Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

There’s no doubt having a baby is a joyful experience, but most moms would likely agree that it would be a whole lot more joyful if one didn’t have to start off so sore and tired. Aiming to transform the hospital stay into one of relaxation and rejuvenation, Go Home Gorgeous hopes to better equip new mothers for the sleepless times ahead. Minneapolis/St. Paul-based Go Home Gorgeous offers a variety of in-room spa services for new mothers designed to help them go home from the hospital feeling better than they did when they arrived. Available services include a “foot thanking” treatment for USD 45; scalp, neck and shoulder massage for USD 60; traditional body massage for USD 85; and a postnatal body therapy package for USD 139. Gentle massage, aromatherapy and soothing music are used to transform the hospital room into what the company calls a “Spa-Spital” room, where eucalyptus-infused steam towels, for example, decrease water retention, deepen breathing and increase circulation. After mom and baby are home, meanwhile, the company’s in-home “Sleep Relief ” offerings include night nanny, baby nurse and postpartum doula services—night nannies even arrive fully self-sufficient with their own cot, pillow, blanket, reading light and water bottle. Hourly rates vary from USD 20 to USD 35 per hour, with a USD 45 setup fee. Sleep massage packages, pregnancy massages and errand-running services are also available. Go Home Gorgeous donates 3 percent of its profits to organizations that help women in need. Currently serving just Minnesota, Go Home Gorgeous plans to bring its sanity-saving services to the moms of Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Boston later this year. One to get in on early…? (Related: For new moms, by a new mompreneurMembers’ clubs for momsConcierge service for busy moms.) Spotted by: Susannah Haynie We’ve already written about several retail spots around the globe that offer shelf space to minipreneurs, and recently we learned of a like-minded effort that gives budding entrepreneurs a short-term way to try out their concepts in a traditional retail setting. Last fall Urban Retail’s Oakland Mall in Troy, Mich., began offering small startups and minipreneurs special leasing rates that make it easier for them to test the waters among shoppers at the mall without entering into a long-term contract. Specifically, 12 kiosks have been placed throughout the mall and can be leased for as little as USD 300 for a two-day weekend special. The flexible leasing terms are part of an ongoing program that aims to help entrepreneurs with seasonal offerings or who want to test out a new product or trend, according to Deborah Beattie, the mall’s specialty leasing representative. “Our program will continue to offer the flexible terms to attract everyone from the local ‘Mom & Pop’ operations just starting out in business, to the national tenants who want to test-market a product or capture seasonal sales,” she explains. Five of the mall’s 72-foot kiosks—which include display cases, counters and shelves—had been leased by early February, according to a report in the Detroit News. The Oakland Mall clearly stands to benefit from such an effort by attracting new businesses and shoppers even as the economy struggles, but it’s also a sort of silver lining for startups and minipreneurs. As the big boys struggle, conditions are beginning to favour the little guys—in some ways, it’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur! 😉 (Related: Retail space helps brands collaborate.) Spotted by: Judy McRae No medicine can do its job if it’s not taken on the right schedule, yet only about half of people with chronic diseases adhere faithfully to their dosing regimen, according to the World Health Organization. Aimed at improving that statistic, GlowCaps are a line of electronic pill caps that use multiple means to ensure patients take their medicine when they should. GlowCaps, which are from Cambridge, Mass.-based Vitality, fit on standard 20 dram medication vials and feature a small computer that illuminates the pill cap and plays a melody at medication time. To set up the basic GlowCap Solo, now available through Amazon for USD 29.95, users simply insert the included watch batteries at their daily dose time (the GlowCap Solo is designed just for once-a-day medications). Then, every day thereafter at that time, the GlowCap flashes a visual reminder to attract the user’s attention. If the bottle is not opened within an hour, the device periodically plays a short melody for another hour after that. What’s even more interesting, however, is the next version of the line—still forthcoming—dubbed GlowCaps Connect. Designed specifically for managing chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, where daily medications are critical, GlowCaps Connect goes beyond just using light and sound to include internet connectivity as well for a range of new reminder mechanisms. A reminder schedule can be set up for more than one dose or medication per day, and when patients forget to take one—after the reminder melody has been played—the caps can be set to trigger a phone call to remind them. GlowCaps Connect can also be programmed to send weekly updates to a friend, family member or caregiver, and each month the service sends a report to the patient’s doctor, thereby increasing accountability and rewarding good performance with coupons and incentives. Finally, GlowCaps Connect will also coordinate with the patient’s pharmacy for automatic prescription refills. No word yet on when GlowCaps Connect will be released. Not coincidentally, Vitality is led by David Rose, who was formerly founder and CEO at Ambient Devices, the maker of internet-embedded products we mentioned in a story last year about home energy monitors. It’s all about bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds—which just so happens to be the topic of our sister site’s OFF=ON briefing. Read up, plug in, and start forging some connections! (Related: Mir:ror gives physical objects digital meaningHome security with an energy-monitoring twist.) Spotted by: Jochem Donkers As if phones didn’t already do enough, one of the latest mobile apps transforms iPhones and iPod Touches into portable charge card terminals. ProcessAway plugs into Authorize.net’s payment processing platform, allowing entrepreneurs to accept credit card payments anywhere they can access the internet. After downloading the app and (separately) setting up a merchant account with Authorize.net, clients can use ProcessAway like a traditional charge card terminal: enter the amount, input the card number, expiry date and verification code, and process. There’s even a tip option for service businesses. Customers receive an email receipt for each transaction, and merchants can view transactions and process refunds on the fly. Aware that consumers might be weary of having their credit card details punched into a phone, ProcessAway stresses that’s a secure application: information is never stored in the phone and the program won’t connect to anything other than the terminal. If it can gain trust and acceptance, ProcessAway could be particularly useful for those who need to process and authorise payments on-the-go, like on-site consultants or handymen. It’s also useful at venues that don’t have fixed terminals: antique shows, market stalls and music merchandise stands. ProcessAway is available from Apple’s App Store for USD 19.99, and Authorize.net collects its usual transaction fees. ProcessAway isn’t the only one playing this field: Innerfence released its slightly more basic Credit Card Terminal app late last year. Although both programs are currently only available in the US, they could be a valuable tool for minipreneurs in other parts of the world. Spotted by: Susanna Haynie Regular Springwise readers may remember Swiss Netgranny and Danish Mormor.nu, both of which sell knit goods handmade by real-life grandmothers. Now a similar contender has emerged in France that throws some design-your-own flexibility into the mix. Golden Hook is a company that lets customers design their own hat and then choose the grandmother they’d like to knit it. Users begin by selecting the shape of hat they’d like—classic, long or Peruvian, with pompom or without. They can then begin either with a blank hat or one of the site’s existing designs and customize it, knit row by row, by clicking on a region of the hat and then clicking on the colour they’d like that stripe to be. On Peruvian styles they can even choose the hue of the strings by the ears, and for those with simple tastes a “Colour Up” option is available to make the entire hat a single shade. Customers then select their hat size and proceed on to view Golden Hook’s gallery of grandmas, which gives photos and short bios (“married since kindergarten, a former dairywoman, she’s an absolute fan of the Wheel of Fortune,” for example) for each knitter in the company’s employ. After choosing the one they’d like to knit their hat, customers can send her a message and can even request that she sign her name on the hat’s label. Pricing begins at EUR 42. In this era of anonymous, distant mass production, there’s nothing like knowing (and being able to share) the product life story of a locally handmade good (one that’s (still) made here, as our sister site would say) to make a consumer value it more—and be willing to shell out more to get it. Plenty more opportunities where this one came from, too. Get those knitting needles started! 😉 (Related: Full provenance sweaters.) Spotted by: Marc Raynaud Providing a new solution to an old problem, ReadyPing lets restaurants notify guests by text message when their table is ready. The system aims to improve on restaurant pagers, which require a substantial upfront investment plus maintenance costs, and have a limited range. Restaurants don’t need to purchase new hardware to use ReadyPing; all that’s required is an internet connection and a computer. ReadyPing charges a flat monthly fee of USD 35, which includes sending an unlimited number of ‘pings’. To use the system, hosts enter a party’s name, number of guests, and their mobile number. When their table is available, the host clicks a button to send a customizable text message. Launched in January 2009, ReadyPing is currently only available in the United States, but it definitely has potential in other time-strapped parts of the world. Of course, there’s no reason why similar systems couldn’t be used by other types of businesses. One to brainstorm on? (Related: Subway launches food ordering via SMS.) Spotted by: Judy McRae As a delicacy with relative affordability and universal appeal, ice cream is one of those products that serves as a barometer of the times. We’ve covered ice cream innovations at the high end—such as the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Company and its locally sourced, hormone-free ice creams in flavours like ginger, giandujia and red currant—as well as convenience-focused novelties like the MooBella vending machine. Next up? Simplicity, if the Häagen-Dazs Five line is any indication. Häagen-Dazs Five is a new, all-natural ice cream crafted with only five ingredients: skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks and natural flavouring. Available in mint, ginger, coffee, vanilla bean, passion fruit, brown sugar and milk chocolate, the Five line also includes less fat than Häagen-Dazs’s other ice creams, the company says. It’s now available in stores, and an online flavour finder helps identify availability by ZIP code. Pricing is roughly USD 7 per pint. Pure, natural, simple—in today’s ailing economic climate, such adjectives hold a nostalgic appeal. Everyday consumers may not be able to afford the big luxuries, but at least there’s still good, old-fashioned ice cream! 😉 Spotted by: Andrea Jones Encouraging consumers to try new wines is a goal that has united vintners around the globe for many years, as evidenced by the trial-sized tubes, wine-tasting games, and technology-enhanced wine bars and wine tastings we’ve covered. Working along similarly cooperative lines, a bricks-and-mortar tasting room recently opened in San Francisco that promotes the wines of eight boutique producers through a series of dedicated tasting stations. Launched last fall, the Press Club is a tasting cellar located at the foot of the Four Seasons Hotel in the heart of San Francisco. Featuring both a common area and eight winery-exclusive tasting bars, the Press Club incorporates the best efforts of eight different Northern California vineyards, each of which is represented onsite by its own employees: the Chateau Montelena Winery, the Fritz Winery, Hanna Winery & Vineyards, Landmark Vineyards, Miner Family Vineyards, Mount Eden Vineyards, Pahlmeyer and Saintsbury. Patrons at the Press Club can taste flights offered by any of the individual wineries, or they can mix and match among them. A menu of accompanying bite-sized treats, meanwhile, draws from a selection of savory delights and sweet surprises inspired by the fresh fruits, produce and dairy of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. The Press Club’s social experience caters to individual wine enthusiasts, friendly gatherings and private group events. Wine is also available by the bottle for retail sale. Much like the online efforts of Naked Wines, the Press Club’s focus on local producers creates a unique bouquet that blends not just excellent wines and tryvertising but also a heady dose of (still) made here appeal. And while its model is particularly well-suited to the urban areas close to wine country, there’s nothing to say such an establishment couldn’t do stunningly well in, say, Chicago or London, as long as the right partnerships were in place. One to emulate—with vintners’ blessings—for wine lovers near you! (Related: Urban winery & wine bar in NYC.) Although grabbing the set list from a favourite band’s gig is like nabbing a trophy, not everyone can get their hands on that sweaty and smudged piece of paper. Which is why Setlist.fm was launched, a free wiki-site that allows users to upload and browse concert set lists. The process is easy: users sign up, select an artist from the site’s extensive database (or add in someone up-and-coming), input a venue, and then list the songs the artist played during that particular show. They’re encouraged to add whatever they remember, relying on ‘crowd memory’ to fix errors and add missing songs. Once saved, a list is added to an archive of an artist’s performances that also includes ‘most played’ statistics and links to live videos. Each user is given a personal page of the set lists they added or edited, as well as their comments and concert attendance statistics. Helping promote the site, a Setlist.fm widget is popular on music websites, and is also available for Facebook pages. Its pseudo-handwritten ink-on-paper format combines a sense of authenticity with the convenience of a digital database. Launched in September 2008, Setlist.fm’s current database consists mainly of recent concerts, although there’s nothing to stop enthusiasts from listing shows dating back to Bruce Springsteen’s glory days. Developed in tiny Liechtenstein (first time we’ve covered a Liechtenstein business), ad-supported Setlist.fm has potential, thanks to its niche focus, savvy execution and reliance on user participation. (Related: Video dictionary with a wiki touch.) Spotted by: Lea There are few products more eco-iconic than those that are stylishly but obviously constructed from other used goods. We’ve already covered a few examples—bags made from old airline seat covers, town banners or discarded wrappers, for example—but it wasn’t until recently that we came across the idea of turning previously worn shirts into bibs. Sure enough, Margo Roth, a Michigan-based entrepreneur who sells nuts and homemade jams through her company Jemfruit, has begun offering what she calls Dirt Shirts—an alternative to a tied napkin or traditional adult-sized bib that offers a more stylish and dignified way to keep messy eaters’ clothes clean. Dirt Shirts are essentially regular collared, button-down shirts with the sleeves and most of the back removed. Adults in need of a little extra clothing protection while they eat simply slip the neck opening over their head, and the front of the shirt covers their own garments; most are lined, unless the fabric is heavy enough to do the job alone. Velcro squares sewn to the bottom even allow a “tray” to be formed to aid in catching crumbs. Dirt Shirts are available in a variety of styles, patterns and lengths for about USD 19. A video on YouTube demonstrates the Dirt Shirt in action. There is no shortage of used clothing out there, making the Dirt Shirt an excellent candidate for emulation by minipreneurs with a crafty bent. A bunch of shirts, a needle and thread, and you’re pretty much good to go! 😉