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Exclusive interview: Mark Epstein, CEO, The People’s Operator

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Prior to The People’s Operator (TPO), Mark co-founded and ran Mass1 Limited, which he built into a leading UK campaign agency, working with organisations including Channel 4, and charities such as Disasters Emergency Committee. Before starting Mass1, Mark held senior management positions in the mobile and creative industries. Today he talks to Blue & Green about TPO.

In 140 characters or less – what is The People’s Operator?

TPO is a cause-based MVNO* offering great deals and great service while giving 10% of your bill to the cause you love. (*mobile virtual network operator)

What was the driver for creating The People’s Operator – what gap did it fill?

The idea for TPO came from three friends – myself, Tom Gutteridge and Andrew Rosenfeld – each with experience working with cause organisations. Together we recognised an opportunity to use business as a force for good – starting with something as everyday as using your mobile phone. In 2012, TPO was launched in the UK to help kick-start a steady flow of funds to good causes by tapping into the power of mobile.

Customers with TPO not only get the best deals, high quality mobile service and great customer service – they can also direct 10% of their monthly mobile spend to the cause of their choice, at no extra cost to them. In addition, we give 25% of our profits to charity as well through the TPO Foundation.

Last year, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, joined TPO’s mission to raise funds for causes and has led on the development of the TPO Community that launched in July this year – a global community that combines social sharing with the ability to raise funds for the causes you love.

Who does it primarily serve?

TPO serves a wide range of people who want great deals on their mobile plans while getting great service. Our cause-based proposition, however, makes TPO a good fit for anyone who supports causes, big or small, and is looking to make a difference with every purchase they make. We’re seeing that there’s been a lot of interest in our service too – in September, we announced that we’d reached 50,000 customers in the UK; and earlier this year we launched in the US and have been seeing strong interest in just the first few months since we launched.

What difference does The People’s Operator want to make?

Our goal is to raise millions for good causes! We believe we can do this through both our mobile phone service and through the TPO Community – a social platform that brings like-minded people together in their support for causes. We currently have more than 80 causes participating on the TPO Community at www.tpo.com and enable them to collect donations on the community without any commissions or subscription fees as well.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

Actually, both causes and our customers are very supportive of the business model and really understand the idea of giving 10% of their monthly bill to the cause of their choice. Initially, we had some feedback from customers who thought the proposition was too good to be true, so assumed it meant our plans would be more expensive.

But actually, our prices are competitive and in line with the market – that’s important to us. We do this by cutting out expensive advertising – no TV ads or billboards. Instead of spending your money on advertising, we give to the cause you love and just ask that you help spread the word by telling your friends about us!

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

Our cause partners also play an important role in supporting TPO and communicating the value of the offer – they understand that the more people we’re bringing on board to TPO, the more funds are directed back to them. We’ve been fortunate to partner with great causes that have helped spread the word about TPO such as The Trussell Trust, Emerge Poverty Free and Leicester City Foxes Foundation.

Is the mobile sector fit-for-purpose for causes, innovators and entrepreneurs?

The mobile sector is definitely a competitive one, but it’s also an environment that is changing quickly. It’s not for everyone and you need to be sure you have a strong sense of how you’ll build scale and stand out from the competition if you want to have lasting power. Especially as an MVNO, you need to have that scale in order to be able to provide competitive offerings to your customers.

With TPO, we said from the start that we didn’t expect to take over the market, but we do want to appeal to a wide audience of people who are looking for a great mobile service while also giving back. It’s why we’ve said that customers can nominate any cause of their choice.

If we gave you the power to effect on change in law to support causes and charities – what would it be?

We’d love to see more pressure placed on credit services and banks to help reduce the costs of fundraising. Currently, every time you make a donation to a cause (whether that’s through TPO or through another fundraising platform) there is a bank fee that’s deducted from the donation – and that means that there’s less being directed to the front lines.

It’s probably why some causes are more focused on ‘big gift’ donations for their fundraising efforts rather than online fundraising or micro-giving. At TPO, we definitely see the potential for micro-giving; and how a bit of small change can add up to a big difference. But to make that stretch further, we need to bring more institutions on board to allow breaks for causes when it comes to bank fees and credit card charges.

On the TPO Community, for example, we don’t charge commissions on the donations made through the community, but there are still bank charges – a transactional cost we can’t get around – which we hope to be able to reduce as we continue to build the scale of the community.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about The People’s Operator?

You can head to www.thepeoplesoperator.com to find out more about our range of mobile plans and how you can nominate the cause of your choice. And, whether or not you’re a mobile customer, you can also join the TPO Community at www.tpo.com.

 

 

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What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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