Archives for the month of: February, 2012

The aging of the baby boomer population will lead to increased health care costs for approximately 79 million Americans. Baby boomers will qualify for Medicare when they reach age 65, but the federal insurance system does not provide enough coverage to pay all of their medical expenses, especially the increased cost of prescription drugs. PJP Health Agency Inc. can help.

Formed in 2008, the Garden City, New York-based agency provides solutions nationwide for senior citizens and others seeking affordable, alternative health care coverage. Following a free assessment of an individual’s or family’s health care needs, PJP Health Agency presents a wide variety of options, including major medical and short-term medical plans and supplemental products to cover vision, hearing, and dental care as well as prescriptions. Customers can choose among an array of features, including coinsurance, first-dollar coverage, out-of-pocket limits, maximum benefit amounts, benefit periods, and deductibles. Best of all, customers never need to leave their homes to obtain affordable medical insurance through PJP Health Agency.

As health insurance costs continue to grow and federal mandates related to health care complicate matters further, PJP health agency sifts through the information and provides personalized health care coverage at a reasonable price. The agency also offers life insurance, typically ranging from $25,000 to $250,000. Applicants must answer questions pertaining to their health, but PJP requires no medical examinations to qualify for coverage.

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If you only know Red Bull as the yellowy, caffeine-enhanced energy drink, you’re only getting part of the picture. Perhaps, at this stage in Red Bull’s twenty-five year history, the energy drink is the smallest part. With music, film, and web-content production, sports and athlete sponsorships, and a whole marketing arm targeted squarely at their ideal 18-to-34 male demographic, Red Bull has become a full-fledged multimedia company.

One of Red Bull’s most comprehensive endeavours is the snowboarding documentary, The Art of Flight. Produced by Red Bull Media House for $2 million and starring Travis Rice, a Red Bull-sponsored snowboarder, and a cadre of Rice’s colleagues, the film toured the world and sat on top of the iTunes charts for weeks after its release. It’s all part of the brand’s dedication to its branding. Rather than simply slap a logo on an athlete or on the side of a racecar, Red Bull engages with its sponsored person or product, entwine itself — as with The Art of Flight — so, for example, you see “snowboarding” and think “Red Bull.”

When a startup is finding its bearings, it needs funding. But during that early stage, startups also need advice from experienced people, and to cultivate social and business connections for future funding; the venture capital company Y Combinator (YC) provides all three elements. Named for the program in computer science that runs programs, Y Combinator is a company that starts companies.

Founded in 2005 by Paul Graham with Robert Morris, Trevor Blackwell, and Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator has funded more than three hundred startups. Unlike most seed funding companies, YC funds startups in batches twice a year. Also unlike most seed funding companies, YC provides only $11,000 to $20,000; Graham believes that such an amount is usually enough to create a prototype to secure future funding. They also require that at least one founding member move to the Bay Area for the duration of the three month program. Once a week, YC hosts a dinner featuring a speaker in a specialized startup aspect; these speakers, along with YC’s extensive alumni network, form the long-term benefits of the program.

In return for funding, Y Combinator asks for only two to six percent of the stock in the company, nothing more. During the program, the staff at YC offers only advice and guidance without angling for more power in the company. The guiding philosophy is that the landscape of startup funding is shifting, from the investors to the founders, and that by giving startups as much flexibility as possible they will be in a position to make the best possible choice for their long-term goals. It’s hard to argue with the results of Y Combinator. Though not all of their funded companies succeed, many of them do; alumni of the program include the social site Reddit, revolutionary travel company, Airbnb, and the blogging platform Posterous.

Since its founding in 1881, the Sealy Mattress Company has become synonymous with comfortable, well-crafted mattresses. But its line of Posturepedic mattresses, designed especially to help people in need of back support, has long been in the grips of faltering sales since is 1950s glory days; in a mattress showroom, the more expensive Posturepedic model simply failed to stand out. Which is why Sealy brought in Ideo to revitalize and reinvigorate the brand.

Ideo focused on two main areas when it approached the Posturepedic: the design, and the features of the mattress. They made the mattress stand out among the others in a showroom by making the foundation light blue and the top white. Ideo added extra support to the hip area of the mattress, making it even more beneficial for people with back issues. And with the addition of a lightly-gripping rubber layer to keep sheets in place, and a set of handles along the sides for easy transport, Ideo took the mattress to the next level.

It’s just the thing to help Sealy move its Posturepedic mattresses, and after a disastrous fourth quarter in 2011, it may be just the thing to make the company profitable again.

Formed in 1986 by Arkansas government and business leaders, Southern Bancorp has been instrumental in addressing the problem of rural poverty. By focusing on development within fifty miles of each Southern branch, the bank ensures that its investments are going to help the communities it serves. With forty-five branches in Arkansas and Mississippi, and more than $1 billion in assets, Southern Bancorp is often the only banking option in rural areas as more and more banks desert small towns and other under-served areas. Every Southern branch, meanwhile, is locally managed and serves a town or county with fewer than 15,000 people.

The relationship forged between Southern Bancorp and its communities is invaluable in the bank’s goal for rural development. Not only does such a relationship create trust, it makes the foundation for economic development that much more solid and secure. Southern works to build on that foundation by encouraging tighter community development, in leadership as well as in infrastructure.

Beyond banking, Southern has a number of projects to help rural communities. The Delta Bridge Project is dedicated to developing the struggling Phillips County through strategic community planning and investment. Of the $74 million already committed to the project, Southern Bancorp has invested over $9.3 million in grants and loans. Similar projects are underway in Clark County in Arkansas, and Drew and Ruleville Counties in Mississippi.

Additionally, Southern targets rural educational and health care needs. Because rural areas are some of the most-overlooked by health professionals, Southern Bancorp provides incentives for health care services to move into these areas. Thanks to Southern and its partners, Phillips County is now home to the Helena Health Foundation, a $4.5 million health care facility that provides its members not only with access to physicians, but also with exercise equipment, an exercise and wellness library, and other health resources.

As it continues to expand, Southern Bancorp’s positive influence will likely be felt in the Delta region for years to come.

The relationship between Coldwater Cattle Company President Joe Batson and the Amarillo, Texas business community extends over a lifetime involved in ranching, oil and gas development, and media production. Born into a prominent cattle and ranching family with more than a century of history in the Texas Panhandle, Joe Batson began working for Coldwater Cattle Company as a teenager in the 1960s. He initially fulfilled cowboy responsibilities traditional to ranching on the high plains. He also earned pilot licenses for helicopter and fixed wing aircraft at an early age, allowing him to take the position of Chief Pilot. He later undertook the role of Vice President.

Today, Joe Batson is well-recognized in the Amarillo community as President of Coldwater Cattle Company and as an Officer of the Grid Oil Company. He also has executive experience in the financial industry, having chaired the First National Bank of Dumas in Amarillo prior to its 1986 sale.

In addition to his background in ranching and banking, Mr. Batson has enjoyed a distinguished career in advertising and media production. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Communication and Radio-Television-Film, he worked for several years as a Purchaser at the Amarillo advertising firm Monte Rosenwald and Associates. In 1981, he established Berneta Communications, Inc., a film company that produced nationally recognized films for nonprofit groups such as the United Way. Joe Batson maintains longstanding involvement in annual productions of TEXAS, the Official Play of the State of Texas, by the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, of which he is a founding lifetime member.

With the rising cost and dwindling supply of fossil fuels, alternative energy sources like solar and wind power become more popular and, more importantly, more competitive cost- and output-wise. And although it’s not unusual to see solar panels dotting rooftops across the United States, it is unusual for individual consumers to sign the same sort of contract that a business would sign for solar panel use: building owners sign contracts with solar developers for long-term maintenance and the power supply. When Lynn Jurich founded SunRun in 2007, she did exactly that.

Five years later, and, remarkably, SunRun has relatively little competition, is more stable and is seeing more growth than ever before. Shortly after its founding, the San Francisco-based company grew quickly thanks to $12 million in venture capital funding. Thanks to their business model, SunRun lowers the cost hurdle that faces most consumers who want to switch to solar power. Rather than consumers buying the panels outright — which can cost upwards of $30,000 — SunRun owns the panels and maintains them, the consumer pays a fixed rate for a set period of time for the electricity generated. The cost of SunRun’s solar power runs about the same as traditional power, but in some markets the cost is lower; no matter where you are, the environmental benefits are higher than traditional power sources.

Now the nation’s leading residential solar company, SunRun installs more than $1 million in solar equipment every day. Currently, the company services only nine states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania — but with its continued growth, it hopes to add more. With SunRun plans starting with no money down, and a fixed, twenty-year rate immune to the volatile energy market, it’s easy to see why SunRun is number one.

If you’re like one of the more than 900 million people in the world who was curious or concerned about a possible medical condition, you probably used one of WebMD’s health tools. Its network of websites, headed by WebMD.com, has become a valuable tool for consumers and professionals as the world becomes increasingly focused in online markets.

As popular as its services have become, the company, which was founded in 1996, is on rockier ground than it has been in the past. A failed sales attempt earlier this year has made its investors restless and sent its stock plummeting thirty-two percent. WebMD is expected to post lower profits than projected, another factor making its investors uneasy.

But the fact remains that the people who use WebMD are, in all likelihood, unaware of its financial woes. And due to its staff of professional journalists and board certified physicians, the information remains as reliable as ever.