Combine Fashion and Tech with the Leoht Handbag

Leoht-Handbag

When was the last time your handbag got a tech upgrade?

These days our technology is an everyday personal experience. There’s the ever present smartphone in our pocket and the tablet in our bag. Now, smart watches and even glasses are becoming more common.

Leoht is one company that thinks it’s time your handbag got on board the wearable technology train.

Leoht is no humble handbag. At the start it’s a leather luxury item with custom hardware touches. It’s created with fashion in mind and the tech in the bag is integrated to be nearly invisible so as not to interrupt its sleek design. The company boasts that this is stylish technology that says no more to ugly wearables.

Essentially Leoht’s tech is purposed to keep your devices charged. The bag contains a built-in lithium ion battery hidden in the bottom. The battery can be wirelessly charged by a charging plate included in the sale. Leoht boasts that by simply placing the bag on the plate it can charge while not in use. The company also claims the battery can last up to 30 days on standby.

For more information on Leoht check out the Kickstarter video below.


An external power panel is included in the bag’s design. This panel has a two-fold use. It indicates how much charge the bag has left with a minimalist light-up display. It also contains a microUSB charger allowing for a power up when you can’t get to the charge plate.

Two built-in USB ports can be found tucked away at either end of the bag. This allows you to plug in and charge your devices while you’re on the go anywhere. Leoht claims that with a full charge the company’s bag can charge a smartphone up to four times and a tablet up to two.

In addition to charging your devices wherever you may be, Leoht also wants to solve the problem of your handbag becoming like a black hole. Interior lighting is made possible with the inclusion of four LED lights. There is even one exterior LED to make rummaging around in the dark easier. This could definitely be a potential time and frustration saver.

Leoht has started a Kickstarter campaign to get its product off the ground. The early bird price for one of the bags is $149, though it’s rumored that once the Leoht Handbag hits stores it will retail between $300 and $350. The company hopes to start shipping in the fall.

Image: Leoht

This article, “Combine Fashion and Tech with the Leoht Handbag” was first published on Small Business Trends

Infusionsoft Announces Mobile Payments and More at ICON15

ICON 15 AInfusionsoft CEO Clate Mask (above) and his executive team kicked off the company’s annual conference, ICON15, with several product announcements. Among them: Infusionsoft is entering the super-hot mobile payments space.

This summer the company will offer a built-in payments solution in its marketing automation software platform. Rates will be “competitive” company executives say, at 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per each transaction. There is no setup fee. The payments solution has mobile capabilities so that small business users of Infusionsoft can accept payments from their customers while out of the office.

Appearing before the crowd of over 3,000 business owners and partners at the Phoenix Convention Center, Mask said, “Small business is a big deal.”

Small businesses have created a net of 18 million jobs in the last 5 years, Mask shared. Large companies have contracted their job pool by 2 million, he added.

“You are part of something big. Your success matters – a lot. It matters not only to you, your families, your employees and communities; it matters to the economy, too,” he told the audience.

Mask, together with his cofounders, Scott Martineau and Eric Martineau, related the story of Infusionsoft’s start in a strip mall. The company began as a software development company.

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“We were working way too hard and making way too little money,” he says.

At one point, they got a visit from the police. They were erroneously suspected of being a meth lab because of people coming and going at all hours.

The trio of cofounders say they went through the small business owners’ paradox: the things that free you also bind you. So while many entrepreneurs start businesses in a bid for freedom, they end up with responsibilities such as having to make payroll.

Addressing the thousands of small business owners Mask said, “Thank you for never giving up.”

Infusionsoft’s product, he said, is being transformed from a sales and marketing platform to a small business success platform.

Infusionsoft is designed to automate marketing tasks to free up small business owners and their limited staff.

Kyle Leavitt, Vice President of Product, said Infusionsoft will be introducing a variety of enhancements and new tools this year, including:

Email Builder

It includes a library of email templates all responsive and optimized for mobile. This will be implemented in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Campaign Builder Enhancements

This visually-oriented function Infusionsoft introduced more than a year ago helps companies automate their marketing campaigns and visualize them in a flowchart format. Leavitt said the enhancements, to be introduced later this year, will make it “even easier to use.”

Payments

The payments module will be introduced this summer. According to Leavitt, Infusionsoft users will be able to access full order history from mobile devices. Infusionsoft customers will have just one vendor to deal with and no manual actions or special integrations needed to implement a payments solution.

Help Center

A new online Help Center is being launched next week, and will include 24/7 live support help. It is also accessible from mobile devices.
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Infusionsoft has had a reputation in the past as a powerful system yet with a steep learning curve. But the company is in process of simplifying all aspects of it. “Its going to be simple … and awesome,” Leavitt enthusiastically told those gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center (pictured above).

According to CRM industry analyst Brent Leary, Partner at CRM Essentials, Infusionsoft has made strong progress with its product in recent years. “When Infusionsoft started out, the product was complex. It could do a lot, but you almost needed a PhD to use it. It’s been great to see over the past few years how it’s evolved. They’ve made it so much easier to use. You can get more things done with fewer steps.”

Analyst Paul Greenberg, President of The 56 Group, LLC agreed that the product has improved and he’s impressed with the product simplicity. “It’s intelligently designed, too, with the small business user in mind, not an enterprise user. My favorite feature is ‘My Day’ which shows your tasks for that day. That’s perfect for the small business user.”

Co-founder Scott Martineau reinforced the company’s commitment to making the platform easier to use. “When we first started developing software, we weren’t focused on simplicity. A lot more of our efforts now are focused on usability,” said Martineau.

In one sense, according to Leary, Infusionsoft is playing catch up by just now focusing on mobile-optimized email templates. Other competitors already offer those. But, he says, “Infusionsoft has so many other things going for it” compared with competitors.

Infusionsoft customers make heavy use of email marketing, sending over 15 million emails each day. The announcement about the new Email Builder was met with a spontaneous round of applause in the event hall.

In addition to the tech developments, Mask said that the Infusionsoft Marketplace will also be growing. The Marketplace is where Infusionsoft customers can find apps to integrate with other software applications they use, such as QuickBooks.

“You’ll see an explosion in partnerships,” Mask assured analysts in a special Q&A session.

Infusionsoft targets small businesses with up to two employees, but can serve them as they grow, up to a hundred employees.

Infusionsoft, last year, secured a Series D round of funding in the amount of $55 million, led by Goldman Sachs. Company executives spoke openly about a potential IPO at some point in the future.

Infusionsoft is based in Chandler, Arizona, and has 600 employees and more than 30,000 customers.

Image: Infusionsoft, Twitter

This article, “Infusionsoft Announces Mobile Payments and More at ICON15” was first published on Small Business Trends

The Original Social Swami Joins Surefire Social

Shashi Bellamkonda Joins Surefire SocialEDIT

When you once were called the “Social Media Swami,” what might a logical next career step be?

For Shashi Bellamkonda, that next career step is to become a Chief Marketing Officer.

Bellamkonda joins Surefire Social starting April 1. He will be the new CMO of the technology and services provider based in Herndon, Virginia.

Bellamkonda is joining the management team as the company prepares to launch a new online software service called SurePulse later this summer. Chris Marentis, founder and CEO of Surefire Social, cited Bellamkonda’s “deep experience and vision in the local marketing space” as a key reason for the hire.

In an official release from the company announcing Bellamkonda joining Surefire Social, Marentis said:

“I am delighted to welcome Shashi Bellamkonda to the Surefire Social management team. His deep experience and vision in the local marketing space gives us the marketing leadership we need as we prepare to launch SurePulse, our new SaaS service. We have an excellent team in place to manage Surefire Social’s explosive growth while still providing innovative results driven marketing solutions.”

Bellamkonda has more than a decade’s experience serving small businesses in the technology realm.

He made social media history by taking on the unofficial title as the world’s first “social media swami” while at Network Solutions. He was on the forefront of those who foresaw social media becoming a critical channel for customer satisfaction and marketing.

Today we take it for granted that social channels like Twitter must be monitored and listened to for customer service. But it wasn’t always that way.

Said Bellamkonda, in an email interview with Small Business Trends: “So much has changed in the last five years. When writing about website trends for Small Business Trends, we stressed the importance of mobile for small business marketing. Today, that is even more important and small business should pay attention to these points to win in business.”

Businesses today are more “localcentric,” Ballamkonda says. This involves businesses being more integrated with GPS so that customers can use applications and Google searches to find local businesses, then visit the businesses with the GPS on their phone.

These integrations lead to action with customers using mobile device being more likely to make quick decisions and convert due to the on-the-go nature of mobile devices, Bellamkonda adds.

Business websites have become more visual and instant as mobile has changed the way we lay out websites and the way we interact with content. Everything is simpler.

People are more likely to choose search results at the top of directories simply because fewer results are shown on their phone screens.

Also important, Ballamkonda says, is the wisdom of strangers. “Unlike five years ago where social media was still in its infancy for customer interaction,” he says. “Today, customers find and visit the business on mobile and then post social media to discuss their experiences. Or if they didn’t get the kind of service they felt they deserved, demand it. All on a mobile device.”

Mobile social media has also led to a streaming world, Ballamkonda says. He explains, “Photos, videos and live streams are giving customers the tools they never had before. This is also an opportunity for businesses to showcase their products and services.”

Bellamkonda says he’s excited to be returning to the world of small business. His most recent role was Vice President of Digital Marketing for a real estate firm.

Surefire Social currently serves independently-owned small businesses and franchisees The company’s platform helps small businesses with their local marketing needs, including Web, mobile and social. Surefire Social was named to the Inc 500 list of fastest growing companies in the United States in 2014. (Surefire Social came in number 341!)

Bellamkonda was twice named a Small Business Influencer Champion, in 2011 and 2012.

Bellamkonda credits serendipity with how the new role came about. He was contacted through LinkedIn to recommend “someone like Shashi Bellamkonda.” Instead, Bellamkonda said he recommended himself.

Image: Surefire Social

This article, “The Original Social Swami Joins Surefire Social” was first published on Small Business Trends

7 DIY STEM Projects For Kids

(Image: Black Girls Code)

Do you have a child who’s curious, loves to take things apart or ask questions about how things work? If so, it’s possible you may have a child who would love to explore the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM).

[Related: Entrepreneurs Summit All-Stars: Amos Winbush Talks Forging Multimillion-Dollar Empire in Tech]

Hands-on learning experiences beyond the classroom can help take their creative and curious minds to the next level. From creating your own iPad sleeve to building a marble roller coaster DIY or “Do It Yourself” projects are popular activities for both kids and adults. Here are 6 DIY STEM projects to consider:

Creating an electromagnetic train - Using principles from Sylvan Edge classes, kids can learn about electric polarity, what can cause a short circuit (and what the effects of that are), and how an open circuit is also a bad idea. For more information and instructions visit the Slyvan Learning blog.

Build a DIY spin art machine with snap circuits – Making a spin art machine is similar to putting together Legos. This engaging activity teaches kids about electronics and how to build a variety of circuits. The activity takes about 10 minutes. Check out reviews and instructions on Tinker Lab.com.

Make a homemade bottle thermometer - Does your child ever wonder about heat energy and temperature measurement? If so, this hands-on fun project shows you how to construct a homemade thermometer. Visit education.com to learn more.

Make natural dyes– With Easter at our doorstep, this could be a fun activity for the entire family. Using plants found in your backyard and ingredients found in your refrigerator such as spinach and red onions you can make down natural dyes. Check out Pop sugar.com for detailed instructions.

Create crystal eggshell geodes - The Connections Academy is a form of free public school that teaches K–12 students beyond the walls of the classroom. Using a few common ingredients found in the kitchen, kids can learn how crystals grow inside of a geode. Check out the Connections Academy infographic to learn how to get started.

Build a marble roller coasterInstructables.com provides an exciting repository of project based engineering projects for kids. According to Instructables, the Marble roller coaster is a class favorite, and has received high ratings from both parents and teachers. Watch a video of the project below.

Make Compost -If you have a child that loves playing outside in the dirt, giving them a lesson in composting may be perfect them. In an effort to protect the environment, composting is a great way to help divert waste from landfills and waterways. By simply taking note of what’s in your backyard, you can get started with composting. Do you know which composting method is best for you?  This Treehuger.com infographic helps you decide.

Do you have any engaging DIY STEM projects for kids? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.

To Send (or Not to Send) an After Hours Email, That Is the Question

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Should you send employees emails after work hours?

As entrepreneurs, our minds are always on our businesses and we tend to be in a hurry about everything, so it seems only natural to fire off an email about work the minute something comes to mind. That could be at 9 p.m., midnight or 2 in the morning. For your employees, however, receiving emails from the boss after work is likely to be seen as intrusive and can even make them downright angry, a new study shows.

The study identified two kinds of employees: Integrators and Segregators.

Segregators, who like to keep their work and their personal lives separate, got particularly upset by receiving work-related emails after hours. They felt the emails interfered with their personal lives.

Even integrators, who don’t mind mixing work with their personal lives, got annoyed by after-hours emails. Their curiosity about what was going on at work often outweighed the anger, if the emails were brief and/or positive — but the good feelings didn’t last long.

Not surprisingly, both groups of employees got angry when receiving emails that were negative or required work to be done after hours, interfering with their personal lives in a more significant way.

You may not be able to avoid sending the occasional email after hours these days. But the study suggests some steps to make the communications less intrusive, and keep your team happier.

  • Set boundaries for when and when not to send emails. In general, you might want to restrict work-related emails to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., or some time frame that makes sense with your business and the hours most of your team works. Of course, this rule might vary based on departments or roles. For instance, you and your key managers may want to email at night because it’s the only time you can get work done. That’s fine, as long as you’re not emailing subordinates.
  • Provide training in good email communications. Writing clear subject lines and keeping emails short will lessen time needed to read and respond to them. The study found brief emails that convey positive news (“Great job”) are least likely to cause negative emotions. Try to use positive, encouraging language, and don’t forget to be polite. Saying “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” or “I appreciate all your hard work” can help emails come across as more positive.
  • Know what subjects are better discussed in person. Sensitive topics such as reprimanding an employee, delivering bad news or anything that’s likely to be misinterpreted should wait until you can talk face-to-face. Don’t send cryptic emails like “We need to talk about this tomorrow,” which will likely have your employee up all night worrying.
  • Set expectations. If you do send an after-hours email that doesn’t require action, let the recipient know it doesn’t need an immediate response and can wait until morning.


Email in Bed Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “To Send (or Not to Send) an After Hours Email, That Is the Question” was first published on Small Business Trends