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1.1 Classically Current

Being of an age that openly shares knowledge and experiences is my favorite part of the internet. When I first thought to collect choice content into this periodic newsletter I looked for examples of how others were accomplishing similar tasks and came across Brain Pickings, Uppercase Magazine, and The Wire Cutter. Then I kept looking and found these other great examples of entrepreneurs being entrepreneurial which all comprises this issue of Classically Current.

1.2 Brain Pickings

This is Maria Popova, editor of Brain Picking, one of the faster growing literary empires on the Internet. She champion's old-fashioned ideas, is a fierce defender of books, yet she insists she will never write one herself. 
Her site can be described as an online emporium of ideas. The homepage comprises a grab bag of scientific curiosities, forgotten photographs, and notes on creativity. Her brand, Brain Pickings, spans a blog (500,000 visitors a month), a newsletter (150,000 subscribers) and a Twitter feed (263,000 followers). Her output, which she calls a “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness,” has attracted an eclectic group of devotees across social media. Today, Brain Pickings provides the bulk of her income. She avoids ads on the site, but openly solicits donations and earns a percentage from books purchased on her recommendation through Amazon. The earnings are “enough for me to live my life comfortably,” Ms. Popova said, “and be able to do what I do.” ..

1.3 UPPERCASE Magazine
You have to appreciate someone who makes an entire life built around their passions. Uppercase Magazine's successful execution of the quarterly periodical is evidence enough that individual taste is worth celebrating and deserving of a premium in the marketplace.  Janine Vangool publishes, edits, and designs Uppercase Magazine out of her home in Calgary, Alberta. She is also a publisher of books on creativity, craft, and design. Her works celebrate design centric books on niche topics such as an entire campaign dedicated to the classic typewriter.

1.4  Brian X. Chen founder of
The Wire Cutter, relative to other ad supported sites, is a comparatively tiny business; it has fewer than 350,000 unique visitors a month at a time when ad buyers are not much interested in anything less than 20 million. But The Wirecutter is not really in the ad business. The vast majority of its revenue comes from fees paid by affiliates, mostly Amazon, for referrals to their sites. As advertising rates continue to tumble, affiliate fees could end up underwriting more and more media businesses. The Wire Cutter reports 10 to 20 percent of its visitors click on links, a rate that would make ad sellers drool. From these clicks, Mr. Lam’s generates revenue of about $50,000 a month, but it’s doubling every quarter, enough to pay his freelancers, and invest in the site. The Web is full of mom-and-pop shops that live on referral fees for things like pet supplies and camping gear. Many companies also pay for referrals — eBay,, even retailers like Gap and Old Navy. A business that used to be mired in spam is becoming far more legitimate. For small businesses like Wirecutter, it’s risky to rely so much on a single company, but Amazon seems disinclined to mess with its very successful model. “We have been working hard to give publishers of all sizes the tools to work with Amazon,” said Steve Shure, Amazon’s vice president for worldwide marketing. But it’s not just the little guys. Hearst’s Good Housekeeping has commerce links to Amazon, and Gawker Media is building affiliate revenue and other nonadvertising revenue into a seven-figure business by next year. Kevin Kelly has a site called Cool Tools that will be observing its 10th anniversary. “Affiliate income is six times as much as advertising by now,” Mr. Kelly said in a phone call, describing the revenue at Cool Tools...
// Product Discovery _ Orient side of the world

2.1 Procuring crop for market
Rice Farmer
Li Liang, 30
Liang, a mother of three from the rural Guangxi province, lives a hard life during harvest season, working in the fields from midday until 4 a.m., when she and her husband take their crop to market to sell. Then they have just a few hours of sleep before starting the cycle again. Until a few years ago, rural Chinese women had one of the world's highest suicide rates, but things have changed as growing numbers of rural women are migrating to cities for work... marieclaire 
2.2 Off to work in the salt mines
Phuc Quang Ngo
“Salt is one of the staple foods of human beings. There are few people that understand the difficulties of harvesting salt. To get pure salt particles to consumers, workers labor for many hours in the salt fields.”

The above photo won first place in the "I am an Entrepreneur" photo competition. This competition recognizes the outstanding use of photography to tell compelling stories of role model entrepreneurs from around the world. Anyone globally is welcome to participate in this competition.  Of the winner, judges had this to say: Off to work in the salt mines is a threadbare maxim to many, symbolizing hard, thankless work. This photo reminds us to be mindful that in a globalizing world, where forces collide onto the shore of small economies like a tsunami wave; that too many people still lead lives without aspirations and hope. Globalization is an amoral convergence of forces. It is up to each of us who have already benefited from the asymmetry to use these forces for good, to find ways to connect the poor into networks of industry, trade, and learning that upgrades and improves lives...

2.3 Catering to Caviar Tastes

Chungju, South Korea — When Han Sang-hun brought 200 sturgeons on a chartered plane from Russia in 1997, he transported them to a riverside farm in Chungju which is about 56 miles southeast of Seoul. For the next 12 years, Mr. Han spent $1 million a year feeding and looking after a stock that grew to 50,000 sturgeons, all children of the original 200. But he got little in return until 2009, when the fish were old enough to yield caviar — one of the world’s most expensive delicacies, selling for as much as $400 per ounce, or $14 a gram.
“This business is not for everyone. You have to invest for 10 to 15 years with no immediate return,” Mr. Han said in an interview at his farm, lamenting that 70 people who bought sturgeons from him to start their farms had all given up, asking him to buy back the fish.
For Mr. Han, the harvest was worth all the hassle, investment and waiting. After years of participating in international gourmet food exhibitions, Mr. Han said his product, marketed under the brand Almas Caviar, was finally becoming known. This year, Almas began supplying to some of the top caviar distributors in the world and laying plans to open its own stores in New York and Tokyo. It has also begun selling caviar extracts to cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies... nyt

2.4 The Founder of modern Singapore
Pictured is a young Lee Kuan Yew, a Singaporean politician and first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore. He is also widely recognized as the founding father of modern Singapore. Yew, now 86, is Minister Mentor of Singapore. For 50 years, he has shaped the fate of Singapore. He became Prime Minister when an obstreperous city was ejected from the Malaysian Federation on the theory that it would have to come crawling back. Yew had a different vision. When he took over, per capita income was about $400 a year; now it is close to $40,000. Lee inspired his polyglot population to become the intellectual and technical center of the region. Because of his leadership, a medium-size city has become a significant international and economic player, especially in fostering multilateral transpacific ties. On his periodic visits to Washington, Lee Kuan Yew is received by the President and leaders of both parties... time
/// Products with nostalgia

3.1 How a Rubber Giraffe Became a Jet-Setter

Sophie la Girafe is a seven-inch-tall rubber teething toy that is stocked in high-end baby boutiques around the world. The toy is manufactured in a small factory in Rumilly, France. Vulli, the local company that makes Sophie saw sales of €22 million ($29 million) last year having more than quadrupled since 2006, just before Sophie was first sold outside France. This year, for the first time, the company expects to sell more outside of France than domestically. In France, Sophie is a national tradition. In 2010, 828,000 babies were born in France and Vulli sold 816,000 giraffes there. Vulli makes other toys but derives 72% of sales from Sophie and Sophie-branded products.

Because the making of rubber toys is more specialized than plastic.  Chief Executive, Mr. Jacquemier says the know-how that goes into Sophie's production can't be duplicated. "What has saved us is that producing in rubber is more difficult than plastic," he adds. "Otherwise everyone would do it." 

Manufacturing of Sophie has changed little over the years. Vats of natural Hevea rubber arrive from Malaysia every month at the factory on the outskirts of Rumilly, a small town with red-roofed houses at the base of the Alps. A worker pours the milky liquid into round plaster molds with the shapes of 10 giraffes fanning out from the center. The molds go into an oven where they rotate for a couple hours, coating the casts and creating a hollow rubber toy. 

After their baking, the Sophies sit in boxes for two months while the moisture in the rubber evaporates. Then, in a drafty room, a half dozen women polish the giraffes, insert the whistle, spray them with food-grade paints and mark them by laser with a tracking number... wsj

3.2 Heineken Beer Inspired Men’s Shoes

Heineken beer styled shoes look surprisingly sharp. With these, the brewer taughts its reputation for stylish collaborations. They teamed up with designer Mark McNairy to create this shoe as part of their Heineken 100 Program. The shoe itself is all leather and marked by the unmistakeable kelly green sole, a nice touch.

This isn't Heiniken's first foyer into consumer products, the company has also had their name attached to headphones, watches, t-shirts, sneakers, caps and duffle bags...
bit rebels


// Entrepreneur life, tools, and know-how

4.1 MIT Media Lab hosts conversation with Baratunde Thurston webcast

Baratunde Thurston is a politically active, technology-loving comedian from the future. He co-founded the black political blog Jack and Jill Politics and served as director of digital for The Onion before launching the comedy/technology startup Cultivated Wit. Then-candidate Barack Obama called him "someone I need to know." Thurston travels the world speaking and advising and performs standup regularly in NYC. He writes the monthly backpage column for Fast Company, and his first book, How To Be Black, is a New York Times best-seller...

Happy New Year,
- Janco