Entrepreneurial

Exclusive: Fewer small businesses shopping for credit: PayNet

When the financial crisis hit, panicked small businesses were scrambling to find credit. Nearly three years later it’s a much different story.

The level of credit shopping – when a borrower seeks a loan or lease from more than one lender – by small businesses has fallen nearly 30 percent since September 2008, according to new data released by PayNet Inc and it may lead lenders to offer better terms said William Phelan, PayNet’s president and founder.

“It indicates that it’s not a very competitive market right now,” said Phelan, whose Skokie, Illinois-based company released the data as part of the launch of its new Credit Shopping Indicator, which measures the number of lenders a borrower shops for business credit. “In 2008 you would have expected it to be high because of the recession and the lack of availability of credit.”

Phelan said back then the indicator registered 118 – a record – and far above pre-recessionary levels in January 2005, when it sat at 100 – the point at which a borrower typically shops for credit at more than one bank. Today it stands at 84.

This dip is actually good news for small businesses, who should take the opportunity to ask for better loan terms from lenders, said Phelan.

Wrongful termination law: Avoiding a lawsuit

– Cynthia Hsu is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

As a small business owner, knowing some of the intricacies of wrongful termination law can be vital to preserving your business. Illegal firing of employees for reasons you may believe are justified might just land you in a costly wrongful termination lawsuit.

Most employees are “at will” in the U.S., meaning that they can be fired for whatever reason you want. Of course, that reason must be a legal reason.

Hearty 2011 seen for restaurateurs

This year the restaurant industry is poised to put up its best numbers in four years, buoyed by an increase of roughly 2 million jobs since the depths of the recession and improved household income.

Sales are seen rising 3.6 percent to $604 billion in 2011, according to forecasts from the National Restaurant Association, the industry’s trade group.

“When employment moves up it creates additional demand for convenience such as pizza,” said Hudson Riehle, the association’s senior vice president of research and information services. “Barring any unforeseen shocks, the future for the industry will continue to improve.”

Small business credit cards not protected by CARD Act

– Robin Enos is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (the “CARD Act”) went into effect on March 22, 2009, but Congress exempted business credit cards.

This new consumer protection law changed the game for credit card companies and consumers, as we blogged about in 2009.

Big banks see slow recovery for small business

Marc Bernstein’s response to reports of loan facilitators advising small business clients to avoid big banks: “It’s simply bad information.”

The head of Wells Fargo’s small business lending initiatives then pointed to the $3.7 billion the country’s fourth-largest bank (by total assets) lent to small firms over the first three months of the year – an increase of 27 percent over the first quarter of 2010.

“That’s not small change,” said Bernstein, who added Wells Fargo is the largest national lender of loans under $100,000 and was recently honored as the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2011 Large 7(a) Lender of the Year. “We are trying to do everything we can to get people who apply for a loan approved, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of small businesses that unfortunately have been hit very badly by the downturn and are struggling and it’s hard to see how they’re going to handle more debt.”

Honest Tea founder on being owned by Coke: “It’s a dual identity”

Seth Goldman, co-founder of Bethesda, Maryland-based organic beverage company Honest Tea, said his company maintains a small business culture, even though parent Coca-Cola Co increased its minority stake to full ownership in March.

With 2010 sales of $71 million, the company’s teas can now be found in national retail chains such as Kroger and CVS. Goldman, in Washington recently for an SBA National Small Business week event, spoke to Reuters about the transition.

Q: Were you able to maintain the Honest Tea culture after Coke took full ownership?

Senate kills federal innovation research program

– Robin Enos is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

The U.S. Senate voted this week to kill a bill to reauthorize the popular SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program, according to the New York Times.

SBIR, a program to encourage small businesses to explore commercialization of technology, reserves 2.5 percent of federal research and development (R&D) funds for small businesses. Thus, said the SBA, SBIR enables small businesses to compete for federal R&D funds with larger enterprises.

“Loan doctor” to small business: Avoid big banks

Large banks are making noise about lending more to small companies this year, but financing expert Ami Kassar is still advising his clients to steer clear.

The founder of Philadelphia-based MultiFunding LLC, which brokers loans for small businesses, said his customers stand a better shot at success with regional and community banks.

“As a general rule we don’t get near big banks,” said Kassar, whose firm has arranged 28 deals since launching 15 months ago and has more than 60 others in the pipeline. “The big banks are, in my opinion, full of big talk in terms of their commitment to small business.”

Small businesses offer bin Laden specials

REUTERS/HO/RoadKillTshirts.com

As Americans took to the streets to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, C. J. Grouse was rushing to print thousands of new t-shirts to take advantage of the occasion.

“This is probably the biggest bounce we’ve seen from an individual news story in the last five years of doing this,” said Grouse, 43, who launched RoadKill T-Shirts with his brother in 2005. “We had our designs up yesterday by noon and we sold over two thousand of the different designs in 24 hours.”

Grouse said his most popular seller has been a shirt with an Uncle Sam icon and the message: “We Got You Osama bin Laden May 1, 2011″. Other shirts include a bin Laden likeness behind red crosshairs and the slogan “Burn In Hell” and one inspired by Facebook, with the words: “Osama bin Laden Is Dead. 311,275,382 People Like This”.

PeopleDeals offers its spin on group buying

It appears there’s no end to the number of startups the group-buying space can contain. The latest entrant offering a better mousetrap is PeopleDeals, which allows small and medium-sized businesses to create deals that increase in value the more they’re shared across social networks.

Whereas Groupon-type deals are basically a two-for-one model that doesn’t change, PeopleDeals makes the price cheaper after a certain number of participants share the virtual coupon across social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. To illustrate, a pizza joint could offer an online deal for 50 cents off a slice, then as soon as it’s shared with another person it increases to 60 cents and then to 70 cents after it’s shared five more times, up to a maximum of $1 when 20 or more people share it.

“The key is the business owner decides. At any given time they can make it go from 50 cents to $5, or from 50 cents to 70 cents,” said Darin Myman, the CEO of Red Bank, New Jersey-based social network PeopleString Corporation (PLPE.OB), which launched PeopleDeals last week. “When they (customers) share it with their friends and their friends share it they’re becoming your new social media.”

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