Yelp Users Speak, Pawnshops, and Accidental Entrepreneurs

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More Yelp users speak out. Can a few negative online reviews kill a small business? Just ask some angry business owners that claim they've been the victim of seemingly malicious reviews on Yelp. The New York Times reports today about a group of small companies that are livid at the San Francisco-based website, which compiles reviews on restaurants, retailers, and small businesses in various cities. For more on this dust-up, see Max Chafkin's defense of Yelp here.

Countercyclical business of the day: Pawnshops. The pawnshop industry is heating up. Case in point: Seattle-based Yuppie Pawn, a company that dubs itself a "kinder, gentler pawnshop," according to owner Brian Lurie. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Yuppie Pawn doesn't like to buy soon-to-be obsolete electronics, isn't taking construction saws -- which there is a glut of -- but still welcomes Rolex watches, boats, and artwork. In New York City, where there's certainly nothing gentle about a pawnshop, business is also brisk, according to the Daily News. "We've seen a steady flow of clientele, especially with banks and credit cards slashing people's credit limits," says Kenneth Conn of Gem Pawnbrokers, which has 15 locations in New York City.

Bezos on PBS. Charlie Rose conducted a lengthy interview with the founder and CEO of Amazon. The Big Picture has the full interview.

New administration, new employment regulations. Workforce.com details changes to employment regulations contained in Obama administration's latest budget. Companies that don't offer retirement plans will now be required to enroll staffers in a direct-deposit IRA, similar to a direct-deposit payroll system. The budget also calls for legislative changes to reduce employer tax evasion and curb unemployment benefits fraud. Although it was removed from the Stimulus bill, the budget calls for companies to put new hires through a system called E-Verify, which checks info from I-9 forms against Social Security and Homeland Security databases. The budget, however, doesn't include specifics on one big ticket item: healthcare reform.

Are you an accidental entrepreneur? The souring economy has created a new crop of small business owners, many of whom have turned to entrepreneurship after losing their jobs. On his blog, The Entrepreneurial Mind, Jeff Cornwall of Belmont University discusses points to some evidence of this in the Nashville Business Journal. "As the overall economy worsened, new business starts in Williamson County continued to grow throughout 2008. In December, for instance, the number of new business licenses was more than four times higher than the licenses pulled in December 2007," reports the Nashville Business Journal. It's probably a safe bet that this trend is happening across the country.

Retaining skilled foreign workers. More immigrants are getting their college degree in the U.S. and taking their newly acquired skills back to their home countries, concludes a two-year study by the Kauffman foundation. This exodus of valuable workers is alarming, considering that studies have found that about one-quarter of high-tech and engineering start-ups were founded by immigrants.

Optimism up for entrepreneurs?s? A new survey finds that 63 percent of small business executives expect their business prospects to get better this year, up from 37 percent in November. Still, in a survey conducted by the American City Business Journals, 47 percent of respondents said they were very concerned about the long-term survival of their companies, up from 41 percent in November. Also, the average guess on how long the recession will last? 2.4 years.

Read your Skype voicemails. Spinvox, one of the biggest players in voicemails-to-text, announced today that it will now offer the same transcription service for Skype voicemails. At 25 cents plus the cost of the text, it's far from cheap, notes GigaOm, but it's one less reason to have a landline.

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Last updated: Mar 3, 2009




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