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pizza.jpgBest-selling author. Political commentator. TV and radio talk show host. It's no surprise TIME magazine named Tavis Smiley one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People" in 2009. And when Smiley wanted to have an influence on the economy in his home state of Indiana, he turned to franchising.

The PBS host, along with business partner Harold Patrick and unnamed investors, recently purchased the rights to open at least 37 Marco's Pizza franchises in the Indianapolis area over the next five years.
growth-smart.jpgFor the majority of small-business respondents in the 2009 Small Business Attitudes & Outlook Survey, the economic recovery is nigh. Seventy percent anticipate moderate to significant growth this year (only 1 percent think they will close their businesses), and 47 percent expect to hire additional employees.

The survey, conducted by online marketing firm Constant Contact, reveals two things, said CEO Gail Goodman: the optimism and perseverance of business owners, and their ability to adapt to even the toughest economic conditions.

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superhero-emerge.jpgGlobal wealth indicators may have plummeted to record lows this year, but the "real-life superhero" movement is on the upswing. According to a CNN piece earlier this month, the number of people who are taking on superhero identities (and donning outfits to match) has risen more than 25 percent since last summer. People disillusioned by a downtrodden economy, the article suggests, are finding renewed purpose by assuming superhuman alter egos as they "perform community service, help the homeless and even fight crime."

That may seem odd, but the link between superheroes and periods of economic uncertainty is hardly new. Many of the most famous--Superman and Batman chief among them--debuted as comic book stars around the time of the Great Depression and WWII.

confidence-raise.jpgThe latest Discover Small Business Watch of entrepreneurs reports that economic confidence among the Main Street business class has risen slightly in June, with its index rising to 80.9 from 78.1 last month.

The main culprit for the increase is cash flow, according to the data. The number of business owners who said they experienced temporary cash flow problems decreased from nearly half last month to 42 percent in June.
billy-mays.jpgTelevision pitchman and entrepreneur Billy Mays died Sunday, likely from heart disease, according to reports. An autopsy found that he suffered from hypertensive heart disease, and there was no sign head trauma from a head bump he reported following a rough flight to his hometown of Tampa, Florida.

The 50-year-old's complaints of being hit in the head, possibly with baggage, during the landing of that flight over the weekend led to speculation that Mays' death might have been related. Toxicology tests are pending. Mays is survived by his wife, 3-year-old daughter and adult stepson.
rising-health-care.jpgThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released a report about the rising cost of health care. Among its conclusions: "Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000."

That increase in health care costs grew three times as fast as wage growth and cost employers' $12,680 for the average family plan -- nearly the same as a minimum wage salary for one year, according to the HHS.
calc-biz-success.jpgStarting a business is not for the risk averse. But in an effort to help entrepreneurs assess just how much risk is associated with launching or running their business,, a website that provides business advice and networking for entrepreneurs, recently introduced an Odds of Success Calculator.

The business valuation device calculates a business owner's odds of success based on eight factors: amount of capital investment, difficulty in obtaining funds, quality of financial management, degree of business planning, annual industry growth rate, management experience, industry experience and timeframe.
gen-y-business.jpgIn his new book The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You (Crown Business), business and technology journalist Michael S. Malone argues that a new generation of young Americans entering the workforce -- Generation Y -- isn't the best choice if you want loyal, hard-working, long-hour employees on your team.

"Managing this generation may not only be a nightmare, it may actually be impossible," Malone writes. "It is quite likely that some sizable percentage of these new workers (and, being the  so- called "echo" of the Baby Boom, their numbers are huge) will never work in a steady job on the payroll of a single employer. And an equally large segment may never know a career different from that of a 'permanent part-timer,' contractor, or consultant."
credit-card-inflexible.jpgThis spring a bigger problem than the bank-loan freeze has emerged for entrepreneurs: Credit card companies are slashing their limits, and small business owners are suffering because a majority of them rely on plastic to bolster cash flow and sustain operations.

The pullbacks are especially tough because more and more entrepreneurs are depending on the cards as their main source of credit. According to the National Small Business Association (PDF) 59 percent of small business relied on plastic for daily operations, up from 44 percent last year.
recovery-sighty.jpgGood news from the 2009 Chapman University Economic Forecast: Expect the recovery to begin in the next few months.

During an event held this morning in Orange County, Calif., Chapman University president James Doti and Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research, presented an update of the 2009 Forecast to an audience of approximately 800 business and community leaders. They reaffirmed the predictions first given in December 2008, and pointed to signs that the economy is on its way up.
vacation-time.jpgWith many companies operating under-staffed during the recession, employees are feeling uneasy about taking time off, according to a recent survey by staffing company Randstad. It's not actually going on vacation that's getting workers down--it's returning to mountains of work.

The Work Watch survey revealed that 77 percent of respondents found the first day back in the office, after returning from a vacation, was the most difficult.
cell-phone-tax.jpgIf you assign mobile phones to employees, they might be liable for a quarter of the applicable taxes if new IRS rules under consideration go into effect.

The idea is to take some of the burden off business owners' backs. Already, a notice issued this week allows employers to forgo "minute-by-minute" documentation of employees' company phone use.

facebook-trade.jpgIf you've logged into your Facebook account within the last 48 hours or so, chances are you've already seen and read the following message:

Starting on Friday, June 12th, at 9:01pm in your time zone, you'll be able to choose a username for your Facebook account to easily direct friends, family, and coworkers to your profile. Check out the Facebook Blog for more information or send yourself an email with the details.
healthcare-biz.jpgComprehensive healthcare reform will save the small business sector $855 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report released this morning by the nonpartisan Small Business Majority. The study, titled The Economic Impact of Healthcare Reform on Small Business*, noted that a system of shared responsibility among the healthcare industry, businesses, government and individuals would be critical to successful reform.

The data revealed the following:

  • On costs: Without reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars in employee healthcare costs; with change, costs could be reduced up to $855 billion (36 percent).
  • On jobs: In 2018, an estimated 178,000 small business jobs will be lost as a result of unchecked healthcare costs. Depending on the level of support, 128,000 (78 percent) of those jobs could be preserved. 
  • On wages: Small business employees will see $12 billion in total wages lost to growing healthcare costs in 2009; by 2018, that number could reach $172 billion. Reform can preserve $309 billion (63 percent) of these lost wages.
  • On profits: Over the next decade, small businesses will lose $52.1 billion in profits due to high healthcare costs. A reformed system will reduce those losses by $29.2 billion (more than 56 percent).
slow-loan.jpgThe House Committee on Small Business today held a hearing on the state of credit for the small business community. Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez, a congressional Democrat from New York, stated that despite stimulus funds and loosened rules for U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loans, credit for Main Street business is still moving slow.

"From the start-up in Silicon Valley to the mom and pop restaurant on Main Street, small businesses everywhere are struggling to find the capital they need to keep their doors open," Velázquez states. "While the Recovery Act took important steps to help fix the credit markets, entrepreneurs still can't find the loans they will need to get the economy moving forward again."