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Sunday, November 27, 2016

AAA Tess Corners Storage

A customer review of AAA Tess Corners Storage

By Aaron S. Robertson

I never rented a storage unit before, but all of that changed when I just purchased my 1988 Lincoln Tow Car from Holz Motors up the road in Hales Corners, and suddenly, I found myself needing a storage unit for the winter.

After looking and asking around a bit, I ultimately turned to AAA Tess Corners Storage, located in the Tess Corners neighborhood of the city of Muskego, and I'm glad I did. AAA Tess Corners is one of the area's few independent (non-big chain) storage places around, and its owner, Steve, is a true gentleman.

Steve went over in fine detail his pricing structure, his overall process, payment deadlines and potential penalties, etc. He gave me a tour of the facility. I could tell he wanted me to fully understand everything and feel comfortable before agreeing to sign a contract. He wanted me to be able to make an informed decision, even if that meant going somewhere else in the end. I didn't have anyone else available at the moment to come along with me to park the car for the winter, so Steve helped me park it, and even gave me a ride home. Now that's customer service!

If you have a storage need, look into AAA Tess Corners Storage, of Muskego. They come highly-recommended by me.

AAA Tess Corners Storage
W145 S6550 Tess Corners Drive
Muskego, WI 53150
(414) 213-3240
http://www.muskegostorage.com

E-15 Fuel at Jetz in Milwaukee

E15 Fuel in Milwaukee
Recent E-15 ribbon cutting at "Jetz on 70th" with federal, state, and local officials. Notice the prices.
The following interview took place between Aaron S. Robertson and Bob O’Connor on November 14, 2016. Mr. O’Connor is, along with his cousin Tim Klein, co-owner of O'Connor Petroleum Co., Inc. Jetz Convenience Centers, a growing chain around the metro-Milwaukee area, is a subsidiary of O'Connor Petroleum Co.

Jetz, along with the Wisconsin Biofuels Association, recently collaborated to introduce E-15 fuel to the state of Wisconsin. Mr. O’Connor explains the implications of E-15 for our health, our vehicles, the Wisconsin farmer, and our economy. The interview took place at the Hales Corners Jetz location, and was transcribed by Aaron’s colleague, Ashley M. Weber.

A: Welcome! This is Aaron Robertson here. I am with my friend and business associate, Bob O'Connor. It is a beautiful Monday morning--it's sunny out. I can't believe we're holding on strong with this weather going into mid-November here. It's 10:00 on Monday morning, November 14th. Bob, along with cousin Tim Klein, is co-owner of O'Connor Petroleum Company, which owns and operates the Jetz brand of convenience stores throughout the metro-Milwaukee area. We're getting together today to talk about an exciting thing happening here in Wisconsin. Jetz is going to be, along with significant help from the Wisconsin Biofuels Association, introducing a new fuel blend called E-15 to the metro area and to the broader state. This is an exciting opportunity for consumers, fuel producers, and those that are environmentally-conscious. It's a really-interesting development that's taking place. Bob, welcome!

B: Thank you, Aaron. Yeah, just a couple things--I do notice it is a blue, clear, clean, sunny sky, and Jetz is doing everything we can on our part to see it continues like that. And just for record keeping here, yes, I am president of O'Connor Petroleum Company and O'Connnor Petroleum Company is the parent of Jetz Convenience Centers. So O'Connor Petroleum is doing business as Jetz Convenience Centers.

A: Great, so let's start with your business. I understand it's a family-owned, multi-generational business. You currently have four locations--three of them currently branded as Jetz. Tell us more, fill in the gaps, talk about your business.

B: Yes, I am the third generation of my company. Myself and my cousin, Tim Klein, both lead Jetz Convenience Centers. We are both grandchildren of the original founder, Robert O'Connor Sr., who started the company on 92nd and Hampton on the Southeast corner of Timmerman Airport. We've been around since 1957. Like I said, Tim and I are the third-generation. My daughter, Mary, is the fourth generation of our company to be in leadership. She manages our Hales Corners store.

A: Great, and that is where we are this morning, at the Hales Corners location. It's a beautiful area and a fine community. How did your business come to spearhead the introduction of E-15 to the state of Wisconsin? Who did you talk to, and what were those conversations like? What can you share about what was taking place in the background?

B: Sure. The State of Wisconsin has an interest in creating more fuel choice, along with some environmental issues that they would like the fuel that we select to address. So Jetz is what we call in our industry "unbranded." So we do not have the traditional ties to big oil, like Exxon, Mobil, BP, Shell, you name it, although we do have one store that's Shell for the moment. We just bought that store. So, there have been concerns both for the environment and the amount of choice that consumers have. There is actually an office in the State of Wisconsin called the Office of Energy Innovation that is constantly looking for new and better choices for Wisconsin consumers. They, along with the American Ethanol Coalition, approached us and asked us if we would have interest in promoting E-15 through a new grant that the state has put together to help introduce this fuel.

A: So break down the mechanics of E-15 for us. What is the composition, what kind of vehicles can take it, which ones can't? Fill in the gaps for us from that standpoint.

B: 'E' stands for ethanol, which means there's ethanol blended in that gasoline. 15 stands for the percent of ethanol and is typically the 'up to' percent. So E-15 will be up to 15% ethanol and it'll have 85% typical gasoline. Now, two things happen when you add the ethanol. Number 1: You get a higher octane, so actually at our South 70th Street store, where we're introducing this, you'll get a midgrade octane. But the price will typically be lower than just regular unleaded gasoline. Right now, I believe we're a nickel cheaper, and that can fluctuate with markets. There's an ethanol market and a gasoline market, and they don't work together – they work independently of each other. Typically, ethanol has been a less-expensive fuel than typical gasoline. So we're able to save you money, and get you a little more power at the pump. Now, what vehicles can use it? Well, the EPA has said that any vehicle 2001 and newer can use it. If you are earlier than 2001, it's illegal to use it. You're not to use it in a weed whacker. You're not to use it in a boat. You're not to put it in your motorcycle. It's a newer, advanced fuel for newer, advanced vehicles.

A: So, that beautiful, '88 Lincoln Town Car that you and I were discussing that I just purchased from Holz here in Hales Corners can't take E-15, it sounds like?

B: 1988 – I'm sorry [laughs].

A: I will be missing out on this exciting opportunity.

B: However, you do have a newer Lincoln, as well.

A: I do!

B: And what year is that?

A: That is an '09 MKZ.

B: That would qualify for E-15. So just as an explanation--you are burning ethanol in your gasoline right now. In southeast Wisconsin, we are mandated to have reformulated gas, and reformulated gas is blended with up to 10% ethanol. So we are already burning ethanol nationwide – about 97% of our vehicle fuels are running ethanol already. It is the most expeditious way to get cleaner air than what we have at the moment.

A: What are some of the most common misconceptions you are hearing right now about E-15? Obviously, it sounds like this is taking on the traditional oil and fuel industry, and I'll bet there's going to be a lot of misinformation, misconceptions, whether intentional or not, right?

B: With respect to E-15, it's a new fuel, so there hasn't been a lot put out on it yet. Yourself, myself, and others, the State of Wisconsin, is putting out information. Jetz is putting out information. The Office of Energy Innovation is putting out information. American Lung Association is putting out information. Wisconsin Biofuels Association is putting out information. The American Ethanol Coalition is putting out information. Oil companies, you have to understand, with respect to ethanol, it's a competitor to the oil companies. So, when I sell E-15, that means 15% of the gallon in your tank that typically went to the oil companies, now goes to the American farmer, specifically Wisconsin farmers. They get that advantage of that 15%. Or if you are buying E-85, which is ethanol 85 up to 85%, 85% of that revenue is going back to Wisconsin farmers.

A: So I understand you and your team have put together some very informative online resources for consumers to learn more about E-15, and as you just mentioned, it seems like there are other organizations, government agencies, etc. starting to come out with more information. What are some of these Web addresses where people can go, people can turn to, to learn more?

B: Well, you can always go to JetzRewards.com. That's our Webpage, or on our Facebook feed, which you can find right on our landing page. You'll see the conversation that is going on about E-15, and I have specifically invited others in the industry to address the concerns that consumers are having. So if there is a question, go ahead and throw it on our Facebook feed – it's JetzRewards on Facebook. Put your concern on there, and we'll get you a real answer. Otherwise, you can go to FuelingWisconsinForward.com. I've created that Web site as a place that we can direct people to various pertinent information as different things come up. I might link that to different sites that address the majority of the questions – we just don't know what they will be yet. But that's what that site will do. Also, if you are wondering if your car is specifically warrantied for E-15, because some are, some aren't. It is a new fuel. You can go to EthanolRFA.org, and you can see specifically if your car is warrantied. Most cars will be out of warranty and they are allowed to use it, as long as it's 2001 or newer. But if you want to know if you are specifically warrantied, you can go to EthanolRFA.org.

A: Alright, very good. What are we looking at in terms of a time table? When are these pumps expected to be put in? When can consumers start buying?

B: Well, you can buy today at Jetz on South 70th Street. We put the first one in in Milwaukee. In other states where they have introduced E-15, for example, Iowa, up to 25% of the station's gallonage will go to that fuel, and a lot of people are using it as a premium substitute because, like I said, you are getting a midgrade octane for less than the price of unleaded. So if your car is fortunate to qualify for E-15, you are basically getting more bang for your buck.

A: So basically, for those that are concerned about octane levels for whatever reason – maybe they have an older V-8, maybe they're driving more of a performance-based car – purchasing E -15 would be like the equivalent, I guess, of a traditional 89 octane?

B: Yes, our E-15 is blended at 89, so you are getting a midgrade octane/power level, and you're getting a little more horsepower out of it than you would a typical 87, and typically it'll be cheaper than regular, unleaded gasoline.

A: Are there any other thoughts at the moment? Anything else you'd like to share?

B: So I think the story of ethanol is a great story, and I say that for four main reasons. Number 1: Ethanol is locally produced. Last week, I went and I visited an ethanol planet out in Cambria, Wisconsin. On my way there, I saw the farmers all out in their fields harvesting their corn. And what they do then, is they drive to the ethanol plant and they line up their trucks to deliver corn. The ethanol plant then accepts that corn. They basically just open the bottom of their trucks and the corn drops in the ground and the ethanol plant starts making things with it. The first thing they do is they make human food out of it. That's where they get the most money, is if they can turn part of that corn into human food. They extract that part and turn it into human food. Next on the line would be animal feed. So they produce a high-protein animal feed at the plant, and that generates a little more money, too, than the ethanol would. Then lastly, they take the ethanol and they put that through a distilling process which is all-natural forces of nature. It's basically bacteria that transforms the corn mash into the alcohol that we burn. So what you'll see is on one side of the plant, you'll see the farmers delivering the corn, and on the opposite side, you'll see there might even be the same truck picking up animal feed to take back to the farm, or it might be a tanker picking up ethanol to mix with conventional gasoline here at Jetz.

A: That's interesting.

B: So that's one thing – it's locally produced. Another thing about ethanol is that it's clean. Ethanol puts far less Co2 emissions and other contaminants into the air than conventional gasoline. That's why the American Lung Association is behind it. I'm sure if you go to their Web site, you'll find information on there. It's cleaner, locally produced, it's typically cheaper than unleaded gasoline, so as far as your pocketbook, it's good for that. And lastly, it gives you more power. So you are getting more power for less money. More bang for your buck, as I call it, on a locally-produced, cleaner fuel. I just don't see the downside – unless you're an oil company.

A: Yeah, wow, this is all truly interesting. It sounds like the economic implications are just huge. If people are healthier, people are breathing cleaner air, farmers are getting the economic support that they need, this is just one more viable product that they can sell and take part in distributing.

B: I call it Wisconsin gold. Corn is a solar-powered, renewable fuel. We are putting that into our mainline fuel system now. We are keeping the money right here in Wisconsin. We do export ethanol to other states, which allows money to flow back into Wisconsin. Instead of taking our money and giving it to the oil companies, which in many cases, distribute that overseas, we are keeping it right here in Wisconsin. So we're supporting our Wisconsin farms. We support our Wisconsin ethanol plants. We support our local transport trucks. We support our local gasoline retailers like myself.

A: Incredible. Well, thank you for sharing. This is really fascinating, especially for nerds like me that are interested in business and economics and marketplaces, and that's why I wanted to sit down and have this conversation with you in more detail, and hopefully my readers appreciate it and they learn something new.

B: When you choose ethanol, Aaron, you are choosing something for yourself, you're choosing something for your car, you're choosing something that's better for the environment, and you're choosing something that is going to support your neighbor economically. It's a good story.

A: You said that you already put in at least one pump at the Milwaukee location (South 70th Street)?

B: No, all our fuel dispensers have E-15 and E-85 right at them. We are the first ones to put these pumps in the state of Wisconsin, and what you will find at our pumps at that particular location right now is there will be five selections to choose from. So there will be five buttons instead of the typical three. You will have E-85, E-15, 87, 89, and 93 octane.

A: So it's all ready to go.

B: It's all ready to go.

A: People can start buying away.

B: Correct. Now, we're having a grand introduction on November 18th, this coming Friday, between 3 and 6pm. We're going to be offering discount pricing, so 85 will be 85 cents a gallon and E-15 will be $1.15 a gallon. Plus, we will be giving away some gift cards. We will be giving away a $100 gift card every hour between 3 and 6.

A: That's awesome! Well, any final thoughts, I guess?

B: Nope, that should cover it. But you're welcome to ask me more later on, if you'd like.

A: Yeah, and I hope people do. I hope they get excited; I hope they get encouraged. I hope this interview further helps not only your marketing for your business, but further helps in disseminating good information out there, as well. It sounds like a win-win for everyone, for those that are environmentally-conscious, and for those that simply want to be a little healthier.

B: Or they just want a lower price for a little more power.

A: Yeah, and definitely good for the Wisconsin farmer it sounds like, too.

B: If you want to join in on the conversation, go to Jetz Rewards on Facebook and ask us whatever you'd like, and we'll see if we can get you a good answer.

A: Alright Bob, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

B: Very good Aaron, thank you.

A: Take care.

Ron Barber Holz Motors

A customer review of Holz Motors and of sales consultant Ron Barber

By Aaron S. Robertson

Recently, I purchased a 1988 Lincoln Town Car from Holz Motors in Hales Corners. Yes, you read that right. See, I absolutely love the Lincoln brand, especially the big boats of the 70s. I once owned a 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V. I blame my fascination with Lincolns on watching too many mob movies growing up as a kid. Cadillac? Fuhgeddaboudit!

It seemed like it was a match made to happen. I was driving down S. 108th Street (Hwy. 100), about to head to the gas station to fill up my '09 Lincoln MKZ, and there she was, parked on the corner of the lot where Hwy. 100 and Janesville Road meet, where all the world could clearly see her. The car caught my eye right away, and instead of heading to the gas station, I immediately turned into the lot. I got out of my car, started my walk-around inspection, and that's when sales consultant Ron Barber came out to talk with me.

Ron told me the story behind the car. It was purchased brand new at the old Cherek Lincoln-Mercury dealership on S. 27th Street in Milwaukee. One owner - a couple in their 90s that had done business with Holz for many years. The husband had recently passed away, and there simply wasn't a need any longer for the vehicle. The wife didn't think twice about where to go with it. The body was in solid shape, the interior looked brand new, and everything was mechanically-sound. Very low mileage. It spent its time down in Arizona all these years, so it never knew winter. I knew it had to be mine.

Ron and I worked out our deal, and what I really appreciated about him and the team at Holz was the level of patience, understanding, and dignity I was shown. See, this was an off-the-cuff purchase for me, and I didn't readily have the cash sitting around for it. A lot of it was locked up in investments and such. So it took about a week, a week and a half or so, for the cash to start coming together to make this happen. And Ron and the team were there every step of the way for me. They saw the look in my eyes when I realized that car had to be mine. A simple $100 held the car for me while I worked to line everything up.

I highly recommend you start with Holz Motors for your next vehicle purchase, and in particular, I recommend sales consultant Ron Barber. He is truly a class act. I later realized that he had sold my folks a Buick in recent years, and they appreciated their experience with him, as well.

Within a few days of driving the car off the lot, an envelope arrived in the mail for me. Ron had sent me all the original paperwork he had on the vehicle - original sales receipt, options price list, etc. What a cool throwback in time to see some of this stuff.

Go see Holz Motors, and ask for Ron Barber.

Holz Motors
5961 S 108th Place
Hales Corners, WI 53130
http://www.holzmotors.com
Sales: (414) 409-7437

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jetz Introduces E15 Fuel to Milwaukee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 14, 2016

MILWAUKEE — Jetz Convenience Centers in Milwaukee is hosting a Nov. 18 grand opening of its new ethanol blender gasoline pumps with special fuel pricing and gift card giveaways, representatives announced Thursday.

New E15 and E85 ethanol blender pumps were made possible in part by a Biofuels Retail Advancement in Wisconsin Transportation (BRAWT) grant. E15 is gasoline blended with up to 15 percent ethanol and E85 is gasoline blended with up to 85 percent ethanol. These new ethanol-blended gasolines offer clean energy options and new fuel price points for consumers.

Jetz is the first in Milwaukee and among the first in the nation to utilize new blender pump technology to offer a new and greater choice of gasoline blends.

“I think the story of ethanol is a great story,” Jetz President Bob O’Connor said. “It’s a Wisconsin story and an American story. Using Wisconsin resources and the forces of nature, we can produce an advanced fuel that is typically less expensive than conventional gasolines while providing more power to qualifying vehicles. At the same time, tailpipe emissions are reduced, leading to better air quality and improved health.”

E15 has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for all model year 2001 and newer passenger gasoline vehicles. E85 is for use only in flex fuel vehicles. Drivers can check the inside of the fuel door or fuel cap to see if their vehicles are eligible or the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest’s Web site at http://www.cleanairchoice.org .

“Air pollution from vehicle exhaust is a serious health concern,” said Danielle Clark, spokesperson for the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest. “Ethanol fuels are cleaner-burning than traditional gasoline, and they can also help reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.”

The new blender pumps were made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s award of $3.7 million to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, Office of Energy Innovation through the Biofuels Infrastructure Program to expand and support the installation of ethanol blending equipment at retail gas stations throughout the state in the form of grant funds. The BRAWT program aims to increase consumption and availability of ethanol throughout Wisconsin, provide retail ethanol fueling outlets near major fleets and travel corridors and increase and promote public awareness of the benefits of ethanol.

The goal is to increase clean energy options throughout the state.

“Governor Walker brought together the resources of Office of Energy Innovation at the Public Service Commission (PSC) to improve energy options and availability for Wisconsin,” Said PSC Chair Ellen Nowak. “Allowing consumers more choices at the pump and giving the United States more energy options just make sense.”

Wisconsin Clean Cities partnered with the Wisconsin Office of Energy Innovation to assist in management of the program, including education and outreach.

“Wisconsin Clean Cities supports the use of ethanol in our mission to lessen our dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality,” Wisconsin Clean Cities Executive Director Lorrie Lisek said. “We’re thrilled to assist Jetz in their efforts to bring cleaner air and blender pump technology offering E15 and E85 to Milwaukee.”

The grand opening of the Jetz Milwaukee blender pumps will take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18 at Jetz Milwaukee, 607 S. 70th St.

The station is offering E15 for $1.15 a gallon and E85 for 85 cents a gallon during the grand opening hours only.

Anyone attending the event will be eligible to win one of three $100 Jetz gift cards to be given away each hour between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. City and state officials will be on hand to meet with constituents during the event as well.

The BRAWT grant funding remains available for interested fuel retailers. For more information, visit the Wisconsin Clean Cities BRAWT Web page at http://bit.ly/2fDritX or contact Lorrie Lisek at Wisconsin Clean Cities at lorrie.lisek@wicleancities.org or (414) 221-4958.

About Jetz Convenience Centers

Jetz Convenience Centers is a fourth-generation company that has been serving customers in and around Milwaukee since 1957. Beginning as O’Connor Petroleum Co., Inc. the company changed its name to Jetz Convenience Centers in 2003. Jetz remains family owned and operates two locations in the Milwaukee, one in Hales Corners and one in Muskego. For more information about Jetz visit www.JetzRewards.com.

About Wisconsin Clean Cities

The U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities coalitions are nonprofit organizations designed to reduce petroleum consumption in the transportation sector by advancing the use of alternative fuels and vehicles, idle reduction technologies, hybrid electric vehicles, fuel blends and fuel economy. Wisconsin Clean Cities is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1994 serving the entire state of Wisconsin with the goal of improving air quality, strengthening the economy and reducing dependence on foreign oil. For more information about new ethanol blended gasolines visit www.FuelingWisconsinForward.com.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to invest like a racketeer

How to invest like a racketeer

By Aaron S. Robertson 

Please note that the following article is purposely written the way it is for the sake of pure entertainment value. No suggestion is being made whatsoever that these companies or funds are somehow illegitimate and/or criminal in nature. Please also understand that this article is written solely by a layperson that is not licensed in any way to provide any sort of investing or other financial advice. Invest at your own risk.

The author either holds these stocks and other investment vehicles himself, or is actively working to acquire them for himself. Check back from time to time, as there may be new investment picks presented!

Like so many others, I grew up watching plenty of mob movies and curiously reading about the major players in books and in the newspapers. It's why I fell in love with Ford's finest, the Lincoln brand (Cadillac? Fuggedaboutit!). It's why I use curse words in casual conversation, even when I'm not upset at anything. It's why I consume pasta and coffee/espresso like it's going out of style. It's why, perhaps, I see opportunity in just about everything...



Do you want to own a piece of the traditional mob rackets in a legal, fully legitimate way? Are you libertarian enough in both your moral philosophy and your investing strategy to understand that people will engage in activities and purchase products and services that you may personally disagree with, but you might as well capitalize off of all of it anyway? After all, if you feel bad, you can simply "launder" your gains years from now through your favorite charitable donations and scholarship funds, becoming an upstanding citizen. 

Do you want "loan sharking" (a big emphasis on the quotation marks), gambling, porn, vending machines, gentlemen's clubs, resorts, booze, construction, and more?

If so, here's a good list to start with...

RCI Hospitality Holdings, Inc. (RICK) - Among other holdings, the company owns and operates upscale gentlemen's clubs and restaurants under various brands across the country, as well as an online and print media division.

VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK) - Among this exchange-traded fund's vast holdings are stocks of well-known companies with significant operations in Las Vegas, which is to be naturally expected. Perhaps making this fund a little more fun and interesting, though, is that it also holds a good-sized stake in Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.

PowerShares Dynamic Building &amp Construction ETF (PKB) - If you're feeling nostalgic for the days when not a single building could go up in New York (or the major metropolitan area of your choice) without mob approval, then this fund is for you. A diverse offering of holdings in major, well-known construction and building trades companies.

Full House Resorts, Inc. (FLL) - Based in Las Vegas, Full House Resorts develops, owns, and operates a number of fine casinos and resorts across the U.S.

Generation Next Franchise Brands, Inc. (VEND) - These days, more and more consumers are demanding fresher, healthier convenience foods on the go, and that's the angle that this vending machine company is going with.  

Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, Inc. (CUBA) - If you're hoping (and want to bet) that Cuba may once again become a destination playground, this fund may very well be for you. The fund's focus extends far beyond Cuba, though. From the fund's own Web site:

"The Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund's investment objective is long-term capital appreciation. To achieve its objective, the Fund invests in issuers that are likely, in the Advisor's view, to benefit from economic, political, structural and technological developments in the countries in the Caribbean Basin, which consist of Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Aruba, Haiti, the Netherlands Antilles, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. The fund invests at least 80% of its total assets in a broad range of securities of issuers including U.S.-based companies that engage in substantial trade with, and derive substantial revenue from, operations in the Caribbean Basin Countries."

Constellation Brands, Inc. (STZ) - Taken from its company profile:

"The Company is an international beverage alcohol company with many of its products recognized as leaders in their respective categories and geographic markets. Its wine portfolio is complemented by select premium spirits brands and other select beverage alcohol products. The Company is a multi-category supplier (beer, wine and spirits) ("Multi-category Supplier") of beverage alcohol in the U.S. It operates in three segments: (i) Beer (formerly Crown Imports), (ii) Wine and Spirits (formerly Constellation Wines and Spirits) and (iii) Corporate Operations and Other. The Beer segment imports, markets and sell Mexican Beer Brands in all 50 states of the U.S.: Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Pacifico, Negra Modelo and Victoria. In the U.S., it has five of the top-selling 15 imported beer brands."

Lending Club Corp. (LC) - This is where my "loan sharking" joke comes in. Lending Club provides a marketplace where qualified borrowers can receive consumer loans backed with funds provided by other everyday people (the peer-to-peer lending concept). Like any other reputable lender, rates and other terms for borrowers are going to depend on the borrower's credit rating.

Now, there are a couple of ways you can get in on the action with Lending Club. Owning stock in the company is one option. I do not own shares yet, but plan on purchasing some in the near future. The second path, which I am in on, is to become an investor in the company's marketplace. With this option, you do not own a stake in the company like you would if you purchased stock. Instead, the money you are investing is going directly toward providing loans to borrowers, for which you earn interest.

Happy investing, and best of luck to you!        

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

A Reflection on Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why
By Aaron S. Robertson, MSM

Watch Simon Sinek's TED Talk on the book at YouTube:




From the end of 2007 to the end of 2013, I served as president of a small Web design and online marketing company called Intrepid Innovations, Inc. My two partners were old friends from college. We knew we wanted to go into business together at some point, but we struggled in the beginning phases of brainstorming our business plan with the how we were going to go into business with one another. We all had different majors in college. And while we shared some similar interests, we were also very different from one another in interests, talents, and basic skill sets.

Finally, we figured out how we were going into business. Though my major was in political science (rounded out nicely by minors in sociology and philosophy), I had a strong passion for online marketing, search engine optimization, and writing. I was also a big networker and all-around schmoozer with some good connections. My partner Phil was a graphic designer by major and picked up on Web design along the way, and my partner Dan was a writing major with a knack for copy writing. That’s essentially how the formula came about for the services we were going to offer. But looking back on it all, we never really developed the why, and I suspect that explains many of the challenges we ran into further down the road, and why we eventually scrapped the business.

Over the course of all the years we were in business, we constantly struggled to compete on price. For Web design, graphic arts, and writing services, there was simply too much competition. Everyone out there claimed to be some sort of online marketing wizard, or copy writing guru, or social media genius. Online marketplaces that brought freelancers and buyers together allowed those buyers to get dirt-cheap rates from freelancers overseas, primarily from India, and there was no way we could reasonably match those prices. Finally, on that note, many DIY Web design services sprang up, allowing buyers to create their own Web sites quickly and cheaply without having to know complicated code. The result of all of these factors combined was that we continuously found ourselves nickeled-and-dimed to death. And it was very difficult to build long-lasting, repeat business from clients. They seemed to always look for the immediate fix, and they often had little money and/or understanding to invest in their marketing efforts for the long haul – many of our clients were small mom-and-pop shops and one-person professionals like consultants of all stripes, accountants, attorneys, contractors, etc.

The bottom line, to sum this all up, we failed to figure out the why. In the end, we were just another commodity out there, competing with an endless sea of other similar providers. There was nothing particularly outstanding that truly differentiated us, that made us really stand out from the rest, and we allowed ourselves to become victims of pricing wars. We ended the business in 2013 after we finally realized it was no longer fun or rewarding.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Some Resources for Personal and Professional Development and Well-Being

Some Resources for Personal and Professional Development and Well-Being

By Aaron S. Robertson

Khan Academy
www.khanacademy.org

Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The site features courses in math, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

A big thanks to my co-worker, Andy, for bringing this site to my attention. This Web site has been around for quite a while now. I had heard of it. It was planted somewhere in the back of my mind. But it was really Andy's recent recommendation that prompted me to actually look into it, and I'm glad I did, because I love it! In particular, I really enjoy the economics/finance/investments offerings, but there's something for just about everyone.

TED Talks
www.ted.com

Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”.

From its Web site:

TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Credit Karma
www.creditkarma.com

A free resource allowing you to regularly monitor your credit via access to your credit reports, weekly updates to your credit scores, and alerts if something seems suspicious. Also features articles and tutorials on a wide array of credit subjects, and offers you customized recommendations on credit cards and loans based on your current scores. Recently, the site added a mechanism that allows you to directly dispute with the credit bureaus any negative listings on your credit reports with just a few clicks of the mouse!

Like a lot of young people, I had run into credit card trouble in college. I've managed to clean it all up since, and it's great to have a resource like Credit Karma at my disposal to help me stay on top of my credit. I have made use of the Direct Dispute tool recently to challenge three old negative listings on my credit reports, and have managed to have all of them removed, quickly and easily. I have also taken up a few of the customized recommendations on credit cards. I’ve had a Credit Karma account for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it.