias Hill will be teaching a four-day course that focuses on “How to Tell a Story Without Telling Your Readers What to Think,” with Jeanette Winterson joining in for a two-part seminar on authenticity and voice in fiction. The course costs GBP 500 excluding travel and accommodation (but including lunch) and tickets were sold out within days of going on sale. A second course—also taught by Tobias Hill–will be held in London from October 30-November 2, and the publisher plans to organize future sessions in Dublin, Edinburgh and Berlin. Viewed through a consumer trends lens, the Faber Academy is a clear example of what dubbed status skills: “In economies that increasingly depend on (and thus value) creative thinking and acting, well-known status symbols tied to owning and consuming goods and services will find worthy competition from status skills: those skills that consumers are mastering to make the most of those same goods and services, bringing them status by being good at something, and the story telling that comes with it.” Other successful examples include the Nikon School and the BMW Performance Driving School. By helping aspiring novelists hone their writing skills under the tuition of its well-known authors, Faber & Faber builds a stronger connection with its core customers (participants are likely to be readers and good customers), and promotes powerful word of mouth marketing, since participants will no doubt be eager to share their Faber Academy experience with friends and family. All of which is great PR for Faber & Faber, and emphasizes their dedication to writing and writers, as opposed to mega-publishers who often seem solely focused on the bottom line. Last but not least, the courses could provide a welcome additional stream of revenue. If your brand isn’t already boosting its customers’ talents and abilities, this is one to learn from 😉 (Related: Out-of-print books, printed on demand by Faber Finds.) Earlier this year we wrote about Ndeur, a Canadian company that offers high-end customized shoes, and now a new partnership with customization portal Zazzle is bringing similar capabilities to the iconic world of Keds. Keds Studio, which just launched a few weeks ago, lets consumers design their own custom Keds Champions classic canvas sneakers by picking colours and adding graphics, photos and text. Users of the Zazzle-powered application begin by selecting the style they want–slip-on or lace-up, for women or kids–along with the size. They are then prompted to choose from a wide selection of colours and designs for each of several different sections of the shoe, along with trim details including stitching, binding, lining and gore. They can upload their own artwork, graphics and text for instant drag-and-drop addition to their shoe design. Alternatively, an assortment of premade designs from artists including Sarah Singh and Gen Art are also available; each month a new designer or artist will be featured through a series of limited-edition designs. Keds Studio is available on both the Zazzle and Keds (from Stride Rite) sites. Priced between USD 50 and USD 60, the customized shoes are produced within 24 to 48 hours of ordering and will reach consumers within one to two weeks. Shipping is available internationally. Of course, it’s one thing to let consumers design their own shoes, but the next logical step in the customer-made trend is to help them sell their creations as well. Sure enough, users of Keds Studio can do just that through the Zazzle marketplace. A simple “Post for Sale” button on the application makes it happen, and Zazzle’s “Name Your Royalty” system enables consumers to set the price of their shoe designs above the original price and earn the entire mark-up in profit. Now *that’s* really letting customers have it their way! (Related: New sneaker brand relies on crowds for design.) Spotted by: Anita Windisman While most affordable air tickets are non-refundable, consumers are entitled to reclaim the tax and (fuel) charges on an air ticket that they didn’t use. Authorities charge airlines based on the number of passengers who fly, not the numbers that book tickets. Unfortunately, airlines don’t make it easy for consumers to claim the refunds they’re lawfully entitled to. The beauty of free enterprise? If something is difficult, a smart entrepreneur will surely jump in to ease the pain. For a fee, of course. And that’s exactly what newly-launched Miss Refund does: claim taxes and charges on flights passengers didn’t take, in return for a flat rate of EUR 25. Customers fill in their personal and flight details on the company’s website, and Miss Refund contacts the airline to claim airport taxes and other refundable surcharges. Since refunds are paid directly to the customer (usually refunded to the credit card that was used when booking), Miss Refund requires an advance deposit of its EUR 25 fee. If the claim is unsuccessful, the deposit is returned. Miss Refund, which is based in the Netherlands, was created by Iwan van Geelen, the founder of an equally useful life hack for travellers: Check Me In, a service that takes care of online check-ins on behalf of airline passengers. Miss Refund received nearly 300 reclaim requests in the few weeks since it launched, and the amounts claimed vary from EUR 80 to EUR 600. The speediest refund was processed by the airline in question in just two days, and others are still in transit. The service reminds us of EUclaim, which claims compensation for flight delays on behalf of stranded travellers. It’s all about convenience! One to bring to other countries or industries? (Related: Property tax advocates.) Spotted by: RK Nearly one in nine employees in London’s banking, finance and insurance sector is gay, according to an article in the Telegraph, and such consumers typically enjoy significantly higher salaries than their heterosexual counterparts. Little wonder, then, that one of London’s major banks has implemented a new banking service targeted specifically at the city’s homosexuals. Just launched this summer, Credit Suisse‘s new service is provided by advisors at the bank who are themselves openly gay, the Telegraph reported, and includes not just traditional banking offerings but also components tailored to such events as adoption and civil partnership. Stephen Connolly, head of the Credit Suisse service, explains: “Clients with us have no need to explain their lifestyles or–as we know happens in some cases–almost feel the need to justify the way they choose to live their lives.” We’ve already covered banks for women, and now gay banking–part of what our sister site would call the Pink Profits trend–is further proof that catering to frequently sidelined segments of the population can be undeniably lucrative. Of course, fine lines separate the notions of “catering to,” “segregating” and “discriminating,” but given the size of the demographic segment at issue here, navigating those distinctions could be well worth the effort! Spotted by: Bjarke Svendsen