This ad will close in
credit-card.jpgThe New York Times today reports that credit card companies are offering fewer lines of credit, shrinking ones that do exist and putting more restrictions on customers. It could be bad news for business owners--already reeling from the bank-loan drought--who need to find short-term solutions for payroll and holiday inventory costs.

The credit card pullback follows Wall Street's financial crisis and the comatose lines of credit that connect the country's banking system. The Times reports that credit card companies have already walked away from nearly $21 billion in unpaid debt so far this year.

world-of-warcraft.jpgIf you've never pwned someone in a World of Warcraft raid, you might not have experienced the magical power of MMORPGs (for the uninitiated, that's short for "massively multiplayer online role-playing games") to consume all the waking--and sleeping--hours of your life.

But given the economic beating we've taken this month, the time may be ripe for us all to stop looking down on obsessed gamers and join them in the virtual world, where the economy still seems bright, shiny and crisis-free.

content continues below
Dilbert.jpg

Happy Birthday, Dilbert. Put 20 candles on the cake and sing a refrain of the world's most sung song to the character who feels the angst of every cubicle-bound employee and represents the dashed hopes of so many dreamers. (How he would blow out the candles is beyond me. Dude's got no mouth.) 

The ubiquitous workplace presence, creation of multiple-low-paying-job-holder and current entrepreneur Scott Adams, has said and done many of the things workers around the world only wish they could say and do. And for most of that time he's been trapped in the same cubicle.

sports.jpg

American professional sports leagues are engaged in targeted efforts to expand their popularity and reach beyond North America's shores.

Major League Baseball had the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A's open their 2008 season in Japan. The National Basketball Association--cashing in on the popularity of China's 7-foot, 6-inch phenom Yao Ming--played preseason games in China this year and is looking at playing regular-season games in London in the years leading up to the 2012 Olympics there. The National Hockey League in recent seasons has played a spate of games in Canada. Wait. What? Sorry, I've just been informed that our neighbors to the north still have a couple of hockey franchises that haven't moved to more traditional hockey climates like south Florida.

business-owners-grim.jpg

Results of a Discover Small Business Watch survey released today show that economic confidence among small business is lower than it has ever been since August 2006, when Discover began such research.

Nearly two-thirds of business owners polled said the economy was "poor," with 74 percent saying it would continue to decline, and more than half saying Congress' Wall Street rescue plan will have no effect on their own businesses.

retailers-blues.jpg

A survey released today by accounting and consulting firm BDO Seidman LLP states that chief marketing officers at major retailers expect holiday sales to decrease nearly 3 percent compared to last year.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said their stores will be more cautious about inventory, and 88 percent say their retailers have plans for discounts and promotions to attract wary consumers. Most of the chiefs (65 percent) reported they don't envision an economic turnaround until at least late next year.

evita.JPGI had employees now. I had a busboy (my father), a cook (my mother), a hostess (my sister), a host (my brother) and a waiter (myself).

But I had no customers.

I asked my investors (who were also my busboy, my cook and my parents) to buy a massive flashing neon sign to put on the front lawn, but they had to invest their money in the company car (also known as the Subaru station wagon that took me to Little League).

smash-project.jpg

Everything we need to know about the cathartic effects of smashing something, we learned from "Office Space." But in most cases--evil printers notwithstanding--we're forced to pay for that split second of catharsis with the regret of having destroyed something that is valuable and/or makes a mess.

Enter Sarah Lavely, 38, a retired veterinarian who, during what she calls "a rough time in her life," thought about how much better she might feel if she could just go in a room and break something. A little more than two years later, Sarah's Smash Shack was born.

hello.jpgBusiness idea? Check. Business plan? Check. Funding lined up? Check. Business name? Crap.

For some would-be entrepreneurs, choosing a business name can be as labor intensive as raising the first round of venture capital. Picking a name is hard. It has to be something memorable without being cliche or similar to an existing name. If you're just starting out, do you create a business name that says what you do? What happens when you expand the scope of your business to include baseball and basketball but the original name of your business is Football Equipment Distributors? You could probably change to Sports Equipment Distributors, but you've lost the brand that took years to build. What's an entrepreneur with namer's block to do?

It looks like startups and companies seeking seed money and additional rounds of funding will have to look a little harder this year and into next. PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released a report that states quarterly venture-capital investment was down 7 percent.

" ... We do expect to see a dip in investing over the next several quarters," states Tracy T. Lefteroff, global managing partner of venture capital at PricewaterhouseCoopers.


My restaurant had a name now, "eEvita's." [To read about the exhausting naming process and hear some spunky recaps of childhood, check out Why My First Business Succeeded (Part III - Naming The Business)]

Now, it was time to hire. This was my business. This was my time to shine. Yes, I was only 6 years old, but I was really quite mature. I don't know when I first tied my shoelaces by myself, but I'm pretty sure it was well before most of the other kids.

ebay.jpg

If you've done any significant shopping on eBay, you're probably no stranger to disappointment. Sadly, there can often be a pretty big gap between what you expected and what the seller ultimately--at three or four times the actual shipping cost--delivered. But all is not lost, thanks to the beauty of feedback. You might not get your money back, but you can do your best to put a hurt on the seller by ratting him out to future potential buyers.

Seems fair enough, especially given that the first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer. But one seller in England is not ready to take any of this lying down. He's filed a libel lawsuit against a customer for whom a refund just wasn't enough.

palm-trees.jpg

Ever wonder where top executives get together for high-level meetings or corporate retreats? (We don't have to wonder about AIG after its well publicized taxpayer-sponsored shindig a couple of weeks ago.) Well, the folks at Hideaways International have an idea. They "hide executives away so that they can plan their company's next corporate takeover, brainstorm for a new product line or outline next year's business plan."

The travel specialists there organize retreats for company CEOs and presidents in ultra-private and exclusive locations:

evita.JPG

Since my business plan went through [see cute story here], it was time to start my restaurant. Yes, I was only 6, but I had dreams, dammit.

I needed a name now. I wanted something that sounded "classy but hip," "old school but modern," "give me your money but in a wildly fair way where you and I both remain totally guiltless about the prices."

pointing-finger.jpg

There's plenty to be upset about right now when it comes to the economy. So many people are losing money in this rollercoaster market that it makes me wonder why exactly it's legal to invest money based on the speculative performance of a business entity, yet it's illegal to bet on sports. At least gamblers know they're dealing with people who can't be trusted. But I digress.

Things are tough--tough to the point that most people don't need it explained to them by experts anymore. But that hasn't stopped the media from looking for other ways to feed the 24-hour-news-cycle beast. MSNBC has a special interactive website dedicated to figuring out whom you can point the finger at. Anderson Cooper, cable news' prettiest pseudo-journalist, has a new special called "Ten Most Wanted: Culprits of the Collapse," complete with shootout-at-the-OK-Corral graphics. And I'm sure somoene at Fox News is feverishly working on a way to blame Bill Clinton.