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obama-biz.jpgYesterday, President Barack Obama held a small-business financing forum to discuss what more should be done to help break the lending logjam small business owners have experienced the past two years. Before it even began, Obama was being criticized for keeping the guest list under wraps. Interested parties such as the American Small Business League issued a press release about their displeasure with not getting an invite. Others, including the International Franchise Association president/CEO Matthew Shay and Indiana Statewide Certified Development Corporation executive Jean Wojtowicz, got a ticket to the ball.

But while many squabbled about the timing, the format, and the lineup of speakers, the bigger question is: With Goldman Sachs, Warren Buffett, and JP Morgan Chase stepping up lending to small businesses, does small business still need this help?
goldman-buffett.jpgSmall businesses have been crying for help getting loans for two years now. And finally, help arrives from an unexpected quarter: global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs is teaming with savvy American investor-icon Warren Buffett to offer $300 million in financial aid to small businesses, coupled with $200 million more for college-level training for entrepreneurs.
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dish.jpgGrowing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jill Donenfeld cherished the time spent with her family around the dinner table every night. Those times inspired her to launch The Dish's Dish--a customizable, health-conscious home chef service.

When Donenfeld moved to New York City to attend Barnard College she simultaneously immersed herself in the City's vibrant culinary scene. Just three days after graduation she began writing her business plan.

After garnering quite the following in NYC and the Hamptons, The Dish's Dish went bi-coastal in the fall of 2009--offering its services to Los Angeles residents too. Now only 25, Donenfeld's mission is to cultivate personal satisfaction and healthier living through home cooking.

Entrepreneur recently sat down with Donenfeld to chat about pursuing her passion, creating a brand and her decision to expand in the middle of a down economy.
global-ent-week.jpgA sort of We Are The World moment for young entrepreneurs happens this week--the second annual Global Entrepreneurship Week. Founded by busy U.S. business-stimulators the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and U.K.-based Make Your Mark, the week aims to bring together young would-be business owners from around the globe to learn and get inspired to make their business dreams a reality.

In 90 countries around the world, events will be held to mentor, teach and stimulate the next generation of entrepreneurs. More than 3 million people are expected to participate in over 5,000 events.
Back in July, I blogged about Maid Brigade's Veterans Franchise Giveaway. This week, to coincide with Veterans Day, the company announced the results of the contest, after narrowing the field down from over 100 entries to six finalists. The winner of Maid Brigade's "Gold Award"--including waived franchise fees, equipment, training, and $27,500 in working capital--is Major Philip Thomas Piaget, a retired Airborne Ranger.
health-care-rise.jpgThe whole healthcare-reform debate hit home for me this week. I've been ignoring a large envelope that came from my health insurance agent about a month ago. They left me a sort of ominous-sounding phone message about it, too, but I hadn't had a chance to call back. You know how sometimes when you can smell something bad's up, you just want to avoid it? I was in that mode.

Then I started reading news stories about how small-business healthcare plans were all having their rates jacked up to the sky...and I finally got up the nerve to open the envelope. Then I about fell over.
credit-card-trans.jpgIf you had told me a decade ago that I could pay $40 a month for all the phone calls I could make coast to coast, I wouldn't have believed it. I used to routinely have $250 phone bills. But now, as a reporter who frequently needs to call all over the country, I am a prime beneficiary of the new all-you-can-eat calling plans.

What if credit cards could work the same way for small businesses--a flat fee per month for all you can charge? In a thought-provoking article on the retail-tech/e-commerce site Storefront Backtalk, Focus Brands vice president of information technology Todd Michaud opines that there could be. The credit-transaction business, he argues, is ripe for a disruptive new model that would radically lower costs for merchants.
There isn't much glory to running a small business. Day after day, you market, sell, hire, fire, economize, mentor, purchase, envision, order, organize, plan, and pay the bills. And nobody notices. Or you win some totally jokey award that doesn't really mean anything, and nobody notices.

Occasionally, there's an exception to the grind--a chance for a few outstanding small businesses to step into the spotlight and enjoy some national recognition for what they've built. One of those opportunities is coming up.
For those who don't read the fine print on the Small Business Administration's website, the agency has proposed increasing the size definitions for small businesses in 71 business sectors, mostly within retail industries. It's the first proposed rule change on qualifying size since 1984.

Why should you care? It means bigger businesses would still qualify for SBA loans and other federal assistance to small business.

Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'm of two minds.
With the filing of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization petition late last week, the parent company of giant small-business lender CIT is hoping for a speedy trip through bankruptcy court. Small businesses that need loans, however, face a more uncertain future.
When contributing writer Carol Tice wrote about the ROI of networking online, comments from readers revealed their uncertainty over the value of sites like Twitter and Facebook. So when LinkedIn--a site specifically designed for networking purposes--changed its user policy to limit the number of connections a person could have to 30,000, Entrepreneur.com investigated its potential effect on small-business owners and entrepreneurs.

Can LinkedIn's recent cap hurt entrepreneurs? Pick a side.
Last night I was watching the HBO documentary Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, which chronicles how Jewish and Italian immigrants created the New York garment district soon after the turn of last century, and built it into the largest employer in the city. It goes on to show how, after more than 70 years of being a thriving source of good-paying union jobs, it all disappeared as trade protections ended and NAFTA ushered in a new era of global free trade.

The film repeatedly asks the questions: How will we rebuild the American middle class? Where will tomorrow's living-wage jobs come from?
nw-ent-network.jpgIf you're a retailer who sells online, and you'd like to give your sales a free, end-of-season boost, you might want to join in on the second annual Free Shipping Day.  

Created last December on a whim by Luke Knowles of free-shipping coupon site FreeShipping.org, Free Shipping Day was designed to help retailers on the last day when virtual shops can guarantee delivery before Christmas. Apparently, online shopping starts to decline around Dec. 12, as customers get nervous about whether packages will arrive, and Knowles thought this might help keep the online sales going.

nw-ent-network.jpgIf you're hoping to connect with venture capital firms to pitch your company story, a new contest may help--but you'll need to be ready to catch a plane to Seattle.

This year at Northwest Entrepreneur Network's signature networking event, Entrepreneur University, six lucky companies will get to make their pitch before a media panel and conference attendees. How do you qualify? A Twitter contest.

 
keep-biz-alive.jpgEntrepreneurs typically have a passion for the business they've created. With the economy down, many business owners are facing tough decisions about how to keep their business afloat until sales improve. What would you be willing to do? For instance, would you liquidate personal assets to keep your business alive?

A recent study shows more small-business owners are contemplating doing just that -- dipping into their own funds to keep their business going. The Discover Small Business Watch survey of 750 small-business owners found nearly two-thirds--61 percent--of owners thought it likely they would tap into personal assets to stay afloat within the next year.