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A 36-year-old business owner saw her pandemic sales skyrocket without spending a dime on marketing. Here’s how she tweaked her Etsy shop and used word-of-mouth power to keep revenues high.

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  • Ashleigh Evans is the founder and sole owner and employee of inBooze, a company that sells cocktail kits made of fruits, spices, and herbs, which allow customers to infuse their own alcohol at home.
  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Evans has gone from processing 20 orders to 200 orders a day, and has grown her revenues by 3,000% March through June 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • Evans told Business Insider she noticed a spike in sales after updating her Etsy shop’s category tags to target gift-givers and social distancing activities.
  • Her booze infusions have also been promoted through an article in BuzzFeed that’s drawn in more customers looking to support Black-owned businesses.
  • “I’ve done zero advertising during COVID-19,” she said. “Every jump in traffic has been from word of mouth. It truly has a snowball effect.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While much of the world was navigating the transition to Zoom meetings in light of COVID-19, Ashleigh Evans, owner of one-woman business inBooze, was scrambling to ship booze infusions to customers looking to supplement their virtual happy hours. Logging 80-hour weeks since March has paid off for the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based entrepreneur — she grew her revenues by 3,000% from March through June 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.

Ashleigh Evans

Ashleigh Evans.
Ashleigh Evans

“Last year, I processed maybe 15 to 20 orders a day,” she told Business Insider. “Now, some days I have 200 orders in and am in the kitchen at least three hours a day and packaging three to four days a week.”

36-year-old Evans started her booze infusion business in 2018 after nearly a decade of food blogging and today handles every aspect of her business, from weekly orders of 300 pounds of oranges and pineapples for daily dehydration in a commercial kitchen to marketing, fulfillment, and customer service.

From blogging to booze infusions

Evans said her blog Dash of Evans made $27,500 in 2019 from sponsored posts, collaborations, TV segments, and ad revenue. Though she rarely posts new content now, the blog’s most popular posts, she said, continue to earn her $400 to $1,200 a month in ad revenue, which helps her continue to bootstrap inBooze. 

“I’ve always loved food and beverages,” Evan said. “I wanted a way to earn income beyond my blog, and thought about various product ideas for a couple months before inBooze came to me.”

She frequently infused alcohol with fruit at home, similar to how people use tea bags in water, and realized she might have stumbled on an opportunity for her next business venture.

Ashleigh Evans

Ashleigh Evans at work.
Samantha Denman at Samantha Ruth Photography

“I thought, ‘Why not dehydrate the fruit and ingredients like people do for tea and put little combinations together?'” she said, and thus inBooze, with its variety of infusion recipes ranging from Apple Pie to Strawberry Margarita, was born.

Though she said her 2019 holiday season sales were strong, with 272 orders for a total of $8,275 in sales, Evans was prepared for a slower winter and spring based on the 33 sales from the first quarter of 2019, which she said brought in a total of $716 in revenue.

Quarantines trigger desires to connect over virtual drinks

In early March, right before COVID-19 stay-at-home orders began to shut down much of the US, Evans attended a vendor show in Chicago with approximately 60 other businesses.

Initially, she speculated that some of her growth surge may have come from attending that show, where numerous people said they’d been following her and were excited to see inBooze in their region, but it was after she changed her Etsy shop category tags to include gift-oriented terms that she saw a dramatic sales spike on both Etsy and her Shopify store.

“I wanted to tap into people who were looking to send gifts during this crazy time,” Evans said. “My previous tags were very basic and focused on alcohol and hostess gifts like ‘Gifts for Her’ and ‘Whiskey Lover.’ My new ones include ‘Unique Cocktail Gift,’ ‘Social Distancing,’ and ‘Boozy Gift.'”

Ashleigh Evans inbooze

inBooze being made.
Samantha Denman at Samantha Ruth Photography

As the orders rapidly multiplied, she noticed a pattern in the messages people included on the gift cards, with a recurring theme of people missing social drinking with friends. Messages like, “I wish we could have our usual cocktails together — let’s have a virtual happy hour with margaritas instead,” were common, she said. 

Corporations, whose representatives told Evans they found her products through Etsy’s search function, also jumped on the trend, and she began fielding inquiries for bulk orders through Etsy’s messaging system. inBooze’s infusions enabled companies to boost employee and client morale without the complications and potential liability of sending alcohol directly.

Support for Black-owned businesses spurs another sales spike

In early June, Evans saw another major revenue bump correlated with public interest in supporting Black-owned businesses. On June 4, her revenue for that day totaled $2,023, a 7,000% jump from the same day in 2019, and has been rising each day since, she said, including her highest two-day period so far on June 19 to 20 of $8,124. A feature on BuzzFeed generated so much traffic to her Etsy and Shopify stores that she sold out of all her products in a day, she said. 

Speaking of products, Evans struggles to keep her 14 varieties of infusions stocked and said she “basically packages to ship” on demand. During her scheduled kitchen time, she makes between 50 to 75 bags of each variety, and the demand for some varieties, like Caribbean Rum Punch, is so high that she makes them daily.

“I’ve done zero advertising during COVID-19,” she said. “Every jump in traffic has been from word of mouth. It truly has a snowball effect.”

Her biggest challenge right now is scaling. For instance, bulk-printed labels would help Evans fulfill orders more quickly, but volume printing is expensive: 5,000 labels for one product is a five-figure investment of capital that she doesn’t have, so in addition to her daily hours in the kitchen and packaging at night while binge-watching Bravo, Evans, who doesn’t use credit cards or loans to fund her business, used to hustle to apply for every grant available.

Bootstrapped, profitable, and debt-free

“My business has been completely self-funded. I have applied for every grant I’ve seen, plus done some pitch events,” she said. She earned $1,000 from Start Garden as part of their 100 Days even in August 2019, but grants that fit her unique niche (which is classified as neither actual alcohol nor a food product) are limited and led to her “pretty much giving up” on attempts to get funding, she said.

inbooze products in bins for shipment

inBooze packages ready to ship from home.
Ashleigh Evans

inBooze is profitable, a credit to Evans’ scrappy hustle. She prides herself on being “kind of rogue at times,” and said she’s always found ways to make money, either from TV segments for her blog or finding pop-up events to sell her infusions.

She’s quick to credit her husband, who’s worked at home since the state of Michigan issued stay-at-home orders, for both his ongoing support of inBooze and for his help in watching their four children while she works all aspects of the business.

inbooze

inBooze.
Samantha Denman at Samantha Ruth Photography

“As a mom, I’m a pro multitasker, so I find pockets of time to get things done,” she said. “I do have an issue with setting office hours — I’m working on it! It’s hard for me to relax when I know there are things to be done.”

The couple bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate inBooze’s sudden success, but haven’t had time to open it. 

“We were just about to sit down Saturday, [June 13] to relax, and my phone started buzzing like crazy,” she said. She realized, ironically, that her own alcohol infusion would have to wait: Her products had all sold out, and there were orders to be fulfilled. 

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Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/booze-infusion-business-owner-sales-skyrocket-pandemic-no-marketing-2020-7

Business Insider

How Ireland built its COVID-19 contract tracing app, which is so successful that US states want to use it

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  • Ireland launched its coronavirus contact-tracing app, COVID Tracker, on July 7, and other countries have asked to use it as a basis for their own apps.
  • Business Insider spoke to the technical director at NearForm, the software company that built COVID Tracker with Ireland’s health authority, to find out how they avoided the pitfalls that have plagued other contact-tracing apps.
  • NearForm was originally working on a centralized app that would group user data together for authorities to study, but switched to a more private, decentralized model after Google and Apple released contact-tracing tech for developers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Countries the world over have tried to find ways to track the spread of the coronavirus through their citizens’ smartphones, with varying success. Ireland’s attempt stands out.

Ireland launched its contact-tracing app, COVID Tracker, on July 7, and within a week it was downloaded by around 37% of Ireland’s adult population. The app garnered international attention and NearForm, the software company that built the app with Irish health authorities, has been approached by other countries, and US states, to help build overseas versions.

Business Insider spoke to NearForm’s technical director Colm Harte to find out how the software company avoided the pitfalls that have hindered contact-tracing apps in other countries, including the UK, where an national app was promised for May but is now slated for winter.

NearForm never pitched itself as a government partner on contact tracing — instead, it was approached by the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) in March, Harte said.

“We were very keen to help, so this kind of kicked off over a weekend in mid-March. We put a team together and within the first 24 hours we went back with designs,” he said. A day later, the app had a development team, and three days later, a working prototype. 

That prototype showed how the app would look to users, but NearForm still had to actually build the crucial contact-tracing tech.

It set up a team to look at how the app could harness Bluetooth. Like many contact-tracing apps, COVID Tracker makes phones use Bluetooth to send out signals, searching for nearby phones with the app downloaded. These signals produce a log of contacts — if one user tests positive for the virus and is asked by the HSE to upload their log, others users are alerted through the app.

Bluetooth was a problem, particularly with iPhones, which normally won’t send Bluetooth signals if an app is running in the background. The HSE set up calls with Apple, and soon afterwards, Apple and Google announced they would release an API for contact-tracing apps — basically, a standardized framework app developers could use.

The Google-Apple “exposure notification” API was rolled out to developers on May 20.

Ireland Covid tracker

The COVID Tracker app also gives users information about COVID-19 in Ireland.
Sinéad Baker/Business Insider

It turned the team’s plans upside-down. NearForm’s app was based on a centralized model, which pools user data externally so it can be examined by authorities. “There are some advantages to the centralized model, you get a lot more useful information from an epidemiological perspective,” said Harte.

But Apple and Google were clear: If authorities wanted to use their API, they had to build decentralized apps, where the data remains on the users’ phone. This would preserve user privacy, the firms said. 

Harte said the Bluetooth limitations and the privacy argument made the decision to switch straightforward for the HSE. “From a technical perspective and a privacy perspective, it goes down better with the public,” he said. “We’d kind of hit [a] brick wall with Bluetooth technology.”

Having Apple and Google shoulder some of the technical burden was a bonus. “It made a lot of sense because otherwise you were going to have to invest a lot of time and effort to try and get that better,” he said. 

In its first two weeks, the app has already been used to detect positive cases of the virus, Fran Thompson, chief information officer at the HSE, told Business Insider in a statement. Harte said it’s still too early to tell how much impact the app will have on curbing the spread of the virus, but even if it detects only a small number of cases, that’s better than nothing, he said.

Out of Ireland’s population of 4.9 million, 25,800 people have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, of whom 1,753 are confirmed to have died, per the World Health Organization.

“Any impact this has is beneficial, so if it breaks even a handful of transmission chains it’s been of benefit,” Harte said.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-nearform-built-ireland-contract-tracing-app-2020-7

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Trump’s new ‘somber tone’ on the coronavirus isn’t a reversal of his denial of the seriousness of the pandemic — it’s a realization that denial is could cost him the election

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  • President Donald Trump began to acknowledge the growing threat and impact of the coronavirus pandemic during Tuesday’s coronavirus task force press briefing. 
  • However, his change of tone appears to stem from his concern over his ability to be re-elected in November. 
  • According to CNN, Trump and his team discussed polls that showed him trailing behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden the morning of the briefing. 
  • Despite that change, it’s not clear how long this apparent acknowledgment of the pandemic will last and if it can reverse some of the damage of his response in the first six months.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump seemed on Tuesday to grasp the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic during his first coronavirus task force press briefing since April. 

But while news outlets and pundits praised the president for his “somber tone,” the switch from heavily focusing on reopening (despite the warning of public health experts) to a sudden urging of the public to don masks and avoid bars, Trump’s change of tone appears to not be a reversal on his denial of the threat of the pandemic, but rather a realization that the denial could cause him to lose the upcoming presidential elections. 

According to CNN, Trump and his team had discussed election polls that showed him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden prior to his briefing on Tuesday. People familiar with the conversation told CNN that some aides brought up the fact that taking a serious tone on the coronavirus has in the past been successful for Trump. 

“This is a case when you line it all up, it’s the last season of ‘The Apprentice,’ we’ve got 100 days left and the reality TV star just got mugged by reality,” Rahm Emanuel, who served in Congress and as White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama told The New York Times.

“I think he is finally starting to get it,” one Trump adviser told CNN about the president’s understanding of his reelection and the pandemic, “But can he do this for the next 100 days? I think if he does, he wins.”

CNN reported that in an average of recent national polls, Biden is leading by an average of 12 percentage points. Biden is also leading in several key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota, a series of Fox News polls from this week showed. 

coronavirus testing florida cases deaths surge

Medical workers use a nasal swab to test a person for the coronvavirus on July 22, 2020 in Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Aides also showed Trump a series of polls that showed that more and more citizens are disapproving of his handling of the pandemic, CNN reported. 

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 60% of the 1,006 respondents disapproved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, as Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth and John Haltiwanger pointed out, while Trump may have finally acknowledged that the coronavirus is a real threat, he hasn’t taken any responsibility for how his policies and actions as president have impacted the course of the pandemic in the US, and he is also very likely to change his tune on the topic very quickly. 

As of Friday, the US had over four million coronavirus cases with more than 145,000 deaths. The World Health Organization reported the largest single-day increase for cases worldwide with 284,196 cases, of which almost 70,000 came from the US alone.

While Trump may have canceled the Republican National Convention in Florida, he did so because aides told him the move would show leadership, CNN said, quoting two sources familiar with the matter. The New York Times later reported that the move may have been also motivated by finances.

“I thought I had an obligation not to have large numbers, massive numbers of people crowded into a room,” Trump said during an interview on Fox News.

coronavirus death veteran nursing home covid-19 ppe america

Michael Neel, funeral director of of All Veterans Funeral and Cremation, wearing full PPE, looks at the U.S. flag on the casket of George Trefren, a 90 year old Korean War veteran who died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a nursing home, in Denver, Colorado, April 23, 2020.
Rick Wilking/Reuters

Just last month, despite public health recommendation, Trump held a rally in Tulsa, and several members of his security detail were asked to quarantine after two Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus. Health experts have said the rally most likely contributed to surging cases in the country. 

While largely sticking to a script during his coronavirus briefings this week (except when he wished Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell “well”), it’s hard to tell how long it will last or if it could erase the past six months of largely denying the threat of the pandemic.

Trump has previously suggested people inject disinfectantundermined medical experts on his own coronavirus task force, claimed the pandemic was a hoax perpetrated by the fake-news media, and touted unproven medical cures such as hydroxychloroquine. 

The president up until this week had pushed for an economic reopening despite the risk it posed to the public. Last month, he told The Wall Street Journal that those wear masks do so as a political statement against him, before suddenly encouraging mask-wearing this week. And while experts have said it’s probably not safe to reopen schools, Trump has continued to push for schools to reopen and previously threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t reopen in the fall.

And while Trump has encouraged public-health-expert-backed mitigation strategies like masks, and not going to bars, the administration still lacks a comprehensive national testing strategy and has largely abdicated federal responsibility beyond CDC guidelines, which has led to an uneven response by individual states.

Meanwhile, states across the country, especially in the South and the West, are struggling to get cases under control and some areas are facing shortages of hospital beds to treat severe cases. 

The main model used to estimate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States now predicts close to 220,000 deaths by November 1. Experts have consistently said that proper protocols taken early on could have prevented hospital systems from being overburdened, which would have led to fewer deaths. 

It’s not clear how long Trump can keep this tune, or if it will help his re-election campaign, but the pandemic in the US isn’t slowing down, and experts are still worried what that means when a likely second wave hits in the fall. 

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Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/trumps-new-coronavirus-tone-is-about-his-re-election-2020-7

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The Silicon Valley headhunter whose company has placed execs at Lyft and Spotify shares insider tips on what tech companies look for when filling entry level to executive positions

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  • Todd Zangrillo is the partner and head of consumer practice at True Talent Advisory, a leading executive recruiting firm for the world’s fastest-growing startups.
  • During his 16-year career, he matched top candidates to jobs at some of the biggest tech companies, including Casper, Jet, HelloFresh, and SoulCycle, and his firm has worked with Spotify, Lyft, Jet, WeWork, Box, and Square.
  • He advises job seekers to treat their resumes as living, breathing documents that goes beyond facts — and warns that while it’s easier than ever to access information a tech company, you must be strategic about it. 
  • The worst thing you can do is be arrogant, aggressive, and unprepared, he adds.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As partner and head of consumer practice at True Talent Advisory, an executive recruiting firm for the world’s fastest growing startups, Todd Zangrillo spent his 16-year recruitment career personally making matches between top candidates and jobs at the biggest tech companies, including Casper, SoulCycle, and Glossier. True Talent has also placed talent at Spotify, Lyft, WeWork, Box, and Square.

To make these placements a success, Zangrillo says his approach includes being laser-focused on building dynamic relationships with entrepreneurs and investors to build top leadership teams.

“We develop a rapport with our clients who are founders of these tech companies,” Zangrillo told Business Insider. “That’s a key part of how we find them the best people for these positions.”

Zangrillo, who served as the human resources business partner with eBay’s ecommerce technology organization before joining True, has led over 300 searches. Here he shares insider tips on what tech companies are looking for when they’re filling positions, from entry level to executive.

Headhunters will assess your skill set and fit.

When placing tech professionals, Zangrillo follows a precise formula that integrates two kinds of fit.

“In today’s market, companies are looking for people who are humble and confident and have about 70 percent of the required job skill sets,” he says. “There’s no room for error and, if you don’t have that 70-percent requisite skills, you won’t get the attention of our client.”

These skill sets could include things like domain expertise, leadership ability, vision and strategy, operational excellence, and consumer-driven digital experience.

What Zangrillo sees as the remaining 30 percent is just as important. 

“That’s the number we attach to personality and culture fit,” he says. “While CEOs want to see you bringing certain quantifiable skills to the company, you won’t make it to the second level unless there’s a strong chemistry fit.”

Employers assess for traits like humility and confidence within the resume by looking at how clear potential candidates are about their specific achievements and their results. Outside of showing some personality, specificity regarding what you’ve done is important, Zangrillo says.

The entire search process is helpful for creating a sense of a candidate’s character. In most cases, the company is putting together small insights from candidates throughout the process. 

“The search committee’s responsibility is to look for pattern recognition within the insights they’re getting,” Zangrillo said. They’re making conscious trade-off decisions and deducing themes.  

Each company wants something different — assess if you deliver.

The best candidate for an early-stage startup has different strengths than one for a later-stage, high-growth startup. 

“We find that in many cases some candidates can be very strong in series A, B of that growth cycle,” Zangrillo said. “Some of them scale well beyond that, but those are few and in-between.”

High-growth companies want a different profile of candidates. In later stages, jobs may demand skills of greater complexity from candidates, and emphasize qualities like leadership and team-building. 

Entrepreneurial candidates need to be more hands-on, and work in situations with much more ambiguity. Some people enjoy building. Others like more structure and more process. Potential candidates should know what they can get passionate about. 

Conveying passion is more important than ever.

These days, since it’s more common than ever for people to bond around missions, causes, and passions, you should convey that passion during the entire hiring process, Zangrillo says.

“In any position I fill, I need to see an aligned passion for the business, the business model, the brand, or the category,” he says. “This makes a big difference to the company’s hiring managers. This gets them excited about you as a candidate and turns this into a successful hire.”

During the interview process, it’s important and meaningful to the business that you’re incredibly well-prepared. This is a combination of research about the brand, the competitive landscape, the culture, and about what inflection point, if any, the business is at.

Instead of focusing on one data point, like a quote from a Glassdoor article that adds structure to a hard-hitting question on company culture, Zangrillo advises that candidates take in multiple data points for a holistic picture. 

“Take all the data points and summarize where the business is and how this interview aligns with the company’s future goals,” Zangrillo said. “How will the company be thinking about this role?”

Showing that you’ve thought about the company’s interests demonstrates to the interviewer that you’re intelligent, authentic, and interested in if you’re a fit for this business. 

“By being really well-prepared and deducing lots of insights, the person is going to connect with the interviewer in a much more significant way,” Zangrillo said. “It’s one thing to have the skills for the job. It’s another thing to have the right skills at the right time for the business. The nuances of those characteristics is what makes exceptional matches for businesses.” 

Make sure your resume speaks on your behalf.

Zangrillo encourages job seekers angling for competitive jobs in the tech sector to treat their resumes as living, breathing documents conveying more than just the facts.

“Hiring managers are looking for people who stand out and one way to show this is in your resume,” he says. “It’s more than just that you went to the best school. You should show that you’re a juggler, a leader, and have a knack for humanity.”

Just like a product in any other market, you want your resume to be clearly differentiated. 

“When you share specific ways you took leadership roles or did something outside the box, you’ll connect to a potential hiring manager in a unique way, beyond which companies you worked for and when,” Zangrillo says.

Resumes are also a great conversation-starter, especially if a hiring manager has a similar trajectory, he adds. Organizational psychology research finds that hiring managers want to hire people that remind them of themselves.

Show that you’ve gone the extra mile.

No matter how much job experience you’ve had, you’re going to be more of a standout candidate for a tech job if you’ve done everything you can to gain every experience you can that’s related to the position.

“Executives at Google and Facebook want to hire people with specific pedigrees that are based around your accomplishments,” Zangrillo says. “If you’re eager to show your entrepreneurial bent, during interviews with me, share what you did during your internships. If you created a product, explain it clearly and tell me what makes you passionate about it.”

Engage with the company.

It’s easier than ever to access information about any tech company you’re applying to, but you want to be strategic.

“While a Facebook hiring manager isn’t going to decide whether or not to hire you depending on how many (social media) followers you have, he or she will want to know that you’re passionate about the product and category and that you’ve studied the technology the company has built its products on,” he says.

Candidates are in charge of their brand, Zangrillo continued. This reflects in their LinkedIn, their resume, their email to the hiring manager, and the insights they share with the manager. IN every regard, potential candidates must demonstrate the person they are authentically. 

Companies are focused on getting someone who covers a majority of the skills they’re looking for. Some commonly cited soft skills, according to Zangrillo, are intellectual curiosity, EQ, agility, leadership, and collaboration.

Avoid these missteps.

If you want a job at a top tech company, the worst thing you can do is be arrogant, aggressive, and unprepared, Zangrillo says.

“A combination of these three things can flat-line candidates,” he says. “It’s the fastest way I’ve seen a candidate eliminated.”

Instead, consider that there’s an art to presenting yourself in the best way to these companies.

“When you have hot jobs and great people going for them, you have to be sure you don’t alienate anyone,” he says.

In the end, the best candidates are “extraordinarily truthful,” Zangrillo says. “When a job placement comes down to two candidates where one is truthful and the other one is exaggerating, the gut feeling of the hiring manager is that, in the end, the people who are more authentic win.”

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/a-silicon-valley-headhunter-reveals-the-precise-formula-he-uses-2019-6

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