How to Avoid a Credit Card Charge-Off

The simplest way to avoid a credit card charge-off is to learn and understand the credit card system. Here are some tips:

Sending Credit Card Payments Through The Mail:

Some credit card companies actually require you to use their own pre-printed envelopes, but even if they do not, it is a good idea to do so in the interest of more efficient processing of your payment. Make sure you have included the billing coupon and have written clearly the amount that you are paying. Include your check, also written legibly, and remember to write your account number on the check.
When Ronald Reagan was running for President, he was asked what he was going to do to make the post office more efficient, to which he responded that he would start mailing workers workers their paychecks. Allow ample time when you send your check to the credit card company.

Change Your Credit Card Due Date Something That Is Convenient For You:

Many people find that the greatest number of their bills, such as their mortgage or car payment, are due at the first of the month. If these places a burden on your ability to pay your credit card bill that may also be due at the first of the month, a simple way to avoid this problem is to just ask your card issuer to change the due date for your monthly payment. There is no harm in the asking, and many card issuers offer this ability to change the due date of your bill as an option. One important thing to remember, though, is that it may take a couple of billing cycles before this date change is fully implemented. It is important to make sure that your bill is paid promptly when due until your change of due date becomes effective. Otherwise, you could find yourself on the wrong side of a late fee.

About Late Fees:

In the classic television detective series Columbo, which starred Peter Falk, Lieutenant Columbo always appeared to be distracted and disorganized, but in reality he was extremely focused and observant. One common scene that brought delight to fans of the show was when Columbo left a room in which he had been speaking to the murderer. He kept turning around and starting question after question with, "Oh, just one more thing …" Then he trapped the criminal. Well, the credit card companies are not Lieutenant Columbo and we consumers are certainly not murderers, but when it comes to trapping us in the fine print of their credit card agreements, it always looks like there is "just one more thing."

Make Your Credit Card Payment On or Before The Due Date:

Your monthly payment is due on whatever date of the month it says on your credit card bill. If your payment is late, the fine print of your card agreement provides for the right of the credit card company to assess a late fee, which can be as much as $ 35 for each late payment. In the past, some credit card companiesave their customers five or even ten days of grace after the due date before assessing a penalty, but that is not the situation any longer. So you send your payment with sufficient time to arrive at the card company on your bill's due date.

But, just one more thing: Some credit card companies deem your payment late if it is processed later than 1:00 pm on the day of your due date. Some of these companies do not receive and process mail until after 1:00 pm; Therefore, the real date by which your monthly payment must be received is a day earlier than the date indicated on your contract. So you need to make sure your payment gets there three days ahead of the due date. Another Note: If the envelope contains a staple, a paper clip, or a note from you, the fine print of the contract specifics that there may be a delay of up to five days in posting your payment. This may cause a late payment to be assessed on a payment that arrived at the card company prior to the due date of the bill. I'll bet Lieutenant Columbo read the fine print before sending in his payment.

Make Your Credit Card Payments On-Line:

The most efficient way to make credit card payments is to make the payment on-line if the company offers that service. You can specify the amount you want to pay, which account you want it deducted out of, and specify the date you want the payment made. By paying your cards this way, you can set the payment to be made exactly on the due date so the credit card company is not getting your money any earlier than the due date and you have the peace of mind knowing you will never be late On your payment. Just be sure to set this up at least 3 days before the payment is due, otherwise there might not be enough time to process the payment in time.

Avoid Credit Card Interest Rate Hikes:

Another problem with late payments is that they can also trigger penal interest rates as high as 29%; So, for example, instead of the 10% interest rate your card may carry, your rate will now be jacked up to 29% effective immediately. In fact, even if you are timely in your payment, credit card companies generally reserve the right to raise your rate to a penalty rate if you are late with any other payment to any of your creditors, whatsoever they may be. Just read the fine print.

Can not Make Your Credit Card Payment?

If you're struggling with making your monthly payments, before you're ever late on a payment, CALL YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANY! Most companies will come up with a reduced payment plan if you're experiencing a hardship. You'll want to do this as soon as you determine that you can not make your payment, before the due date. You'll want to negotiate a payment that you can afford with your credit, then send that payment in on or before the due date so it does not affect your credit.

You'll want to be sure to get this agreement in writing and be sure to negotiate that this reduced payment WILL NOT be reported as a late payment on your credit report. Sometimes creditors will agree to a reduced payment, but they'll go ahead and report it as being 30 days late because it's less than what was contractually agreed to. If you get a letter from the credit card company agreeing to the reduced payment, along with a statement from the company that they will not report you as being late to the credit bureaus, you'll have the proof you need to send into the credit Bureaus if they do not hold up to their end of the bargain. This happens more often than not, so make sure you protect yourself.

"Settling" Your Credit Card Balance For Less Than The Full Amount:

"Settling" a credit card account basically means that you're paying less that the full balance. This technique is usually used if the account has already been charged off and can only be done if you have the money to pay them in full. If you're going to try this, you'll want to try to negotiate a "Pay for Deletion", which basically means that whatever amount the two of you agree to settle the account for; The credit card company is also agreeing to remove the account from your credit report. By doing this, the charge-off and late payments will no longer negatively affect your credit score.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Single Family Houses

There are many different types of real estate property. These include condos, apartments and single family houses. Single family houses are those that are occupied by only one family and have only one dwelling unit. This is quite different from apartments and condos which have multiple dwellings and are occupied by many families. Like other types of real estate property, these houses also have some advantages and disadvantages. These advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.

Advantages

Firstly, single family homes have more appreciation in value and are more resistant to down markets than multifamily dwellings. Thus, your investment will be protected and yield greater returns.

Secondly, such houses provide control over your space. You can renovate, remodel or revamp your home the way you want. There are no restrictions on changing the look of your home. Thus, you can make your home match your personality. However, you still have to follow city and locality rules.

Thirdly, there is more privacy in such houses. You don’t share walls with anyone and so, can enjoy the peace and quiet. You also don’t have to put up with any nonsense of other families living in the community.

Fourthly, there is no association to deal with. You don’t have to give any maintenance fee for your home or follow the strict rules and regulations of the association.

Disadvantages

Firstly, the cost of single family homes is high. They are more expensive than multifamily homes. Many people cannot afford them single family homes and so, opt for multifamily houses.

Secondly, maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowner. This can be quite a headache as everything from landscaping to plumbing has to be done by the homeowner himself.

Thirdly, amenities like swimming pool and gym will cost a lot in single family homes and are affordable only for those having high income.

Fourthly, the cost of maintenance is high in these homes since everything has to be done by the homeowner. In multifamily homes, the cost is shared and so maintenance is not that high.

Finally, it is better to have an apartment or condo in the city near facilities like hospitals and transport rather than a home in the suburbs where everything is far away. This is especially true if you work in the city and have to commute to your workplace every day.

In the end, the suitability of a single family home depends on you and your needs. So keep these advantages and disadvantages as well as your own preferences in mind when deciding whether or not to buy such a house.

Starting a Home-Based Internet Business

Whatever your background, your education, your previous employment, your gender or your life experience everyone starting a home-based internet business is beginning on a level playing field. Perhaps someone whose background is in some form of offline marketing has certain advantages because of their understanding of the marketing process but they will still have many new skills to acquire especially in respect of the technical side of the business.

There will be newcomers to the business whose background is in computer technology. They will have certain advantages with regard to the technical aspects of the business but will still have to learn about the marketing and copywriting side of things. There will be others who come from the retail trade. They will have useful experience when it comes to the actual selling but will find many new things that they need to learn to acquire a comprehensive picture of the whole business. Almost everyone will have some attributes which will help in the development of their business; experience or knowledge that they can bring to the table.

There are skills required to be successful in starting an online business; none of them is particularly difficult and all can be learnt. If you are prepared to put in the time and the effort to learn these skills then there is nothing to stop you being a successful online entrepreneur whatever your background. Many people attracted to the idea of starting a home-based online business back off when they come to realise how many new things they need to take on board. There is no need to fear! With internet marketing, if you follow the plan you will succeed.

If you can seek out a mentor, someone who has the knowledge and experience to guide you, someone who can show you how to start an online business, this will be of great benefit. If you can find someone who both’ talks the talk’ and ‘walks the walk’ you will find their support and advice immensely helpful. In the absence of such a person, the next best option is to subscribe to a quality online course, of which there are many. If you go down this particular route, however, choose the course with care. Before signing up to anything and making a financial commitment, do an internet search of the company or individual to whom you are thinking of subscribing. If there is anything shady about them or their course, a simple Google search will reveal this.

How long it takes to get your business up and running really doesn’t matter. We are all different, coming from different walks of life with different skill-sets and with different perspectives of exactly what we want to get from the business. When it comes to starting a home-based internet business, it takes as long as it takes! Some people set off like a railway train whilst others begin more slowly and tentatively. Work at your own pace and get it right. This is far preferable to rushing things and making costly mistakes in the process thus proving the old adage of “more haste, less speed”. I’m sure you all know the fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise”. Also remember the lyrics of the 1970s song by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields which says “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish”. See you at the finishing line!

Traditional Entertainment of Kenya

With 42 tribes in Kenya, defining a specific entertainment as ‘traditional’ is nearly impossible without going into an excessive treatise on the subject. Each tribe has song, dance, costumes and musical instruments particular to their area. This article gives a brief overview of the types of entertainment, some examples from various tribes and where you can find traditional entertainment when you come to Kenya.

Song is a form of traditional entertainment almost globally so it is no surprise to find Kenyan tribes also singing. Each of the 42 tribes has their own language, so it is simple to tell where the song is from… so long as you can recognise the language! Across the tribes one thing is the same: there are different beats and words for songs associated with the various ceremonies. This means that when a Kikuyu returns to his village and hears singing he can tell what is happening. It doesn’t mean however that if a Taita goes to the Kikuyu village he will also be able to tell what is happening, unless he understands Kikuyu. So each tribe has circumcision songs, party songs, wedding songs, funeral songs, new baby songs and so on.

Along with singing comes dancing and, again, movements differ across the tribes. Kikuyus wear bells on their ankles with men and women pairing up, putting palms together and swaying. In Luhya culture, the dance is all about the shoulders and for Luos it’s about the hips. The Maasai men jump and it is a show of manliness if they can jump higher than their peers.

Dance is complemented by the traditional costumes which are made from materials found in a tribe’s area. Luo men wear grass skirts from the reeds by Lake Victoria and cow hide on their back. Towards the coast, Taita men wear kangas from the Swahili culture while the women wear grass skirts. In the central highlands, the Kikuyus’ costumes are a bit more substantial to protect against the cold, with sheepskin hats confusing many travellers as they look similar to the typical Russian hats! The men generally wear white and the women a brown-beige colour. Kikuyu men also carry swords and have a belt made of animal skin to carry the sword.

Musical instruments often accompany the singing and dancing and most people are familiar with the African drum. But there are even differences in how the drum is used across Kenya. For example, the Kamba sit with the drum between their legs while the Luhya hold the drum under their arm. Kamba also use a whistle to signify a beat change.

Story-telling is common with the old men teaching lessons through stories to the young boys. Nowadays comedy is becoming popular, with sketches performed between music sets. The stories and sketches are usually set in everyday situations that Kenyans can easily relate to.

Bomas of Kenya put on a lengthy performance every afternoon which showcases singing, dancing, costumes and musical instruments from each of the tribes. Shade Hotel in Karen also does a more informal afternoon of traditional entertainment every Sunday and on public holidays. If you visit a Maasai village on your safari, the villagers will perform a welcome dance for you. The Samburu villages do the same in northern Kenya. Finally, the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival might be the best opportunity to see a variety of traditional entertainment. A gathering of 14 tribes from northern Kenya, this Festival is a celebration of different cultures living together. They sing, they dance, they build huts, they cook, they dress traditionally – it’s fantastic! It is held every May in Loiyangalani on the shore of Lake Turkana and well worth the journey.

Employment Schemes – The Downside of "Easy Money"

Please be aware that there are employment scams out there. You might have already come across some scams in your own endeavors to make a few extra bucks. Most of these, these "get rich quick" scams are advertised on telephone polls and in newspapers. We see them online or hear radio ads. They are even advertised in "infomercials" during late night television. Please try to avoid the following:

· Making money by pestering people with email spam

· Making money by stuffing envelopes

· Earning thousands with as a home typist or data entry

· Getting paid to take surveys

· Earning easy tasks with MLM

· Making millions from selling vitamins

I am sure there are a million other scams out there. A basic rule of thumb: you should not have to open up your pocket to "learn" industry secrets. If you pay money to go to conferences and seminars to learn guaranteed secrets from professionals, the only thing you can guarantee is that they will try to milk more money from you without offering you much in the way of helpful information.

At the root of each of these employment "opportunities" is a MLM structure. The money is made here not by producing a product necessarily, but by pulling in legions of "downline" workers who will do the work so those on top can build their pockets with cash. Also, the older an MLM is, the likelihood of the existence of true business opportunities dwindles.

For example, there is a popular "opportunity" that provides money while stuffing envelopes? Think about this! It literally takes machines pennies on the dollar to stuff thousands of envelopes each second! Do you think they will pay money for you to be able to stuff 100 envelopes an hour? Yep … me neither.

The Effects of Text Messaging

According to Nielsen, American teenagers send and receive, on average, 2,272 messages per month. This equates to nearly 80 messages a day. In fact, text messaging is so popular that in North America (as of 2006), 40% of cell phone users actively use SMS. In Europe the average is 85%. Throughout the world, the use of text messaging has developed very rapidly. In 2000, 17 billion text messages were sent. By 2004, that number reached nearly 500 billion, that’s almost 85 text messages per person in the world.

The popularity of text messaging has placed people in positive and negative situations. For example, former Detroit Mayer Kwame Kilpatrick had his whole life turn upside down through a text messaging sex scandal. He went from being the youngest to the only mayor to be charged with a felony in Detroit. On the positive side, text messaging is utilized as a source of information and reminders. Many credit card companies provide SMS reminders on upcoming due dates. With the increased popularity of cell phones with internet capabilities, people would be able to pay their bills upon receiving the alert. In addition, one can send a text message to Google to find out directions, weather, flight status, sports scores, etc. Services like ChaCha allow us to answer any of our questions. All you do is send a question to ChaCha and a live person will send you a message back, within a few minutes, with the answer to your question. However, these convenient services, as well as general text messaging, have its outcomes.

Many experts agree that text messaging has served more bad than good, especially to the teenage population. There are obvious safety concerns, especially with recent proposals to ban text messaging while driving. This obviously creates a distraction to drivers, putting other drivers and pedestrians at risk. Even while walking, people have most of their attention to typing their messages, instead of what’s ahead of them. Especially in busy places, I’ve noticed people still don’t pay attention. The other day I was walking by Times Square and got very annoyed at people who suddenly stop in the middle of the sidewalk to finish a message. That, and a combination of tourists, makes Times Square a trap.

Teenagers are easily distracted at school. Instead of paying attention in classes, students are texting away. I’ve seen this happen a lot in college. Especially in high schools, this leads to falling grades, and poor report cards. Some kids are up late messaging their friends, which experts believe could have a significant impact on sleep. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle in college because they use their phones so much. I think this is because when you send a text message, it is likely that you are in the middle of a thought. Thus, a response means the inclination to respond right away, distracting you from other things (studying). I saw this happen at my school library all the time. Especially during finals, it would take forever to find a table. It’s really frustrating when people take up study space but just sit there typing on their phones. During group projects, there is always one kid who keeps pulling his or her phone out to send a message. This creates a huge distraction from work and has significant impacts. I’ve also read articles that provide cases of students using text messages to cheat. Even though teachers and professors state not to bring phones to exams, they never enforce the rule.

I would think that increased cellular phone use, especially for text messaging, could have negative effects for your hands. The concept of texting is similar to typing, which has proven to cause problems for many. Although text messaging is not as comprehensive as using a computer keyboard, the increased usage may still be enough to cause musculoskeletal disorder. However, data is very limited on this subject.

What about the use of the English language? One would think the use of abbreviations, short messages, and incomplete sentences could lead to sloppy language skills. Although text messages are brief, they are sent so many times that in aggregate, it could have an impact in linguistics. Many experts feel this way; however, others present an interesting counter-argument. Text messaging may not be all that bad. Some experts add that the use of abbreviations is a novel way of communication that demonstrates dexterity and creativity. This method of communication expands our language capabilities and demonstrates ingenuity. There are cases in which people catch themselves using “text message lingo” in academic papers, while causing no harm for others.

I’ve noted a few ways in which text messaging benefits individuals. One other way is that this method of communication connects people. Many people are in constant contact with each other. They develop a strong interest to know what’s going on in people’s lives and share information that they wouldn’t otherwise. Some conversations, or at least topics of discussion, would never arise in direct dialogues. Sometimes it’s because we’re too scared or forget later on. There are other situations where sending a text message may be more appropriate then conversing on the phone (in a quiet public place). Thus, it adds a lot of convenience and doesn’t distract others.

I have mentioned many ways in which text messaging harms human beings. I’m fully aware that these interpretations are only valid with credible data and statistical analysis. However, the rise in text messaging is a recent phenomenon, and not enough data is available to construct definitive conclusions. Many experts have developed a number of hypotheses that they hope to test in the near future. I’ve come across a few studies, but found a lot of flaws that lead to inaccurate justifications. Some studies sample just a few students from one specific high school, which leads to invalid results. I chose not to share this data or conclusions for these reasons. For a future study, it would be interesting to stratify data by type of cell phone (compare regular phone vs smart phone and see if there is a significant difference in effects – whether positive or negative).

Benefits of International Travel

International travel can be a great experience; it allows you to witness many new cultures and lifestyles. International travel has many benefits which make it better than your traditional domestic vacation. Depending on your destination, traveling abroad can also save you money because of the current exchange rate. These rates change and may not be available in the future. A good exchange rate or activity that you would like to see may not be available if you put off planning the vacation. Another benefit of planning an international trip today is the current technology, which makes booking a trip easy. Technology can help eliminate the hassle of finding the best prices and locations based on your budget.

Traveling, whether for a long weekend away to a nearby country, or clear across the globe, is invigorating, refreshing and expands so much in one’s life that it is something that more people should do. Traveling abroad can greatly change your life for the better because there are many cultures and lifestyles to experience. These cultures can provide you with an entirely new perspective on life. Once you begin experiencing the beauty of the world, you may even begin planning yearly international vacations.

Currency rates fluctuate regularly and, as stated before, this may be a good reason to plan an international vacation today. Money is necessary if you are planning to travel and see the sights the country has to offer. If your currency can be exchanged at a reasonable rate, this can greatly improve your vacation experience. This is an important reason for traveling internationally now since you can get the most out of your trip. If you put the trip off the exchange rate may change for the worse and you can lose money after arriving at your destination.

Practical reasons

However, let us get down to the more practical reasons for traveling internationally. Frankly, it is understandable why most people would be hesitant to travel now. The economy appears to be in bad shape and many people are trying to save money. However, in some instances, this can be beneficial for travel, the airlines may lower their prices in order to get your business and this can save you money. Airline prices also fluctuate between airlines and by looking around you may find a special promotional vacation package that may not be available in the future.

Vacations are meant to be fun and enjoyable and this is another reason for traveling abroad today. There are many locations to visit from the beaches of the Caribbean to the beautiful and exquisite city of Paris, France. Experiencing something new is always the best way to live and an international vacation provides just that. This can spice up your life by allowing you to find things that you would not normally consider trying.

In fact, these days traveling is so much easier, more efficient and less time consuming than it used to be. We can travel across the globe faster and it requires much less energy than was required years ago. It is also possible watch TV, movies or listening to music while traveling. On some airlines, you can even follow the path of your airplane via satellite!

Technology and travel

Due to the technology available, planning a vacation can be stress-free as well. By using the internet to purchase your international flight tickets, you can plan your trip, get travel advice, and shop around for great deals. Technology has come a long way especially for finding the best travel packages. You can book your hotel, car, flight, and even your entertainment all on one website. If you are unsure of your destination, you can browse through the millions of videos and pictures of different locations to find which location best suits you. Planning an international trip can be an enjoyable experience when compared to the hassle involved years ago.

It is highly recommended to travel abroad at least once in your life and there are many benefits to planning your trip now. Saving money is the main reason for planning your trip today. When traveling abroad, you may have to exchange your money for the local currency. Currency exchange rates change frequently and this can have a large impact on your vacation. Since you do not know what the rates are going to be in the future, it is best to plan your trip while a good rate is available. You should also consider planning a trip because of the cultural value. Experiencing new cultures and lifestyles can help provide much value to your life. It may even change your life completely because you may find something new that you like. If you are planning an international trip, you should consider these suggestions because they can help you get the most out of your trip.

5 Ways to Spot Fake Designer Clothing

1. All clothing fakes have low prices in comparison to genuine clothing. Before purchasing browse around and see the normal prices for designer clothing. For example, fake Prada Jackets are selling on eBay for less than £60! These are fake as Prada jackets can’t be bought (even direct from Prada) for anywhere near this amount. Outrageously low prices should make you cautious.

2. When buying clothing from a website, check the contact details and the terms & conditions. It is now a legal requirement for all websites to have full contact details (Address, Telephone, Email etc…). If there are no contact details just a form to fill in be cautious as they may be hard to trace if you are unsatisfied with your goods. I would also suggest avoiding eBay as this has a lot of fake designer clothing listed on the site from foreign sellers.

3. Once of the biggest giveaways of fake clothing is the material of the product. Nearly all fakes are cheaply made using low cost and inferior materials in comparison to genuine designer clothing. If possible examine the garment and if buying on line look in detail at large photographs of the product. Fake designer clothing the stitching is normally of poor quality and details such as the brand name on labels will be missing. Look closely at the fine details.

4. The majority of fakes are imported from cheap mass production countries such as China, Thailand, Japan (mostly Asia). Try and buy directly from the UK. Even though there are fake designer clothing sellers in the UK you are less likely to become a victim of illegal fake designer clothing by buying from the UK

5. Know your rights. In the UK if you unknowingly purchase fake designer clothing, through the ‘Distance Sellers Act’ you have 7 days to return the goods without penalty (full refund). Also if you use your credit card you can request your card issuer to do a cash back as the products was not accurately described.

If you follow the above five tips you should be able to avoid fakes such as the common fake Lacoste Polo Shirts. The easiest way is to purchase mens clothing where the prices are the one of the lowest in the UK and all products are 100% authentic.

Lessons Learned From An E-Commerce Adventure

It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all; and even more important to learn from your mistakes.

That is what I keep telling myself after having invested the time and cash equivalent to a Harvard MBA in an e-commerce start-up that has stalled and is winding down. Not a happy prospect in light of all the media pre-occupation with e-commerce success stories and the young millionaires watching their IPOs rocket into cyberspace. But the headlines ignore the more frequent stories of new e-commerce businesses that do not hit the stock market jackpot. Many of them either settle into a low-key niche or exhaust their resources and fold.

This is the story of an Internet venture that did not make the headlines, but offers some useful insights for entrepreneurs evaluating their own initiatives. The lessons learned are applicable to your own new venture or to an investment in someone else’s.

In mid-1998 we launched a new company called nxtNet (www.nxtnet.com) with the slogan … “taking you to the next level on the Internet”.

My partner and I both had prior successful entrepreneurial experience in computer products and wanted to start a new venture together. We decided to develop a business that would catch the next wave of e-commerce services for mid-sized companies seeking to do business on the Internet. After long discussions, searches for a unique service offering, and many draft business plans, we developed a market strategy and then chose Intershop Communications as our software development platform. This product had the advantages of being suitable for single or multiple online storefronts, and offered a flexible, economic and comprehensive solution. We committed to the product, staffing, facilities and equipment to start training and development immediately. The two of us provided the time and cash required to get started.

By October 1998, we had an initial product with application as an online storefront for an associated computer business. At the same time, we realized that the application had wide appeal to other computer dealers and could be sold as a multi-user database service and e-commerce resource. We had developed a consolidated catalogue of 85,000 computer products from multiple distributor product databases that allowed rapid search and comparison for product information, pricing, and current sources. Users could access the catalogue from the Internet and find a product by manufacturer, category, and part number, key word or price range and immediately see the alternate sources and prices with links to more technical information, preferred dealer pricing and actual stock levels. Additional features allowed the catalogue to be customized so that any computer reseller could present the database as his own online storefront. This option offered all the search and product information features to his customers, but showed only retail pricing and enabled the online ordering process.

The product offering quickly received positive feedback and strong indications of support from all the participants – resellers, distributors, and manufacturers. It was a comprehensive, powerful, and effective tool for buying and selling at all levels within the Canadian computer distribution channel. Resellers recognized the value in an online resource to save time and effort. Distributors and manufacturers saw the opportunity to promote their products, and major publishers in the industry wanted to offer complementary online services to their subscribers and advertisers. How could we fail with all this enthusiasm and support?

While the potential for success clearly existed, everybody had the same questions and reservations – “Who is there now?” “How many are using it?” and “I don’t want to pay until it’s bigger”.

Reasonable objections we thought, so we added features and content for free. We promoted the product with free trials and low cost subscriptions for reseller access. Then we coaxed, persuaded, sold hard, and made deals. The “contra” became the standard for obtaining press coverage, free ads, mailing lists and promotion in exchange for free participation and future consideration. Activity on the Web site and catalogue grew to 3000 visitors per month with over 800 subscribers and the distributor list increased from three to twelve.

But revenue remained near zero as most reseller subscribers declined to pay for the service. Reasons were “it should be free – let the advertisers pay”, “I don’t use it enough”, “there are lower cost options”, or “we built our own solution”. The audience did not grow fast enough even after we offered it for free, to satisfy the advertisers and content providers. Without persistent and conspicuous sales and marketing efforts, all the participants quickly lost interest. Meanwhile the costs of database maintenance, ongoing development, site hosting, Internet access, sales, marketing, and administration were increasing.

Clearly the old entrepreneurial model of controlling costs and growing revenue was not going to apply. We had to realign our profile to show how zero revenue and high initial costs could still lead to significant investment returns like other well-known Internet ventures. So from early 1999 we started an aggressive search for financing, estimating our requirements at $500,000 to $1,500,000 over the next two years before achieving positive cash flow. More business plans, spreadsheets, and glossy presentations to demonstrate future valuations up to $20 million, even $40 million.

We knocked on many doors, from banks to government agencies, from angel investors to venture capital, from stock promoters to business consultants, and again received lots of encouragement, but no financing. So the founding partners were faced with a continuing cash drain, no relief in sight, and the limits of their own resources rapidly approaching. It was time to put the project on hold. Strategic partners or investors might still be developed to proceed with the project, but the ongoing expenditures were stopped in late 1999.

So what are the lessons learned? We already knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We now also knew that big successes in the new economy require big investments. Entrepreneurs may start small, but large investments will be required from new sources to achieve significant success. And no one will put significant money into a venture unless it is the only remaining requirement.

The concept, product, development, marketing and staffing all have to be in place before an investor will provide the final ingredient – his cash. Exceptions are likely only where the management team has already succeeded in the same arena, or the investor himself can deliver the missing elements, such as customers or management skills. No investor is going to take the chance that the entrepreneur with a good concept or product will also be able to deliver the required management and marketing skills to succeed, after he has the cash.

Next time we will know better. And there are side benefits from this expensive learning experience. I can now admit that with the knowledge gained through our association with Intershop Communications, I was confident enough to make an investment in their stock on the German Neue Markt at 65 Euros last year. It went over 400 Euros last month and is still rising with their rapid growth and the prospect of a NASDAQ listing this year. Almost enough to recover my investment in nxtNet.

So the most important lesson is that education in the new economy is essential, and not free, but it can lead to success outside the original plan. Learn, be aware, and be aggressively opportunistic.

Pool Supplies Needed to Care for Inground Swimming Pool

Adding an inground pool not only offers entertainment, exercise, and leisure to your backyard, but it increases the value of your home. In 2003, the National Association of Realtors reported that this addition adds around 8 percent to your home’s value. Typically, maintenance schedules involve weekly and monthly responsibilities. Purchasing pool supplies and equipment from a specialty or home improvement store can help you sustain your maintenance schedule. Below are some instructions designed to help you take care of your new backyard treasure.

In-Season Maintenance

– Check your pH and chlorine levels at least twice a week. You should maintain a pH range of 7.4 to 7.6 and a chlorine level of 1.0 to 3.0 parts per million (ppm). Follow the directions according to your testing strips and add products to re-balance these levels, if necessary.

– Weekly, empty the skimmer baskets, skim leaves and debris with a cleaning net, and use a vacuum cleaner to clean debris from the bottom. Give special attention to areas near the steps, ladders, and other equipment.

– To eliminate waterline stains and keep your pool looking fresh, apply surface cleaner to the waterline on the walls.

– Shock the pool water once a week. This involves adding a large dose of chlorine to eliminate algae and other contaminants. Be sure to read the instructions on your pool supplies to determine how much you should add. Additionally, avoid swimming for at least 24 hours after shocking.

– During the summer months, run the filtration system as much as possible. The water is less likely to become polluted with dirt, bacteria, and body oils when it is continuously moving.

Off-Season Maintenance

– Prior to shutting down for the season, check for cracks, leaks, or any sign of damage that needs to be addressed. The harsh conditions of winter temperatures will only make this damage worse, so addressing the problems now will save you money in the future.

– Test the chemical levels and adjust as needed. Use the same procedures and pool supplies utilized during in-season maintenance.

– Remove ladders, diving boards, slides, ropes, and all other objects from the water and store safely.

– Drain water from the pump, filter, heater, and all tubing. Any remaining water is likely to freeze during the winter, causing damage to these accessories.

– Reduce the water level. If your walls are decorated with tiles, the level should remain below these tiles during the off-season.

– Using a safety cover, secure your pool, ensuring there are no obvious tears, rips, or damage to the cover. Every few weeks, inspect the cover and replace if necessary.

Pool Supplies Needed

– Chemical testing strips

– Net

– Brush

– Vacuum cleaner

– Chemical shock

– Chemical balancing agents

Following these guidelines will promise that you have a clean and fun-filled summer!