January 9th, 2011
In business, numbers usually tell the story. If you use them to judge 2010, it was probably a better year for small businesses than 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, for example — the most recent period for which the data are available — there was a net loss of 96,000 companies with fewer than 100 employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2009, the loss was 400,000 companies.
Numbers, however, do not tell the whole story. Behind every one of those small businesses that failed was an entrepreneur with an idea and a dream. “It was very painful,” said one of those owners, Elizabeth Kavanaugh, whose 12-year-old business, Large Format Digital, closed in March. “My husband and I are still struggling with the aftermath.”
Marc Hedlund, co-founder of Wesabe, a now-defunct personal finance site, wrote on his blog that while he was “enormously sad” about the closing of his business, he hoped that by writing about the difficulties Wesabe faced he would “inform other people who try to start companies in the future.” In that spirit, here are the stories of six small businesses that closed their doors in 2010.
A personal finance Web site based in San Francisco. Wesabe opened in 2006 and closed in July.
AT ITS PEAK Wesabe was one of the first movers in the Web 2.0 financial space. Its founders, Mr. Hedlund and Jason Knight, envisioned a site that would help consumers budget their money and make better spending decisions. The company received two rounds of venture capital financing totaling $4.7 million and signed up 150,000 members in its first year.
WHAT WENT WRONG Ten months after Wesabe’s introduction, a competitor, Mint.com, appeared. As Mr. Hedlund acknowledges, Mint had a better name and better design and was easier to use. Within nine months, Mint had 300,000 users and $17 million in venture financing. In 2009, Mint was sold to Intuit for $170 million.
LOOKING BACK Mr. Hedlund wishes he had simplified the consumer’s experience. “We wanted to help people,” he said, “but it was too much work to get that help.”
A personal assistance and professional organizing service in Manhattan, Gotham Concierge opened in 2004 and closed in August.
AT ITS PEAK In the summer of 2008, Alison Kero, Gotham’s founder, was running errands and handling tasks for more clients than she could handle, from busy housewives to disorganized lawyers and hedge fund managers.
WHAT WENT WRONG As home prices and the stock market plummeted in the fall of 2008, Ms. Kero’s clients began cutting back. She spent thousands of dollars on advertising that did not work. Worse, she became increasingly frustrated with the tedium of running errands. In July, when one of her two remaining clients forgot about a meeting — and then blamed Ms. Kero for not reminding her about it — she decided to close up shop.
LOOKING BACK “I realize now I didn’t love what I did,” she said. “I loved running a business.” In late October, she moved to Denver and started a pet care business, Alicat Pet Service.
A social network for parents and families, based in Wyncote, Pa., iParents.com opened in 2008 and closed in January 2010.
AT ITS PEAK Don Milley founded iParents.com at a time when Facebook was still gaining traction with middle-aged people. “iParents was a place where family members would be able to interact with each other online, share schedules, news, photos and coordinate activities,” Mr. Milley said. Nine months after opening, the site had 70,000 members and venture capitalists were interested in investing about $3 million — if it could get to 100,000 members.
WHAT WENT WRONG Too much time and money were spent on enhanced functionality, like text-alert reminders about appointments and the ability to turn family photos into refrigerator magnets. “All the bells and whistles diluted our premise — to be a community for parents and families,” Mr. Milley said. In late 2009, he hired a marketing company in Florida to do online outreach and run a photo contest to try to get to 100,000 members. He paid $18,000 for the work and never heard from the company again. “That was the death knell for us,” he said.
LOOKING BACK Although Facebook was a competitor, Mr. Milley felt there was ample room for iParents, too: “The cause of death was really a lack of focus on building a community — that, and we ran out of working capital.” In November, Mr. Milley started PerDiemDeals.com, which sells Groupon-style coupons to small-business owners.
Large Format Digital
Based in Edgerton, Wis., the company printed advertisements on the side panels of trucks. It opened in 1998 and closed in March.
AT ITS PEAK In 2006, business took off, growing about 60 percent a year until 2008. In 2007, sales were $3 million and the company had 15 employees.
WHAT WENT WRONG When the business was growing, Ms. Kavanaugh and Jeff Rank, her co-founder and husband, decided to spend $1 million to build their own installation facility, which they believed would save them money in the long term. The mortgage closed on the same day in September 2008 that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Within a month, Large Format’s workload fell 50 percent. “It was literally like someone turned off a faucet,” said Ms. Kavanaugh.
LOOKING BACK “I wish I had spoken to an attorney right after the closing and a C.P.A. with small-business expertise,” said Ms. Kavanaugh. “Maybe they would have told us we didn’t have to go through with building.” Her remaining six employees bought her customer list and started a similar company, Fetch Graphics. Ms. Kavanaugh was hired as social program manager.
Based in Eugene, Ore., the firm did mostly commercial work. It opened in 1996 and closed in February.
AT ITS PEAK In 2008, Varvitsiotis had six employees, more than half a million dollars in annual revenue and five projects under way — enough work for two years. Richard Barbis, the founder, had plans to build the business into a 15- to 20-person firm and was grooming two employees to be partners.
WHAT WENT WRONG When the stock market fell in 2008, clients started to cancel projects. Too much of the company’s work was in the private sector, Mr. Barbis said, as opposed to the public sector where many projects were financed with government stimulus money. With work scarce, bigger firms started competing with Varvitsiotis for the smaller projects it usually landed.
LOOKING BACK “We were hit from all sides,” said Mr. Barbis. His new business, Opa Cove, sells sporting good products for children.
A gourmet baby food company based in Long Island City, N.Y., Petite Palate opened in 2006 and closed in October.
AT ITS PEAK In the spring of 2007, Petite Palate’s organic frozen baby food was sold on Amazon Grocery and in about 100 stores in the Northeast and Midwest. The founders, Lisa Beels, a personal chef, and Christine Naylor, a former cookbook publicist, were presenting their business plan to potential investors, hoping to raise $2.5 million to $5 million.
WHAT WENT WRONG In the fall of 2008, potential investors, skittish about the economy, pulled out. The company was struggling to get its products into the freezer section of grocery stores — yet Ms. Beels and Ms. Naylor stuck to their concept because they believed frozen food was healthier for children than food in jars or pouches.
LOOKING BACK Ms. Beels said she and Ms. Naylor should have been more open to producing shelf-stable formulations. “It took us a long time to acknowledge that and by then we were in debt and couldn’t support the company,” Ms. Beels said. Her new personal chef business is called Haute Palate.
January 9th, 2011
By David A. Fahrenthold and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 12:24 AM
The man identified by authorities as the gunman in Saturday's shooting rampage, which killed six and critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), appears to have left a trail of bizarre and anti-government messages on the Internet.
Law enforcement sources identified the gunman as Jared Lee Loughner, 22, of Tucson. Loughner -- or someone using his name -- left a series of postings and homemade videos that laid out a fervent, though largely incoherent, set of political views.
On YouTube, Loughner's profile listed Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's "The Communist Manifesto" and Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" among his favorite books. He also included high school English class classics such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Old Man and the Sea," plus children's works such as Aesop's fables and "The Phantom Tollbooth."
In one video, titled "America: Your last memory in a terrorist country!," a figure in dark clothing and a smiley-face mask burns an American flag in the desert. The soundtrack is a 2001 song by the band Drowning Pool, in which the singer repeatedly shrieks "Let the bodies hit the floor!"
Another, posted Dec. 15, begins with a line of text reading "My Final Thoughts: Jared Lee Loughner!" What follows on the screen are seemingly unconnected thoughts about currency and dreams, and the words "I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar."
The videos also say that Loughner applied to join the U.S. Army. The Army issued a statement Saturday saying that he attempted to enlist but was rejected for reasons that officials would not disclose.
Another video attacks the police at Tucson's Pima Community College, where he had been a student.
School officials said in a statement late Saturday that Loughner attended the community college from 2005 until last fall, when he withdrew after disciplinary problems.
The statement said that between February and September last year, campus police were called five times to deal with disruptions Loughner caused in classrooms and libraries. On Sept. 29, the college said, it discovered that Loughner had posted a YouTube video he had made on the campus.
"In the video, he claims that the College is illegal according to the U.S. Constitution, and makes other claims," the college's statement said.
That day, two police officers delivered a letter of suspension to Loughner at his parents' house in a Tucson suburb.
On Oct. 4, during a meeting with Loughner, his parents and college administrators, he agreed to withdraw, the college said. School officials told him he could return only if he obtained a clearance certifying that "in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others."
Loughner's troubled past also includes a drug arrest.
The videos do not mention Giffords by name. They do not describe any specific actions Loughner planned. And they do not seem to link Loughner explicitly to any mainstream political group or figures.
Federal law enforcement sources said Loughner used a Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol that was found with a fully loaded magazine that held about 30 bullets. He had another magazine that held about 30 bullets and two others that each held about 15 bullets. He also was carrying a knife.
The sources said he was standing about 15 feet from Giffords and started running, screaming something. Then he began firing rapidly, "pulling the trigger really fast."
An eyewitness to the shooting said a "shabby"-looking young man in dark sweats appeared as Giffords met constituents on the sidewalk.
Steven Rayle said the shooter raised a handgun and shot Giffords in the face from a few feet away. After that, Rayle said, the gunman shot repeatedly into a crowd of people who had been standing around Giffords.
"I don't think he was even aiming. He was just firing at whatever," Rayle said. After the shooting stopped, the gunman was tackled, and Rayle said he helped hold him down. Even then, Rayle said, Loughner said nothing to explain his actions.
"I think he did say something. But there was no, like, protest statement, or anything crazy," Rayle said. As people strained to hold him on the ground, "he might have just said, 'Stop.'"
Loughner's address is in a neighborhood of ranch houses and ramblers in a Tucson suburb lined with palm trees and cactus, just a few miles from the shopping center where Giffords was shot. By midafternoon, police had cordoned off an area of several blocks, as streams of reporters and other interested people rushed to the neighborhood.
In high school, Loughner played saxophone in the jazz band, and his clothes alternated between typical Arizona high school fashions - shorts and a T-shirt - and "Goth" clothes. Some days, said friend Timothy Cheves, Loughner would wear long, dark pants with chains on them, and T-shirts with the names of heavy-metal bands.
"He wasn't very outgoing, but he was personable. If you sat down to talk to him, he would talk to you back," Cheves, 22, said. "But he'd get frustrated with people easily. . . . He'd think that a lot of people were just idiots."
That included people in politics, Cheves said: "He was like a radical against both parties. . . . From what I got, it seemed like he didn't like anybody that was in power."
Cheves recalled one moment when they worked together at a restaurant, the Mandarin Grill, where Loughner was a dishwasher.
"I was trying to tell him, you know, you need to get your life on the right track," Cheves said. He believed Loughner was using marijuana. "I was telling him about God and all that. And he broke down crying, and he gave me a big ol' hug, and said, 'Thank you, you're one of the only ones that ever listened to me.' "
Loughner never talked of using violence, Cheves said, but "there was something there that wasn't quite right."
Williams reported from Tucson.
January 9th, 2011
University Medical Center spokeswoman Darci Slaten told The Associated Press that Giffords underwent a two-hour surgery Saturday and has not been conscious since the shooting. She said more information will be released at a news conference in which one of the doctors who operated on Giffords plans to speak.
Outside of the hospital, candles flickered at a makeshift memorial. Signs read "Peace + love are stronger," "God bless America and "We love you, Gabrielle." People also laid down bouquets of flowers, American flags and pictures of Giffords.
Authorities said Gifford, 40, was targeted at a public gathering by a man with a semiautomatic weapon around 10 a.m. Saturday outside a busy Tucson supermarket. Arizona's chief federal judge and five others were killed and 13 people were wounded, including the Democrat lawmaker.
He also fired at her district director and shot indiscriminately at staffers and others standing in line to talk to the congresswoman, said Mark Kimble, a communications staffer for Giffords.
"He was not more than three or four feet from the congresswoman and the district director," Kimble said, describing the scene as "just complete chaos, people screaming, crying."
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said the rampage ended only after two people tackled the gunman.
"He was definitely on a mission," said Villec, a former Giffords intern.
Police say the shooter was in custody, and was identified by people familiar with the investigation as Jared Loughner, 22. U.S. officials who provided his name to the AP spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release it publicly.
His motivation was not immediately known, but Dupnik described him as mentally unstable and possibly acting with an accomplice.
His office said a man possibly associated with the suspect who was near the scene was being sought. The man, who was photographed by a security camera, was described as white with dark hair and 40-45 years old.
The assassination attempt left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.
A shaken President Barack Obama called the attack "a tragedy for our entire country."
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Sunday that FBI Director Robert Mueller was traveling to Arizona to help coordinate the investigation.
In a brief statement Sunday morning, House Speaker John Boehner said flags on the House side of the Capitol in Washington will be flown at half staff to honor Giffords' slain aide, Gabe Zimmerman. Boehner says normal House business this week is postponed to focus on any necessary actions in the shooting aftermath.
Strong reaction came from overseas, as well.
British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed shock at the shooting, and added that he shared President Barack Obama's belief that "we must never allow violence and hate to extinguish the open political discourse which is our surest protection."
Fidel Castro also denounced the attack as atrocious. "Even those of us who don't share at all the politics and philosophies (of the Obama administration) sincerely desire that no children, judges, legislators or citizens of the United States die in such an absurd and unjustifiable way," Castro said in an opinion piece titled "An Atrocious Act," published in Cuban state-controlled media.
Giffords is a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November against a tea party candidate who sought to throw her from office over her support of the health care law. Anger over her position became violent at times, with her Tucson office vandalized after the House passed the overhaul last March and someone showing up at a recent gathering with a weapon.
Authorities said the dead included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Christina Greene, 9; Giffords aide Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.
The sheriff blamed the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country, much of it occurring in Arizona.
Giffords expressed similar concern, even before the shooting. In an interview after her office was vandalized, she referred to the animosity against her by conservatives, including Sarah Palin's decision to list Giffords' seat as one of the top "targets" in the midterm elections.
"For example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.
In the hours after the shooting, Palin issued a statement in which she expressed her "sincere condolences" to the family of Giffords and the other victims.
During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
"I don't see the connection," between the fundraisers featuring weapons and Saturday's shooting, said John Ellinwood, Kelly's spokesman. "I don't know this person, we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don't see the connection.
"Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners — this was just a deranged individual."
Law enforcement officials said members of Congress reported 42 cases of threats or violence in the first three months of 2010, nearly three times the 15 cases reported during the same period a year earlier. Nearly all dealt with the health care bill, and Giffords was among the targets.
The shooting cast a pall over the Capitol as politicians of all stripes denounced the attack as a horrific. Capitol police asked members of Congress to be more vigilant about security in the wake of the shooting. Obama dispatched his FBI chief to Arizona.
Slaten said nine other wounded were being treated at the hospital, four of them critical and five of them serious. Slaten said the three others were treated at other hospitals and released.
Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said besides the aide Zimmerman, who was killed, two other Giffords staffers were shot but expected to survive. Zimmerman was a former social worker who served as Giffords' director of community outreach.
Greg Segalini, an uncle of Christina, the 9-year-old victim, told the Arizona Republic that a neighbor was going to the event and invited her along because she had just been elected to the student council and was interested in government.
Christina, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, was involved in many activities, from ballet to baseball. She had just received her first Holy Communion at St. Odilia's Catholic Church in Tucson, Catholic Diocese of Tucson officials told The Arizona Daily Star.
The suspect Loughner was described by a former classmate as a pot-smoking loner, and the Army said he tried to enlist in December 2008 but was rejected for reasons not disclosed.
Federal law enforcement officials were poring over versions of a MySpace page that included a mysterious "Goodbye friends" message published hours before the shooting and exhorted his friends to "Please don't be mad at me." In one of several YouTube videos, which featured text against a dark background, Loughner described inventing a new U.S. currency and complained about the illiteracy rate among people living in Giffords' congressional district in Arizona.
"I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People," Loughner wrote. "Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen (sic)."
In Loughner's middle-class neighborhood — about a five-minute drive from the scene — sheriff's deputies had much of the street blocked off. The neighborhood sits just off a bustling Tucson street and is lined with desert landscaping and palm trees.
Neighbors said Loughner lived with his parents and kept to himself. He was often seen walking his dog, almost always wearing a hooded sweat shirt and listening to his iPod.
Loughner's MySpace profile indicates he attended and graduated from school in Tucson and had taken college classes. He did not say if he was employed.
High school classmate Grant Wiens, 22, said Loughner seemed to be "floating through life" and "doing his own thing."
"Sometimes religion was brought up or drugs. He smoked pot, I don't know how regularly. And he wasn't too keen on religion, from what I could tell," Wiens said.
Lynda Sorenson said she took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College's Northwest campus and told the Arizona Daily Star he was "obviously very disturbed." "He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts," she said.
In October 2007, Loughner was cited in Pima County for possession of drug paraphernalia, which was dismissed after he completed a diversion program, according to online records.
Giffords was first elected to Congress amid a wave of Democratic victories in the 2006 election, and has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in 2012 and a gubernatorial prospect in 2014.
She is married to astronaut Mark E. Kelly, who has piloted space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery. The two met in China in 2003 while they were serving on a committee there, and were married in January 2007. Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the Senate Commerce Space and Science Subcommittee, said Kelly is training to be the next commander of the space shuttle mission slated for April. His brother is currently serving aboard the International Space Station, Nelson said.
Associated Press Writers Amanda Lee Myers and Terry Tang in Tucson, Jacques Billeaud, Bob Christie and Paul Davenport in Phoenix, and David Espo, Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan, Adam Goldman and Charles Babington in Washington contributed to this report.
January 8th, 2011
Friends describe him as a "pot-smoking loner" who reads "Communist Manifesto" and "Mein Kampf"
TUSCON, Ariz ( KTLA) -- Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged Tucson gunman, was described Saturday as a politically radical loner. Now an internet trail emerged in which he apparently railed against the US government and told friends: "Please don't be mad at me".
There are unconfirmed reports that 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner once met with Rep. Giffords in 2007. A former high school friend said that he had often talked about meeting and talking with the congresswoman.
Arizona court records show Loughner has twice been charged with previous offenses. The first, in October 2007, related to the possession of drug paraphernalia. It was unclear what the second, a year later, related to. Both charges were dismissed after Loughner completed a "diversion program".
People who knew him described him as philosophical, a person who read a lot of books. On his YouTube page, Loughner listed among his favorite books "The Communist Manifesto," "Siddhartha," "The Old Man And The Sea," "Gulliver's Travels," "Mein Kampf," "The Republic" and "Meno."
One former high school friend Tweeted about knowing the accused gunman:
"He was a pot head and into rock, like Hendrix, The Doors, Anti-Flag," she wrote. "I haven't seen him in person since 2007 in a sign language class. As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy. He had a lot of friends until he got alcohol poisoning in 2006 and dropped out of school. Mainly a loner, very philosophical."
Also on his YouTube page were several ranting videos. In one, Loughner wrote: "If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem. You call me a terrorist. Thus, the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem."
Loughner was taken into custody at the scene. Law enforcement officials said they believed he was a military veteran.
AP Article touts right-wing type of assertions in error:
Below CNN article wrongfully implies "veiled Tea Party Connection" by pointing out Gifford's campaign opponent affiliations as well as vandalism due to healthcare reform:
January 8th, 2011
(note: Congressman Giffords has been ON THE RECORD with Greta at 10pm several times to discuss illegal immigration, insecurity of the Arizona border and violence)
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot In Arizona
by NPR Staff
January 8, 2011
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot outside a grocery store in Tucson while holding a public event, Arizona Public Media reported Saturday.
Giffords, who was re-elected to her third term in November, was hosting her first "Congress on Your Corner” event at the Safeway in northwest Tucson when a gunman ran up and started shooting. At least five other people, including members of her staff, were hurt, according to Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media.
Giffords was transported to University Medical Center in Tucson. Her condition was not immediately known.
Michaels said Giffords was talking to a couple when the man ran up, firing indiscriminately, and then ran off. He was tackled by a bystander.
More details to come.