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Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer product shot.

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Better, stronger, faster

"Ordering one for my nephew who's in the Air Force in California. He's been using an old slinky to slice his bananas. He should really enjoy this product!"

"What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone? … this is one of the greatest inventions of all time."

The Hutzler 571, a yellow plastic banana slicer made by Canaan, Conn.-based Hutzler Manufacturing, sounds like a joke product conceived by Looney Tunes or Saturday Night Live. And the reviews fit with that theme. The gag comments were made online, but as this story in BusinessWeek points out, they're for a very real device that sells for $4.89 (U.S.) on and ranks No. 2 on the website's "mandolins and slicers" category.

The company won't disclose its sales numbers, but given the fact it's promoting the gag reviews on its social media accounts means the attention the reviews provide is clearly boosting the bottom line.

"This is the closest thing to a meme you might encounter as a small brand," Robert Ricci, who heads the social media practice at Marina Maher Communications in New York, told BusinessWeek. "People are looking for companies that reveal a human side, so play along with it."

Keek closes new funding round

Social networking platform Keek has closed $18 million in new funding, bringing total investment in the company to $30 million, a press release states. AGF Investments, Pinetree Capital and Plazacorp Ventures led the current round, with added participation from Cranson Capital. Keek, which enables users to create and share 36-second videos ("keeks") with webcam, iPhone or Android devices, will use the money to accelerate the release of new features, to support more platforms and to boost its infrastructure. The company says it's adding 200,000 new users a day. "Beyond best-in-class technology, consistent stellar growth and great user experience, the thing that impresses me most is the quality of the team and its ability to execute," says Sheldon Inwentash, chairman and CEO of Pinetree Capital.

Boost financial skills to build confidence

Intuit Canada, which provides business, financial and tax management solutions, has released a report called Bridging The Gap, commissioned from Angus Reid, on how small businesses can boost their financial skills. The survey was conducted from Nov. 27 to 29, 2012, with 501 small-business owners who have 100 or fewer employees. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Some of the key findings:

  • Canadian small businesses struggle with financial management: 83 per cent scored ‘basic’ or lower on a 10-question quiz.
  • Owners recognize the importance of financial management and they want more help and resources. The top requests include more time with an accountant 42 per cent, and information sessions with other entrepreneurs (24 per cent).
  • When they get access to help and resources, the confidence level of small-business owners jumps. The ones who get what they need are nearly five times more likely to feel confident about their finances.


Join the red-tape revolution

Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is calling on Canadians to join the "red-tape revolution" by signing its on-line petition to encourage politicians to take action to "reduce this 'hidden tax' on jobs." The organization has set up another Red Tape Awareness Week, this year from Jan. 21 to 25, when it will make a series of announcements. "While large companies can afford to hire lawyers, accountants and other professionals to deal with red tape, entrepreneurs must cope with a range of compliance issues on their own, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage," it states on its website.

Canada-India relationship

TiE Toronto resumes its TiE India Initiatives program for 2013 with a breakfast event featuring Nirmal Verma, the new Indian High Commissioner to Canada, who will discuss the Canada-India relationship and share his views on how to further it. This breakfast is being held in collaboration with the Consulate General of India. It takes place Jan 28, from 7:45 am to 9 am, and you can click here until Jan. 21 to register.


How not to screw up

To younger entrepreneurs who are starting out, if you want to avoid the "dumb mistakes" Mindvalley founder Vishen Lakhiani says he made, here are seven things he would like to tell you.


Wait times are an expense

If you want to make a difference in your customer service and cost structures, start thinking of your customer's wait times as your expense. Since customer demand is not predictable, you won't be able to eliminate customer wait times entirely, but you will be able to improve them, columnist Chris Griffiths said in August, 2012.

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