The Small Business Administration this month added an overview of franchising to its curriculum of free online courses. The 30-minute introductory package covers the benefits and pitfalls of buying a franchise, along with tips on selecting the right business. Links to SBA's own franchising resources will also be included.

Participants will receive a certificate for completing the online course, which consists of audio, text and graphics. The agency also recently added courses on its various loan programs.

Gas Perks from MasterCard

Starting this spring, small-business owners can stave off rising gas prices by enrolling in Mastercard's Fuelman Network for discounts on fuel and vehicle maintenance costs. Swiping a BusinessCard at participating locations earns one percent off future gas purchases and five percent off maintenance.


Over 15,000 gas stations and 1,800 auto shops around the country are taking part in the initiative.

For more information, visit

Sharper Images

PhotoShelter, an online image database launched in the fall of 2007, recently increased its inventory of ad and promo images. Tens of thousands of images are now available from over 14,000 photographers, offering small-business owners an alternative to commissioning costly original photography for marketing campaigns.

Photos can be ordered on the Web and are organized into three categories catering to different projects, including Pro Stock, Contemporary and News. The company plans to recruit about 2,000 new photographers every month to keep its collection up to date. 70 percent of the proceeds of each image goes to the photographer.

The images can be browsed at