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In this Oct. 10, 2011, file image released by Harpo, Inc., Oprah Winfrey, right, is shown with host Rosie O'Donnell during the debut of "The Rosie Show," in Chicago. (George Burns/2011 Harpo Productions, INC.)
In this Oct. 10, 2011, file image released by Harpo, Inc., Oprah Winfrey, right, is shown with host Rosie O'Donnell during the debut of "The Rosie Show," in Chicago. (George Burns/2011 Harpo Productions, INC.)

Small Business Briefing

Even Oprah faces start-up troubles 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. Download our app here.

Media mogul struggling with 'startup curve'

Even the Midas-touched media mogul Oprah Winfrey can't escape the difficulties of launching a startup.

There have been many recent reports of the troubles the queen of daytime television is facing at her own cable network, called OWN -- including huge losses, having to cancel Rosie O'Donnell's show and a 20-per-cent cut in staff.

That has a piece on Portfolio.com suggesting that she, like many entrepreneurs, is going through what Y-Combinator startup incubator founder Paul Graham's calls the " startup curve."

According to the curve, startups move through several stages. It starts with initial highs, then plunges as the novelty wears off into a "trough of sorrow," followed by improvements, then a "crash of ineptitude" through "wiggles of false hope," then upward to the "promised land" and eventually another high of a buyer.

And where does Oprah's venture sit right now? Portfolio.com's assessment: "We have to place Oprah's network somewhere between the trough of sorrow and the crash of ineptitude."

That's a description the incredibly successful Ms. Winfrey is no doubt unaccustomed to.

Art in a vending machine?

Live bait, prescription drugs, art? These are not the kinds of products you'd expect to find in vending machines, but a new group of entrepreneurs are trying to revive fast-fading traditional vending machines, stocking them with such unusual products, a piece in the Wall Street Journal recounts .

The story says that vending machine sales dropped by more than 11 per cent to $42.2-billion in the period from 2007 to 2010, citing data from industry publication Vending Times.

Machines selling "quirky" products account for under 5 per cent of all vending machines, according to the Wall Street Journal story. Neverthelss, the story tells of several entrepreneurs who are trying to build themselves vending machine business with such unusual items.

Working with family: An insider's insights'

After having made his brother-in-law his first hire, the founder of Red Frog events offers six questions to ask before taking on a family member in business.


StartMeUp Ryerson business plan competition

Pop by the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University later today, as five entrepreneurs pitch their business plan to an expert panel of judges in hopes of winning $25,000. Slaight Communications is sponsoring StartMeUp Ryerson, with the money to be used by the winning company to turn its idea into reality. The event is open to the public to network and watch the five finalists make their pitch to the panel. For more information, click here.

Silicon Valley opportunity knocks for female tech entrepreneurs

TechWomen Canada is offering Canadian female entrepreneurs in technology an opportunity to participate in a program to connect with their peers in Silicon Valley. The program will pair participants with mentors at leading companies in Silicon Valley, as well as offer professional development, networking and other opportunities. It will take place in Silicon Valley from May 21 to May 25; applications will be considered until April 13. For more information, click here.


Into Africa: Canadian firms jump on opportunity

A growing number of Canadian companies are responding to Africa’s economic growth story. Traditionally a magnet for Canadian mining companies eager to extract its minerals, Africa today beckons many smaller businesses that see opportunities to sell a variety of goods and services into its markets. Export Development Canada, worked with some 400 Canadian companies in Africa last year, and 80 per cent of them were small- or medium-sized businesses.


Taking your business abroad

Opportunity knocks for entrepreneurs to take their businesses globally to many places. A four-part series last November and December on taking your business abroad looked at how to seize opportunity in Europe, Brazil, China and Russia.

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