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Although people often associate innovation with technology and the web, in reality innovation is occurring much more broadly. From a company developing the latest jumbo jet to a mom creating a makeshift booster seat out of phone books, it’s all a part of the American ecosystem of creating something out of nothing, of making something that exists into something that works better. The definition of the word in Webster’s dictionary simply reads: “the introduction of something new; a new idea, method or device.” And when that innovation takes hold, passes the tipping point, you end up with something like Leo Hirshfield’s Tootsie Roll, which he introduced in the late 1800s; Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll, which has enjoyed decades of success since its launch in 1959; and what about Sony’s PlayStation, debuted in 1994.
Clearly, the very metal of this country is built on innovation and there’s always room for something new and something fascinating percolating among innovators. Frankly, it’s our toughest category to judge each year in our StartupNation Home-Based 100. But select the Top Ten Most Innovative home businesses we must, and this year’s group of winners is as extraordinary as ever.
Joe Hansen, founder of Priceless Profiles along with Cristy Stewart-Harfmann, struggled with a digital language barrier. And that struggle was the catalyst for an innovative web-based service. But a little more background…
As a member of a popular dating site, Hansen found it very difficult to get past other members’ spelling mistakes, text-message language and misleading photos. To make matters worse, He saw his friend and soon-to-be business partner, Stewart-Harfmann, experiencing perfect success with online dating. She met Mr. Right on the same website and was married in 2007. But instead of succumbing to his frustration, canceling his membership and vowing to a life of singledom, Hansen decided to innovate.
Enter: Priceless Profiles, winner in the 2009 StartupNation Home-Based 100 Most Innovative category. The pair, both with backgrounds in PR and marketing, “set out to help people find love online,” Hansen explains. “We are Love Publicists for online [daters].” Because both “Love Publicists” still have other full-time jobs, they work at home in their free time, rewriting members’ dating profiles to yield more matches, and ultimately more dates.
“People don’t know how to market themselves,” Hansen says. “And people need to understand that [this is] the reason they aren’t [meeting] the type of person they’re looking for. We’re able to craft the perfect message and include the right photo to attract the ideal mate.”
Could there be anything more innovative than a personal matchmaker? Sure, they had ’em back in the Fiddler on the Roof days, but this is the 21st Century—people have found new ways to meet Mr. and Mrs. Right. And with Priceless Profile’s one-of-a-kind service, the chances of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Wrong, are a lot less.
Fellow 2009 Top Ten Most Innovative winner, George Mavromaras also had a language barrier to overcome. The product he and his brother Marcos developed actually makes use of an existing tech innovation, the smartphone. With backgrounds in healthcare, the pair constantly saw doctors struggling to communicate with their Spanish-speaking patients.
Feeling “it was necessary to help our patients in the future,” Mavromaras says, they took it upon themselves to first learn medical Spanish and second develop a guide for other medical professionals to use. Frisco, Texas-based Mavro Inc.’s Emergency Medical Spanish Guide first debuted as a hard copy in 2007, but it moved to the iPhone and BlackBerry last year. Because most doctors have a smartphone, Mavromaras felt confident it’d be the best platform for their application. When working with a Spanish-speaking patient, the doctor can select various yes-or-no questions and have them translated into Spanish in an audio format.
Ironically, when it comes to the market that Mavro Inc. serves, the ideal solution is actually far from innovative: a human translator. “We believe a patient deserves nothing less than a translator,” Mavromaras explains, “but we also realized they aren’t always available.” Because of this, there’s a wide-open door of opportunity for the brothers to innovate. They have already begun translating other languages, but are going to keep their focus on Spanish for the time being. “We want to develop Spanish on many platforms [first],” Mavromaras says. “We’d rather do one thing really well than try to focus on 10 things.”
Whether you’ve created the smallest cell phone, an ice cream that doesn’t melt or trash that takes itself out, there’s always a place and need for innovation. And thanks to individuals like our winners, consumers can continue looking forward to the new and improved—or perhaps, Mrs. Right.
Browse this year's contestants and celebrate the diversity of ideas and entrepreneurial spirit that drive home-based business owners.Browse All