UT students launch the world’s cutest business selling memory foam corgis

Meet Waffles.

He’s a corgi made of memory foam, and he’s the product of a new business venture from two University of Texas students, Sherill Feng and Andy Shaw.

Courtesy Memory Plush / Kickstarter

According to CultureMap Austin, the two students launched a Kickstarter last month to start selling the adorable cuddle buddies, raising more than $24,000 with nearly a month left in the campaign.

According to the Kickstarter, the idea came from their childhood: Kids tend to love their stuffed animals pretty hard, leading to heartbreak when they fall apart.

“We were motivated to solve plush losing shape when washed, used as a pillow, or cuddled with. We created Memory Plush, memory foam plush (the name is literal), to solve this tragic issue that plagued us when we were young and continues to plague millions of children in America every year,” the website reads.

Why a corgi? It’s simple: Feng loves dogs, especially this short-legged breed. But the couple plans to make various dog breeds, from pugs to blue heelers to mixed breeds.

You can get your own Waffles if you pledge $39 to the couple’s Kickstarter, and if you pledge at least $54, you can get a name embroidered on your Waffles. If you don’t have the budget for your own fluffy friend but you still want to help them out, a $5 pledge gets you an adorable Waffles sticker, and $10 gets you a magnet AND a sticker. So you can have Waffles with you always.

How much money do you need to make to afford a home in the Austin area?

We’ve all heard before how expensive it is to buy a home in Austin. A new ranking reveals just how much buyers might need to make for a slice of Texas capital property.

A house on Garden Street is for sale on Thursday November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A house on Garden Street for sale on November 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Business Insider recently ranked the Austin-Round Rock metro area at No. 22 on its list of most expensive housing markets in America. The list ranks the metro areas by the estimated salary needed to purchase a home. In Austin, that magic number is $52,578.

Here’s how the listmakers crunched the numbers, according to Business Insider:

Using NAR’s data on housing affordability, we gathered a list of the US metro areas where the minimum salary required to qualify for a mortgage, with 20% down, is the highest. NAR assumes a mortgage rate of 3.9% for all areas, with the monthly principle and interest payment limited to 25% of income.

According to the National Association of Realtors, in the final three months of 2016 the median home price in Austin sat at more than a quarter of a million dollars — $287,600.

Home prices are even hitting new peak levels in the majority of metro areas nationwide, according to the association.

The American-Statesman reported last month that experts expect 2017 to be a strong year for the Austin-area housing market. Steady job growth and continued demand for homes factor into the high home prices.

Also worth noting: The Austin-Round Rock area is the only metro from Texas on the list. The median home price in the three bigger Lone Star metros are lower than in Austin. In the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, the price sits at $206,300; the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land area comes in at $224,500; and the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area goes for $230,600.

If you haven’t hit the $52,578 salary mark yet, there’s good news. In early February, we also reported that rental rates are stabilizing, providing some relief to apartment dwellers.

H-E-B’s Charles Butt family ties with Rockefellers on Forbes’ wealthiest in the U.S.

Charles Butt, CEO for H-E-B smiles as he get a standing ovation as he is called to the stage to help hand out awards during the State H-E-B annual Excellence in Education awards on Sunday, May 3, 2015. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Charles Butt, CEO for H-E-B smiles as he get a standing ovation as he is called to the stage to help hand out awards during the State H-E-B annual Excellence in Education awards on Sunday, May 3, 2015. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

H-E-B’s Charles Butt family was named the 23rd wealthiest in the U.S. by Forbes magazine, tying with oil-moguls the Rockefellers.

The magazine, which published the list on Wednesday, estimates the Butt fortune to be $11 billion. No. 1 on the list was the Walton family who own the national chain Wal-Mart and are estimated to have a fortune of $130 billion.

The first H-E-B grocery store was opened in 1905 by Florence Butt after her husband was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Charles Butt took over the company in 1971 and is the majority shareholder though he and four other family members hold the fortune. He shares it with his sister Eleanor Butt Crook, his brother Howard Butt Jr. and his two nephews Howard Butt III and Stephen Butt.

Earlier in June, Charles Butt was ranked at No. 19 on Glassdoor’s list of top-rated CEOs of a large company in the U.S.

When is a fingerprint background check required in Texas?

The secret stars of the Uber/Lyft vs. Austin City Council fracas: fingers. In a high-profile showdown over regulations, the ride-hailing companies fought with their wallets to keep drivers from having to submit their fingerprints for criminal background checks. And ultimately, the digits of Austinites took to their voting booth scroll-wheels and cycled down the ballot to reject Prop 1.

Though the proposition called for the repeal of other driver requirements — like trade dress and avoidance of travel lanes when picking up passengers — online conversation often reached the highest screen-bound volume over the fingerprint issue. Uber and Lyft maintained that their name-based background checks were sufficient safety measures.

In what other circumstances is a fingerprint-based background check required around these parts?

Austin City Council member Ann Kitchen gets fingerprinted by a MorphoTrust USA enrollment agent at a fingerprint enrollment station set up for Uber and Lyft drivers at City Hall on Thursday, January 28, 2016. Kitchen demonstrated the process for the media before the start of the council meeting.  (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Austin City Council member Ann Kitchen gets fingerprinted by a MorphoTrust USA enrollment agent at a fingerprint enrollment station set up for Uber and Lyft drivers at City Hall on Thursday, January 28, 2016. Kitchen demonstrated the process for the media before the start of the council meeting. (JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, “Texas law authorizes fingerprint-based criminal history checks for designated volunteers and employment or licensing applicants in a wide variety of areas.” These include:

  • Child care providers
  • Teachers
  • Security and armed guards
  • Security system contractors

In an April 29 anti-Prop 1 op-ed, former American-Statesman reporter and editor Brenda Bell wrote that fingerprint checks are also required in Austin for cab drivers, people who work for janitorial services, pedicab operators and “not just teachers but pretty much everyone on the Austin school district payroll.”

According to the Texas Racing Commission website, anyone involved in pari-mutuel racing must be licensed by the commission, a process which requires fingerprint checks. Such individuals include owners of racing animals, owners of kennels, trainers, jockeys, grooms and “those in jobs that provide the opportunity to influence racing,” as well as “those who will likely have significant access to the backside of a racetrack or to restricted areas of the front side of a racetrack.”

Speech language pathologists, too, must submit to a fingerprint background check, according to the Department of State Health Services website, as well as EMS and trauma system licensees. According to the Texas Medical Board, physicians applying for their full medical license have to submit their fingerprints for state and national criminal history checks. Applicants to the State Bar of Texas “required to file a Supplemental Investigation Form must be fingerprinted” as part of the Texas Board of Law Examiners’ “Character & Fitness” process, according to the board’s website. Architects must also submit to the fingerprint-based checks, according to the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners website.

For the record, the Texas public safety department’s official stance on fingerprint checks is clear.

According to the DPS website, “A fingerprint-based search is the most accurate method available returning records based on matching fingerprints; a name-based search has a greater potential to match multiple candidates as the search relies on a comparison of similar sounding names or, if requested, names spelled exactly alike.  With a name based search it is possible to match against records that do not relate to the person in whom you are interested, and it is possible to miss the record that does relate to the person in whom you are interested.”

Note: This post is not intended to be a complete list of situations requiring fingerprint background checks in Texas.

Local IHOP goes viral for all the wrong reasons

A server at an Austin IHOP probably wishes he had been more thoughtful when he served a traveling couple early Monday morning.

Arainia Brown and her boyfriend Rolman Sparkman stopped at the IHOP on Cesar Chavez Street and Interstate 35 around 3 a.m. Monday, KVUE reported. All was well until the couple asked for the receipt. When the waiter gave them their check, they weren’t thrilled with what it said.

IHOP

No, there was no rude handwritten note, and there were no out-of-the-ordinary charges. What Sparkman and Brown took issue with was the at the top of the receipt.

It simply read “BLACK PPL.”

“You could have asked me my name,” said Brown, who added the incident was made worse by the fact that their server was also black. “Don’t put, don’t label me. I don’t label you.”

Brown shared the receipt on Facebook rather than bring it up at the restaurant. It has since been shared by multiple news outlets, and the original receipt picture has been viewed thousands of times.

“This is not a joke,” Sparkman said to KVUE. “It’s very serious and it hurt a lot of people’s feelings.”

IHOP’s corporate office released the following statement about the incident:

“This was a poor choice made by our franchisee’s team member, and is not in keeping with policies and procedures. We recognize that it could be offensive and apologize. Everyone is welcome in our restaurants and our franchisee is using this as a teachable moment for the entire team so that it will not reoccur.”