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A vendor waiting for customers sells eggs at a flooded market in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, November 17, 2011. (CHAIWAT SUBPRASOM)
A vendor waiting for customers sells eggs at a flooded market in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, November 17, 2011. (CHAIWAT SUBPRASOM)

Small Business Briefing

Enterprising Thais find profit in flooding Add to ...

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

Out of chaos comes opportunity

Months of floods in Thailand have paralyzed auto factories and disrupted other big businesses, causing an estimated billions of dollars in damage. But the Associated Press has discovered that the slow-moving floodwaters have been a boon for "quick-witted" entrepreneurs looking to cater to demand created by a water-weary population.

At a flood market that reporter Pailin Wedel visited in Bangkok, dozens of makeshift shops lined the sides of a road just a few hundred yards from encroaching floodwaters.

Operating out of the back of trucks and on the sidewalk, the flood traders sell plastic boats, jet skis, waders, water pumps, nonperishable food, propellers and plastic tarp marketed as "refrigerator wraps." In other parts of the city, builders are putting up cinder-block walls to protect shops and houses. There's even a new car-towing service that uses styrofoam to float stranded vehicles to safety.

The capital's mechanics have been busy with special modifications that allow cars, trucks and motorcycles to navigate swamped streets.

Federal portion of PRPP launched

Legislation was introduced today in Parliament implementing the federal portion of the Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP) framework. Ted Menzies, Minister of State for Finance, says he delivered his remarks at a radio station without a pension plan because PRPPs are particularly applicable to small business. "Canadians work hard to realize their retirement dreams," he explains, "and PRPPs will offer them a new, low-cost and accessible pension option to help meet their goals.” The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) welcomed the legislation. "CFIB is particularly pleased that firms will be given a choice as to whether to register for or contribute to a PRPP,” said Dan Kelly, the organization's senior vice-president of legislative affairs. CFIB is also urging all provinces to design their own legislation to mirror the federal government framework rather than advocating tax increases, such as a mandatory CPP premium hike. It says its data shows that even modest CPP increases will be detrimental to the economy, employment and wages.

Australia bucks slowdown trend

Start-ups are an important source of job creation in OECD economies, according to its latest quarterly Timely Indicators of Entrepreneurship report. At the height of the global economic crisis, start-up rates fell precipitously in all countries where data is available. In subsequent quarters, start-up rates began picking up toward pre-crisis levels, but in recent quarters the momentum appears to have stalled. Start-up rates are again beginning to show signs of a slowdown. The most notable exception is Australia, where start-up rates continued to grow in the first and second quarter of 2011. A similar but less robust trend is evident in Norway. Start-up rates in Spain were also marginally up in the second quarter of 2011, but the overall rate remains at crisis levels. Rates in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States all showed signs of a slowdown in the first and second quarter of this year.


Start your entrepreneurial engines

Startup Weekends take place this weekend across Canada, and worldwide, with hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out whether their startup ideas are viable. On average, half of attendees have technical backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds. Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing LEAN Startup Methodologies and building a minimal viable product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts. For information related to your city, check out the right rail of the site's About page.

Windsor author hosts book launch

Fabio Costante, who graduated from the University of Windsor's MBA program in 2008, has taken some of the lessons he learned at school and from his involvement with the university's chapter of Students in Free Enterprise and written a book. The Principles of Entrepreneurship: Building a Resilient Windsor Essex Economy, One Entrepreneur at a Time outlines the life cycle of a business from conception to execution and through to an exit strategy, which Mr. Costante told The Windsor Star he believes should be part of every business plan. The launch takes place Nov. 23 at the first anniversary session of Startup Drinks, a gathering of entrepreneurs and mentors, at the Bull N' Barrel in Windsor, Ont., between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The book is available online at amazon.ca and trafford.com.


Context is king

Content is important and more companies need to do a better job of what they create and how sharable it is. But if your customer is not in the right frame of mind or not in a place where the message fits with what they are doing, it won’t resonate. The context in which someone consumes the content is equally important, and it’s not something every marketer or social media strategist thinks about at the start of the planning stage. It was a real-life moment that got columnist Mia Pearson thinking about this, and how important time and place, or context, is to a successful strategy.


Be prepared, no matter where you live

Experts say companies need solid contingency plans not only to protect their hard assets but also for intangibles, such as reputation and responsibilities to customers, employees, shareholders and the community. “For too many businesses, thinking about disaster planning summons up the image of Henny Penny running around crying, ‘The sky is falling!’ It’s not taken seriously,” Mary-Ellen Heiman, director of development at the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness, said in March, 2011.

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