From grease monkey to professional pumpkin carver. Just in time for Halloween, the Wall Street Journal has the story of Sean Fitzpatrick, a former auto mechanic who turned his hobby of carving pumpkins into a successful business. Fitzpatrick's transition from a job as an auto mechanic at a Ford dealership to a professional artist began rather simply when his three-year-old daughter asked him to build her a snowman. His artfully-carved creation led to some media attention and inspired him to start building sand castles as well. As Ford began to close dealerships, Fitzpatrick used that as the inspiration to quit his job and get into the sculpting business full time. It's been uphill ever since. Fitzpatrick's business now does sand sculptures, ice sculptures, and pumpkin carvings for corporate promotion events. On Halloween day, look for Fitzpatrick doing a live pumpkin carving for a NASCAR event at the Talladega Speedway.

Community banks object to lending plan. At the American Bankers Association's annual meeting, which is currently being held in Chicago, some attendees are complaining about the government's proposed programs for small banks, reports Reuters. Many of the new efforts to aid small businesses that were unveiled last week by the Obama administration rely largely on community banks to ease the credit crunch. One such program would provide low-cost capital to banks that submit a plan about how the capital will help them provide increased lending to small companies. However, many bankers are hesitant to take the money because of potential restrictions on executive compensation.

Uncertainty a potential threat to recovery. Smart business owners always have a plan b, but in the face of so much political uncertainty, it sometimes feels like there aren't enough letters in the alphabet for all the contingencies. According to the Wall Street Journal, business owners are having trouble planning for the future because of health care and climate change legislation, both of which are being debated in Congress now, as well as the uncertainty around the Bush-era tax cuts. The Journal quotes a Standard & Poor's analyst who says, "It's all anecdotal, and it affects everybody differently, but the one common factor is people postpone decisions. And I'm afraid that's going to slow us down coming out of the recession."

Lonely days in the Valley. It may not be a great time to be looking for a job in Silicon Valley. But if you're a business owner looking for new digs, there's a whole lot of office space to choose from, reports Silcon Alley Insider. With vacancy rates above 20 percent, it pays to shop around and to negotiate for a low rate.

24-year-old brings the Threadless model to college sports. It's clear even from a quick look at Jeremy Parker's resume that he's got the entrepreneurial bug. When he was 19, he used the $7,000 he saved from his bar mitzvah to make a film called "One Per Cent" about the wealthiest demographic in America. Fresh out of Boston University, he started TeesandTats, which sold limited edition pieces by a famous tattoo artist. And today, Parker is launching his latest venture, Vote for Art, a partnership with MV Sport that brings the Threadless model to the sleepy world of sports paraphernalia. MV Sports helps Parker secure the licenses from various sports teams. Designers send in their interpretations of what the team's t-shirt should look like for a chance at $500 and 2 percent of the sales of the winning design. The first contest is for the Purdue University Boilermakers just in time for the team's first nationally televised game of the season December 1.

Virtual goods booming. It sounds weird at a time when companies can barely move physical stuff, but the market for virtual goods--like digital poker chips on Facebook--is booming, according to TechCrunch, which reports on a survey by digital goods marketplace PlaySpan. "[T]he fact that a third of digital goods buyers reported that they also sold goods is promising for the virtual goods marketplace space," writes Leena Rao. PlaySpan claims to have processed $50 million worth of transactions since it was founded in 2006.

Twitter for treadmills? A common gripe from those who dread working out? Boredom. But according to NewTeeVee, San Franciso-based startup Netpulse thinks that the usual iPod and magazine combo isn't enough any more. The company announced last night that it has raised $3.1 million in venture capital, led by Javelin Venture Partners, to turn treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines into interactive entertainment centers -- complete with social media networking. The 15-inch touchscreen terminal, which is to be deployed by the end of the year, can be purchased by gyms for about $800, and is attached to the workout equipment, enabling users to enjoy on-demand music and video and read RSS feeds. Integration with sites like Twitter and Facebook will come next year, the post says. You'll be able to "auto-Twitter your 5k splits and challenge your friends to beat you." Or you can just stay away from the gym and Twitter about that using your cell phone.

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