An Ice Cream Truck Attracts Venture Capital
Even with no marketing budget, Scream Truck boasts more than 18,000 households who sign up for its alerts.
Here are today’s highlights:
Memo to Jay Goltz: How do you hang an NFT on the wall?
The private sector loses jobs for the first time in 13 months.
A list of funding sources for minority owners.
The next big direct-to-consumer business.
Collectors of NFT art have spent fortunes on images that exist only on a cell phone or a laptop: “Now, Desiree Casoni, a collector in Key Biscayne, Fla., is trying to figure out how to hang all her new purchases on the wall. Ms. Casoni owns more than 500 digital artworks with her investor husband, Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile. Bored of swiping through their collection on a cellphone or laptop, the couple initially retooled a few television sets throughout their home, but that meant downloading files onto thumb drives and plugging them in. Ms. Casoni said they next dabbled with digital picture frames designed to run looping slideshows of family photographs, but said some of these models didn’t allow them to resize or crop images.”
“Collectors spent $21 billion trading digital art and collectibles last year, up from $67 million in 2020, according to digital-analytics firm DappRadar.”
“Most of these digital artworks were attached to NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, which act as vouchers of authenticity on the blockchain for virtual goods, such as digital art.”
“Steven Sacks, who runs New York’s bitforms gallery, said he has been inundated with calls from collectors seeking to frame digital works. Mr. Sacks said he tells them it is possible to get an 8-foot-wide television screen for around $14,000, though custom jobs by digital signage companies can top $150,000.”
“One startup, Framed, is selling NFTs that mimic ornate picture frames. ... Tokenframe, meanwhile, lets collectors upload their NFTs directly to its physical frames.” READ MORE
Scream Truck, an ice-cream truck business, has raised a $2.2 million seed round: “What appealed to investors, according to Black, was a modern take on the colorful, boxy trucks that have lumbered around neighborhoods for decades. Instead of a loud jingle blaring from speakers, Scream Truck texts users to notify them a truck is on the way and allows them to preorder confections from their smartphone. Popsicles and ice-cream bars are replaced with customized sundaes and Ghirardelli milkshakes.”
“‘We're not just serving the same thing that's been served for the past hundred years on a truck — we're really taking it to the next level,’ said Eric Murphy, the company's founder and CEO.”
"I think the technology combined with a premium experience, premium product, and the chance to be able to scale this nationally was the most appealing thing for all of our investors,’ Murphy added.”
“With no marketing budget, Murphy says Scream Truck now boasts more than 18,000 households who sign up for its alerts. It operates five trucks — painted in hot pink — servicing 14 New Jersey towns, and its software directs drivers where to go on a particular day based upon demand.” READ MORE
Here’s a list of funding sources for minority business owners: “Robert W. Fairlie, an economics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz who studied the effects of Covid-19 on small businesses, found that in the early months of the pandemic, the number of Black business owners dropped by 41 percent, the number of Latinx owners fell by 32 percent, and the number of Asian owners dropped by 26 percent, compared with a drop of 17 percent in the number of white business owners.”
“The BOSS Network and Sage's impact fund: Black female entrepreneurs in their first five years of business.”
“Comcast’s Rise small business program: “Women- and minority-owned small businesses hardest hit by COVID-19.” READ MORE
The owners of a Utah vacation rental business say this has been the toughest stretch of the pandemic: “It's peak ski season in Park City, and given that we've seen an overall surge in people seeking safe outdoor activities, the area is busier than ever before. But our employees are getting sick, as are workers at other businesses, which is creating a massive domino effect in the city, impacting everything from ski resorts and restaurants to snow removal and trash pickup. These kinds of shutdowns have a huge impact on our guests, and therefore our business. The ski resorts don't have enough workers to maintain the ski runs, which means guests have been forced to wait in long lines and ski limited terrain.”
“Through our concierge service, which helps guests plan activities during their stay, we've seen the demand for dining out exceed any previous year on record, but restaurants are frequently closing due to staffing shortages and outbreaks.”
“Still, the onus falls on us to make it right for the guest, which typically entails a last-minute scramble to place them at an open restaurant with availability, or giving them a gift certificate.”
“We're doing everything we can, but we need help with this labor crisis.” READ MORE
The private sector lost jobs in January for the first time in 13 months: “The U.S. labor market's recovery slid backward in January as the Omicron variant powered record-high infections and a new wave of economic turmoil. Private payrolls fell by 301,000 in the first month of 2022, ADP said in its monthly hiring report on Wednesday. That badly missed the median forecast of 207,000 added payrolls from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. It also shows private-sector hiring reversing course from December's increase of 807,000 jobs.”
“Several factors likely hit the brakes on job growth. Daily COVID infections hit a peak of more than 1.4 million on January 10, and while counts have since fallen, they remain elevated compared to prior waves.”
“The highest inflation in 40 years has also weighed on business sentiments as they struggle to navigate supply-chain troubles and waning consumer demand.” READ MORE
More than 4 million American quit their jobs in December: “Some 4.3 million people quit or changed jobs in December — down from November’s all-time high but still near record levels, as the labor market remained unsettled and the omicron variant swept through the United States. Employers reported some 10.9 million job openings in a survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, well above pre-pandemic averages.”
“At least 4 million workers resigned each month during the second half of 2021, with many of them departing to find work that had better pay, better benefits or more flexible schedules.”
“Nick Bunker, an economist at the jobs site Indeed.com, said that the data showed that omicron did not have a big effect on demand for workers in December. ‘It really paints this picture of a job-switching boom,’ he said.”
“The firm’s own data on the volume of job postings showed that the bigger omicron hit took place in January, he said. That’s when a record number of Americans missed work because they were sick or they were taking care of people who were sick.” READ MORE
THE COVID ECONOMY
U.S. manufacturing declined for a third straight month in January: “The Institute for Supply Management’s gauge of factory activity fell to 57.6 -- the third straight decline and the lowest since November 2020 -- from 58.8 a month earlier, according to data released Tuesday. Still, readings above 50 signal expansion and the latest figures show manufacturing remains robust. The group’s measures of production and new orders both dropped to the lowest since mid-2020, suggesting the recent wave of infections due to the Omicron variant may have hampered plant operations.” READ MORE
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The next big direct-to-consumer business? Cremation: “As the cremation rate balloons in North America, with that option expected to be taken in about 63 percent of deaths in the United States by 2025, investors are betting that the future of the business lies in e-commerce. At the same time, millennials and Gen Xers are increasingly making end-of-life decisions for their parents, and some are expecting a process that approximates the ease of an online order. To reach them, new companies with names like Solace, Tulip, Smart Cremation, After Cremation, Eirene and Lumen are borrowing both the business models and the bright, sans-serif aesthetics of start-ups like Glossier and Allbirds — all in the hopes of making cremation the next big at-home purchase.”
“While a typical cremation costs a few thousand dollars, these start-ups advertise prices from roughly $800 to $1,000.”
“Less than two hours after you book a cremation with Eirene, a start-up in Ontario, the company dispatches a mortuary transit driver to pick up your loved one.”
“The body is ferried to a cold storage facility, where it stays until Eirene has processed the end-of-life paperwork.”
“From there, one of Eirene’s crematory partners will cremate the body, and a funeral director who works for Eirene will either drive the ashes to your door or send them via mail.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
The Game Has to End at Some Point: This week, Shawn Busse, Paul Downs, and Jay Goltz talk about their evolving succession plans. There are lots of options—selling the business, turning it over to a family member, selling it to an employee stock ownership plan, holding a going-out-of-business sale, just walking away—and they all come with advantages and disadvantages. Plus: Would any of them consider instituting a four-day work week? And we can report that this podcast now has its first B Corp. Who knows what a B Corp is?
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren