This ad will close in

Americans need stuff--we just need it. If you need proof, just look at the way we went out and spent last weekend despite months of apocalyptic news about the economy. But a recent story in Newsweek seems to suggest we're willing to look for new ways to get our stuff.

Last year, for the first time in almost 50 years, no new indoor malls were built in the U.S. Not one. But obviously it's not that we've stopped buying things. It's just that more and more people are becoming smart shoppers instead of free-spending consumers.


This month ZepInvest rolls out a website intended to give average investors, entrepreneurs included, access to previously exclusive reports, newsletters and advisors.

The site gives members access to 82 such sources, including Bernie Schaeffer's Option Advisor, Walter Frank's The Money Letter, and Jim Lowell's Fidelity Sector Investor, for $800 a year. ZepInvest principals say that the cost of accessing all those sources individually could climb to $30,000.

content continues below

holiday-shopping.jpgThe little-known Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research today made official what's already well-known: The U.S. economy is officially in recession.

Recessions are usually defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, and the committee states that the nation's last wave of economic growth reached "a peak in December 2007 and has declined every month since then."


About a month ago, I started a website ( of fake book covers with fake excerpts. It's half-inane hobby and half-business project. I'm learning about online marketing strategies, how to drive traffic, how to make revenue from ads and overall, how to make it succeed. Plus, it's more fun than shooting womp rats in my T-16 back home. I first wrote about it here.

Anyway, my agent/guide, Kim Orr, recently told me that Twitter had replaced blogs. Or so Wired Magazine had told her.

So I looked into Twitter.

downturn-dampen.jpgFor the most part, the wealthy enjoy a different lifestyle than the rest of us, but even they know to practice caution in the face of an economic downturn.

Take, for example, these thrifty tales from a Time Magazine story on "Recession and the Rich", written during the 1974-75 recession:
  • A wealthy Boston matron gives up her weekly massages.
  • A socially prominent Manhattan couple switches from vintage to non-vintage champagne.
  • A Chicago industrialist trades in his Cadillac for a "relatively miserly" Mercedes with a diesel engine providing 32 mpg.
  • A West Coast tycoon sells one of his yachts.
  • A millionaire hostess in Los Angeles begins featuring chili at her dinner parties.
economy-grim.jpgBusiness owners continue to express deep reservations about the health of the American economy, according to Discover Small Business Watch's latest survey, which was released today.

"Small businesses are continuing to feel pressure in this weakening economy," said Discover small business card director Ryan Scully. "The number of owners having trouble paying their bills is the highest we've seen since April and more than half of owners are cutting back on their business development plans, which is an all-time high."


After three days of intense networking, the Summit is drawing to an end. It has been an unforgettable ride and an amazing experience as an embedded writer. While every individual has a story to tell, what strikes me most is the lack of ego. Proving oneself goes out the window, replaced by a mutual understanding of the pains and accomplishments that binds these individuals together.Entrepreneurs are driven by their passion, they envision solutions when others can only identify problems, they are persistent and send out a hundred e-mails when necessary to prove that the cause they believe in is legit, and they bring to life what started off simply as an idea. And yet these individuals don't brag or boast but instead they talk, opening up the platform for meaningful conversation.


There's nothing quite like an open bar of free-flowing booze to get people talking and a night of partying that, for some, only ended with the dawn of a new day, to bond a group of people.

On to the third day. Morning becomes afternoon and people are still recovering: ordering snacks by the pool and relaxing on the lounge chairs only steps from the beach. Attendees are hurting and a new schedule is implemented (hallelujah for the entrepreneurial spirit, which embraces and applies flexibility and adaptability). The presentation by Scott Harrison of Charity: Water is delayed by half an hour.


Urban economist Joel Kotkin argues that immigrant businesses are often recession proof and seem to be faring well in this otherwise gloomy economy. The Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., writes that Asian immigrants tend to save cash and thus have it for shopping, while Latino immigrants are often paid in cash and have more fluidity when it comes to everyday shopping needs.

"Throughout the country, ethnic-based businesses continue to expand, even as mainstream centers suffer or go out of business," Kotkin writes. "The key difference, notes Houston real estate investor Andrew Segal, lies in the immigrants' greater reliance on cash. 'When cash is king,' observes Segal, president of Boxer Properties, 'immigrants rule.'"


Congressman: "Mr. Auto Company CEO, are you OK? You look a little uncomfortable."

Mr. Auto Company CEO: "I am a little uncomfortable, Mr. Congressman. Thank you for asking. My back is bothering me something fierce. The automatic lumbar support mechanism on the private jet's butter-soft leather seats was broken on the flight here. And my massage therapist had a conflicting engagement. Couldn't make the trip."

summit.jpg1:30 a.m.: The life of a writer all too often revolves around word count, deadlines and catchy leads. But today, November 20, I have been transported to a paradise of sorts. I have been deployed to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where my only assignment for the next two and a half days is to cover The Summit Series, an event extraordinaire made extraordinary not only by the magnificent setting--a waterfront resort featuring spa services, tennis courts, and alluring pools--but also by the company I'm keeping during my brief escape from reality. More than 60 attendees comprised of entrepreneurs and some impressive movers and shakers have come together from across the country.

For some, it is not their first time--they met previously in Park City, Utah, where stories of the last Summit weave a tale of a vibrant getaway just like this one is promising to be. Others, like me, await in anticipation.

journalist.jpgWith print media searching for a way to continue its ad-supported life in a world dominated by Google, the folks at TypePad have stepped up to offer a lifeline to recently axed journalists. You know the folks, the ones laid off by the Los Angeles Times, Conde Nast publications and Time Inc., and even website companies such as Gawker Media.

There are thousands of them out there, and TypePad wants to at least offer them the hope of self-sustainability on the web by offering its "Journalist Bailout Program," which includes a TypePad Pro account, enrollment in the Six Apart Media advertising program, and blog promotion via The deal is for recently unemployed journalists.


After the smoke clears...

That was the message awaiting me when I got home from work yesterday. I live just a few miles from the fire line in Southern California. My wife and I spent Saturday watching local stations, awaiting the latest news on the firestorm. When the evacuation zone reached a street a little more than two miles from the house--the fire was five or six miles away--we packed some bags and got the vehicles loaded just in case.


As the world reacted two weeks ago to the election of the first black president in the U.S., the national election fervor was rivaled in California by the passing of Prop. 8, a bill to overturn same sex rights.

There was a time when something like this would have a minimal impact on small businesses, but the viral impact of any decision can have unexpected consequences.


When I turned 21, I also turned into a stereotype.

I was at the local bars every Thursday night, and my friends and I became elder statesmen of late nights, philanthropists that believed in lost causes and connoisseurs of bad decisions.

But, out of our element some evenings, we'd show up to dead bars, listen to terrible bands and drink at places that didn't wash their pitchers. We'd get pushed around by unruly bouncers, stared at by awkward biker burnouts and wait in line with clubbers that thought anywhere was a dance floor. We just had off nights sometimes.

And it might've been because we didn't have Randy Rantz to help us.