Monthly Archives: February 2015

Thin Mints are back! Scouts expect $4.5 million in sales

Yes, it’s Girl Scout Cookie time, and although there are a dozen flavors from which to choose, for many cookie lovers it means just one thing: Thin Mints are back!

During this six-week period, the Thin Mint cookie will lead the charge, along with 11 other flavors. The annual Girl Scout fundraising program that is structured to teach girls essential life skills such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

“The cookies are so popular that people began asking for them back in December,” said Scout leaders Jennifer Herbolsheimer and Adrien Berryessa of Troop 150 in Henderson.

Standing in front of a flatbed trailer loaded with 4,680 boxes of cookies, Herbolsheinmer said, “Nearly all of these cookies have been sold already, and we will be back here several times in the next few weeks for more boxes.”

In 2014, their troop netted more than $5,000 in cookie sales, which allowed them to take an overnight trip to Sea World in California. And, as a way of giving back to the community, the troop donated $1,500 to the Serving Our Kids Foundation, an organization dedicated to feeding and serving the needs of Clark County’s homeless and at-risk children.

Each box of Girl Scout cookies costs $5. All money raised from cookie sales stays in the community — $1 of each box sold goes to the troop that sold the cookies and $2.09 goes into the Southern Nevada Council’s coffers. The remaining cost pays for the manufacturing, packaging and shipping of the cookies.

Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada CEO Liz Ortenburger manages an army of about 4,300 Scouts throughout Southern Nevada. She said she expects this year’s cookie sales to reach 912,000 boxes. That’s a sales volume of more than $4.5 million.

Most of the council money is used to run Camp Foxtail at Mount Charleston for two weeks during the spring. The council also sponsors camp outs and troop-leader training and maintains the merit badge programs.

Girl Scout Cookies sales have a long history dating to 1917, when the girls of the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Okla., baked cookies at home and sold them in the high school cafeteria as a service project. By the 1930s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country were baking simple sugar cookies, packaging them in wax-paper bags, and selling them door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.

Over the years, the cookies have evolved to the three most popular flavors, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos; Shortbread/Trefoils and the most popular Thin Mints, which despite the short six-week sales period, is the nation’s No. 3 top selling cookie. Thin Mints trail only No. 1 Oreo and No. 2 Chips Ahoy cookies, which are sold all year.

Although steeped in history, the Girl Scouts have moved into the 21st century with a new digital cookie app that was introduced during January’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The new app is available for the iPhone and Android and allows you to type in your ZIP code to find the nearest cookie sales location. Also, the girls will be able to take your order and process a credit card using a new digital app on their smartphone or tablet computer.

Also introduced this year is a new gluten-free cookie called the Trios made of chocolate chips nestled in a gluten-free peanut butter oatmeal.

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Sears spinoff to franchise its Nevada outlet stores

By Craig A. Ruark
Special to the Las Vegas Business Press

A spinoff of retailing giant Sears is looking for a Nevada entrepreneur to run its three Silver State outlets stores under a franchise arrangement. The cost: $1.8 million.

Sears is a prominent name in the retail industry with brands such as Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard. But its Kmart and Sears stores have been struggling.

Its outlet stores in Las Vegas, Henderson and Sparks are part of a young spinoff venture that’s been a profitable game changer as it converts shops that had been company-owned to a franchise model.

In October of 2012, Sears Holdings Co., which owned all of the Sears and Kmart branded stores, spun off a small group of stores that included Sears Hometown &Outlet Stores. And while Sears Chairman Edward Lampert owns a majority stake in the business through his ESL Investments Inc., the Hometown &Outlet Stores are operated as a totally separate company. This spin-off has successfully increased the stock value and profits of both Sears Holding Company and Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc.

Part of what has made the Sears Outlet Stores more profitable is a franchise model that they adopted shortly after the spin-off. In this model, a franchisee invests from $400,000 up to $3.5 million per store, depending on the location and size of the market. With that investment, the franchisee assumes the store property lease and all the products in the store are placed on consignment, supplied by Sears Holdings Co., for which Sears is paid a commission on each sale.

According to Scott Nichols, director of franchise development, “We have found that we sell more products by working with franchise owners who know the local market and are involved in their own business, than we do by operating the stores through the company and hiring a store manager.”

There are 150 Sears Outlet Stores across the country and 65 of those stores are operated by franchisees. Three of the Outlet Stores are operating in Las Vegas, Henderson and Sparks, and according to Nichols. Sears Outlet Stores wants a single franchise owner to take over all three Nevada locations for a total cost of $1.8 million.

The Sears Outlet Stores only sell appliances, apparel, mattresses, sporting goods, tools, and lawn and garden equipment. Some of the products may be new items that have been discontinued or overstocked; many items may be one-of-a-kind, out-of-carton, used, reconditioned, and scratch-and-dented merchandise. The condition and availability of items may vary from store to store, as may the price, but everything is sold at a discount of between 20 and 60 percent off regular retail price. Most products still carry the full manufacturer’s warranty.

In addition to the physical location, Sears Outlet Stores are also supported with a website presence where customers can locate a store near them and browse the inventory, order online if they wish, and arrange for delivery.

Securities regulations prevented Nichols from disclosing operating performance and profit expectations, but that information is available to perspective franchisees once they have signed the required confidentiality agreements and appropriate Securities and Exchange documents. Franchise inquiries can be made at

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Texas hospice power makes move on Vegas market

Altus Hospice, a Texas-based for-profit company, is planting its flag in Las Vegas by opening an outpatient hospice service and plans to add in-patient care as needed by contracting with existing facilities.

The company is managed by Houston entrepreneur Taseer Badar, founder of ZT Wealth and Altus Health Care Management Services.

The first step in expanding to Las Vegas, the firm’s first step outside Texas, is opening an office at 4465 S. Buffalo Boulevard, Suite D. This office will provide outpatient hospice care to patients and families. Services include palliative symptom management, physician guided care, distribution of medication, speech and massage therapy and social work, as well as bereavement services focusing on grief support, educational workshops, support for children and teens and counseling.

“Our interdisciplinary care team is highly trained to provide the practical, emotional and spiritual support for each patient and their family,” said Dr. Dominic Sreshta, corporate medical director, Altus Hospice. “Not only do we ensure each patient is treated with respect and dignity, we also provide stability and continuity of hospice care regardless of where a patient resides, whether inside a home, nursing home, assisted living residents, hospital or inpatient facility.”

Altus Hospice operates 13 locations throughout Texas. Last September, Badar told the Houston Business Journal the aging population in Las Vegas makes it “ripe for hospice,” and the availability of Altus doctors presented an opportunity to break ground.

Altus Health has expanded rapidly. “(In terms of) revenue, on the health care side, we’ve gone from $11 million a month in collections to $15 million a month (just) this year,” Badar told the Houston newspaper.

According to Kraig Killough, chief operating officer of Altus Health: “After much consideration and forethought, Las Vegas was chosen to be the first Altus Health entity outside of Texas. We understand the challenges of healthcare delivery and strive to provide solutions that improve access to high-quality care in the Las Vegas area. Working in concert with area physicians who share the Altus Health vision, it was an easy decision to bring this important service to the community.

“Our Altus model has always encompassed a physician ownership and partnership hence our physicians in Texas have trusted partners all over the country. Our hospice physician partnerships in Texas have blossomed into new physician partnerships in Nevada.”

Killough said Altus anticipates providing 10,000 days of care for Las Vegas patient this year with a staff of 25-30.

“Our focus is to keep our patients in their home,” he said, “but, in the event the patient’s comfort cannot be managed in the home, we have several partner in-patient facilities to choose from.”

Badar himself has won many accolades including the Houston Business Journal 2012 Fast 100, Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist in 2012 and 2013, and in 2014, ZT Wealth and Altus Group of Companies was ranked by Inc. 5000 as 1,198 in the country with revenues of $189.8 million in 2013 (up from $40.7 million in 2010) and had added 591 employees in the previous three years.

In addition to healthcare, ZT Wealth is investing in autos with the acquisition of a Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and Mazda automobile dealership in Florida and is also in the process of acquiring 21 Popeye’s fast-food restaurants.

Despite opening the new hospice office in Las Vegas, Badar told the Houston Business Journal that his goal for the next year is to taper the proportion that health care comprises in ZT Wealth’s portfolio to 60 percent, down from the current 75-80 percent.

According to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, there are approximately 50 licensed hospice providers in Clark County. Only one — Nathan Adelson Hospice – is a non-profit organization.

Hospice and palliative care is a $17 billion industry and the aging population means that those dollars will increase. The government provides a flat rate of $155 per day per patient in per diem for hospice care.

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