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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 .

'Rent a Mourner' offers bereaved for hire to boost appearance of deceased's popularity

Want to appear way more popular in death than you ever were in life? A British startup is offering a way: It provides fake mourners to boost the numbers of bereaved at your funeral or wake, reports this piece in The Telegraph.

Rent-a-Mourner, based in Essex, England, has 20 people available for hire to fake their grief at funerals and wakes where people might fear insufficient numbers will show up, the piece reports. For £45 (about $70 Canadian) an hour, they will mix, mingle and cry – and show up well-briefed on the deceased so they can appear as if they knew him or her well, the report says.

"We are typically invited to help increase visitors to funerals where there may be a low turnout expected. This can usually be a popularity issue or being new to an area, or indeed, the country," the company says on its website.

"We are happy to take your guidance on how we integrate and mix with your other visitors," it adds.

Started early last year, Rent-a-Mourner has already had  52 bookings, and has had to turn down another 60, the Telegraph reports.

Rent-a-Mourner's founder, Ian Robertson, took inspiration from China and the Middle East, where professional mourners are popular, and believes it will grow as more immigrants from those areas move to Britain, the piece reports.

Professional mourners are not really such a new phenomenon historically, as pieces like this demonstrate.

Rent-a-Mourner's story has now spread virally, with reports  including here, here, and here.

It has also sparked reaction, including this piece in the Catholic Herald, which says that "behind all this is something rather sad; if people are hiring mourners these days, or pseudo-mourners as it might be better to call them, is this not a sign of familial and societal breakdown?"

Small business confidence takes a tumble: CFIB

After heading up for two months, small business confidence dropped in March, according to the latest business barometer index from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The index fell to 62.9, three and a half points below February's reading, according to the CFIB. The index is measured on a scale of 0 to 100; readings above 50 mean more owners expect business performance to be stronger in the next year than those that expect it to be weaker.

"The numbers show a decline in optimism, but they're in line with what we saw in late 2012," said CFIB chief economist and vice-president Ted Mallett in a release about the results, noting that it is "too soon" to say whether it marks a shift in the trend.

The most optimistic small businesses were to be found in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador; the biggest declines in confidence took place in Alberta and Ontario, the CFIB says.


Need $100,000? Enter Challenge contest

The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. have launched their third annual Small Business Challenge contest, with a $100,000 business grant up for grabs. Businesses that want to apply need to describe the biggest challenge they are now facing, and how such a sum would help them overcome it. The contest, running until May 27, is open to small businesses across the country, except in Quebec, with fewer than 150 employees. What will judges be looking for? Find some clues here. How to enter? Have a read here. Want some more insights? Watch this video. For more information and to enter, click here.

Mesh13 upcoming

Mesh13, a two-day digital conference exploring the evolving web and emerging trends, takes place May 15 and May 16. For information, click here.


Who owns that? Meet the latest in our series

Kat Brazier and her brother, Kris Kokosarevic, co-founders and co-owners of Mississauga, Ont.-based Cake Royale Inc., were inspired by their grandmother's recipes to open a cafe showcasing desserts.


Believe it, an online funeral service

The Internet may seem to offer it all, but creative entrepreneurs are still coming up with businesses that you might not expect to go looking for online, such as a business claiming to be the first cyber funeral company, reported this piece, published in March, 2011.

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