OFFICE DEPOT ANNOUNCED LAST MONTH THAT KACIE HOWARD, owner of Huckleberry Pets in Daytona Beach, Fla., was crowned winner of the 2011 Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot sweepstakes. The HuckleBerry Pets logo was featured on Tony Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet Impala during the Sept. 6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “Kacie is a great example of a small-business owner who's worked hard to build her company from the ground up, and I'm proud to help Office Depot provide this kind of opportunity,” said Stewart, who owns 13 small businesses of his own, in a press release. After learning about the contest at OfficeDepot-Racing.com, Howard's 16-month-old business, which manufactures orthopedic pet beds, received additional nominations from family and friends. HuckleBerry Pets will be able to use of the Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot logo for one year, and receive a $10,000 small-business makeover. Office Depot also selected one small-business owner every day during the promotion to receive a $1,000 Office Depot gift card and NASCAR memorabilia. —Tanya Meyer
IF YOU'VE EVER GLANCED AT A portrait and felt it was staring back as you walked by, that illusion may soon become a reality with the debut of New York-based Immersive Labs' smart technology for retail and out-of-home markets. Notably featured in the 2005 Tom Cruise sci-fi theatrical thriller “Minority Report,” digital billboards will use the startup's artificial intelligence software to cull a database of audience facial features to determine individual demo-graph-ics such as gender and age. The signs will then mine the data and, in real time, choose tailored advertise-ments that, by all calculated accounts, will appeal most to that viewer. Effectiveness will be measured through multiple variables, including how often a passerby glances at the screen and for how long. “Marketers can take it a step further with a QR code or text SMS if they want to have a PDF or coupon sent [to] increase the attach rate,” said Jill Miller, exec VP at Immersive Labs. The company, a division of TechStars, will roll out a pilot phase of the billboards later this month in select New York and Los Angeles locations. —Emerald S. Morrow
IT'S NOT A BIRD, OR A PLANE. SMARTERCOMICS ARE comic-book adaptations for business professionals who lack time to read the growing list of popular books promising industry success. The shorter, fun-to-read versions average about 80 pages. “The visual power of comics is well- suited to this digital revolution,” said Franco Arda, SmarterComics founder and CEO. “The visuals help save time as your brain understands ideas much faster, and you can read the comics in an hour and a half or less,” he said. Those currently in demand, include “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (Ballantine Books, 1987) and “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” by Chris Anderson (Hyperion, 2006). Even hip-hop icon and businessman, 50 Cent, joined the SmarterComics movement with co-author Robert Greene: “The 50th Law” (Harper, 2009) is scheduled for comic release in 2012. SmarterComics are available in select bookstores and through Amazon.com, along with digital versions for the iPhone and iPad. —E.S.M.