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The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz. Download our app here.

All in the family

An intriguing story in USA Today takes a look at business owners who hire their mothers. A twist on the concept of the family business.

Wayne Rivers, president of the U.S.-based consulting firm Family Business Institute, says bringing mom into the fold results in "loyalty, honest feedback and an often-mature perspective — as well as an employee they can trust with office keys, bank account passwords and company secrets."

There are challenges, some experts point out:

  • Childhood insecurities can crop up during business meetings.
  • “Children stop being children at some point, but parents never stop being parents.”
  • A parent might bristle at being told what to do.
  • Salaries can be a sticky subject.

The key to making the arrangement work, the experts add, is to have open discussions about goals, compensation, work hours and how family members should refer to each other ("hi mom?").

"I realized after hiring her that I really didn't know much about my mom," says construction company owner Matthias Williams. "I learned to value her as a person and not just as my mom."

Will they be flush with cash?

Brothers Bryan and Jordan Silverman, who are 18 and 22, have entered their company, Star Toilet Paper, in U.S.-based Entrepreneur Magazine's College Entrepreneur of 2012 competition. "The two-ply toilet paper is printed with a soybean-based ink," reads a post on "Readers obtain coupons by using their cellphones to read printed codes on the paper or by visiting the company's website." The Silvermans are just getting the venture off the ground, but about 50 advertisers are on board, agreeing to pay $99 (U.S.) for 20,000 advertisements on about 160 rolls. Venues that agree to stock the toilet paper get it for free.

Wireless sensors are the future

In an adaptation on from Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Thrive, And How To Be One Of Them, co-authors Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff identify the increased use of wireless sensors as an entrepreneurial opportunity. The ability to leverage the massive amounts of everyday data sensors are, and will be, collecting could prove to be a huge boon to companies that are desperate to know everything they can about customer habits so they can leverage it to make new and better products and services. Sensors, the authors say, "will track the moisture in our gardens, the proximity of our cars, the location of our kids (and dogs), and the actions of our co-workers." Just as a few examples.


Who's who in the digital world

The Digi Awards highlight the work coming out of the Canadian digital media landscape, and recognize the people who make it all happen. In addition to a who's-who shortlist for each of the categories, the awards feature "The List," naming the top companies in each category. Five businesses will receive a Canada's Top Digital Companies award. Applications can now be submitted, finalists will be notified in November, and winners announced at a gala in December.

Use video to reap rewards

With the right online channels, small businesses can use video to reach employees, customers and brand ambassadors. In a free webinar on Aug. 21 at 10 am (PDT), small-business expert and author Melinda Emerson discusses 12 best practices to boost your customer base, increase revenue and expand brand recognition. You can register now.


It's not who you know

To avoid hiring failure, startups need to be pragmatic and realistic about attracting the right person. It means creating a methodology that helps them discover, identify and assess candidates for each position. This may see them hire people don't know but the upside is they have a defined approach to hiring. Before you hire people you know, be sure to ask yourself some questions.


Wanted: A reliable answer

The number of online knowledge-brokering websites has grown, according to a story from June, 2010, as evidenced by the arrival of expert-driven question-and-answer sites, and "With close to two billion people online, I am sure there's a market for those who want their answers right rather than getting the answer from a place that might be wrong or offer varying multiple opinions," said e-marketing guru Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image and author of Six Pixels of Separation.

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