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Perks of Using Instagram Micro-Influencers for Your Business Influencer Marketing is on the rise, with Instagram micro influencers let your brand get the most out of Instagram

Perks of Using Instagram Micro-Influencers for Your Business
Influencer Marketing is on the rise, with Instagram micro influencers let your brand get the most out of Instagram

Charu Mitra Dubey
Contributor
Freelancer

With over 800 million active monthly users and 95 million visuals posted every day, Instagram has become a popular social media hub for individuals and brands as well. From big MNCs to SMBs, most of the companies are leveraging Instagram as a marketing tool.

Marketers understand the need of business promotion on Instagram and so there are around 25 million business profiles on Instagram. Especially businesses related to fashion, food and travel are finding Instagram the best platform to promote their products or services.

“Today in the age of booming social media presence for every individual, a person doesn’t need to have millions of followers to be influential. It is all based on the one metric that is engagement. This is why Instagram is considered to be the primary hub of their influencer discovery tools that make it a natural fit for building the audience based around specific interests,” says Subrat Kar, Co-Founder of Vidooly.

Micro- Influencers are all over Instagram. People with around 1,000- 100,000 followers are termed as micro-influencers. But how can these people be of your benefit when there are people who have even more followers? Well, according to studies the micro-influencers have more engagement rates than the Instagram celebrities.

“A micro-influencer allows the brand to create additional content that supports the brand. It is also perceived as an endorsement of the brand by many potential buyers. And a large percentage of people trust influencers and online reviews as much as they would trust a friend’s advice.” says David Abehsera, President and Co-founder of The Woo.

Let’s checkout how these micro-influencers can help your brand grow.

Niche Targeting

Promoting a brand through social media is an effective way of marketing but promoting a brand with a targeted audience is even more effective. When you hire a micro influencer, you get a chance to show off your products/ services to a specific group of people aka your targeted audience. This allows you to get more engagements and hence more sales.

“Some effective micro-influencers have just a few hundred, some have a thousand and others have tens of thousands. They are super specific in their content, which is why it is not meant for the masses. That works well for businesses that are looking to a highly targeted demographic,” says Kar.

Affordable Marketing

When you are running a small business, you need to be budget conscious and at the same time, you also need the best for your brand. Now, hiring micro influencers can help your brand grow without harming your budget. Moreover, with micro influencers, you may also experiment with what works for your brand or not without worrying about the wastage of cash.

“The declining effectiveness and rising cost of celebrity influencer marketing on digital media are driving the growth of micro influencer marketing, ” says Pradeep Chopra, CEO of Digital Vidya.

Higher Engagement Rates

As mentioned above, micro influencers have a higher engagement rate than the Instagram celebrities. It’s a common misconception of people that the more followers you have the merrier engagement rate you get. “Instagram is a high engagement platform and micro influencers receive the highest engagement rates within Instagram itself. The reason is that they have very targeted and passionate followers,” says Abehsera.

Micro Influencers Appear to be more Authentic

When you hire a micro influencer, you get to promote your product in the front of a bunch of loyal followers who are following that particular person because of his/ her expertise in a specific field. This doesn’t only let know about the product but also encourages them to trust your brand as well. And hence it boosts conversions and sales.

Moreover, with the micro influencers posting about your products or services, people start relating themselves to your brand as well.

“Micro influencers on Instagram are likely to post their own content, reply to comments and behave more authentically than a brand or a celebrity with a social media manager might. If a micro-influencer engages with a promotional post on Instagram, their followers might be more inclined to click to learn more about the brand they are posting about,” says Kar.

How to use Whatsapp as a Business Tool: 3 Easy Tips WhatsApp is no more just an instant messaging tool, explore the creative aspects of WhatsApp for your Business.

How to use Whatsapp as a Business Tool: 3 Easy Tips
WhatsApp is no more just an instant messaging tool, explore the creative aspects of WhatsApp for your Business.

Charu Mitra Dubey
Contributor
Freelancer

To thrive as a business in today’s world, you need to know what your customers need, create a healthy relationship with them before your competitor does and for that social media is the most helpful way.

“Nowadays every business is using social media sites but if you want to be on top, so for an amazing growth You just need some perfect strategies which will include your targeted audience and new leads. Now it depends on you that what type of business you are doing and how will you create interest in your targeted audience because the way you Post for your business really matters on social media,” believes Deepanshi Tiwari, Co-Founder of Ilkway Digital Company.

With 1.5 billion accounts and 450 million daily active users, Whatsapp can’t be ignored when it comes to social media marketing. In just 9 years, Whatsapp has become a daily addiction for all ages, no matter whether it’s a child or the grandmother of the child, they are all active on the app. Though most of the people see it as a free communication app, marketer look at it as a free and powerful marketing tool.

“WhatsApp was earlier just a messaging app, but now I feel, it has the potential to become the next new marketing tool for businesses. And the interesting thing about Whatsapp is that it helps you promoting in a very personal manner and you get an instant response as well,” believes Sreoshi Bakshi, Founder of Digi Phoenix.

24×7 Customer Support

Providing customer support has become a necessity for every business, no matter what niche your business belongs to. Your customers want you to be present every time they need help related to your product or services. WhatsApp can be a big yes for such situations. Sending a WhatsApp message whenever they get stuck is the easiest way to connect with you.

“The idea of instant messaging for businesses is to provide quick solutions. Companies are now also adopting intelligent chatbots on their websites. Consumers prefer such simple and fast interactions. Here, WhatsApp is much better than Slack to interact directly with consumers. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion monthly users, so, it’s obvious that consumers spend considerable time over it,” believes Dhruvil Sanghvi, CEO of LogiNext.

Promotion and Marketing

Are you promoting your products/ services just through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? That’s what your every competitor is doing then how can you be on the top? It’s time to do something different. With features like Broadcast and Group Messaging, you can easily promote your products, do special announcements and tell about offers, discounts, etc. Moreover, you will get a chance to know what products you customers liked or not by asking for feedbacks. This will just not help you promote your stuff but will also tell your customers that their every word matters.

“I think WhatsApp is a direct tool for your targeted audience where you can share your ideas and services. It is suitable for small and medium-sized businesses or you can say for E-commerce startups. Through WhatsApp group, you can share quick updates and you can take advantage of that group. You can save time as well as your money. You can Deliver your Promotional message Directly. and you can also become a WhatsApp Reseller. through WhatsApp chats, voice calls and video calls you can connect to easily and resolve the issues of the user. Nowadays Whatsapp ads can be run through Bulk Whatsapp Marketing where you can use the features of Script, Tools, and Software,” said Tiwari.

Instant Services

Whether you own a restaurant or a toy store, WhatsApp can be your best business buddy. Business people have started to use WhatsApp as an instant ordering tool, now people just send their orders on WhatsApp and voila, the order is at their doorsteps. Just like big companies like Dominos and Starbucks have their own apps that help their customers to order food items, you can use WhatsApp in the same way. Though it won’t provide all the facilities but can be a great ordering option.

Chaai Goes Global. India Among Biggest Players in Global Functional Tea Market Indian “Nastas” to go Global

Chaai Goes Global. India Among Biggest Players in Global Functional Tea Market
Indian “Nastas” to go Global

Franchise India Staff

Tea is one of the widely consumed beverages in the country and India is one of the largest tea producers in the world. It is a fully matured category and the penetration level is above 95 percent. The total branded or the packaged tea (in various forms) market in India is estimated to be nearly Rs 9,500 crore and growing at a CAGR of 5-7 percent, in line with the population growth.

Global Functional Tea Market is estimated to grow at the CAGR of 4.4%. Growing demand for healthy hot beverages from all consumer groups is driving the growth of Functional Tea Market. Increased consumption of functional tea in developing countries is influencing key players to introduce a different variety of functional tea in the market.

In conversation with FranchiseIndia.com, Vamsi Krishna GNS, Founder, Chaai Resto, opens up his expansion plans via franchise model and gives us an insight of tea industry in India.

Aim to Become a Global Brand

Vamsi says, “More than 8.5 lakh tonnes of tea are consumed in our country every year. Tea is more than a cup of beverage for Indians. Apart from social reasons, tea also has a very good global market, which is the prime reason for us to build a brand of tea. We are currently serving some big corporate firms and have entered entertainment segment in multiplexes.

He adds, “Our target is to make ‘Indian nashtas’ along with tea available everywhere through our outlets and cloud kitchens. So, we are now focused on expanding and making ‘Chaai Resto’ a global brand.”

Chaai Resto’s Exceptionality

Vamsi elaborates the uniqueness Chaai Resto Offers to keep itself apart from the competition as, “Our cafes are designed to get a vintage look and feel. We are promoting Indian food in a modern way at an affordable price. We are imbibing Indian food culture into our brand and are ensuring our customers feel it. Also, we focus on lively ambiance with feel-good music and consistency of taste. Our mini nashtas with hot chai and couple combos which are available round the clock on online platforms are stealing the show.”

Expansion Plans via Franchise Model

Vamsi reveals his expansion plans as, “We are now on a mission 150 outlets by 2020 in South India through franchisee model. Anybody who wants to become foodpreneur with an investment of 15 lakhs can take our franchisee and carry the mission forward. And also, we are coming up with a small cloud kitchen format which caters only to online ordering systems.”
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Chaai Resto dreams to make the company a successful and profitable Indian food retail brand. Going by the philosophy of ‘Paying It Forward’, it strives to ensure that its business partners are profitable.

Franchising Facts

Franchising Fee on sign up 400,000

Total Budget 697,180

60% Incl Fee & Initial Start 418308

30% 0n before 1 week opening 209154

10% on completion 69718

Total Tentative Cost 1097180

This article was originally published on Franchise India by Nibedita Mohanta.

5 Reasons To Expand Franchisee Business Regionally

5 Reasons To Expand Franchisee Business Regionally

Franchise India Staff

After establishing your brand successfully, the next step is expansion. Now expansion can be across the region, pan nation and internationally. We suggest, take baby yet bold steps and start by expanding across the region. Here are a few reasons why you should think of expanding your franchise business regionally:

Localising your brand:

The best way to expand your franchise business is to tap into a franchisee base that might be attracted to your business model and willing to expand it to local regions. This is important for the simple expansion of your brand, provided you have a brand that can speak for itself and benefit a regional customer as well.

Save on overheads:

If you want to save on incurring overheads and costs associated with opening company-owned outlets, a rapid regional franchise business expansion is a good option. This strategic move can bring benefit to both franchisor and franchisee as it helps build consumer recognition quickly and establish the franchise.

Limit manpower investment:

Expanding your footprint will also allow you to expand your business without spreading managerial resources across too many business units. “A business owner may wish to keep his/her own operation small and tightly run. Operating more than a few outlets can drain business resources. A franchise system requires less management than a company owned chain of outlets. Hiring, training, motivating and retaining competent staffing are all functions handled by the franchisee, not the franchisor,” suggests, Nick Solomon from Franchise Direct.

Outreach of a unique service or product:

Go out into regional areas because your service or product is unique and you have not got the acumen to reach everywhere on your own. This is a good way to tap a foreign market particularly those that are different and not a franchisor’s home market. By using indigenous franchisees, the franchisor is tapping into local business knowledge which may prove beyond his or her capability to obtain otherwise. People who know the local scene well deal with legal and cultural differences more easily than an overseas company executive would.

Bringing down Advertising Costs:

Believe it or not, but expanding into new regions can actually bring down publicity costs. Let the product speak for itself and once you have the right franchisee in place, they will take care of the regional advertising and publicity. You will simply have to ensure the uniformity in your main messaging. On the importance of advertising, Tri Nguyen, Founder and CEO of Network Capital Funding Corporation says, “Being able to reach the right target customers through the right mediums, at the right time, is the first step to expanding your business into new customer markets. When expanding into new target markets, you need to ramp up your advertising to these markets. This is pretty intuitive, but it’s true.”

This article was originally published on Franchise India by Uttara.J. Malhotra.

Finding the Extra Million Dollars Hidden in Your Business

Finding the Extra Million Dollars Hidden in Your Business

Dan S. Kennedy
VIP Contributor
Author, Strategic Advisor, Consultant, and Business Coach

Could you use an extra million bucks?

I’ll wager the answer is yes. Well, I’m happy to direct you to where that extra million is hidden inside your business. It’s in the follow-up that isn’t happening.

Many times, owners of profitable ad and marketing campaigns are terribly slothful about this. If they spend $1,000 to get 50 calls, then only convert five to appointments and only acquire two as customers — but those customers are worth $1,000 each, they turn $1,000 into $2,000 and are pretty happy about that.

But each call cost $20, and 45 didn’t turn into appointments — that’s $900. Nearly as much waste as profit. But the total reality is far worse than that. If with diligent and thorough follow-up, another five appointments and two customers could be had, that business owner has let $900, plus $2,000, slip through holes in his bucket. If each customer can be made to refer one, and an endless chain of referrals created, the $2,900 in waste goes to $4,900, then $6,900, then $8,900, then $10,900. Let that happen once a month, and that’s $109,000 that should have been in the bucket that leaked out onto the floor. In 10 years, it’s a million dollars. It’s my experience that in just about any small business, over a 10-year term, there is at least $1,000,000 in lost money to be had. If you own a small business and would like to retire as a cash millionaire, here’s your opportunity.

Direct marketing is never just about acquiring customers — what we call “front end.” It is as much or more about retaining, repeat selling to, cross-selling to, and ascending customers on an ongoing basis — what we call “back end.” It is also the means of building a system to prevent leads or prospects, who could be converted to customers, from getting lost and coming and going unnoticed.

Here are some of the holes in business buckets, through which money leaks:

1. The person who calls and asks questions, stays unknown, and gets no follow-up. Remember, you paid for that person. If you don’t capture his contact information so you can do follow-up marketing, you wasted your money.

2. Little or no follow-up on leads obtained at trade or consumer shows. This is particularly abysmal. In my most recent experiment at a big, local home and garden show, I visited nine competing companies’ booths, very clearly presented myself as a viable prospect for their products, made it clear I was not interested in lowest price and made sure they had my complete contact information (except email, which I do not use).

And what follow-up did I get? By mail? Zero. By phone? Zero. Each of those exhibitors paid to get me, then they did nothing with me.

3. No follow-up on referrals. When Betty says, “I told Billy about you. I hope he gives you a call,” the correct response is not: “Thanks, Betty. I hope he does, too.” That’s the common response, but it most certainly is not the correct response. You ask for and get Billy’s address so you can send him a copy of your book or information package, with a note mentioning Betty’s recommendation or a note from Betty, and an offer or offers. If Billy fails to respond, you send him a second letter. And a third, fourth and fifth. With offers. And you put him on your newsletter list and send him your monthly newsletter. With offers. You enroll him in your six-week email “course” tied to your product or service. That’s follow-up.

4. No immediate follow-up to new customers. Newly acquired customers need to become frequent and habitual repeat purchasers or ascend to higher levels of membership or somehow move from first transaction to committed rela­tionship. This means they need to be quickly thanked, welcomed and brought back, moved up or otherwise committed. Think about the last five times you patron­ized a business for the first time — store, restaurant, ser­vice company, professional practice. What formal thank-you did you get? In four or five out of five, none. What “welcome to the family” gift did you get? None.

5. No prevention or organized rescue efforts related to lost cus­tomers. For more than 30 years, surveys have consistent­ly revealed “indifference by provider” as, by far, the #1 reason customers leave a business and drift elsewhere. Not some egregious act of incompetence or negligence or insult, not cheaper prices, not anything major. Just a sense of indifference toward them. That left them open to easy seduction.

The best answer to lost customers is, of course, not having any. That requires very frequent, very consistent, and interesting online and offline communication. On-time rescue efforts work. Every kind of business has a set time by which a customer should be back — for the clothing store, it’s once before each season; for the diner, it might be every morning; for the auto salesman, every three years. Whatever it is for you, alarm bells should go off for every customer not back before his stamped-on expiration date, and that alarm should set in motion a flurry of marketing and follow-up activity.

I’ve just named five holes that exist in many businesses, but there are other holes. You have to find every hole in your business and plug it.

How To Clean Leather Furniture: Leather Couch Care

How To Clean Leather Furniture: Leather Couch Care

A leather chair or sofa is an investment. Learn how to clean leather furniture to keep your pieces beautiful for years to come

A handsome leather couch is luxurious, for sure, but it’s also pricey. In other words, that thing better last a lifetime. Of course, wear and tear is inevitable—we’d never tell you to stop with the Netflix binges—but ideally the leather will only improve with age. You know, like a fine wine. “The best way to think of leather is that it is like your skin. Good-quality aniline leather is a natural, breathable material; it changes over time,” says furniture designer and RH artisan Timothy Oulton. And just like skin, leather requires regular care to look its best. Not sure where to start? We asked Oulton and Christophe Pourny, a New York–based restoration expert and the author of The Furniture Bible, to share their advice for how to clean leather furniture, plus the secrets to bringing those seen-better-days pieces back to life.
How to clean leather furniture

Materials:

Saddle soap
Water
Leather cream
Soft cloth
Rubbing alcohol
Cotton swab

According to Pourny, the only regular maintenance your leather sofas and chairs need is a good dusting with a dry cloth every once in a while and a monthly application of a leather cream to keep the material soft and moisturized. Actually, this same product can help you clean up any dirt or stains that crop up, too. Here’s what to do, step by step:

1. Start with soap and water
To tackle mild stains, dip a clean, damp washcloth in warm soapy water, and use it to wipe away the stain. “Specific leather soaps exist, usually called saddle soaps,” says Pourny. Darker stains, like those from an ink pen, are another story. According to Pourny, “a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol can do the trick.” Just be careful to apply it directly on the stain spot, so the alcohol doesn’t spread the stain onto more of the leather.

2. Dry thoroughly
“Be sure to carefully dry the leather with another clean, dry cloth to avoid any mildew,” Pourny notes. For best results, leave the spot alone overnight.

3. Apply leather cream
Re-moisturize the material by applying the leather cream with a clean cloth. Let it sink in, then buff to a shine if you’d like.

4. Take it to a professional
If that doesn’t work, go to a respected shoe repair shop or leather care expert for help. “Even if it’s a bit controversial, avoid bringing your garment to your local cleaner, even if they advertise suede and leather care,” says Pourny. “I do not know anybody that had great luck with them and the damage will be irreversible.”

How to avoid cracks and distressed spots

1. Assess the leather quality
Aniline-dyed leather furniture, where the dye penetrates the entire material, is not only durable but is actually meant to look lived-in, says Oulton. “Rather than covering and sealing the surface with a colored coating, we work dyes and waxes into the leather by hand. As a result, we feel like the furniture wears in and not out. It’s very easy to live with, and it develops a rich patina over time.”

2. Consider your room layout
“In most cases, it is ambient conditions that will lead to the cracking of leather—extreme temperatures and lack of moisture,” says Oulton. “Placing a sofa right under your air-conditioning or next to a radiator or in front of a roaring fire is going to dry out the leather.” Sunlight can also have this effect, says Pourney, so avoid putting furniture right next to a window or glass door, or hang light-blocking curtains.

3. Paws off
Cats, and sometimes dogs, will use leather as a (very expensive) scratching post, so teach them to stay off the sofa. “I think this is the biggest cause of damage we hear of from customers calling the studio,” says Pourny.

4. Moisturize the leather
To treat specific distressed areas, find a treatment made for your type of leather. Pourny sells an Old World–inspired leather serum and cream, which can be applied with a cloth to soften the leather and smooth scratches, while Oulton recommends Leather Masters. Regardless, use a light hand. “Less is more when applying any product to leather. Test a small area first,” says Pourny. “For colored leather, be extra careful and know in advance that any product will most likely darken the leather.”

5. For big jobs, turn to a pro
Don’t run the risk of damaging the leather further. “For large cuts, we recommend contacting a professional who can mix color and texture by applying heat, and make repairs to the leather,” says Pourny.

Where to Buy Affordable Art Online

Where to Buy Affordable Art Online

Do your bare walls need a bit of excitement? Discover the best places to buy art online—without blowing your entire budget
Text by Hadley Keller

Design styles aside, most people can agree that no room is complete without art. The good news? There’s plenty of great painting, prints, and more to be found if you know where to look. While art sales once revolved mainly around high-profile auctions and blue-chip gallery sales (many of which are shrouded in secrecy), the internet age has ushered in a slew of online retailers looking to make this ever-growing market accessible to a wider range of buyers—including broke apartment dwellers. With so many options to choose from, AD has rounded up our top picks based on your art preference and collecting style. Read on to discover the best places to buy affordable art online and bring some excitement to your walls without clearing out your bank account.

Horst P. Horst’s Balance and George Hoyningen-Huene’s Bathers, both originally shot for Vogue, are offered by Lumas for $230 and $499, respectively.

1. Lumas

Perfect for: The Photography Lover
Born from a successful Berlin photography gallery, Lumas is now a network of over 40 galleries worldwide, with an impressive digital arm. Its site, like the galleries, specializes in high-quality, limited-edition works from big-name photographers. Prints by greats such as Edward Steichen, Helmut Newton, and Horst P. Horst are offered in numerous framing options for prices starting around $400.

2. Society6

Perfect for: The Eclectic
For those who like to swap out their art on a regular basis, Society6’s assorted collection of whimsical, affordable prints is a great bet. Everything from cheeky sayings to watercolor florals, nature scenes, and abstracts can be had for as little as $20, so your gallery wall is limitless.

Ronald Hunter’s Neon Typopop, approximately $370 from Artfinder.

3. Artfinder

Perfect for: The Discoverer
Founded in London in 2013 by a Swedish art enthusiast who had worked in the New York art world, Artfinder is an online marketplace for original art from around the globe. The site sorts its offerings by both style and medium, making it easy to browse the more than 200,000 pieces (including abstract paintings, sculpture, photography, collage, and digital art), all of which are signed by the artist. Prices start at $25, and the site also has dedicated services for interior designers purchasing art for their clients.

4. SaatchiArt

Perfect for: The Budding Collector
SaatchiArt boasts an impressive collection of art at accessible prices. Original works, which include photography, collage, painting, and sculpture, start at $200, and limited-edition prints at $95. The site also runs a complimentary art advisory service, where a team of curators will build a collection for you based on your taste or space.

Wrong Studio’s Wrong Geometry 05 is offered by Paper Collective: 10 percent of the proceeds will go to Charity: Water.

5. Paper Collective

Perfect for: The Philanthropist
Copenhagen-based e-tailer Paper Collective sells artworks with a mission. The company collaborates with artists, designers, and illustrators to create prints, posters, cards, and accessories that are certified eco-friendly with a seal from the Danish government. On top of that, 10 percent of the sale proceeds for each work goes to a charity of the artist’s choosing. Now that’s good art!

6. Minted

Perfect for: The Small-Business Supporter
Minted, largely known for its wide range of cards, takes a similarly community-focused approach to its art offerings, with prints, photography, and drawings sourced from independent makers worldwide. Pieces range from $21 (unframed) to $605 (framed). Artists have their own landing pages with bios and links to all of their work, and Minted’s crowdsourcing model allows emerging artists to find a platform. This summer the site will begin offering commissioned art.

Sunbow’s kaleidoscope-inspired Pineapple Burst T2, from $45 at AHA.

7. AHA

Perfect for: The Street Art Enthusiast
While AHA’s offerings run the gamut from clothing to home accessories to beauty products (all handmade by artisans around the world), its art section skews toward the bright, funky, and contemporary. AHA prints and ships all the pieces it sells, so artists (who hail from 45 countries) just have to upload their image files, making it easy for emerging and experimental artists to earn commissions.

8. Tappan Collective

Perfect for: The Early Supporter
Founded in 2012 by Chelsea Neman and Jordan Klein, Tappan aims to nurture emerging artists by connecting them to seasoned collectors. This support extends beyond the internet, too: Tappan has curated numerous exhibitions of its artists in assorted spaces throughout Los Angeles. On the site you’ll find everything from handmade ceramics for around $100 to large-scale paintings upwards of $10,000.

A gallery wall of artworks from online retailer 20×200.

9. 20×200

Perfect for: The Eager Learner
20×200’s goal is to provide art for everyone. The 1,000 editions the site has produced so far range from $24 to $10,000, and each is produced exclusively for 20×200. The company also wants customers to be passionate and knowledgeable about their art, so every print and photo ships with documentation about the work, and the site announces each new launch with an informative write-up on the artist and project.

Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Shou sugi ban (焼杉板) is the art of preserving and finishing wood using fire
Text by Katherine Cooper

While shou sugi ban (焼杉板) originated in Japan in the 18th century primarily as way to treat cedar siding to make it weatherproof, the technique—which involves charring a wood surface to render it a deep charcoal-black—has caught on recently as a treatment for contemporary exteriors and indoor furnishings alike. You can even find variations elevated to fine art, as in the work of the artist Maarten Baas. The gravitas imparted by the process and finished result (called yakisugi) are undeniable, a blackening of the wood that reveals clean, distinct lines and an inherent textural beauty. You might not be the proud owner of a blowtorch (yet), but any intrepid DIYer can absolutely accomplish the technique at home to give an existing piece of wood furniture a new look.
Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

I met with Hugh Shackleton and his father, Charles Shackleton, of Shackleton Thomas furniture makers in Bridgewater, Vermont, to learn how shou sugi ban is done. (Though not Japanese, their company has a 30-year history of making handmade furniture, pottery, and accessories, and they leaped at the chance to learn and apply the technique.) Using a prototype for their Sansu Table, made from white cedar sourced from Koenig Cedar in Vermont and built in their workshop, the Shackletons treated and finished the project using the technique in the space of half a day—and are confident that you could, too.
1) Select the right wood
Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Hugh explained that cedar works best for shou sugi ban because of its natural chemical properties. “Cedar is a lighter, more porous wood,” he explains, and “there’s a chemical component to it which makes it work better for this technique. In this particular design, the bottom is basswood, which still works, but cedar takes it better.” Don’t fret if your table isn’t cedar or basswood; you can also use shou sugi ban on pine, hemlock, maple, or oak.

2) Burn it
Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Now the fun part. For large pieces of furniture, you will need a high-intensity flame like an ice melting torch, which you can purchase inexpensively online or rent at a hardware store (and, bonus, will serve you well in any blizzards this winter). “Char the surface enough so that it eats into the wood,” Hugh instructs. “When the wood starts to separate, like you’d see on a log in your fireplace, it’s done. End grain burns slower than face grain, so pay particular attention to the sides of the piece as you go.” Move the torch evenly over the wood, holding it over each area for about five to ten seconds until it goes black and a layer of soot develops. Be sure to torch in a well-ventilated area with no flammable materials around, preferably outside. Any standard propane tank you would find on a gas grill will work with the torch.

3) Wire brush it
Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Using a standard wire brush, remove all the char created by the blowtorch. “Be sure to go in the direction of the grain,” Hugh says, and work until all the charcoal dust has been brushed off. The process should reveal a rich, dark, brownish-black color. This is the point in the process where the texture of the grain gets revealed. “You need to be prepared for the characteristic change in the wood,” says Hugh. “Once you wire brush it, it opens up the wood. It becomes more porous.”

4) Clean it
Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Use either an air compressor or a wet cloth to clean the wood. An air compressor saves time in a pinch because you don’t have to wait for it to dry. If you use a wet cloth just wipe down the whole piece and wait for it to dry completely.

5) Oil it
Use This Incredible Technique to Waterproof Wood Furniture

Hugh initially wanted to finish the table with polyurethane for durability’s sake, but his dad Charlie, a traditionalist, convinced him to use boiled linseed oil instead, which contains added drying agents to speed up the process. In a classic family craft business compromise, both men chipped in to help. After the piece is completely dry, apply about a quart of oil liberally and work it into the grain with a rag. Allow it to dry and then apply a second coat to any dry spots. Both Shackletons suggest that you may want to “hit it again with the torch” to seal in the oil once you’ve applied a couple of coats.

The Sansu table, or anything you treat in the shou sugi ban technique, can be used outdoors or indoors and brings a textural depth to a living space. Indoor furniture should require very little maintenance, while outdoor furniture should be re-oiled about every 10 to 15 years. Happy burning!

10 Kitchen Gadgets Everyone Wants This Season

10 Kitchen Gadgets Everyone Wants This Season

Picks for the wannabe chef on your list
Text by Madeline O’Malley

We all have that friend who waits for the newest, most cutting-edge blender with the anticipation most reserve for new iPhones. Or a sibling who is asking for a mortar and pestle or a chic new cutting board this holiday season. If you’re not up to date on the latest kitchen tool trends, fear not: We’ve put together a list of the very best and there really is something for everyone, from a vintage-inspired pepper mill to one seriously statement-making stand mixer. What did we find? Color is hot. So are unexpected metallics (think rose gold). Compact sizes are abundant, too, so small-space dwellers will not be stuck searching for a place to store their new treasure. And who knows, maybe you’ll be invited over for a fondue party in return. Read on for a roundup of the coolest tools of the kitchen trade, each with a bit of a twist.

Making holiday cookies never looked so good.

SHOP NOW: Stand Mixer in Pink by Smeg, $460, amazon.com

Fan favorite Danish brand Hay’s collection of kitchenware with the MoMA Design Store is the housewarming gift of the season. These colorful chopping boards put a slab of wood to shame. SHOP NOW: Hay Chopping Boards, from $45, store.moma.org.

This high-design juicer in a shimmery rose gold does not need to hide in a cabinet. SHOP NOW: H-AA Slow Juicer by Hurom in Rose Gold, $459, food52.com.

Ditch the food processor for something a little more analog. SHOP NOW: Round Olivewood Mortar & Pestle, $48, abchome.com.

Why get a regular cheese grater when you could get a stylish one? SHOP NOW: Cheese Grater by W&P Design, $36, anthropologie.com.

You may have to pretend you are spending the holidays in Gstaad, but this fondue set will help. SHOP NOW: Mini Cocotte Fondue Set in Marseille by Le Creuset, $40, lecreuset.com

The cutest pepper mill in the world. Hands down. SHOP NOW: Peugeot Olivier Pepper Mill in Red, $135, marchsf.com.

These marbleized mixing bowls, evocative of Japanese design, add instant style to the kitchen. SHOP NOW: 3-Piece Stir Mixing Bowl Set, $40, cb2.com.

This blender’s jazzy copper finish hides a powerful motor perfect for smoothies and soups. SHOP NOW: Pro Line Series Blender with Thermal Control Jar in Copper by KitchenAid, $800, williams-sonoma.com.

You never knew you needed a pop of color with your colander until you met these. SHOP NOW: NOD23301 Colander in Yellow by Now Designs, $38 for set of 2, themine.com.