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Survival Skills

A toast to gutsy moves and forward thinking by entrepreneurs across all fields

Two booming outfits—BigBelly Solar and TMZ.com—demonstrate very different, but equally successful, recession-proof methods of processing trash

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Motto: “The smart grid for waste and recycling”

What They Offer: Waste receptacles that hold five times as much as a conventional can, thanks to a built-in solar-powered compactor; data on remaining capacity is transmitted wirelessly to eliminate unnecessary pickups.

What They Lack: Stinky overflow

Production Sites: Headquarters in Massachusetts; factories in Vermont and Kentucky

Watershed Moment: In 2009, BigBelly inked a deal to provide 500 trash compactors to downtown Philadelphia (where there are now more than 1,000). Thanks to the compactors’ effect on C0² reduction and increased residential recycling rates, Philly was bestowed a best practices award for waste management.

Big Wins: Following the Philadelphia deployment, Chicago and Boston followed suit, ordering 400 units each.

Unlikely Advocate: Though not the greenest guy on the planet, Mitt Romney was Massachusetts governor when BigBelly Solar received venture capital from that state’s Green Energy Fund.

Critics: Garbage men, rats and dumpster divers

Name Origin: Founder Jim Poss named the enterprise after the big-belly seahorse, which is found in the waters around New Zealand and Australia.

No-Brainer Business Decision: Thanks to reductions in trash pickups, cities have saved so much money that they can afford to step up recycling, which has led to BigBelly’s offering recycling modules.

The Bottom Line: More than 1,000 customers, including cities, colleges and corporations

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“We love Hollywood, we just have a funny way of showing it!”

What They Offer: The snarkiest celebrity gossip! The most salacious headlines! More up-to-the-minute reports on Lindsay Lohan’s blood-alcohol level! A glut of scandalous photos! And lashings of dirt, dirt, dirt!

What They Lack: Scruples

Production Site: Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, a block from Chateau Marmont

Watershed Moment: In 2007, TMZ.com launched the series “TMZ on TV.” The New York Daily News described the show as “next to worthless”—yet it remains one of the most addictive programs on TV and has been renewed until 2014, thanks to its high syndication ratings.

Big Wins: TMZ.com was the first to report Mel Gibson’s drunk-driving arrest, Michael Jackson’s death and Britney Spears and Kevin Federline’s breakup.

Unlikely Advocate: New York Times media columnist (and Hemispheres contributor) David Carr tweeted that “‘TMZ’ is one of the best-cast, best-written shows on TV. There, I said it.”

Critics: Sticklers for ethical journalism, celebrities (including Alec Baldwin, who has publicly stated his desire to “kill” co-founder Harvey Levin)

Name Origin: It’s a wink to L.A.’s “Thirty-Mile Zone,” an area used to determine work rules and pay rates for entertainment union members.

No-Brainer Business Decision: The TMZ Hollywood Tour: Let the peeping pros take you on a 24-passenger bus tour. It’s been such a hit that a New York version is in the works.

The Bottom Line: More than 20 million unique visitors per month at TMZ.com

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