Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Holiday gifts every entrepreneur really needs. Forget desktop tchotchkes and electronic doo-dads, The Washington Post has a list of gift ideas that every struggling entrepreneur could actually use this holiday season, as suggested by experts at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. For example, a Visa card with a $50,000 limit. As one professor explains, "If you're starting a business, be prepared to put in a significant chunk of your own money." Another must-have item for the would-be entrepreneur on your list is a month's supply of Red Bull. "Forget about the 40-hour workweek--you'll be working around-the-clock to get your business off the ground," says Asher Epstein, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
Watch out, Zipcar. Google's after you, too. According to VentureBeat, Google Ventures will invest an undisclosed amount toward the San Francisco launch of RelayRides, a Boston-based car-sharing service similar to Zipcar. Unlike Zipcar, though, RelayRides allows car owners to set prices and times for others to rent their cars. The fee usually amounts to 10 percent less than what other car sharing services charge. The owner then gets 65 percent of the total fee and RelayRides takes 15 percent—with the other 20 percent going toward insurance. In the past, the company's average car owner has gotten around $250 a month from renting out their cars to RelayRides members.
HuffPo posts a profit. The popular news website will make money for the first time this year, founder Arianna Huffington said in an interview with Bloomberg News. The Huffington Post has grown to more than 26 million unique monthly visitors since the Greek-born pundit started it in 2005. Respect for its news aggregation model is growing, after being spurned by print outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have since started their own aggregation ventures. HuffPo has some lofty goals, including tripling its sales to $100 million in 2012 from $30 million this year. But with analysts pegging its valuation at $450 million and plenty of suitors calling, will Huffington sell? Nope. She says, "Everybody's happy with how it's going. Nobody is in a hurry to cash out."
November retail sales rise. Finally, some welcome news for businesses. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that "U.S. retail sales rose more than expected in November as holiday shoppers streamed into stores and went online to buy sporting goods, clothes and other merchandise." While high unemployment rates have recently kept spending rates fairly low, the recent rise has buoyed many spirits in the hopes that the economy is finally starting to rebound from recession. Two of the biggest sectors to show gains were clothing store sales and e-commerce sales, which both jumped more than two percent in November. The Journal also notes that producer prices have also increased, mainly due to rising energy and food costs.
5 ways to build a brand. Today's Wall Street Journal has some expert advice on building a brand from five members of the Young Entrepreneur Council. Tip No. 1 comes from Kris Ruby, founder of Ruby Media Group, who advises entrepreneurs to tap social media. Threadless co-founder Jake Nickell, who knows a thing or two about crowdsourcing, urges business owners to listen to the advice of their communities. Tina Wells, an Inc. "Entrepreneur We Love" and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, says understanding your customers is key. Millenial Branding's Dan Schawbel, one of our "30 under 30" honorees, encourages developing a long-term strategy in the form of a slogan or mission, which will distinguish your place in the market. And finally, the last tip comes from Grasshopper Group co-founder David Hauser who advises making your brand about the problem you want to solve, with a little personality thrown in, too. Hauser says, "It's important to sell your story, your mission and who you are not just your product.