This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Paloma Ruiz-Ramon and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.
David McNew/Getty Images
The news is all over the marijuana business, with headlines such as “Big Money Bets Weed Will Bring in the Green”. More people than ever are getting high and paying large amounts to do so – $29.7 million to be exact. With a loyal following of customers in states legally allowing the sale of retail marijuana as well as medical, jumping in to this rapidly expanding market is almost as easy as taking a hit.
However, as a prospective business, you should focus on four main questions about how you can start your company and weed out the competition.
As a grower, you will need high quality supplies such as grow lights and proper soil regulating instruments. This can get quite expensive for larger operations; however, you are also the first in line of marijuana sales. The hundreds of retail dispensaries have a growing demand for high quality weed, making cultivation of marijuana very profitable.
Retail stores are more publicly oriented and must be friendly and conveniently operated to draw in customers. Stores can sell both medical and retail products, but must have licenses for both. If you are looking for a way to help patients and provide a safe, regulated recreational substance to consumers, dispensaries are the way to go. Retail stores also require fewer personnel and have a more straightforward operation.
If neither of these options sound appealing, you can always create marijuana-related apps. There are hundreds of successful apps that rate strains, provide dispensary reviews, and tell you where the best prices for weed can be found.
For both growing and store operations, taxes can take a large chunk out of your time. Excise and sales taxes must be filed, as well as property and license fees to legally sell marijuana. These expenses can become very burdensome for new businesses, although the payoff is usually great. Check the state marijuana website for more information on specific taxes.
Due to the novelty of the marijuana business, marketing is key to bringing in customers. How will you set yourself apart from other dispensaries or growers? Developing a name brand and signature style could draw in more people, allowing you to sell more of your product.
Make sure you have a viable marketing plan to present when starting your business, as well as a target customer base for your advertising.
Currently, the only states that offer retail marijuana are Washington and Colorado. If you already live in one of these states, congratulations! If not, you should consider the medical marijuana industry, which has a wider range of states that have legalized medical use.
These two states also have fairly strict laws to regulate the sale of marijuana, so be sure to prepare your business for these rules.
The future of the marijuana business is uncertain, but it’s almost guaranteed to continue to grow.]]>
This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Yvonne Martin and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.
According to the Wall Street Journal, about 843,000 people immigrated to the US between July 2012 and July 2013. Although this number was just under 40,000 less than the previous year (which experts attribute to the state of America’s economy), this is still an immense number when one considers that it is only 157,000 away from 1 million. The current situation in Central America seems to put the statistics for this year on track to beat out last year’s number, with thousands of immigrants, mainly women and children, making the trek to the Texas border to seek asylum from the chaotic conditions of their own homelands. Officials at the border are doing their best to evaluate the situation of each immigrant and process them correctly and as speedily as they can. Among those working to expedite the process are immigration lawyers, laboring pro bono to aid in navigating the technicalities of U.S. immigration law and accelerate the appeal process for those who are truly in need of asylum. The conditions for the majority of these migrants is not the warmest setting, with those waiting for decisions on their cases having to bide their time in cells until a verdict has been reached, praying and hoping that it will be in their favor.
In addition to coming to assist the stream of migrants entering America for a chance at a safer and more prosperous life, immigration consultants are involved in helping the thousands of immigrants who are currently in America on various types of visas to achieve their dream of naturalization and citizenship. This can be a lengthy process, taking anywhere from 2 to 25 years to complete, according to the Washington Times. Immigration consultants can hasten the process for hopeful citizens-to-be by ensuring that they have included the correct documents and the forms are filled out in accordance with the instructions and that they are sent to the correct application center for processing. A simple sounding procedure is really far more complex because of the many different forms that may need to be filed, as well as the filing fees and dozens of corresponding documents that must be submitted along with the forms for them to have a chance of being approved. Here are some examples of forms that an applicant can expect to encounter on his or her journey towards a green card, and eventually, U.S. citizenship:
These are only a few of the dozens of forms that can be found on the USCIS website, and understanding which ones are the correct forms for one’s particular situation can easily make one ready to pull their hair out, much less if the applicant does not speak English fluently, or at all.
Immigration lawyers make their living by helping immigrants to locate and complete these forms, gather the necessary documents and submit them as speedily as possibly in order to give them the best chance of their application being approved and ushered through to the next phase of the legalization process. For the majority of these applicants, gaining legal status and the benefits that accompany it can be the difference between having their families suffer or blossom in their new environment. It can mean having your child be able to see a doctor and be covered by health care benefits for legal residents or obtaining healthy foods for a pregnant woman or a child less than 5 years old through the WIC program. Immigration lawyers can be part of making these humble and seemingly basic needs become a reality.
Though many people may survey the state of America’s economy and judge it to be not as stable as it once was, immigrants from other countries recognize that America is still in a better position that most other countries in the world. The current housing market may still be on the rebound and the dollar might be slightly behind the world’s top currencies, but the United States is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family that immigrants look to as a haven from persecution, economic hardship and dire living conditions. Immigration consultants are the people who are privileged to be a part of the ride from a newly immigrated individual or family to a proud citizen of these 50 states. Looking into the eyes of a person who has come to them in hopes that they will receive help in making the American dream a reality for themselves and their family and being able to guide them towards achieving that goal is a very worthwhile cause indeed.
This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Angela Brittain and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.
Photo credit: outsidethebeltway.com
Private investigators have been solving mysteries, sifting out criminals and captivating our imaginations for many years.
The first known private detective agency was founded in 1833 by French Soldier, Eugène François Vidocq. The initial duties largely involved intervening in police affairs when clients felt that police officials were inadequate or unwilling to offer help.
The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a private detective agency established by Allan Pinkerton in 1850. Pinkerton was renowned for thwarting a conspiracy to assassinate then President-Elect Abraham Lincoln. Pinkerton agents were hired to pursue western outlaws such as Jesse James and the Sundance Kid. The agency’s logo was an eye embellished with the words “We Never Sleep”, which inspired the term “private eye”.
Photo credit: ART.COM
Requirements for becoming a private investigator can vary, however a high school diploma is generally necessary. Preference is often given to those with a substantial history in law enforcement, military service, or federal intelligence. Corporate or computer forensic investigators will often need a bachelor’s degree. Training generally comes through on-the-job experience over several years’ time. Most states require licensure of private investigators. Job seekers should confirm licensing laws in the area that they wish to work. Investigators who carry handguns or are employed as bodyguards will often have additional requirements or licensing procedures. Those considering becoming an investigator should assess their own character qualities. Those with the most skill have stellar communication and decision making abilities, a natural inquisitiveness, patience and resourcefulness.
The annual median wage for private detectives and investigators was $45,740 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, half of those employed earned less than $45,740 and half earned more. The top 10 percent earned greater than $79,790 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,670.
Employment for private investigators is projected to grow 11% by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is roughly the average for all occupations. Demand for investigators is predicted to rise based on growing security concerns and the desire for protection of confidential information and property. Advanced technology has led to an explosion of cybercrimes (i.e. identity theft, internet scams, and fraud), which will create an increased demand for investigative services. United States Attorney General, Eric Holder, has made the fight on cybercrime one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities.
Photo credit: SCIENCE DAILY/MSU, AEGISPI.COM, VISUALPHOTOS.COM
A detective bond, or private investigator bond, is a type of insurance that must be purchased before a private investigation business can be opened. The purchased bond protects the agencies’ customers in the event of illegal or fraudulent actions by the agency. The bond in turn encourages the licensee to follow all regulations related to their work. For example, if the investigator were to accept payment for an agreed service and then fail to perform that service – the client could make a claim on the bond. The bond would hold the investigator accountable for remedying the situation, which may include paying restitution up to the bond’s full value. The penal sum for private investigator bonds varies state by state. Prior to purchasing a surety bond, investigators must generally agree to a credit check and obtain application approval.
Reference: JW Surety Bonds. (2014). Surety Bonds 101. Retrieved from http://www.jwsuretybonds.com/info/surety-bonds-101.htm]]>
This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Sarah Bell and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.
Sarah Bell and her next free car*
How I got my car for free and other stories of a repurposed life (not only for the rich and famous – how auctions save the environment and help me through college).
“Auctions need to get the word out to 20-somethings about the opportunity to get something great” says Lee Kalfon, historian and auction consultant1. Auctions are one of the best kept secrets around. Everyone loves a bargain and buyers and sellers alike, flock to auctions in search of one. They conjure up excitement, mystique, visions of treasures and romance. I was pretty excited and nervous at my first auction. Although new to me, auctions have been around as early as 500 B.C. (think Babylon and Rome)and are so successful, that they continue to draw crowds to this day.
More than a sale, an auction is an event – entertainment, a chance to marvel at the skill of the auctioneer as he/she works the crowd to get the most for an item, a chance to capture a piece of history – to give an old object new life instead of tossing it and the most efficient way for the seller to get the highest possible fair market value. In the case of a bargain hunter like me, they are the chance to find a diamond in the rough, that with a bit of tender loving care, can be transformed into a thing of beauty, and perhaps add change to my pocket. (Which is how I got my car for free, but more on that later.)
My first auction was an event. It wasn’t just showing up for a sale, like any auction, it required research and homework. I needed wheels and the most affordable way to get them was at a public car auction. A few days before, a mechanic friend and I perused the lot of old cars, hoping to find a few “right ones”. Once I looked past the dirt and clean up, it was my job to research repairs and values so I could be prepared with a top limit price on the day of the big event.
Photo from http://www.winstonsalemusedcars.com – Do your homework. Inspect before you bid.
For the seller, auctions are the quickest, most efficient way to get the highest possible fair market value. Auctioneers are trained specialists in their craft, which involves appraising, marketing and drawing a crowd.
“The calling is just a small part of the job”, says Mr. G.R. Dick Heatwole, a 40 plus year veteran in the auction industry from Heatwole Auctions of Harrisonburg, Virginia, “It is the marketing and personal contact that are important. There are a lot of auctioneers in this town, but only a few are known and it is because of the marketing2” For the seller’s benefit, there is often a minimum price set, but no ceiling – the seller gets the top dollar for the day. There is a larger pool of buyers, and buyers come to buy so the seller is able to get more for their goods. The competition and urgency create excitement so the prices are better than estate sales and all of the seller’s goods are sold at auction so there is nothing to landfill.
At auctions you are receiving the service of a licensed, bonded, professional, an assurance that your goods are safe and that you are receiving the most for your valuables.This is not something estate or garage sales deliver. Kenny Lindsay notes that in estate sales, 50% of items are sold at a discount and only 30% of items marked with a low price will be sold, while 20% will be tossed. At estate sales, prices can only go down and goods are thrown away. At auctions, prices can only go up and everything gets sold.
The cars at auction the day I bought mine were put back on the road. Auction expert, Lee Kalfon thinks auction dealers should capitalize on the green movement and the appeal of vintage among millennials, “There is a huge move against waste and buying at auctions is green… We need to market antiques as the solution to box store fatigue and as an answer to overflowing landfills. Working to engage the next generation will ensure a healthy industry for generations to come,” she said.
Besides the 250 million tons of annually generated household waste, 12-15 million cars are taken off the road and 3 million tons of office furniture is discarded every year in landfills. In 2012 there were more than a total of 11.5 million tons of furniture in U.S. landfills alone. By putting your items in an auction, not only will you get the best price, but the items will be repurposed, refurbished, restored, recycled and treasured – given new life instead of a burial at the city dump. You will be saving a piece of history, saving the environment and as a buyer, have the opportunity to own something unique and perhaps, with your special touches, create something unusual and beautiful – and that is where I get my biggest thrill – giving something a new life.
Photo www.hatauctions.com – A lot of people showed up for 8 cars – raising the competition & price. You have to know your top price & stick to it.
The day of the auction came. I was excited and nervous. I arrived early to talk with the auctioneer about how to bid and told him it was my first auction. He explained the process and was very patient when the bidding started, pausing and looking my way to see if I understood the last bid. I had done my homework, checked the engines and construction, researched values and fix-up costs. I was ready. My limit was $800. The trick would be to stick to it and not get caught up in the excitement or competition of bidding. Not so easy with cars, but really simple with furniture if you want to wait. Bid on the “leftovers” (items no one is bidding on) and you can walk away with bargains. But I had competition. A lot of people showed up, raising the price. $800 came and went; $900…. “Do I hear $1000″… I drove off the lot with the 2001 VW Passat for $1200 (Mom came along).
So how is that free? Well, I bought it at an auction, with lots of scrubbing, cleaning, reconditioning, and the tender touch of the mechanic and paint shop, I had a new, beautiful car. I drove it for 6 months until I found what I really wanted (at another auction) and sold it for more than it cost. Free car! How do I get money for school? Sell another one? Repurpose furniture? Improve the value of my rescued finds, tell their story and sell for a profit (economy, environmental stewardship and entrepreneurship all in one) – all courtesy of the local auction house. Lee Kalfon feels that is something to tweet about and so do I.
*Next Free Car: Auction price $3200, Repairs $1480. Local Market Value $8200 to $11,000
First Free Car:
My Other Recycled, Restored & Repurposed Treasures:
After (auction $10, paint $20, knobs $20. Sale Price $150)
Current Project: 50 Cent Chairs
1. Lee Kalfon: http://antiqueauctionforum.com/podcasts/132-lee-kalfon-the-millennial-generation-antiques/ from podcast
2. Mr. G.R. Dick Heatwole is a 2nd generation auctioneer and owner of Heatwole Auctions Harrisonburg, Virginia; from an email interview and auction attendee report]]>
This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Josue Gonzalez and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.
This post is an entry for our $25,000 scholarship contest. The post was created by Yuanyuan (Susanna) Huang and may not always reflect the views of JW Surety Bonds.