An Economy-Agnostic Startup?

In the mid-to-late 2000’s, a number of college students might have lamented graduating into the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Not Brenton Sullivan and Kai Sato—they launched a business in the face of a crashing financial market in 2008.

The 2007 USC graduates’ concept for what would become FieldLevel had been named “Best Business Plan” by the Marshall School of Business’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and the pair had even received an offer of $1 million for an 80 percent stake in the company but we unmoved. Instead, they took the more difficult path, opting to bootstrap through the early part of their existence.

Numerous sleepless nights and pivots later, FieldLevel was accepted into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Sports and Entertainment Accelerator—a distinction that came with $20,000 in funding—last month.

Sullivan and Sato maintained a cash flow positive business well ahead of being accepted into the accelerator. While cash flow positive and profitable are two very different distinctions, and the company still has a ton of work to do, the fact that FieldLevel has taken off in the face of a horrific economy is impressive.

Both entrepreneurs attribute their success against the adverse economy not only to their passion and flexible business model, but also to the generosity of friends and family, who provided them the initial funding that enabled them to avoid the typical path of venture capital (and reject the early offer to cede 80 percent of the control in their business).

Sullivan and Sato have always been leery of traveling down the VC path and seemed almost thankful that it’s nowhere near as established in this half of the state as it is up north in Silicon Valley. The tech industry, as a whole, has numerous stories of VC’s either making small investments as a means of basically stealing entrepreneurs’ ideas and putting them out as their own or as a takeover (the initial overture FieldLevel received).

Perhaps what makes this story most interesting, though, is the fact that at no point were economics a driver for this business. Ultimately, the business needs to transition from cash flow positive to profitable, but the duo is in no real hurry to make that happen.

To these two former high school athletes who were largely invisible to recruiters, it’s more important to get it right.

“Finding the right fit is the key,” Sullivan said. “I was probably a guy who should have been at a DIII school somewhere, but they had no way to find me. I would have had to go to them.”

FieldLevel is a free service that aims to bridge this disconnect, enabling coaches at all levels to have the same access to prospective players.

One major differentiator, though, is that college coaches would be connected to high school and travel team coaches—not to the players themselves. This (theoretically) shields college coaches from being spammed.

The other? It’s free.

“This is where the economy, I believe, worked in our favor,” Sullivan said. “Recruiting services are outrageously expensive and, generally, get minimal returns. College coaches we talked to hated them.”

The combination of frugality, recruiting service fatigue and use of prep coaches as a buffer enabled FieldLevel to amass the largest network of coaches in the industry quickly. But instead of rushing to “monetize” or “maximize valuation” like venture-backed Silicon Valley companies, Sullivan and Sato are looking to continue refining their business—a process aided by the Dodgers Accelerator.

“Developing this business has been an evolutionary process, and we’ve had a number of pivots along the way,” Sato said. “We needed a partner that understood that, which is why we chose to do the Dodgers Accelerator. We didn’t need the funding, but the collocation space with other entrepreneurs and the corresponding added brainpower are invaluable.”

The heavy focus on product and willingness to proceed in the face of a negative economy have been key to FieldLevel’s growth, but that doesn’t mean the entrepreneurial team behind the company hasn’t paid any attention.

“We grew our business in the face of an economic downturn, and sure our [friends, family and business model] made it possible, but there was also a lot of chatter on Capitol Hill about helping small business as the economy was at its worst point,” Sato said. “But even as we hired, we never saw any of it.”

True to startup culture, though, they refuse to spend any brainpower on it.

“It sucks, but we’re too busy building our business to worry about it,” Sato said. “We’re not taking the company public or anything like that, but we firmly believe that the best is yet to come for us.”

The economy and a couple high-profile flops have made the IPO market essentially stagnant over the last few years, but hopefully his optimism is not in vain. While he company will still face the dilemma of how to monetize a network of users, it can look to the successes (and failures) of predecessors like Facebook and Twitter (albeit on a much smaller and more targeted scale).

The economy might not have factored heavily into its growth to this point, but now that FieldLevel has taken on capital and is looking at adjacent business opportunities, it is unlikely that the company can continue to ignore it.

The Number Matters

“September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression.”, the former head of federal reserve, Ben Bernanke, said. Although seven years have passed since the country has broken out of the crisis, many companies are constantly affected by the fickle health of the economy.

Richard Martin, who is a publicly certified accountant, founded Martin & Associates in 2003. The company provides accounting and financial accounting services such as business consulting, investment review, and tax planning to individual and business clients. For example, it calculates the gross profit percentage for its customer and gives advices on whether its customer needs to adjust production quantity or the pricing. Moreover, Martin & Associates analyzes businesses from a financial perspective, often resulting in financial advisements. When their customers are in debt, Martin & Associates evaluate the financial health of the company and make adjustments necessary to return to a healthy cash flow. What differentiates Martin & Associates from other accounting firms is its commitment to establish valuable relationships with its client base customers. The company truly believes that the success of their clients impacts the success of Martin & Associates significantly.

Further, Martin correlated the state of the economy to his firm by insisting it is all a “chain effect.” The prosperity of Martin & Associates depends on the financial health of its clients. When its clients are financially healthy, there is a more rapid rate of payment and a steadier flow of consulting appointments as they seek advice with investing their surplus cash; however, during times of economic hardship, more effort is required on part of Martin & Associates to ensure that payments are made within a feasible period. If one of its customers is not performing well, it affects Martin & Associates directly because the customers do not have the means to pay the company for its financial services. When their clients file for bankruptcy and go out of business, Martin & Associates feel immense pressure d to actively seek out more clients by going through additional service providers and networking. Interestingly, a large amount of their new client base comes as a result of referrals.

Besides the broad economic environment, the movement of the federal interest rate impacts the client of Martin & Associate the most, inversely impacting them. “The lower the interest rate, the less interest expenses for my clients, resulting in more liquidity. In times of notably high liquidity, my clients seek additional financial consulting”, stated Mr. Martin. When Martin & Associate’s client owns greater amount of capital, they tend to invest in capital goods therefore demand more financial advices. For example, a client with additional cash flow for any given time period, may want to invest in additional land or equipment, and seeks advice from Martin & Associates as to what the financial return of those investments may be.

Additionally, government regulations are one of biggest challenges Martin & Associates is currently facing. Every time a new law or act is put in place, its clients must reallocate their budget breakdown to meet the needs of the change. An example of this may be additional health insurance costs as a result of the Affordable Care Act, or a change in minimum wage. In addition to these widespread regulations, there are also additional changes that vary from industry to industry (being that their client base varies from insurance brokers, to tech companies to restaurant chains). For this reason, it is important that all the employees at Martin & Associates stay up-to-date on changes within various industries and have the knowledge to respond to those changes.

Furthermore, Martin & Associates is an outstanding company because of their personal ethical decisions within their own firm. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, many businesses have made changes within the company in order to survive and remain its status within the market. Some companies offer discounts to its customer in order to maintain its competitiveness. However, instead of lowering the price, Martin & Associates decided to maintain its original price but provide added service. “Once you lower your price, you are competing with other companies on the price level instead of competing on service. Lower price may imply lower quality, and competing on price alone does not build loyalty with customers”, Martin said.

Another significant obstacle that Martin & Associates have strategically conquered is the growing popularity of the Internet. The Internet era not only affects the way people communicate with each other, but also affects the competitive landscape in the accounting field. With the convenience Internet provides, instead of seeking financial advices and services from traditional accounting firm, people turn to online software. In order to raise its company’s competitiveness, Martin suggested that his company understand the trend and further provide extra services to its clients. He mentioned, “Online software servers are able to reach a huge amount of audiences. Technology brings competition, therefore companies have to keep up with the technological innovation to provide added value services.”

Starting a business of your own might not be easy task but keeping the company running through economic hardship is certainly harder. By maintaining relationship close relationship with its clients, creating added value services, and constantly monitoring the economical trend of the market, Martin & Associates is able to withstand through the ups and downs of the economy.

More than just Marihuana, It’s a Business

The Medical Marijuana industry has been a controversy in the United States for years.  It is a touchy subject that maybe an old man and his son would get in an argument about because of the interesting changes that have taken place through the generations. However, many are making an entrepreneurial leap of faith and creating Medical Marijuana as a business that thrives. This is the case for Nate Taylor who is a Seattle native and has spent the last five years in the industry with his Medical Marijuana Company called Fweedom Collective. Nate has done more than create Fweedom Collective as a well-known million dollar business in Seattle. Fweedom Collective has benefited consumers, the city of Seattle, and influenced the legal changes that are being processed today.

Three years ago recreational Marihuana was legalized in Washington State. Since then, the government has started to regulate the Medical Marijuana by joining it with Recreational Marijuana and push it all into one system. Before the law was passed, Medical Marihuana was only loosely regulated. Though this may seem beneficial for Nate’s business, it has definitely takin a toll on the company.

On Sunday, September 13th, I gave Nate a call. It was 12 P.M. and Nate answered to the sound of a football game, Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Lewis Rams, which was playing in the background. Nate is an avid Seahawk fan who attends the games frequently.  The Seahawks were down by nine points, It was the third quarter, and when asked if the Seahawks would come back he said, “Oh, for sure!” While the game was still playing he was more than willing to answer the questions I had for him, with an occasional burst of excitement or dismay from the game.

Many economists are probably wondering: has the Medical Marihuana industry been impacted by cyclical or secular shifts? When Nate was asked this question he said that the answer was most likely secular. If the economy goes down, people don’t stop spending money on the product, it is a necessity to them. However, they may buy less of it at a time.

With the economy changing and new technology constantly being developed, businesses have to adapt. Nate said that over the last few years Fweedom Collective has had to make some beneficial changes. It increased its Search Engine Optimization, worked on improving and creating more online orders, and developed different apps that profit the company. The business also increased its hours of operation due to demand. Nate noticed early on that people get off work later and by creating longer hours improved sales. These changes helped Fweedom Collective stay on track with today’s basic needs for consumers.

Seattle is a booming city, and many businesses have either expanded or moved there for better opportunities. Some of these big local businesses are Amazon, Expedia, T-Mobile, and Microsoft. Nate mentioned as long as these companies are prosperous, steadily growing and no economic down turn, the city benefits, including his company. “As crazy as it sounds”, Nate said. “When professional teams in Seattle perform well, spending has increased at Fweedom Collective.” After the Seahawks won the Super bowl in 2014, sales dramatically went up at Fweedom Collective.

Of course being in the Medical Marihuana business is not easy, especially since it is loosely regulated. Mentioned earlier, Recreational Marihuana was legalized in 2012, though this might seem like it would benefit Fweedom Collective right away, it actually has presented many challenges. “My industry is at the end of an area, the probation of Marihuana, therefore making it a grey area,” Nate continued, “a lot of changes are being made.” Even though the law was passed over three years ago, the government is still in the process of making regulations for recreational Marihuana and should be resolved by 2016. With no heavy guidelines, many smaller recreational businesses have entered the market and have changed the prices of products. He elaborated on how he has seen products that were priced at $13 drop to $10. “We constantly have to change prices and adapt to the environment around as more businesses are evolved,” Nate said. He also believes many of these stores are in it for the money and only want to be open for a short period of time. In July of 2016 Recreational Marihuana should be fully regulated.

In some cases today, the economy does not look at Medical Marihuana as a legitimate business. Therefore interest rates or access to capital do not play a major role in Fweedom Collective, for consumers anyway. The company only takes cash or credit cards. Nate mentioned that he could get a loan through his business if necessary. However, what affects the company the most is business loans because banks and financial institutions will not grant them to a business like Fweedom Collective. Nate said its loans come from private investors. Most likely when regulations are officially submitted for Recreational Marihuana, banks will be more willing to loan money.

The most surprising news that can be learned from this interview is the impact Fweedom Collective has had on the community it operates in. Nate elaborated on the positive impact the company has on its small location north of Seattle. “With our business being there it has helped the neighborhood out a lot, cleaning it up, put illegal deals off the streets and into a legal business, and crime rates have dropped.” Nate also mentioned his business has brought money to an area that was demolished and made it more commercialized.

After eight years, Nate Taylor and two of his coworkers, Sky Nielsen and Tyler Godfrey, took an idea and brought it to life. Now at 28, Nate is a successful business owner who is looking to expand in other areas. Though his business is succeeding, the Seahawks are not. They lost 31-34 to the Rams.




The Big Mac Index: A Hungry Economy, to go

MMM1The Big Mac index was invented as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. Based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the index follows the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries.

Drawing on the example from the The Economist, the average price of a Big Mac in America in July 2015 was $4.79; in China it was only $2.74 at market exchange rates. So the “raw” Big Mac index says that the yuan was undervalued by 43% at that time.



Never intended to be a precise gauge of currency misalignment, the Big Mac Index has announced itself as a global standard for countries to position themselves in the world through the value of their currency. This could bring some joy to the office of the new CEO of McDonald’s following the fall in revenue by 11% in the last quarter.




The figure above provides a detailed summary of the Big Mac Index. For example, South Korea, which lost its value against the dollar post 2000 has been on a downward trend and has been significantly devaluaed to 21%. So what does this mean? Well, devaluing the currency decreases the exchange rate of the South Korean Won against the dollar. Hence one dollar can now buy more of the Won. This has a direct impact on the both the economies. It would decrease the value of South Korean goods, making them competitive in the international market, increasing exports from the country and increasing imports in the United States, and worldwide. Simultaneously purchase of foreign goods is more expensive decreasing exports in South Korea. This directly sponsors growth in the economy through increase in net exports. This practice seems relevant to economies that are looking towards growth, for example developing countries. Hence through the chart we can confirm that Russia, India, China and South Africa, four of BRICS countries are focused on aggressive growth. Yes, from the looks of it even China.

For individuals like me, who come from India and other Asian countries to United States, we will have more of currency shock than culture shock. With 1$ woth Rs.66, I am having trouble managing my expenses, so good luck to those students coming to United States for studies. For now, I am considering on going back to India and saving on those precious dollars.


The Economic Indicators on Fast Food in America


It is no secret that Americans love their fair share of fast food. Whether it’s sugary donuts or greasy burgers, Americans are suckers for fast food of any kind, hence making us the number one biggest consumer of fast food in the world. So what are some fast food economic indicators?


According to “The Economist” magazine, during economic downturns, fast food restaurants across the country surprisingly do well amidst the downfall. Fast food restaurants did much better than pricey, more sophisticated restaurants during this period of time. This is because people would want to spend as little money as possible during these downturns, and thus choosing the less expensive food over costly ones. In the event of when long term recession makes even fast food restaurants fail, these fast food restaurant chains can still continue to survive by cutting their prices and do more advertisements across the country.

Contrary to the last paragraph, no amount of cheap food can stop some people from eating at home to save money. During the 2008 recession, unemployment rates were at an all time high, thus fewer and fewer consumers were dining out. This led to the merger of Wendy’s and Arby’s, which expanded the market share of both fast food chains, making it the 3rd largest food chain in USA. Due to this merger, the fast food chain also increased its costumer base, pulling consumers from 2 different fast food chains into 1. Therefore, I will not be surprised if more fast food chains do a merger in the future if there is ever going to be a recession again, as it will benefit the chains during this period of time.

Due to the health kick that everyone is in lately, consumers began to demand fruits and vegetables to be included in the menu of fast food restaurants. More and more Americans became more picky when it comes to the food they eat and the calories they burn each day. There was a sudden increase of menus with healthier options in well known fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Chickfila. They began introducing salads and fruit cups into their menus, some restaurants even began serving grilled chicken as a healthier alternative to fried chicken. According to QSR Magazine, 2011 sales for McDonald’s outperformed the company’s sales in 2009, by a whopping $1.5billion. The difference in sales was mainly due to the addition of fruit smoothies and salads into the fast food chain’s menu.

In conclusion, these are some of the economic indicators of the fast food chains in America. As long as there is never a repeat of the horrific 2008 recession in the near future, the future of the fast food industry seems to be bright in America.

The Olympics Indicator: It’s More Than Just a Sports Event

This just in: Los Angeles could become the only city to host three Summer Games other than London.

With the 2024 Summer Olympics nine years from now, Los Angeles was chosen Tuesday to be the new official U.S. bidder for the Games, replacing Boston after the city’s campaign surrendered to local opposition.


(The Los Angeles Coliseum/Source: The New York Times)

When we talk about economic opportunities related to sports events, we usually think of vast investments in sports venues, infrastructure, public transportation, and human capital, etc. However, historical data reveal that the Olympics hosting right has been an economic indicator of stock markets.

A study conducted by Bespoke Investment Group shows that under most circumstances, stocks markets rally during the Summer Games because investors are mostly distracted from gloomy headlines. Most of the times, the so-called Olympics Indicator is found to be a leading indicator of a rising stock market.

The study included the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the Summer Games since the 1900 Paris Olympics. It also calculated the market performance of hosting countries during the games since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

The claim that investors are distracted by the games appears to be a little bit bizarre. However, from 1900 to 2008, the DOW had an average gain of four percent and the index was positive two thirds of the time. Therefore, if you buy $10,000 worth of stocks on the day of the opening ceremony and sell all of them on the closing day (that’s usually 14 days,) theoretically you can earn at least a brand new Apple Watch.

What about the stock markets of host countries? Since 1984, only two out of seven games have seen a negative growth in host countries’ stock markets. Both cases occurred because they were right in the middle of the dot-com bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, respectively. The average gain was 1.86% according to past performance of stock markets.



(Source: Bespoke Investment Group)

Even though there is no strong evidence showing a causal relationship between the Olympics Games and stock markets, it can be drawn from historical data that stock markets tend to perform better during the games. That’s partly because markets gain a sense of optimism and counteract the negatives in most years.

For investors seeking short-term profits, don’t just sitting in the couch watching the games. The Olympics Games can be an indicator for a positive market. Buying some Nike or Adidas stocks may be a good decision.


USOC names Los Angeles the official U.S. bidder for the 2024 Summer Olympics

The Olympics Indicator

What Summer Box Office Numbers Tell Us About the Economy

Baseball may longer be America’s only favorite past time. Americans have sought after a much more cost efficient alterative to let loose and relax than pay the high cost of a stadium seat. It seems that more individuals are heading to the big screen to unwind.

It has been noted that by economists that there may be a strong correlation between movie ticket sales and the health of our economy. During our economy’s peak, Americans had a much more disposable income to spend on vacations and were able to pay higher costs for entertainment. However, as a result of the recession many individuals have now become hesitant to spend money.

However, as our economy slowly begins to recover from the economic recession that occurred in the late 2000s it has been observed that Americans are watching more films, whether they are heading to a theater or relaxing on the couch at home streaming Netflix or popping in a Redbox rental.

It has been recorded that summer box office sales hit a record high in 2011, with a grand total of $4.4 billion in overall revenue. That being a notable increase of approximately 1 percent over the prior year, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

Looking back and comparing how our economy was in 2011 to our 2015 economic numbers, one would certainly hope that he or she would see some sort of upward trend indicating that we are on our way to recovery.

Therefore, what would we hope to see in terms of box office numbers for this summer season? Certainly, we’d hope to see less individuals heading to the theater as a form of entertainment of course.

While we will not know the exact box office numbers for the summer of 2015 until after Labor Day weekend, it can be stated that there has been a substantial decrease when paralleled to our 2011 numbers.

Currently, the summer season has brought in approximately $3.8 billion revenue domestically. However, it is expected that there should not be any significant spike in numbers within the remaining week or so of the season.

It can be stated that this summer season is up 9.7% compared to last year, but that increase is suspected to be a result of more family movies being released this summer, such as Jurassic World. In addition, labor day falls at a later date this year and provides an additional eight days to the summer season.

So the method of observing summer box office sales and comparing them to the economy may seem unusual,  but it may be a valid economic indicator.




Quality of Life Index

Li Ka Shing, Hong Kong’s wealthiest man started his career as a high school drop out but he managed to grow his wealth alongside Hong Kong’s rapid financial boom. Anything good that has happened to him could be traced back to the fact that he was born in the right country, Hong Kong, at the right time, 1930s. He was not the only one to benefit from his birth, Warren Buffet, probably the world’s most successful investor was born around the same time in the United States. A quarter of a century ago, when The World in 1988 ranked 50 countries according to where would be the best place to be born in 1988, America indeed come top. But the question is, which country will be the best birthplace for the years to come?

To answer this, The economist has created a comparison of 80 countries which will provide the best opportunity for healthy, safe and prosperous in years ahead. The quality of life index (also known as the where-to-be-born index) links the results of subjective life satisfaction surveys – how happy people say they are- to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. A high GDP per capita helps more than anything else however it is not all that counts. Things like crime and trust in government institution matter too. Overall, the index takes 11 indices into account, they are varied but all important considerations: some are factors hardly ever change (geography), and others change very slowly (social and cultural characteristics) and some factors depend on political environment and the state of the world economy.

Determinants of the Quality of Life

1. Material wellbeing

  • GDP per person, at ppp in $.

2. Health

  • Life expectancy at birth, years.

3. Political stability and security

  • Political stability and security ratings.

4. Family life

  • Divorce rate (per 1,000 population), converted into index of 1 (lowest divorce rates) to 5 (highest).

5. Community life

  • Dummy variable taking value 1 if country has either high rate of church attendance or trade-union membership; zero otherwise.

6. Climate and geography

  • Latitude, to distinguish between warmer and colder climes.

7. Job security

  • Unemployment rate %.

8. Political freedom

  • Average of indices of political and civil liberties. Scale of 1 (completely free) to 7 (unfree).

9. Gender equality

  • Ratio of average male and female earnings, latest available data.

10. Governance

  • Ratings for corruption

Surprising factors that weren’t included in the index are education levels, rate of GDP growth and income inequality. According to studies, education only had a small correlation to overall life satisfaction however, education levels can also impact political freedom, job security and gender equality.

A forward-looking element comes into play too. Although many of the determinants of the quality of life change rather slowly, these rankings are only a forecast. The2013 index will be for children born in that year and predict the year 2030 when they reach adulthood.

Small economies dominate the top ten places. Half of these countries are european but only one country is in the Euro Zone (Netherlands). The Nordic countries are ranked the highest whereas European economies with high unemployment rates lag behind (Greece and Spain) despite their advantage of a warm climate.

America, the number 1 country to be born in in 1988, is down in 16th place, despite their huge economy and political freedom, babies born today will inherit large debts of the boomer generation. None of the large manufacturing countries such as Brazil, India or China scored very impressively.

The Buttered Popcorn Index – A Deliciously Twisted Look At Economic History

movie_theaters_68947In an age where streaming movies on Netflix or Hulu has become the norm, many people assume the movie theater industry is a dying relic of a more financially stable time.

Every year, Hollywood releases reports blaming mediocre films for turning audiences away. Other people in the media think the industry is failing because younger generations are less interested in the big screen experience. Unfortunately, most of these reasons lack any statistical support.

The movie theater industry follows a rollercoaster-like business cycle that reaches its peak during different periods of time much like many sections of the U.S. economy. However, the unique characteristic of the movie theater business is that it thrives when most businesses are struggling to survive.

This is the Buttered Popcorn Index.

Throughout the history of U.S. cinema, there has been a trend in movie theater attendance as it correlates with the economic climate in the country.

During the Great Depression, the film industry had to cut costs in production and theaters had to lower ticket prices. This led to an enormous surge in the film industry with roughly 60 to 80 million people heading to the movies each week.

In 1982, movie theater attendance climbed 10 percent while the unemployment rate increased at a similar pace. However, as the economy healed, attendance dropped about 12 percent.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.56.58 PM

Now let’s look at our most recent recession. In 2008, the movie theaters earned roughly thirty million dollars less than in 2007. In 2009, the summer box office had an enormous spike in ticket sales after declining in 2008. The chart above shows how, between 2008 and 2009, theaters earned over one hundred million dollars more than 2008.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.57.19 PM


Movie theaters have not been able to maintain the 1.42 billion people they brought in during the rescission. The Hollywood Reporter released statistics in 2014 stating the number of people going to the movies had dropped six percent from 2013, which was the lowest in twenty years.

Ticket prices have played a large role in how people perceive the movie theater experience. Between 2001 and 2015, The price for move tickets increased from $5.66 to $8.12. The prices have blown up dramatically within the last fifteen years, yet there were more people going to the theater in 2009.

One of the main reasons why movie theaters had a surge during the recession was because even with the rise in prices, tickets have remained below ten dollars. Therefore, when times are tough for people, less of them look at going to the movies as an expense and more as one of the few remaining affordable options for entertainment.

“Generally, when economic downturns hit, we have seen an increase in box office and attendance in six of the eight last recessions,” said spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners Patrick Corcoran in an interview in 2011,  “People seek relief in forgetting their problems, so they go to the movies, and it is the least expensive form of entertainment.”

Another reason for the success of the movie theater business in 2009 was the types of movies being released. Happier films like Pixar’s Up and the comedy film The Hangover raked in close to $300 million each during the summer months. This suggests many people were looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy themselves in a tough economic climate.

The Buttered Popcorn Index demonstrates that no matter what era it is, people tend to flock to movies to escape the realities of their financial situation.

The Plastic Surgery Index

When hearing the word economy, any keyword that is related to finance, such as “GDP,” might pop into your head, but what about the phrase “plastic surgery?” A few years ago, economy was exclusively linked to plastic surgery when the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) revealed its statistics.

In comparing the numbers from 2008 to 2009, the ASPS found that the total number of cosmetic procedures fell 1 percent and the surgical procedures fell 9 percent. These statistics created a correlation between the U.S. economy and plastic surgery, and thus the Plastic Surgery Indicator was born.

During times of economic instability, people cut down unnecessary spending as their first priority, and plastic surgery appears to be on the top of the list. The total number of plastic surgeries fell during economic hardship, but when the economy is rising, the total number of surgical procedures also rises because people have a restored confidence in the market.

In 2011, 13.8 million cosmetic plastic surgeries, including surgical and minimally- invasive, were performed in the U.S., which is a five percent increase from 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

“While the rate of economic recovery in the U.S. is still uncertain, 2011 proved to be a good year for plastic surgery,” said ASPS President Malcolm Z. Roth, MD. “Consumer confidence was up, auto sales rose 10 percent, so it is not surprising that we would also see increased demand for plastic surgery procedures.”

However, if you only focus on the total number of surgical procedures that were performed each year, a large part of the indicator is being missed.

In 2011, the total number of surgical procedures was 11.5 million, 2.1 of which were invasive cosmetic surgical procedures, such as breast augmentations and facelifts. In 2013, the total number of surgical procedures was 13.8 million, and only 1.58 of which were invasive cosmetic surgical procedures.

Even though the statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show an increase in the total number of surgeries from 11.5 to 13.8 million, it shows a decrease in the number of invasive cosmetic surgery procedures from 2005-2011.

If less invasive cosmetic surgeries were performed, you may be wondering how did the total number of cosmetic surgeries increase? Minimally invasive surgical procedures are the answer.

Due to the fact that people have less discretionary income to spend, people are more willing to pay for minimally invasive cosmetic surgeries– such as botulinum toxin, which means injecting Botox and Dysport to the face in order to reduce wrinkles– as opposed to spending it all on invasive cosmetic surgeries– such as nose reshaping, which is expensive.

Overall, we know that when the economy is good, more plastic surgeries are performed, which is a good general measure of consumerism in the economy. However, looking at the number of minimally cosmetic surgeries is an even more precise way to predict the economy than the total number of cosmetic plastic surgeries in the future.