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rose-tinted-glasses.jpgDiscover Small Business Watch today unveiled the results of its monthly survey of business owners and found that economic confidence is on the rebound on Main Street.

Its "economic confidence" indicator was up 10 points, reaching its highest level, at 88.5, in 14 months. It's the third month the indicator rose.
nyc-tech.jpgThis week Marshall Sponder, an Entrepreneur expert columnist and author of WebMetricsGuru, participated in a panel on finding New York City resources at  Entrepreneur Week NYC. Other panel members included Oz Sultan, Founder of NextWeb as the moderator, Amish Jani, Manging Director at FirstMark Capital, Kristy Sundjaja, VP of Media and Technology at New York City Economic Development Corp, Vince Sbano, General Cousel & Co-Founder of PCM Exchange and Rod Underhill, Co-Founder of MP3.com.

Following are Sponder's thoughts about how social networking in New York tech community helps business owners leverage connections to build their businesses.
 
For starters, the New York technology community has great resources just for startup; such as Ultra Light Startups (recently referred to as Self-Help for Startups, by Businessweek), held at For Your Imagination, in Chelsea, Manhattan. The focus of Ultra Light Startups is on those starting a business and who want to connect with others who can either help them or collaborate on launching the business. There have been many a great idea pitched to a willing and helpful audience. Sometimes these pitches result in entrepreneurs connecting with venture capitalists looking for the next new businesses to invest in. Other times, people in the process of reinventing themselves -- due to the recession and job loss -- have found the next big thing, right there at Ultra Light Startups.
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businessman-optimism.jpg Wisps of hope are appearing in economic indicators, and in two recent surveys--American Express OPEN's Spring 2009 Small Business Monitor and the latest Leadership Pulse--it appears that optimism and confidence in the business world are on the rise, too.

Earlier this week, Alice Bredin, small business advisor to American Express OPEN, told me that the semi-annual Monitor survey was a gauge of the temperature in the small business community--what it's experiencing, what it's doing and what it's planning to do.
rockin-kara.jpgConsider Salary.com's 2008 Wasting Time at Work survey, which concluded that a "record number" of people waste time at work, up nearly 16 percent from 2007. That doesn't bode well for employers, you might think--and before Wednesday, I would have thought so, too.

I would also have considered computer games a form of "personal internet use," a category that tops the survey's list of popular time-wasting activities. Again, as I discovered, maybe not.
earth-day.jpgToday is Earth Day. What a great excuse to take a break from your economic woes and focus on your environmental woes. As an entrepreneur, you have countless things to do to keep the ship sailing smoothly -- naturally, the environment often takes a backseat. But there are things you can do right now to help make your business more sustainable.

Sure, going green is in vogue, but small changes can reap big benefits for business owners who take steps to conserve. To find out how, we spoke with environmental freelancer and pro-blogger Jennifer Chait. She currently writes for such green-minded publications as: Tree Hugging Family, Inhabitots, Blisstree Green and Mother Nature Network.
venture-capitalists.jpgVenture Capital investment has shrunk to its lowest amount since 1998, falling 50 percent compared to the same time last year, according to a report in today's Los Angeles Times.

The news cites data from Dow Jones VentureSource, which reports that reports an 8-month drought for VC-backed initial public offerings, too. Information technology was one the sectors hit hardest, dropping 52 percent to $1.58 billion in total VC capital for the first quarter of 2009.
governator.jpgIn a forum Wednesday evening, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed the Golden State's $42 billion budget deficit and fielded questions about a series of proposed ballot initiatives to help close the gap. He spoke optimistically about the state's future to a crowded auditorium in the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles.

"Crisis brings action," he said, asserting that the six ballot measures would work to offset the shortfall and prevent budget impasses by capping annual spending and creating a rainy day fund. "It's time to fix [the system] once and for all."

computer-freedom.jpgAs an entrepreneur, the internet is arguably your best friend--you thrive on its endless supply of free marketing, e-business and communications tools. But it can also be your worst enemy--a web of timewasters that can be tough to escape from. In fact, the very online tools you depend on to run your business can distract you from running it.

If you're a Mac user, there's hope--no, not from your tragic hipness, but at least from losing time online. It's called Freedom, and, despite what the Second-Amendment crowd might tell you, it is, in fact, free.

recovery.jpgChecking Slate.com's Change-o-Meter has become a regular part of my morning work routine. For the uninitiated, the Change-o-Meter is an amusing little graph that evaluates the Obama administration's actions on a scale of 1 to 100, bookended by "Politics As Usual" and "Change We Can Believe In." This week has been an especially good one for the White House, which yesterday rated an impressive 45 for easing certain trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.

Sadly, on February 17, the day President Obama signed the stimulus bill, the score was an underwhelming 13. Not so good, say critics, who might point out that the brazenly bipartisan manner in which the legislation was pushed through--with just three Republican votes--forestalls any hope of real cross-party collaboration.



taking-back-startup.jpgTechCrunch today takes a look at the saga of social bookmarking site StumbleUpon, a fortuitous startup that launched with $1.5 million in venture capital and eventually sold to eBay for $75 million.

But wait, there's more: While most entrepreneurs would have walked away with the cash and wrecked a Ferrari or two, the founders of the technology, Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith and Justin LeFrance, kept their hearts attached to the company they gave birth to.
obama-ent-credit.jpgIn extolling "glimmers of hope" for an economic recovery, President Barack Obama today said the Small Business Administration's most-popular loan program has expanded by 20 percent since March, when he announced stronger federal guarantees for SBA-adminsitered credit.

"We feel very good about the progress that we're making in unlocking lending in some particular markets, for example the small business area," Obama told reporters at the White House. "Some of you will recall that a couple of weeks ago we made a presentation about how we were going to help thaw lending to small businesses, and I'm pleased to discover that because of our actions we've seen a 20 percent increase in the largest SBA loan program in the last month alone.

economy-questions.jpgAn Entrepreneur Connect member recently wrote in with two important questions:


  • Will the average small business owner benefit from the stimulus?
  • What's it really going to cost?

After several weeks of speaking to advocates and opponents of the bill, here are the answers that have emerged.



retail-down-steady.jpgRetail sales in the United States were down 1.6 percent in March compared to the same period last year, according to data firm Retail Metrics. At least part of the drop was blamed on the Easter holiday shopping season moving to April this year.

What's more, some stores, including JC Penney, Wal-Mart, Hot Topic, American Eagle, Aeropostale, TJX, Ross Stores, and Cache all saw sales increases versus March of 2008.
admin_karenmills_pic.jpgThere was no April fooling when the Senate confirmed venture capitalist Karen Mills to take over as the Obama administration's chief administrator of the U.S. Small Business Association last week.

"Small business is the heart of the American economy," the 55-year-old states. "There are over twenty-six million small businesses in this country and they create 70 percent of the new jobs. This means that to find our way out of the current economic crisis, we have to find ways to help small businesses stay in operation and even expand."
army-knife.jpgOver the years, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has gained a reputation for being inadequate to its purported task of small business advocacy. But change, perhaps, is in the air.

Yesterday, the Senate committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship unanimously confirmed the nomination of Karen Mills--entrepreneur, venture capitalist, heiress to the Tootsie Roll fortune--to head the ailing agency, which (if the recent funding thrown at it is any indication) the Obama administration expects will play a key role in helping Main Street ride out the recession.