Posts tagged with "small business"

sara davidson business illustration for use by 360 Magazine

Lemonade Day – National Entrepreneurs’ Day

The Lemonade Day Youth Entrepreneurship Program is offering leaders, small business owners and teen entrepreneurs as resources for both the media and influencers regarding the topic of entrepreneurship and entrepreneur education. Lemonade Day has provided educational support to many other youthful, productive entrepreneurs and wishes to continue to spread entrepreneurial education through the country.

Lemonade day is a non-profit organization that aims to inform the youth about valuable business, financial and also character-building life skills that they describe as the “key ingredients of entrepreneurship.” Playing such a vital part in the educational and workforce ecosystem, the non-profit is in 84 licensed markets in the United States, Canada, Bermuda and six U.S. military bases. For more information, visit lemonadeday.org.

The following spokespersons are available for interviews and questions regarding National Entrepreneurs’ Day.

Nicole Cassier-Mason, Lemonade Day National CEO. She is based in Houston, TX.

Joe Daly, Lemonade Day National Board Chairman and Senior Partner at Gallup. He is based in Washington, D.C.

Brianna Garcia, 2021 National Youth Entrepreneur of the Year: Brianna, 9, of Harbor City, California, is the founder of Bri’s Frozen Lemonade and made a significant profit in her first year participating in Lemonade Day. She donated 80% of her profits to the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro. Brianna plans on participating in the 2022 Lemonade Day and is excited to sell more flavors and variety of her product.

Erika and Diego Garcia, parents of Brianna

Heidi Butzine, President/CEO of Lomita Chamber of Commerce: Heidi brought Lemonade Day to Lomita and was a key player in its success. She helped more than 100 kids set up 37 stands in the small, diverse business community with a population of under 25,000.

Mark Waronek, Mayor of Lomita, California: Mark supported Heidi and the Chamber of Commerce in all things throughout the inaugural year of Lemonade Day Lomita. He personally visited close to 20 lemonade stands. He, his wife, and city council members collectively visited every lemonade stand in Lomita.

Mikaila Ulmer, Me and the Bees Founder: At only 4 years old, Mikaila launched her first lemonade business in Austin, TX. From that early experience she started Me and the Bees Lemonade which is now commercially available throughout the United States in thousands of stores. Her product is buzzing off the shelves of Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, World Market, H-E-B stores across Texas and Kroger stores in Houston. Learn more at, https://www.meandthebees.com.

Rohit and Sidharth Srinivasan, Trashbots Co-Founders: The two brothers participated in Lemonade Day at the age of 8 and 7 which is how they caught the “entrepreneurial bug” and learned the skills needed to build their own company before even graduating high school in Austin, TX. They were featured speakers at the executive briefing “Business Startup Challenges and Youth Entrepreneurship Opportunities” that was co-hosted by Gallup and Lemonade Day at Gallup World Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 2018. Learn more at, https://www.trashbots.co/about.

Katie Vonder Haar and Hailey Hertzman, Ooh La Lemon Founders: Starting when they were only 11 years old, Katie and Hailey from Louisville, Kentucky turned their successful lemonade stand into a multifaceted company marketed towards tween girls. They won the 2017 National Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year. The girls have spoken at national conferences and recently started the “Send a Smile” gifts and COVID care packages to help brighten up the day. Learn more at, https://oohlalemon.com.

Credit Cards illustration by Samantha Miduri for use by 360 Magazine

CardRatings Analyst Predicts Credit Card Landscape

The credit card analyst for CardRatings.com, a leading credit card review and comparison site, is releasing predictions for the next six months of the calendar year. Brooklyn Lowery researched how the pandemic affected the credit card industry in general and explains what consumers should expect in the coming months. She finds both positive and negative trends in her new analysis of “Mid-year update: Credit card trends to watch for in 2021.”

Travel rewards bonuses are booming: “Have vaccine, will travel.” We knew travel would return and, with it, mega travel rewards credit card bonuses. CardRatings is seeing highest-ever offers for perennial travel rewards favorites. Credit card companies seem to be competing for cardholders, so if consumers are considering travel rewards cards, now is the ideal time to apply. Bonuses are significant but may be for a limited time, even if they aren’t advertised as such.

“With most of the country returning to normal, Americans hit the roads and skies in record numbers over the July 4th weekend, and banks want to capitalize on that travel fever. We don’t predict a slowdown any time soon in travel nor in big travel rewards bonuses. As soon as one card announces its offer, a competing card announces its own. Expect this domino effect to remain at least through the end of the year.”

COVID perks remain: As Lowery predicted at the end of 2020, several credit card features and benefits designed to provide value during the pandemic are continuing as COVID restrictions lift. Her analysis finds a number of popular travel rewards cards are keeping everyday-geared benefits and features that were introduced during the economic shutdown.

“The credit card industry understandably held its breath during the height of the pandemic, waiting to see how the economy would fare and what existing customers would demand for cards in their wallets,” says Lowery. “Banks rolled out new features and benefits and customers responded positively, so banks are assessing what to keep long-term.”

Consumer credit card approvals slow and credit limits low: Anecdotal evidence suggests banks are continuing to exercise caution with card approvals and credit limits. As the economy has largely reopened, risk aversion has ebbed slightly, but it’s still common for consumers to wait for approvals or receive low credit limits. At this point, lending may continue loosening at a steady rate; that could depend on what happens with COVID variants and possible new restrictions going forward.

Small business credit cards bounce back: After 18 months of hardship, small business owners are receiving positive news – small business credit card approvals are bouncing back and businesses are having an easier time getting approved. Banks are marketing this card type again after largely stopping at the height of the pandemic.

Interest rates low – for now: Most credit card interest rates are shaped by the U.S. prime rate, and the Federal Reserve isn’t predicting a rate hike until 2023, so major changes in credit card interest rates seem unlikely for now. That said, issuers can increase interest rates apart from that federal rate and traditionally have done so as they introduce new features or benefits. Lowery believes the historically low interest rates will stick around for the next six months but predicts they’ll creep a bit higher in 2022 as banks continue rolling out new features and benefits to attract new cardholders. That means now is the time to pay down credit card balances.

“Peeking ahead to early 2022, I think we’ll see balance transfer offers make a comeback following the holiday season. Of course, everything here is dependent on COVID remaining under control and the economy remaining fully open. If any of that changes, all bets are off.”

Oscar Stone illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Oscar Stone LTD

By: Emily Bunn x Vaughn Lowery

Oscar Stone LTD is a family-owned jewelry firm based in the Bronx, New York. Oscar Stone sells timeless jewelry, including customizable earrings, watches, bracelets, pendants, chains, and mouth grillz, which are all created from the beginning to the end internally. Oscar’s most popular article, baguette diamond earrings, dazzle his clients with their blinding beauty. Oscar Stone recognizes the value of using durable diamonds and jewelry from the Bronx community.

While lockdown created a lull for other companies, Oscar used the downtime to bolster his burgeoning business. His reach on social media via Instagram featured Oscar to many celebrity customers, including Jojo Simmons, Young Dirty Bastard, and Kid Capri, among others. Oscar Stone‘s jewelry exudes a true dedication to his craft, which is why his extensive list of clients keeps expanding.

The last authentic district of New York, the Bronx, houses the next largest jeweler in New York. Oscar Stone LTD stands apart from other jewelers such as Jacob the Jeweler, Greenwich Street Jewelers, and Martin Busch Jewelers because of its innovative approach to bespoke jewelry and sustainable practices and inspirational dedication to their craft. Oscar’s relentless pursuit of fine diamonds and customer satisfaction during the pandemic has allowed his business to flourish more than ever. Looking to the future, Oscar aims to continue creating custom designs for his customers and grow his business to become a familiar name.

We talked with Oscar about his background in gemology, his favorite custom orders, and his business expansion plans in the Bronx.

How did you get started in making jewelry and performing gemology for Oscar Stone?

I’m a G.I.A. accredited gemologist. Basically, growing up my whole life, [my] family– aunts, uncles, cousins– we all just did jewelry. So getting the jewelry was the easy part. It’s a family trade, really; it’s one of our best-kept secrets.

How did you build your clientele when you began in the jewelry business?

I knew about jewelry; gold wasn’t something crazy new to me. It’s like all your aunts and uncles own auto repair shops–you fix a couple of the tires, do a couple of oil changes, and you just kind of figure it out by yourself. When I had my own spot, building my clientele did really start from scratch. I didn’t have any celebrities or influencers, so I just had to open up shop and see what I could do. Before I did that, I actually did go to GIA (Gemological Institute of America) diamond school. I knew that GIA offered courses for this type of stuff. I spent a couple of months educating myself–[even] just [concerning] diamonds; there’s so many things about diamonds.

Once I finished the education, I decided to really bring in some clients. I was in business for about three years, and then I just started going heavy on social media. Once I started publishing my work on social media, the followers started coming. You know, not[hing] crazy yet, but I started getting a couple thousand [followers]. That’s when the business started taking off. I started hiring friends of mine and a lot of people, [and] my staff grew from four or five people to like twenty-five people. Business exploded when I started getting people who were verified on Instagram and had 300–400,000 followers. Once I started getting those clientele, the ball really started rolling. And that’s where we are now, about a year later.

What celebrities/notable clients have you done jewelry work for?

I would say the biggest guy that I’ve done work for would be, Jojo Simmons from RUN–D.M.C. I’ve done work for Young Dirty Bastard, who is the son of Old Dirty Bastard from the Wu Tang Clan. [Regarding] household names, I’ve done guys as big as Tonio Skits and Darius D.K. [Also,] I’ve done work for [Kid] Capri.

How do you source the best diamonds/gems for jeweling?

I don’t always get the same diamonds from the same supplier. The reason is, once you start working with somebody for diamonds and you guys get comfortable, then they start sending you lesser quality parcels. A parcel is basically like a bag of diamonds, [which come in] a lot of different sizes. They should all be the same clarity, and you sort through them to see that the quality is consistent.

I can buy 50 carats of diamonds this month [or] this week, and then I’ll run out by making all the jewelry. And so, I need to reorder. If the quality starts to become inconsistent with the price that I’m paying, I’ll switch over to another diamond supplier. Most of my diamond suppliers are in India, so I’ve had to fly out there a few times and look at some parcels, look at some factories, and see how they’re all doing it.

[Or, for example,] if I have to build a watch and do it three weeks, and [clients] don’t give me enough time, I have to get [diamonds] local[ly].

What is your favorite jewelry design you sell?

My favorite designs [are] always the custom pieces I make. I always love doing custom work, I just love like how intricate they are. I just did a piece for a client of mine–it’s this huge custom piece that spins when you spin it. I’ve had the most fun working on it, that’s my favorite piece right now. I’m working on another one that might top it, but we’re gonna keep it under wraps for now.

What is your jewelry specialty?

My signature I would say is the baguette earrings, that’s what most people know me for. Out of all my followers, I would say 20,000 of them might have been from the baguette earrings.

I do really, really good with the baguette diamond earrings that are on my website. I could sell as many as 20 pairs a day. A lot of people [who] are from out of state buy that. A lot of people [come] in store as well. The baguette diamonds are just such a popular thing for me right now. I have to make hundreds and hundreds of pairs just to keep up with demand.

What is the most popular order you receive from clients?

The baguette diamonds are just like something you really don’t see out of New York. And so, people love them. It’s also my bread and butter…It’s gonna go, it’s gonna sell, and sell classic.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to be moving to another location on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx–I’m true to the Bronx, I don’t wanna leave the Bronx. So, I’m moving to a store that is down the block from me. It has three times the retail space, and a basement attached to it. I’ll be able to really put a factory down there. As long as the people keep loving my jewelry and what I do, I’m going to keep delivering the best I can. To do that, and to give the best prices, you need to do things in-house. I’m going to have a 1500 sq ft basement where I’ll be able to put ten diamond setters down there and set diamonds all day. The second floor will be an office to do all the online [work]. On the floor-level will be retail and the showroom, so people who want to see things in-person, I can show them right there. That is my short-term goal in the next one or two years. Long term, I want to be a household name, but one thing at a time.

Photo Credit:  Anthony Duque

Oscar Stone LTD Baguette Diamond Earrings

statistics illustration via Maria Soloman for use by 360 Magazine

Seven tips that will ensure your website’s calls-to-action get results 

Offering high-quality products or services is great, but it’s not always enough to make a sale. You also need to ensure you have strong calls-to-actions (CTAs) on your website. 

These are words or phrases, often presented on a button, that tell your customers what to do next. Sometimes, people just need a little bit of a push! 

In this article, we’re going to show you how to optimize your website’s CTAs so you can make more sales. 

Make sure your calls-to-action are bright and bold 

The design of your CTAs is just as important as the wording! You don’t want them to blend in, or readers might not spot them. So, you need to put some thought into how you can make them stand out. 

Typically, CTAs are presented on a clickable button. When choosing the color of yours, try to pick a hue that fits in with your branding, but that will still stand out against the background it’s on. Make sure the button is big enough, too — it should be one of the first page elements people are drawn to when they land on your website. 

Let’s take a look at a few examples for inspiration.

Paramount Plus, a new TV and movie streaming service, has a bright and bold CTA right on their homepage. 

There are two things in particular that stand out: first, the copy says TRY IT FREE. Because Paramount Plus is so new, it’s important that they reel in customers this way — after all, there are a lot of streaming services out there, so people will want to try before they buy. Additionally, the color of the button is a bright and clear blue. Not only does this color work with the company’s branding, but the blue also contrasts well against Spongebob’s yellow, making it even more eye-catching. 

KiwiCo, a kid’s craft subscription service, has a stand-out CTA right on their homepage as well. 

They’ve used a bright and bold green color to ensure their CTA button stands out against the grey background, and they’ve also added a fun light bulb icon that draws the eye. Not only does this help the call-to-action to stand out, but it could also spark a website visitor’s imagination and convince them to click through to “get a crate”. 

Think about how you could ensure your CTAs stand out on your website. What colors would work well, and are there any fun icons you could add for some extra interest? 

Stir up a sense of urgency 

If you create a sense of urgency with your CTAs, you can make your consumers feel like they’ll miss out if they don’t act now. This can lead to more people taking the action you’re looking for right away.

You can help create a sense of urgency with timers that outline when a particular promotion will end, or how much stock you have left, for instance. Let’s take a look at an example of a business that uses this tactic well.

For instance, Amazon likes to let people know when stock of a particular product is running low. They’ll then tell you to “order soon” to avoid missing out on the items you need.

This is a powerful technique that could provide a sense of uncertainty that will be just enough to push people into making a purchase. They even have two different buttons customers can press — one of which says “buy now”, which increases the feeling of urgency. Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the world, so this is clearly a tactic that has served them well. 

Play on your website visitors’ FOMO 

Similarly, fear of missing out, or FOMO, can be a very effective motivator. So, it’s worth playing on this with your calls-to-action. Make your readers feel like people just like them have taken your desired action and are better off because of it!

To provide you with some inspiration for your own CTAs, let’s take a look at a company that does a great job of stirring up a sense of FOMO with theirs. 

Venngage, a company that specializes in helping people to create infographics, makes sure to instil the fear of missing out in their audience in their guide to what infographics are.

Within their article, they promote a webinar they’ll be hosting on the topic, and urge people to “SAVE MY SPOT”. This creates a sense of scarcity, and encourages people to act fast to avoid missing out. Plus, the CTA is presented on a bright green button, which really helps it to stand out. 

If you’re hosting an event or promoting a limited edition product, make sure you make it clear to people that they could miss out if they don’t buy their ticket or item right now. It could just be enough to boost your conversions. 

Provide different calls-to-action for different people

Different people who visit your site might be at different stages of the buying journey. This means it can often be helpful to have different CTAs that correspond to these different stages. For example, you might want to encourage one person to make a purchase, but direct someone else towards giving you a call to get more information about what you do. 

Let’s take a look at some businesses that use this tactic well. 

For instance, you’ll find several different CTAs on Loganix’s link building services page. At the very top of the page, you’ll see a button that urges people to “get started” — this is great for people who have already decided that they would like some help with their link building and that Loganix is their company of choice.

However, people who scroll down the page to find more information will also find a range of other CTAs, such as “learn more” and “read more testimonials”. These target people who aren’t quite sure about this service or want to know more about the company in general. 

This approach is particularly effective for a service-based organization like Loganix. They’re providing something slightly more abstract than a physical product, so people looking to spend money with the business might need more convincing. These different CTAs are sure to point them in the right direction. 

Similarly, Best Value Schools have multiple CTAs on their homepage. The website helps prospective students to choose the next step in their education and career, which is always going to be a huge decision. So, they have different calls-to-action to attract people at different stages in their journey. 

They have options to “find your school”, “view all resources”, “view all rankings”, and more. Think about all of the different types of people who could be browsing this website. “Find your school” targets people who already know what kind of path they want to pursue, while the CTAs that urge people to find more information are more suited to people who are earlier in their journey, and who might not even be sure that higher education is for them. There’s a CTA for everyone. 

Consider who’s likely to land on your website, and what they might need in their current stage of the buyer journey. Do they want to make a purchase straight off the bat, or will they need more information? You should add CTAs that cater to everyone. 

Make it very obvious if you’re offering a freebie

If you’re creating a CTA to promote something that won’t require your website visitors to spend any money, be sure to make that very clear. This can work well for free templates, free trials, free consultations, and the like. 

Keep in mind that offering something for free is also a great marketing strategy in general. It shows people what you do, and is likely to lead to them spending money with you in the future.

To provide you with some inspiration, let’s take a look at companies that incorporate freebies into their marketing and CTAs well.

For instance, Bay Property Management Group, a real estate management company with multiple locations across the east coast, promotes their free property management analysis on their Philadelphia location page. 

You can clearly see where you need to click to get a free property management analysis, as the bright blue CTA button really stands out! Just above their freebie call-to-action, they also outline the benefits of clicking through — doing so will help prospective to find their ideal tenants without breaking the bank.

The company is offering a very valuable service for free, and they’ve made that very clear with their CTA. This is sure to lead to a lot of click-throughs and could drive a lot of future business for the company. 

SocialPilot does something similar partway through their guide to Facebook analytics tools.

They provide their own social media platform so, along with outlining the pros and cons of all the different tools out there, they’ve mentioned and promoted their own. Not only that, but they’ve also encouraged people to try it for free.

The bright blue banner really makes this CTA stand out, and they’ve made it very clear that trying out their tool won’t cost the user anything. They’ve mentioned “free” twice and even clarified that they won’t take your credit card details, so you won’t be stung if you forget to cancel at the end of your free trial. This is sure to convince a lot of people to give it a go and could lead to a lot more sales for the company. 

Could you offer something valuable to your prospective customers for free? If so, make it very clear that engaging won’t cost them anything, and it could actually boost your bottom line in the long run. 

Lead with a strong verb 

The whole point of a call-to-action is to convince someone to do something — that means you should always lead with a strong verb. Words and phrases like “sign up” and “submit” might do the job, but they aren’t very powerful, so you’ll want to go with something stronger for the best results. 

Here are some examples of CTAs with strong verbs that you could use: 

  • Download now
  • Get started
  • Create your account
  • Explore now
  • Discover more
  • Schedule an appointment

All of these CTAs are clear, convincing, and make it very obvious what you prospective customers should do next. 

Inject some personality into your calls-to-action 

You want your prospective customers to engage with your CTAs, and injecting them with your personality can really help. To start, you should identify your brand voice, if you haven’t already.

Consider how you want to address your customers, first and foremost. Are you professional? Funny? Playful? Inspirational? Think about who your audience is and how you want to relate to and communicate with them.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of businesses that do a great job of incorporating their brand voice into their CTAs for the best results. 

For example, Express, a clothing retailer, does this well on their homepage. 

When you first visit their site, you’re presented with a banner that urges you to “join the TikTok challenge”. They’re trying to get their customers to post about their lives post-pandemic, and want them to share their outfits (which are hopefully from Express). This CTA wouldn’t work for every business, but it’s effective for Express, which is a young and savvy clothing brand with an audience that is immersed in the online world. This shows the company is engaging, boundary-pushing, and adventurous, which increases the chance of their ideal customers clicking through and jumping on board with their challenge. 

There’s also plenty of personality in the CTAs that the luxury vodka brand Grey Goose uses on its homepage.

One of their most interesting examples is “uncork the truth”. This phrase suggests a few different things about Grey Goose’s personality. First, using a word like “uncork” is fun and relevant, as they are an alcohol distiller. Second, the phrasing shows that they want to be transparent in how they make their products and what ingredients they use. Consider if you can use a similar play on words in your own CTAs to show off your brand personality.

Summary

Your CTAs are some of the most important aspects of your website! To get people to do what you want them to do, you have to give them an extra push. In this article, we outlined seven different ways to enhance your CTAs, including using your brand personality, improving your design, using strong verbs, and more. There’s work to be done — get to it!

Author bio & headshot

Adam Steele is COO and co-founder of Loganix, which is an SEO fulfillment partner for digital marketing agencies and professionals. The company provides the SEO services that businesses need to grow and achieve their goals. If you enjoyed this article, you can find more SEO guides and templates on the Loganix blog. 

Adam Steele is COO and co-founder of Loganix image for use by 360 magazine
Art by Mina Tocalini of 360 Magazine for use by 360 Magazine

Pandemic Pampering – How independent salons have fared compared to the huge franchise chains

There’s no denying that the pandemic has been tough on the hair and beauty industry.  Unfortunately, as great as technology is, it’s not yet possible to have a haircut or manicure online or by Zoom and, for salons, closed doors have meant that salons have been without income for several months.

A business built on touch

As restrictions begin to lift, there’s still no real normal for salons as many are operating at a reduction – sometimes up to 30% – in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.  For salon owners, margins tend to be pretty tight and, many make between 5% and 6% on a full book – something which, for the moment, is simply not possible.  In the meantime, overheads such as rent, contracts and utility bills don’t go away.  

Resuscitating salons post-pandemic

We’ve now reached a stage where our salons are open once again and it’s time to see how things have shaken out.  Historically, hair salons have managed to ride the wave of tough times extremely well – for example, during the 2008 recession, salons saw little change in their fortunes.  Salon owner, Wall-Innella said at that time, “People find the money.  They won’t pay the mortgage, but they’ll get their hair done”.  

A recession is a time to tighten your belt but, what about a pandemic?  In the past, small, independent salons have tended to lose out during times of hardship and, so, let’s take a look at how the pandemic has impacted on independents vs larger chain salons:

David and Goliath

By December 2020, 4,578 hair and beauty salons closed for good in the UK due to the pandemic and the early signs are that the majority of these were small independents – and there are a couple of reasons for this:

Banking on survival

Although franchise and chain salons such as Headmasters and Toni & Guy have taken a hit during lockdown, these huge brands tend to have enough in the coffers to weather the storm.  Although there may have been some closures, the brands will generally bounce back pretty quickly.  Small, indie salons, on the other hand, usually operate month to month and will rarely have the cash cushion available to allow them to survive.

Pivoting the pampering

Brands such as Toni & Guy have their own range of products which are sold in supermarkets and as upsells in their salons.  These brands were able to pivot their businesses during COVID-19 by selling their products online and by creating affiliate programs to drum up more sales.  This is, unfortunately, a luxury that smaller salons don’t share.

When it comes to bouncing back from the pandemic, a lot of customers will be disappointed to find that their favourite local salon may no longer be trading.  Thankfully, however, a great many salons have been able to make it through due to business interruption loans.  While times will still be difficult due to social distancing, Booksy’s salon scheduling and management app can be a lifeline for smaller salons.  Booksy allows for online booking of appointments which makes life simpler for customers – but that’s not all.  For small salon owners, the app’s management and marketing features are a fantastic solution in helping them optimise their capacity and easily manage inventory and promotions.

As we head into summer, we’ll also be heading back to our salons and, the great news is that communities have already begun to rally around to support those plucky independents as they get ready to start afresh.

Cybersecurity illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Amazon × MGM Studios Merger

Amazon announced that it will be acquiring MGM Studios for $8.45 billion, in an effort to bolster the already growing Amazon studios and making it the second largest acquisition on Amazon’s part, following its $13.7 purchase of Whole Foods in 2017.

According to cybersecurity expert Mark Stamford, CEO of OccamSec, a deal of this scale will require a complete review of its cybersecurity infrastructure, as the process of fully merging these entities are rarely completed in the expected timescale.

Mark continues:

  • The standard “merger” due-diligence template goes into great detail looking at financial & legal status issues, but rarely seems to consider the potential liability associated with linking into an organization with a seriously compromised infrastructure. 
  • Trying to coherently map risks or produce an enterprise security plan for this type of environment is incredibly challenging, when multiple systems are coming together
  • With such notable deals, most attackers reside within the organization’s network for over 100 days before discovery, so there is a very real risk of starting work on merging infrastructure, whilst being observed by an interested resident attacker, who will be keenly looking out for an opportunity to vector into the core organization’s networks

Mark says, “Exercising strategic due-diligence during a merger or acquisition, is the most effective what for any organization, like Amazon, to protect itself from cyber threats.”

We had the opportunity to ask Mark Stamford some questions as far as the merger and his expert opinion(s):

Q: What changes can be expected with a merger like the Amazon/MGM Studio merger?

MS: The merging of two different cultures always prompts a lot of changes. In this case, MGM is going to become more like Amazon than the other way round.

Q: Do the benefits outweigh the risks with this type of merger?

MS: Yes, I assume so, from a cyber perspective, the main risk is joining two networks together that have different structures, and probably issues. So, for example I was called in to help with some M&A work once, the new network was plugged in…and brought a heap of malware with it which quickly spread into the acquirers’ network.  It later transpired that some of the IP, which was the very reason for the merger, had been stolen.

Q: What challenges is Amazon, an online retailer, facing when merging with MGM Studio?

MS: Both operate in different ways. The majority of movie making companies seem to follow the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra. So, technology tends to be a hodge podge, along with processes etc.… Amazon meanwhile is a tech company, and while primarily known as a retailer, has considerable presence in the cloud (with AWS) so has a lot of cutting-edge technology at its disposal.

Q: What are some ways to help the process move along with ease?

MS: Again, in a cyber perspective there needs to be due diligence done on the MGM environment. At the same time, since both organizations probably have a range of security tools, seeing who has the best tool for the job can save money in the long term.

Also, not to be discounted is the human element in cyber security – any merger results in layoffs. So, the potential for a “disgruntled insider” increases. The way to help with that is communication – not more monitoring.

Q: How can Amazon prevent cyber-attacks during the process of the merger?

MS: MGM makes a nice target right now, since at some point their technology will be integrated into Amazon, and if I was a bad guy, I would assume they are the softer target of the two. Amazon should work with MGM to ensure their security is at a “good” level, and work on the integration aspects – two distinct cyber security teams need to become one, quickly.

Q: In your opinion, does Amazon face cyber risks from vendors or third parties with the onset of the merger?

MS: I think amazon always faces this risk, as does everyone. Since the organization is increasing in size, the “attack surface increases” so yes, they do face risks.

Q: What are the biggest cybersecurity threats at the moment?

MS: Motivated attackers, be that nation states, criminal groups, hacktavists, or others. Ransomware is getting a lot of press right now. However, I think the biggest threat is the endless cost spiral companies are trapped in trying to deal with this.

Q: What are some ways to ensure that the infrastructure is not compromised?

MS: Defense in depth continues to be the key. Layers of security, which work together, and consider the context of the organization (how it makes money or delivers its service) in order to support that mission.  I assume Amazon will expand their cyber security program across MGM fairly quickly, which checks a number of boxes and provides a good starting point.

One issue may be that a movie studio faces different kinds of attackers than Amazon. Movie studios are primarily about their IP, everything else always seemed to be secondary to that. Stealing a movie is a different attack then ransomware, which we have seen borne out in practice (various insider attacks to steal content for example).

Q: What are your certifications in the cybersecurity field?

MS: I have been involved in cybersecurity since I was 11. Was senior penetration tester for a global consulting company, ran a security program at a global investment bank, and have been running a security company for 10 years.

Q: What does effective cybersecurity look like to you?

MS: Cost effective, business aware, and layered.

Fashion illustration by Rita Azar for use by 360 Magazine

5 Steps to Become a Fashion Designer

Are you a creative person who loves clothes, bags, shoes and the changing trends that each season brings when it comes to new designs? If so, why not choose a career that allows you to express your individuality and explore your passion at the same time? Sound exciting? A career in fashion design might just be your calling. Let’s run through some of the essential steps you’ll need to take to make it in the ever-evolving world of fashion. 

Move to a Major City

If you live in a small town with zero opportunities to get valuable work experience, it’s time to consider moving to a major city. Yes, rent is expensive and you may need to take out personal loans from a private lender to cover the first few months of rent and living costs but it will be so worth it. Before moving, reach out to fashion outlets and well-known clothing manufacturers to see if there are any work experience opportunities available. You’ll learn so much from observing operations in a professional setting and you’ll get to work with all kinds of different materials and styles. This experience will prove invaluable when it comes to branching out on your own. 

Be Prepared Early On

Listen up high school students! The fact you’re even thinking about becoming a fashion designer at this young age is proof that this career path is for you. Start your prep early by signing up for drawing, art and design classes. A lot of fashion design programs require students to have artistic talent so learn early and your future self with certainly thank you for it. 

Get a Degree

You need to take this point seriously if you want to make noise in this competitive industry. Getting a degree in fashion design will teach you everything you need to know when it comes to creating a sketch and bringing that sketch to life. You’ll learn about the properties of different fabrics and you’ll get familiar with essential skills such as stitching, pattern making and draping. 

Create a Portfolio

All fashion designers create a portfolio early on in their careers. It’s what you’ll give to prospective fashion schools and employers so it’s got to showcase your best work. Treat each project in that portfolio like it was a major job for a real-world fashion designer and don’t cut corners when it comes to sketching and displaying your strong points. Be sure that the finished folder also demonstrates how good your communication skills are. 

Network

Yes, it’s time to mingle! Get involved in fashion shows and enter as many design competitions as you possibly can. Talk to people at these events and don’t be shy in showing off your skills and sharing your ambitions for the future. Sign up to fashion blogs and interact with like-minded people on social media and forums. Check for industry-related networking events in your local area and show up with a smile and a willingness to get involved. If there’s not much happening in your local town/city in terms of fashion shows and competitions, why not make a name for yourself locally and organize your own events? Doing so is a great way to demonstrate drive and tenacity, both of which are traits you’re your future employers will appreciate. 

Book illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

NIXON LIBRARY REOPENS MUSEUM

AFTER 14 MONTH CLOSURE, NIXON LIBRARY REOPENS THEIR MUSEUM

Announces plans to honor First Responders, open Civic Education Center, expand opportunities for Young Leaders

The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum reopens today at 10:00 AM PT, with a red white and blue ceremony to welcome its first museum visitors since March of 2020. This is the first presidential library to reopen in the U.S. following month-long closures from the Covid-19 pandemic. Eight first responders and frontline workers will cut the ribbon to officially reopen the museum. 

“After 14 challenging months, we couldn’t be more pleased to welcome visitors to the first presidential library in the country to reopen its doors,” Nixon Foundation President Hugh Hewitt said. “I’m grateful to our partners with the National Archives, to our community leaders for their continued support, and to our Foundation members for their dedication to our educational mission.”

Three new exhibitions await visitors to the Nixon Library:

  • The Presidents Club —briefly open for a few weeks last Fall— will reopen today. This originally-curated, storyteller exhibition chronicles the fascinating friendships and rivalries between some of history’s most well-known U.S. Presidents, from our Founding Fathers to the present day.
  • The President and The Planet, an outdoor exhibit perfect for all ages, that explores the consequential environmental initiatives of the Nixon administration.
  • Evening the Odds: Women Leading the Way, a permanent display on the legacy of the Nixon administration’s efforts to advance women in athletics, politics, and business.

The President’s original farmhouse birthplace reopens today as well. The Pat Nixon Rose Gardens continue to burst with color, filled with blooming, picturesque annuals, perennials and more. The Gardens —and the flower-ringed Memorial Site of President and Mrs. Nixon— are open and included with regular admission. 

Additionally, Hewitt announced that Tricia Nixon Cox, on behalf of the Nixon Foundation, will lead a Rose Garden Party salute to scores of frontline workers and first responders on June 12, 2021. The Foundation has invited representatives from charities with which it worked to coordinate its 14 month-long Conquering Covid campaign.

Hewitt also announced the Nixon Foundation’s intention to create and ultimately endow a Civic Education Center at the Nixon Library. 

Hewitt said: “President Nixon was committed to bringing young Americans into the political process; he advocated for the 26th amendment to lower the voting age to 18, and for expanding educational opportunities wherever possible. In that spirit, I’m proud to redouble the Nixon Foundation’s commitment to its educational mission by partnering with Southern California educational institutions to promote civic learning and fill a void that exists in our school systems today.” 

The Foundation will invest in its online distance learning initiatives and in-person civic education programs for high school students and teachers, and plans to operate them frequently. 

“One of the Nixon Foundation’s major post-pandemic priorities is to ensure that the basic pillars of American citizenship are alive and well among school-aged Americans,” Hewitt added. 

 After closing the Nixon Library’s doors in March of 2020, the Nixon Foundation continued its work by having:

  • Coordinated a 14-month campaign to support first responders by hosting more than 40 blood drives, four food drives and acquiring and donating 700,000 masks to schools, small businesses and medical workers. 
  • Migrated its educational mission fully online by adopting new distance learning initiatives.
  • Hosted then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for major policy announcements in July and September 2020, respectively. 
  • Launched The Nixon Seminar on Conservative Realism and National Security, a monthly online gathering of senior statesmen and rising specialists in various aspects of great power competition and American national security to discuss issues of current and continuing importance to the nation’s interests abroad.
  • Enhanced its iconic rose gardens and renewed its partnership with the American Rose Society to keep the flowers looking beautiful. 
  • Introduced “The President’s Society,” a new level of membership support open exclusively to millennials.

The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum is open every Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The museum and federal spaces are open according to federal COVID-19 requirements, while requirements in the privately-managed Nixon Foundation spaces will continue to align with guidance from the State of California and the County of Orange.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets online in advance of their visit by going to this website.

Mission-based events, speakers’ series programming and privately-contracted events at the Nixon Library are gradually resuming in accordance with guidelines issued by the State of California. 

Analytics Illustration by Ivory Nguyen for use by 360 Magazine

5 Ways Pay Stub Creators Can Help You

Over 93 percent of Americans get paid via direct deposit.

This is super convenient for them (who want to wait in line to cash a check at the bank?). However, it can also present challenges if you don’t receive a pay stub every time you get paid.

If this is the case for you, consider generating your own pay stubs. Listed below are 5 benefits you can enjoy by doing so. 

1. Rent an Apartment

Often, when you’re applying to rent an apartment, you need to provide proof of income.

If you get paid by direct deposit, you might not have this information readily available. Generating your own pay stubs ensures you have the documents you need to verify that you can afford the rent.

2. Stay on Top of Your Earnings

Generating pay stubs also makes it easier for you to manage your finances and keep track of your earnings.

When payment information is right in front of you in an easy-to-read pay stub, you’ll be able to pick up on potential issues and correct them sooner. You may also be able to budget better since you have a clearer idea of what you’re bringing in.

3. Qualify for Loans

You can also create pay stubs to apply for an auto loan more easily. When you generate your own pay stubs, you can present them at the bank or car dealership and get approved for a loan faster.

4. Pay Employees Faster

If you run a business, you definitely ought to consider generating pay stubs yourself. This helps you to get your employees paid faster since you can print the stubs right there in the office, rather than waiting for them to be mailed to the employees’ houses.

5. Avoid Employee Payment Errors

More than 82 million workers have experienced paycheck errors at some point in their lives.

When you use a pay stub generator that comes with an accurate pay stub calculator, you’re less likely to make errors and pay your employees an incorrect amount. This makes life simpler for everyone at the company, including you.

How to Make Your Own Pay Stubs

You get to enjoy all these benefits when you make your own pay stubs. As a bonus, it’s also easy to make pay stubs online.

There are lots of tools out there (many of them are free) that you can use to create pay stubs for any purpose. When looking for a pay stub generator, consider the following:

  • Price
  • Ease of use
  • Template options
  • Customer support

Consider whether or not the generator provides a pay stub example, too. This gives you a chance to see what the pay stub will look like and ensure it doesn’t leave out any important information.

Start Generating Pay Stubs Today

As you can see, there are lots of reasons to make pay stubs yourself. If you want to experience these benefits, follow the tips outlined above and start using a simple pay stub creator today. 

Do you need more help managing your money or making plans for the future? Check out some of the other resources on our site today.

Computer Illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Media’s New Currency

What Marketers Need to Know About Media’s New Currency

Source Digital, a leader in providing innovative video advertising, is helping marketers to stop wasting money

It’s estimated that digital advertising grew 12% over the last year, as many people were at home more during the pandemic. With billions being spent on trying to reach people as they watch videos, it only makes sense that marketers turn to new technology to advance key messaging to targeted consumers. Source Digital is leading the way in helping them maximize their revenue with media’s new currency: SAMs or Source Activated Moments. The innovative platform is helping companies stop wasting money and get more out of their video advertising efforts.

“Many marketers are frustrated because they are spending more and more on digital advertising but are not seeing the results they want,” explains Hank Frecon, the chief executive officer of Source Digital. “This is where we come in. We have helped many of these companies gain more control of their digital marketing efforts to get a result that justifies their expenditure. We are here to help to grow their business, and at the same time give consumers what they are looking for in a seamless way.”

Many advertising campaigns are being switched to Source Digital’s patented platform. The new platform gives businesses what they have needed all along, which is a way to offer their products or services to customers that have indicated interest, during videos. Here are five things to know about this new way to reach consumers through digital advertising with SAMs:

  1. New media currency (SAMs) focuses on not disrupting the viewer. People love to watch videos, but they have been turned off by the ads that interrupt what they are watching. Having a platform that will seamlessly allow you to watch a video without ad interruption but still allow the marketer to promote something without stopping their video makes a world of difference.
  2. Many businesses turning to the new media currency are able to greatly increase their revenue, because Source Digital is offering them an entirely new inventory to access to help grow their business.
  3. Rather than traditional advertising working with particular networks, the new method of advertising works across platforms. This makes it easier for marketers to reach more people without having to put in more effort.
  4. The more you know about the audience, the more you can tailor ads to them and improve engagement. The new media advertising platform helps advertisers get more insight into the audience, so they can use that to improve user experience and increase engagement.
  5. The new currency is completely changing how online video advertising is done, and it’s doing so for the better. We all learned a lot from the prior ways that video ads were done, and that information has helped to create a better experience for all moving forward.

“We see the way our platform is helping to transform the efforts put forth by marketing teams,” added Frecon. “We look forward to helping many others get on board. It’s a more efficient way of reaching your audience, increasing profits, and in getting the most from your investment.”

Source Digital’s platform quietly works in the background, gathering important data points about the person, so that it can provide a better user experience and increase engagement. Source Digital has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to help create a more engaging and effective video advertising experience. To learn more, visit Source Digital.

About Source Digital, Inc. 

Developed by seasoned technology leaders and inventors, Source Digital delivers a new era of contextual commerce and advertising. Offering the first in-video, contextually driven, frictionless acquisition experience, Source Digital’s technology allows content creators, owners, brands, and retailers to seamlessly engage with viewers across any device or screen in real time. An immersive approach to interactive video, Source Digital’s patented technology inspires brand loyalty organically through continuous, personalized engagement, reducing audience drift while yielding nuanced measurements and substantially increased avenues for monetization.