• That Old Idea to Shutter SBA is Back

    Shutter SBA ImageA debate about the wisdom of folding the U.S. Small Business Administration into the Department of Commerce has been simmering ever since the idea was proposed by President Reagan nearly three decades ago. The notion has remained on a back burner even with the current administration, as President Obama appointed SBA Administrator Karen Mills to his cabinet as part of a broader plan to merge SBA with several other agencies, but then failed to appoint a new administrator after Mills departed last August.

    A year ago, we reported here on some small business advocates’ stances on the folding SBA into Commerce (hint: they’re vigorously opposed). And now a new proposal has brought the conversation back to a boil.

    In late December, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) proposed legislation to form a single Department of Commerce and the Workforce that would encompass the functions of the Departments of Labor and the Commerce. One of five undersecretaries at the newfangled department would oversee all

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  • 142 Ideas for using Pinterest for Business

    This fantastic infographic (well really a huge categorized list) from Andrea Ayers of Launch Grow Joy is chock full of ideas for using the hot visual social platform in clever ways to help promote and grow your business. The only thing I am going to add to her fantastic advice is that you need to make sure your images and visuals are as good as they can be. Be clever and smart to make them stand out from the pack.

    142 Fantastic Pinterest Board Ideas for Business

    Original at http://www.launchgrowjoy.com/142-pinterest-board-ideas-entrepreneurs/

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  • Word of Mouth

    One of the most common questions I hear from small business owners is “How do I leverage social media as part of my marketing campaign?”

    It’s a fair question, for both business owners who launched their companies pre-Y2K and those who launched their companies yesterday. Social media is relatively new to everyone, even though Facebook has been around nearly a decade, and remains unexplored by many small businesses.

    But social media marketing is fairly simple and fundamentally straightforward.

    “At the risk of over simplifying, social media marketing is word-of-mouth marketing at its core,” says Adam Fridman, CEO and found of Mabby, a digital marketing agency that focuses on small businesses and startups.

    Experts agree that the tricky part is executing and creating the “buzz” that drives word-of-mouth marketing. Chicago-based social media professionals Fridman and COO of Mabbly, Vlad Moldavskiy, share three tips for amplifying social media marketing efforts through word of mouth:

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  • Four Ways to Build a Mobile Payment System That Works

    Mobile Payment
    If you’re in the retail business, the holiday spike in mobile shopping likely has you restrategizing your e-commerce—or m-commerce, as mobile-based e-commerce is now known. Yahoo Small Business reported in December that Americans broke mobile shopping records on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, spending $1.1 billion in three days via their smartphones and tablets.

    Even before the season got underway, a Deloitte survey indicated that 68 percent of smartphone owners planned to use their devices for holiday shopping. And eMarketer forecasted that mobile devices would drive 16 percent of 2013 retail e-commerce sales—more than double the 2011 rate. By 2017, eMarketer predicts, m-commerce sales will nearly triple to $113 billion.

    But retailers beware: “Those sunny prognostications ignore a giant fly in the ointment,” warns Ralph Dangelmaier, CEO of BlueSnap, a payment processor whose goal is “to convert more shoppers to buyers worldwide” and whose main competitor is PayPal. The
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  • Are special interests hijacking small businesses’ advocates?

    Hidden Agenda?

    The National Federation of Independent Businesses calls itself “America's leading small business association, promoting and protecting the right of our members to own, operate, and grow their businesses.” It’s the group that took its lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that the law was unconstitutional and that it would stymie growth among small businesses, and even force some to shut down.

    Another small business association, the non-partisan Small Business Majority, filed a Friend of the Court brief in defense of Obamacare. It said the Affordable Care Act would save small businesses money and potentially increase their competitiveness. But that group has already been linked more strongly to liberal causes and the Democratic Party than to small business interests.

    Still, it seemed curious that NFIB would go to such lengths making the complete opposite argument on behalf of its members, when most of them would not be impacted by the new

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  • An entrepreneur’s app helps you hunt down your next collaborator

    PeopleHunt at work

    Maybe it’s the result of being born in Mexico City, raised in New York City, carrying an Irish passport, and living in Berlin, Copenhagen, Eindhoven, London, and San Francisco by age 34, but Adrian Avendano is obsessed with meeting and collaborating with new people.

    So, as a software engineer and self-proclaimed hacker, he set out to master the science of connecting: What conditions need to exist for like minded people in a crowd or a city to find each other and create something together?

    With his partner and fellow hacker Ellen Dudley, an Irish biomedical engineer, Avendano developed an iPhone app called PeopleHunt that aims to facilitate useful human introductions. A bit like Meetup, but for enabling spontaneous, one-on-one interactions, the app has spawned numerous business and personal relationships among more than 2,500 users. It has also captured $40,000 in equity-free financing, and sparked interest in the Bay Area investment community, he says.

    With the slogan "life's a

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  • Career Mistake

    There are some core mistakes that can derail any career if you aren't careful. Make sure you don't make them...

    • Don’t Quit Networking Once You Get a Job: People are usually vigilant about networking when looking for a job but stop once they're hired. Your long term career success is dependent on your ability to continue to build strong business connections as well as nurturing current relationships.
    • Put More Focus on Benefits: When looking for a job, weighing the options is about much more than base pay. The role, manager and compensation are all important factors in deciding whether to join a company, but benefit programs (such as work-hour flexibility, health and wellness programs and family leave policies) and company culture are critical factors as well. More than ever, the lines between work and home life are blurring and working for a company that understands that can save you a lot of stress and money.
    • Be the Driver of Your Own Destiny: Too many people depend on their manager or
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  • Late for Meetings? You’re a Typical Boss

    Late for meeting

    Even before he took the oath of office, New York City ’s new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, was raising hackles around town: He runs chronically late. A mock Twitter account set up to track his arrival record at press conferences, @HowlatewasBdB, won more than a few followers before being closed.

    But NYC reporters aren’t the only ones annoyed by waiting around for leaders who are tardy to their own meetings: Nearly 60 percent of all business meetings are delayed; more than half of participants admit to being less than punctual; and CEOs, CTOs, and company founders are the worst offenders, according to a recent “State of the Modern Meeting” report.

    Blue Jeans Network, a provider of cloud-based video collaboration services, says it produces the semi-annual survey and report about meeting trends “because most professionals claim to spend half of every business day in meetings.” The company says its research demonstrates how technology is reshaping business meetings worldwide.

    To be sure,

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  • Prototype

    You’re an independent, would-be inventor with an idea for a new product. You’ve even designed it with computer automated design software or printed out a model on a MakerBot. Next step: Manufacture an industrial grade prototype.

    Our recent article about Rainbow Loom inventor Cheong-Choon Ng explains his decision to go to China for an injection mold of his small, plastic handloom toy: U.S. manufacturers quoted him $20,000 just to make the mold. In China he could get the mold and his first batch of products for half that. And half was all that the first-time entrepreneur had to his name.

    But, as our story explained, he paid for that decision when his first shipment of 10,000 plastic loom hooks arrived mis-sized. It took him a year to file each one down by hand at home.

    Had Ng known about a company called Proto Labs, he might have had an easier time.

    Brad Cleveland, CEO of the Maple Plain, Minn., company, says his ideal customer is “anybody who needs a protoype or low volume production and

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  • How a 15-year-old entrepreneur got her product into Nordstrom

    Fish Flops founder Madison Robinson meets one of her Nordstrom customers

    Yahoo editors have selected this article as a favorite of 2013. It first ran on Yahoo Small Business on May 31 and was one of the most popular stories of the year. The article describes how teenager Madison Robinson won big success for her line of colorful flip flops for kids.

    She launched her business two years ago, but Houston teenager Madison Robinson has yet to face something most new entrepreneurs do: rejection. Every store buyer she has approached has placed an order for her Fish Flops for Kids shoe brand.

    Robinson came up with the idea for her sea-creature-adorned flip-flops with battery-operated lights when she was just 8, living at the beach in Galveston Island, Tex. Her dad Dan, a former banker turned t-shirt designer, helped her turn her drawings into a product and get samples made. More than 30 stores placed orders the first time they exhibited at a trade show, so he hired an overseas manufacturer and started shipping in May 2011.

    Launched with “friends and family” financing,

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