Meet the Idea Cafe grant finalists

It was not easy to choose from the exceptional line-up of semi-finalists for the Innovation and Originality grant, but the deed is now done. We are honored to present you the people and companies who will compete for winning the grant. Read below for short descriptions of their businesses and ideas.

Five "Must Have" Website Communications Tools for Customer Loyalty

The Idea Cafe blog will be publishing articles that we believe will be of interest to small business owners. This first article is by Oliver Mauss, CEO of 1&1 Internet Inc.

When developing an online business, it is very important to keep in mind the features and web design necessary to facilitate excellent customer service. Growing customer loyalty is especially crucial to the survival of online businesses, as impatient buyers have more and more competitors to choose from, and will quickly leave a site if they cannot communicate their questions or concerns in real-time.

And the semi-finalists for the Idea Cafe Innovation and Originality Grant are...

Here they are, the semi-finalists for the Innovation and Originality Grant. Everyone on that list impressed us with their ingenuity, business acumen, and willingness to help others. If you are on the list -- congratulations! If not -- stay tuned to see which of the semi-finalists will continue to the next stage of the grant campaign.

Idea Cafe talks to business expert Jim Tracy

Please tell us a bit about yourself. When did your passion for working with small businesses start? Jim Tracy, 43, married, two sons, President of America's Best Companies, educated with a degree in Chemistry from Loyola University.

The passion for working with small businesses started when I was nine or ten and my father started a small plumbing company. I watched him experience the highs and lows of building and maintaining a small business. I was destined in life to build my career around helping small businesses. It was easy for me to identify with their needs.

Do you have what it takes to make it in the fashion business?

The folks from leftright.tv contacted us to say they are working on a new reality show for MTV that is best described as The Apprentice meets Project Runway, and they are looking for young people with business and marketing savvy who are also interested in the fashion industry.

Breakdown of grant applicants by business sector

As we were going through the long list of grant applications, it struck me how diverse the business ideas in that list were. While we will no doubt be getting more interesting details about our finalists and their companies, here is a fist look at the composition of the line-up of applicants.

The graph is based on about 75% of the data and is an approximation, but it does provide valid insight about the types and relative number of companies and individuals that applied. Click on the thumbnail below for the full image.

Exciting grant competition upcoming on Idea Cafe

As you are probably aware, we just closed the application phase for our sixth cash grant for small businesses. The Idea Cafe team will now start the winner selection process, and the new blog will be a helpful tool in that demanding task.

Presenting the Idea Cafe Blog

It is with great pleasure that we, the team at Idea Cafe presents to you, the visitors, this new addition to the one of the oldest online small business communities. We hope that this humble web publication platform will prove a useful interaction forum and an informative resource.

Idea Cafe's sixth cash grant for small business owners and start-ups just closed its application phase. Selection now starts. As we want to award the grant to the most innovative and inspiring business idea, we will be presenting the finalists on this blog.

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