You've got an idea for launching a small business. That spark of inner genius in itself is a feat worth celebrating. But that little lightbulb floating above your head – bright as it may be – can dim quickly if your idea isn't an all-around winner. Of course, you must think your idea is good or else you wouldn't consider moving forth, but to really assess its true value and profitability, you'll need to have a solid "yes" as your answer to the four imperative questions below. You've dreamt it up, now make it a reality!

Are You All In?

First and foremost, are you busting at the seams with passion for your project? If you have any doubts, how will you convince anyone else that your business is worth their while? Additionally, you're going to need to go all in to get this thing off the ground and running strong. If your business idea is inspiring, motivating, and you cannot imagine doing anything more, you're off on the right foot.

Business News Daily quotes Melissa Bradley, executive-in-residence and director of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Kogod School of Business at American University. She notes, "Since starting a business requires an inordinate amount of time, energy and patience, ideally, the idea will be one that you are passionate about and have skills/experience in."

Not to mention, you'll likely have to put forth a heap of funds into your endeavor. Without a rip roaring inner drive, making the money back (and then some) won't happen easily. Your whole heart and soul must thrive off this idea in order for the world to take notice too.

Does It Fill a Void?

Why exactly do you want to pursue this business? If your answer is that you see something's missing out there, or you've got a way to improve upon what your competition is putting forth, then you're onto something smart. You need to know your goal and stand by it.

B Plans suggests asking yourself the following to assess if your idea is smart: "What's your mission? All new businesses need a sense of purpose. Are you trying to improve people's lives in some way? What are the core differentiators of your business that set you apart from the next person trying to build a similar business?"

If your idea is already a "been there, done that" one, you may need to rethink your strategy. Why would someone buy or use your (at this time, unknown) product or service, when there's already a tried, true, and trusted one out there? If your plan isn't fresh or unique in some way, spending time developing it further could lose you money and take away valuable time and energy that you could put towards a new and more meaningful (and profitable) pursuit.

Do People Want It?

Talk up your idea with friends and family and people in the field who are knowledgable or have been successful. Even run your business idea past strangers – you're going to want as many people as possible to buy or use your product or service, right? Find out if people would actually pay for what you're planning to offer. Because even if they like your idea, it doesn't mean they would spend their money on it. Someone may like the idea of getting a Ferrari, but it doesn't mean they're headed to the dealer any time soon.

Business News Daily quoted Wil Schroter, co-founder and CEO of Fundable. He said, "An idea is just an idea until you have a paying customer attached to it. Anyone can discredit a simple idea, but no one can discredit paying customers."

B Plans suggests running test ads with Google Adwords or on Facebook to see if there's any positive response (or any at all for that matter). Revamp and tweak your ideas with the feedback you receive. Any input you get can be put to good use for you to rethink your strategy, spend, and style. It's all about the basic business principal of supply and demand. Make sure whatever you're dreaming up is going to be sought after with enough power to make your company money.

Do You Have a Solid Marketing Plan?

Just because you build it, it doesn't mean they're going to come. In order to fully get that product or service to the right clients and customers, you'll need to have a unique selling point that's scalable to the point you can and want to take it. Clearly defined marketing plans and goals must be laid out before you introduce your product. First impressions aren't the only ones you get, but they will set the reputation for your brand.

Inc. suggests getting advice from a marketing professional from the get-go. "Doing this will reduce your business risk as well as overhead expenses, while providing you with details about how much your business demands in terms of promotion and advertising. New businesses that ignore the value of marketing and think this is something that can be worked out later are usually seen rectifying errors committed at the outset."

Just because you are a savvy entrepreneur doesn't mean you're a marketing whiz as well, so let the experts guide you. Once you've grown your company, you can hire a marketing team to help the business soar year after year with marketing campaigns, social media presence, and other advertising strategies.

With these 4 items in mind, are you convinced your idea's a good one? If not, use these questions to help you get that plan solid and ready for takeoff. Good luck!

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.