Stanley’s “Quencher” Tumbler Becomes Status Symbol

In the ever-evolving world of trendy water bottles, the Stanley brand has taken center stage with its “Quencher” model, with growing popularity amongst a younger and predominantly female audience. The Stanley Quencher features double-wall stainless steel, which is able to keep liquids hot or cold for extended periods of time. With a 64-ounce capacity, the Quencher is heavy. Its tapered bottom is designed to fit into a car’s cup holder, and it is renowned for its durability after a Quencher not only survived a car fire but still contained ice.

The Quencher has become a social media sensation with the #stanleybrand hashtag boasting 65.3 million views on TikTok and #stanleytumbler with 1 billion views. Recently, the “Stanley + Starbucks” collaboration caused people to camp outside Target stores overnight to be first in line to purchase the limited edition. Listed at an average of $45 a tumbler, resellers are seizing the opportunity to list these exclusive items on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

Not limited to functionality, the Quencher is available in various color options and design accessibility. According to Cassandra Gagnon of WGSN, the Quencher is perceived as more than a water bottle; it embodies a lifestyle, wellness, and health item.

While Stanley was originally crafted for outdoorsmen and even used by pilots in WWII, their more recent marketing strategies, and the production of the Quencher with its different color options, enabled them to branch into a new target market, beginning with working mothers. Once Generation Z discovered the tumbler, the brand’s popularity skyrocketed, with projected annual sales exceeding $750 million in 2023.

As the Quencher continues to dominate social media feeds and fly off shelves, the long-term trajectory of Stanley’s success remains to be seen, with questions arising about its sustainability in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

A New Phone Plan for the New Year

With the new year approaching, consider a more cost-effective cell phone plan. According to the New York Times, a growing trend among wireless plans promises customers significantly lower monthly rates. Budget carriers leasing wireless services from the larger companies offer phone bills at around $25 per month, undercutting the well-known providers whose monthly plans range from $60 to $200 a month.

While a budget carrier may not be able to offer the same network speed performance, download speeds with 5G and 4G technology remain quite fast and users will most likely not notice a difference between the larger versus budget providers. Additionally, with the shift to a hybrid work-week cutting down on commute times, most employees rely more on Wi-Fi connections at home or at the office and less on their cellular network.

Many have reported that the transition to a budget carrier was not always smooth. Customers complained of eSIM activation fees, wireless services that did not activate right away, unhelpful customer service, and failure to send monthly receipts. However, those who have switched over, report savings of 50%, some around $1000 a year, a worthwhile tradeoff for the hiccups they encountered. The discount plans even allow users to buy a physical or eSIM, which can be purchased from their website or app, to test out the service without dropping their current provider. This way, consumers can choose the best option available without any hassle.

If you’re looking to cut your expenses in 2024, switching to a discount phone plan is easy and will not disrupt your lifestyle.

The Future of US – China Relations

According to CNBC, the recent meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping has established a clear boundary in their relationship, offering businesses a sense of certainty. Held in San Francisco during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, this meeting signifies a commitment to cooperate under the principles of reciprocity and mutual respect, aiming to define areas where the U.S. and China can work together.

Both nations are seeking a new economic normal based on mutual benefit and adherence to established rules. Although Biden maintained export controls due to national security concerns, discussions emphasized the need to address the risks posed by advanced AI systems. Additionally, both sides agreed to revive military talks after a year-long hiatus.

The meeting signals a desire to avoid a downward spiral in their relationship and demonstrates that complete separation between the two economies is unlikely. However, the Biden administration continues its efforts to limit U.S. investment in Chinese companies involved in military-related technologies.

Despite the positive tone, long-standing challenges in U.S. business operations in China persist. While the meeting didn’t result in immediate significant agreements, it did set a cooperative tone, providing stability in the relationship. Nevertheless, companies are likely to remain cautious, focusing on reducing risks and diversifying supply chains based on the actual ground realities in China. The U.S. presidential election in 2024 and Taiwan’s upcoming elections also loom as potential factors influencing the long-term dynamic between the nations.

Wang Dong, executive director of the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding at Peking University, said, “I think there’s a lot of consensus coming out of this summit… What you get from this summit is a very clear signal the two countries, they are committed to what we can call recouple, in a way, on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect… I think this is very important for both countries and indeed for the global economy as well.”

Uber Reports Increase in Revenue at the end of 2022

While Uber reported a downturn in revenue during the pandemic, chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi said that the last 3 months of 2022 was the company’s “strongest quarter ever.” Khosrowshahi added that the company expects even more momentum in 2023.

Uber reported $8.6 billion in revenue from the last quarter of 2022, which is a 49% increase from the previous year due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 limiting travel options. In 2020, during the lockdown at the start of the pandemic, Uber cut around 7,000 employees. However, according to Khosrowshahi, the pandemic is no longer impacting Uber’s operations. In fact, during the last quarter of 2022, active drivers hit an all-time high.

Khosrowshahi claims that the current economic inflation is working to Uber’s benefit in that 70% of drivers say that it is the reason that they join Uber’s platform. As Uber exceeded Wall Street analysts’ estimates for the end of 2022, their stock rose 5.5% in trading at the beginning of February 2023.

Female-secured Patents Could Boost Economy by $1 trillion

Small businesses and startup entrepreneurs are known to rely on funding from government agencies like the Small Business Administration; minority-owned businesses might turn to the Minority Business Development Agency. Kathi Vidal is pushing to have entrepreneurs consider applying for patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office alongside their application(s) for funding.

Vidal, who is currently serving as USPTO director, is an experienced intellectual property lawyer. A primary platform of her work in the USPTO, since her appointment by President Biden in April 2022, has been the diversification of those applying for and receiving patents. To date, only 13% of U.S. patents have been issued to women. When offered free legal guidance for the patent-application process, women-led filings increased by 41%. Vidal believes that the inclusion of women in the patenting system at equal rates as men could boost the U.S. economy by as much as $1 trillion.

According to Vidal, legal support is not the only barrier to female inclusion. The patenting system is inherently confusing and excluding. While the government views rejections as an opportunity for re-application, most applicants don’t understand. Vidal is introducing a cover letter to patent decisions, assigning an examiner who will be available for consultations and be the human face of an otherwise amorphous and overwhelming process.

Patents are a tangible way of supporting the economy and expanding business competition, particularly in growing fields like artificial intelligence and technologies. Similarly, Vidal explains that patents facilitate partnership and cooperation. Without patents, companies are resistant to sharing their ideas.

Remote Workers Resign to a Renters Crisis

Pandemic restrictions are lifting and most bosses and companies are accepting that remote work is here to stay. And as employees continue to enjoy the benefits of working from home, they are also looking for homes to work in. The rental market is fierce these days, with prime interest in Florida and across the Northeast region of the U.S.

A review of recent real estate data released in June by RentCafe, a subdivision of Yardi real estate software, indicates that Miami-Dade County, with its 20+ miles of beaches, had the most competitive rental market during the first third of 2022. Orlando and other parts of Southwest Florida are also in the top-ten list of cities, as are Harrisburg, Pa., North and Central Jersey, Grand Rapids, Mich., Rochester, N.Y., and Milwaukee.

What these cities all have in common is their excellent school systems, tranquil lifestyles, and family-friendly communities. The demand for rental properties is driven by high housing prices that have not budged in years and climbing mortgage rates prompting buyers to delay their purchase and seek a rental lease. While some cities are accommodating the increased demand, like Miami-Dade County where additional units were released to the rental market, other cities are not as quick to meet the need: Harrisburg, PA did not add any new apartments in the last four-month period, causing most tenants to renew their leases instead of moving out.

Chattanooga: the newest Hub of Tech, VC talent

Chattanooga at night

Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of the first American cities to have installed fiber optic cables with gigabit speeds across the entire city. While this upgrade was completed a little over 10 years ago, Mayor Tim Kelly says the pandemic brought a surge of new residents all looking for comfortable remote working spaces and quality of life.

Kelly, himself a former businessman and startup founder, credited the 2010 EPB investment in fiber optics as a forward-thinking move by previous leaders. He notes that while Chattanooga doesn’t offer financial incentives for relocation like other places, it does cultivate a vibrant cultural life and family-friendly ethos.

As a result- and specifically since the pandemic- Chattanooga has seen a new balance of tech companies and those working for them; once concentrated in major coastal cities, firms are now widely dispersed in more rural areas across the country. The Brookings Institution found that tech jobs in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles had slowed or disappeared, while regions like St. Louis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Nashville showed an unprecedented uptick.

Brickyard, for example, is a newly established venture fund based in Chattanooga. Cameron Doody, the co-founder, explains that as workers from traditional tech hubs swamped cities like Atlanta and Austin, residents of those cities moved to places like Chattanooga for quiet, comfort, and quality of life. Brickyard invests in international tech companies. The founders then come to headquarters in Chattanooga to rigorously expand their product and enjoy the benefits of amenities like a sauna, a gym, and a steam room.

Google Buys Mandiant

Global tech giant Google has announced its acquisition of Mandiant, the cybersecurity company. In a $5.4 billion deal, Google will expand its services to provide businesses with strategic planning assistance for and in response to cyberattacks.

Google Mandiant

The purchase comes as Google tries to distinguish itself and its cloud computing platforms from those offered by Amazon and Microsoft.

Organizations around the world are facing unprecedented cybersecurity challenges as the sophistication and severity of attacks that were previously used to target major governments are now being used to target companies in every industry.

Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud

Based in Virginia, Mandiant has over 2,300 employees, making it Google’s second-biggest purchase ever. The biggest was Google’s 2011 buy of Motorola for $12.5 billion.

Resilience of Small Businesses

What to do when a pandemic has lasted nearly a year and there is little sign of it ending any time soon?  How should struggling businesses act to stay afloat but within the guidelines?  Shockingly perhaps, there are many small firms that are rising to the challenge and showing incredible resilience during this time.

The businesses that are still open are finding new and innovative ways to keep businesses going.  All the while dealing with kids at home and other additional responsibilities.  A lot of eateries are now realizing that takeouts are the best option.  Dining areas have had to remain closed but people still want to enjoy “eating out.”  This way they can do so in a coronavirus-legitimate way and support local businesses.

Many companies have Googled “how much does SEO cost” and are finding ways to make themselves more readily searched online. Since the majority of people are spending far more time online now than ever before, it makes sense that businesses are trying to stay up to date so that people can search for them and find them more easily online.

Educational institutes are figuring out ways to teach online since they are not able to teach on campus right now. The advantage of that is that students are able to access more educational opportunities since distance is no longer an issue.

Fashion and clothing companies have adapted by making masks.  Some make masks to match outfits, others create comic masks and still others make headcoverings and masks to go together.  There is so much that can be done.