If you have a small business owner on your holiday shopping list, or you are one and you're looking to drop some hints, here are some ideas for giftable purchases that could make 2013 an easier, educational, and perhaps even more profitable year for your favorite entrepreneur.
1. Business Coaching Sessions: Give an entrepreneur a gift certificate for a massage or a day at the spa and it's likely to expire before they find time to use it. But a session or several with a business coach holds the promise of increased profits, new customers, or improved time management skills. Find coaches in your area at the online Worldwide Association of Business Coaches directory. With some coaching, maybe next year your entrepreneur will have time for that spa day.
2. Tickets to a Conference: There's nothing like getting away from the business and interacting with other innovators for inspiration. Help your entrepreneur start the year off with new energy or look forward to a refreshing midyear break by paying her way to a conference. MomCom in Austin in January caters to the mom-preneur. Crowdopolis Big Apple in February will teach business owners how to tap crowds of customers for ideas. San Francisco's Launch Festival in March will let your entrepreneur rub shoulders with angel investors and venture capitalists. TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 takes place in New York in late April and is the place for tech startup CEOs. Las Vegas is the place for creative industry leaders to be in August for SXSWV2V. And if a trip to the UK is in your budget and it's social entrepreneurship you're supporting, there's nothing like the Skoll World Forum at Oxford University in April.
3. Registration for an Online Course. Universities and online educators host webinars and online classes that business owners can audit on their own schedule. Many are free, but just taking the time to find the right course and sign up your entrepreneur could be a welcome gift. "Grow To Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Business" is one popular online course for small business owners that will be taught by University of Virginia Darden Business School professor Edward Hess, author of several books on entrepreneurship. And Coursera is offering about a dozen more business management courses this spring.
4. Smart Phone Credit Card Reader: If the business owner in your life is still taking payments via cash on the job site or invoicing and waiting for checks in the mail, a mobile credit card reader could win them extra customers, and bring income faster and more reliably. Card readers plug into a smart phone and also help with inventory management. Think how useful a card reader could be for food trucks, interior decorators, landscapers, handyman services, caterers, craft-fair sales, and farmers' market stalls. See our recent report about how a roving book publisher uses her mobile card reader. And see this Chargify piece for how to choose the best reader for a business.
5. Smartphone Wifi Hotspot Service. Hurricane Sandy's power and internet outages left a lot of self-employed folks scrambling for wifi access. Computers can be plugged into a generator, but when the internet service provider is down, Etsy sellers, eBay vendors, and freelance writers, are among the self-employed workers who are disconnected from their income. During and in the days following the hurricane, however, cell phone service was reliable in many places. A small business can stay up and running online by using a smart phone or android phone as a wireless modem. Depending on the type of phone and phone service you have, setting up a hotspot might require installation of a cheap app, or a relatively inexpensive adjustment to your service subscription. This Slate article describes options for android and iPhone users. And this ComputerWorld blogger describes how to set up a wifi hotspot on an android without a subscription using a 99-cent widget—could be a great stocking stuffer.
6. Some Inspiring Reading. Check out our list of great 2012 books for entrepreneurs—-or consider the audio versions for the small business owners without a spare minute to read, but lots of time in the car.