When it comes to a marketing strategy for Fantastic Sams hair salons in Pittsburgh, the local franchise may advertise in the newspaper and send direct mail to the many communities around its 20 salons. But perhaps its most effective marketing message comes from its partnership with a rather odd bedfellow: Children's Hospital.
For the past year, hair stylists from Fantastic Sams have taken their scissors and combs on the road to Children's, where they offer free haircuts to the hospital's pediatric patients. Working with the hospital's Child Life/Volunteer Services department, stylist-volunteers so far have cut the hair of around 150 adolescents and teens.
"The stylists help our patients to look and feel better," says Ellen Good, manager of Child Life/Volunteer Services at the hospital. "Fantastic Sams lifts the spirits for so many families, and the monthly event helps the hospital normalize an environment for the kids."
As for what Fantastic Sams gets out of this goodwill gesture, says Mary Anne Ohsol, a Fantastic Sams salon owner: "It is a great opportunity for many of us to give back to our communities."
So you want to sell your product on the Web ...
If you're a computer software company, bookseller, airline, publisher or music store, the Better Business Bureau has some good news for you: Consumers are more likely to buy your products over the Internet. Not so, however, if you offer insurance, other financial services, or food and drink.
These are the findings of a recent survey conducted by Greenfield Online Inc. for Better Business Bureau subsidiary BBBOnLine.
Among its findings are that 77 percent of the respondents said they would be willing to purchase computer software online; 67 percent would buy books; 64 percent would buy compact disks, 63 percent would buy computer hardware; 61 percent would buy airline tickets; and 53 percent would buy magazine subscriptions.
On the downside, more than 60 percent said they are not likely to buy insurance on the Net; 53 percent would not buy financial services; and 55 percent wouldn't buy food or drinks.
In general, according to the survey, the respondents over the past 12 months had spent an average of $446 on products via the Internet, with 16 percent having spent more than $1,000. Those surveyed said they would feel comfortable spending no more than $1,500 over the Internet.
The respondents' main concern: the security of online shopping, which is where BBBOnLine comes in.
Says James Bast, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus: "It's the perception of half the respondents that there are many disreputable companies offering products for sale on the Web, and both purchasers and non-purchasers seek cues to indicate the reputability of a company on the Web...This highlights the value of our BBBOnLine program in boosting consumer confidence and voluntary self-regulation of businesses in the electronic marketplace."
And so it does.
"When you're an entrepreneur and someone is waving a bag of money in front of you, it's usually a compelling reason to go into that market."
∇Mark Juliano, president of start-up Islip Media, in discussing how he directs the market focus for his set of high-tech.products. He made the remarks while presenting at a recent MIT Enterprise Forum program in Pittsburgh.
The greenhouse effect on Pittsburgh's economy
No, we're not talking about atmospheric conditions. We're talking about an actual greenhouse that is being planned for a vacant former shopping center along Chateau Street on the North Side.
The greenhouse is part of a grand plan, called the Harbor Gardens project, to turn the run-down 2.99-acre site into an economy-stimulating 70,000-square-foot office building with 58,000 square feet of rentable space.
Heading the project is the Bidwell Training Center Inc., a non-profit organization designed to give career direction to underprivileged inner-city residents. The North Side-based organization plans to relocate its headquarters into the new commercial facility when it's completed.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh has approved $1,542,505 in grants and loans for the project. Total cost is expected to reach a little more than $8.3 million.
The most innovative part of the plan is the greenhouse, which will serve as an incubator business that accommodates the cultivation of horticultural products for wholesale distribution. The business itself is being set up to help fund Bidwell Training Center at a time of government-funding cutbacks.