Smartphones mean always having a soundtrack in your pocket, but their out-of-the-box headphones are generally pretty mediocre. And there isn’t much point in having an HDTV when you can’t enjoy the full aural glory of explosions, witty one-liners and the crunch of bodies on a 20 yard line without bugging your significant other. Audiophile or not, it’s always nice to have a good pair of headphones kicking around, so here, to help you sort through the hundreds of options available, is a list of the best units you’ll see on store shelves this holiday season.
Bose Quietcomfort 15 acoustic noise cancelling headphones
Price – $349.99 On the Street
Six or less – Wow
I did not know sound could sound this good. Solos wail. Drums pound. Explosions are like slap to the face. These are excellent headphones that create a kind of cone of silence shutting out the world, making music sound like its originating inside your brain.
The 15s are also very comfortable to wear, but large, and a rigid design means they aren’t particularly travel-friendly. They also have a forceful built-in springiness—I got a painful smack to the head once when I lost my grip while putting them on.
The unit also irritatingly reqires a single AAA battery, and music stops when it dies. Despite a 35-hour charge, the 15s have no auto-off feature that I could discern, making it easy to drain their juice by forgetting to flip the power switch. But still, you won’t find anything sounding better for lsess than $400.
Whether you own a jingle-spouting ice cream truck or a velour-draped women’s clothing boutique, nothing is more important for the success of a small business than location.
“The fundamental thing is,” says Joseph Paradi, a management and entrepreneurship professor at the University of Toronto, “can you get the customers who need your goods?”
He says smart entrepreneurs know their products and who wants to buy them.
“A store that caters to retired people isn’t going to be a good idea in the suburbs. If you’re a Halal meat store and open in Rosedale you’re not going to get much uptake.”
Whether stuffing videogames under hoodies or diapers in the bottom of baby carraiges, thieves will steal anything that isn’t bolted to the floor.
Theft is inevitable, but the best weapon against it costs less than little Jimmy No-Good’s first stolen lollipop—excellent customer service.
“Saying ‘hi, how are you,’ to every customer is a huge asset,” says Lucas. “Walmart does it not just because they want to say ‘hello’, they want to say ‘we know you’re in our store.’” That way, he adds, “The thief knows someone is there.”
Simple awareness, he says, is the first step. But the second is a bit more expensive—a camera system, which can run anywhere from $1000 for four cameras, a digital video recorder, and a public monitor, to $5000 for more complicated setups. Then, recommends Lucas, retailers need an alarm system (another $1000) to make sure after hour break-ins end quickly, and with police on the scene.
Beyond this, security needs to be specifically tailored to the business.
Whether a lease is up, a business has grown, or the lingering smell of the fish monger next door has started seeping into the dreams of employees, there are many reasons for a small business owner to change location.
The key to a fruitful move, says Orest Kelebay, president of Max’s Market, a Bloor-west prepared food store, is forward thinking.
“Successful companies are looking at the horizon, not down at their feet,” he says. “You go when the opportunities present themselves.”
Kelebay, an entrepreneur who owned a handful of restaurants before opening Max’s in 1999, recently launched a second location on the Queensway near Islington. He bought land there three years ago in the lead up to major development projects in the area. As more stores went up and condos began to fill, he realised the market was ripe to expand his business. But for many entrepreneurs, moving doesn’t come at such opportune times.
Often businesses change location because their lease is running down and they’re unable to negotiate a reasonable deal with their landlord, or, says Katherine Roos, Enterprise Toronto’s small business manager, because “there’s no revenue coming in, there’s no evidence of growth, their correct customers aren’t coming in the door.”
She says moving is a difficult process—it means potentially losing customers and having to re-establish a presence in the community.
“You want to do your homework,” she says, adding that retailers must always keep an eye on the demographics surrounding their business. If the age, income level, ethnicity and family status of nearby residents doesn’t line up with what they’re selling, it may be time to hit the road.
But not every entrepreneur has to worry about customers. For commercial business owners, low rent, ease of access for employees and presenting a professional image to investors takes precedent.
The staggering number of smartphone apps is overwhelming, especially to someone unboxing their shiny new device for the first time on Christmas morning. So here’s a list of the ten applications you need to download (most of which I personally use almost every day) as soon as the torn wrapping paper settles on your living room floor.
Price – Free
Platform – Android, Blackberry, iOS
I hate a bulky wallet, which is a problem, because I’m also a big fan of customer reward programs. It might sound unusual for a twenty-something guy, but Cardstar, an app that stores membership and customer reward cards, is my all-time favorite mobile program because it simply and practically solves this problem. Using your phone’s barcode reader, it scans and stores card numbers—from Airmiles to Best Buy to Goodlife memberships. You present your phone, instead of the cards, at checkout for businesses to scan the on-screen barcodes generated by the app (numbers can usually be entered manually if a scanner can’t read from your device). It’s easy to add a dozen or so cards in only a few minutes, and considering this means an end to sitting on three inches of plastic, it’s well worth the download.