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Small Business Briefing

Leak in helium supply hits party balloon sellers 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

There's a leak in helium supply in the United States, pinching balloon retailers, distributors -- and maybe those who love to do that high-pitched-voice party trick.

USA Today reports on a national shortage of helium that has caused a drop in supply and a rise in prices.

A big part of the problem was the shutdown of a major refinery in Wyoming in August for maintenance, according to USA Today and other reports.

But several major facilities have not been operating at full capacity, and there have also been outages in other parts of the world, including Algeria and Russia, according to the USA Today report.

Meanwhile prices are also on the rise, with one retailer saying that the cost of a tank has risen to $95 from $85 a year ago.

Medical and industrial clients, including hospitals and electronics, get served first, putting party balloon sellers toward the bottom of the list.

So party balloon retailers are getting fewer shipments or facing longer waits between deliveries, rationing what they sell, cutting back orders and charging more for the ones they fill, according to the various reports, including this one and this one.

Facebook focuses on small business

Facebook has put its focus on small business, teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. National Federation of Independent Business to launch a new program that will include giving away up to $10-million worth of free advertising credits on the social networking site.

The initiative aims to educate small businesses about how to improve their connection with existing customers and reach new ones through the site, which has 800 million users. It wil include a cross-country roadshow where experts will meet with local businesses to show them how to best promote themselves on Facebook.

It will also include giving 200,000 businesses across the country $50 credits each toward Facebook ads.

"We believe that Facebook can be a tremendous tool to fuel [small businesses']growth and and success," said Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg in a release about the initiative.

Facebook has also become a key marketing tool, with more than half of the site's users "making a connection to a small business," according to the release.

The initiative offers obviously pluses to Facebook as well. The site is expected to earn $2.01-billion in U.S. display ad revenue this year. That's up 67 per cent from the year before, says a piece in The Wall Street Journal about the initiative, quoting New York-basd market research firm eMarketer Inc. Further, The Wall Street Journal reports, Facebook is expected to bump Yahoo Inc. out of the way to become the top seller of U.S. display advertising revenue this year.

Global uncertainty keeps businesses buying, selling closer to home this holiday season

Instability in global economic markets will keep Canada's small businesses buying and selling their holiday-season inventory closer to home this year, a new survey from UPS Canada finds.

Ninety per cent of small and medium-sized businesses' holiday season inventory will come from within Canada, and 91 per cent will be sold within the country this year, according to the survey of 548 Canadian small and mid-sized businesses.

That's despite Canadian-dollar advantages that "would normally prompt a business to seek cost-saving opportunities internationally or across the border," a release about the survey said.

"Given the instability in the U.S. economy this year, as well as the volatility in European markets, many businesses are hunkering down and focusing on the Canadian market, which has remained relatively steady thus far," said UPS Canada president Mike Tierney in the release.

Further, 66 per cent of respondents said they have no intention of ever exporting to emerging markets. And one in four said that current economic conditions are a primary barrier to exporting.


Innovation event

The YOU Innovate Canada tournament, hosted by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, kicks off today in Toronto. The tournament, held in celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, will see an everyday object revealed for participants to use as raw material to create a new innovation. They'll have until Oct. 18 to submit a video that will ultimately be voted on to come up with a national champion on Nov. 20. It's a chance to share in $25,000 in awards and gain some insight into entrepreneurship. For more details, click here.

Wanted: business heroes

Web hosting company 1&1 Internet Inc. is looking for "business heroes." It's looking to recognize Canadian businesses that have had a positive effect on their local communities. The company's contest runs until Dec. 31; all those who submit an entry will be entered to win an iPad. The winning business will receive a website makeover and free site hosting for life; nine other winners will receive a year of hosting by 1&1. For more details, click here.


Search-fund investors launch

A new buyout vehicle is creeping north of the border, steered by a young crop of acquirers who have their eyes set on Canadian small businesses, Tim Kiladze writes. These vehicles, known as search funds, have been used in the United States for years. The big distinction: search funds assume control of the businesses they buy.The newest fund, which launched on Monday, is Toronto-based High Park Capital, run by Josh LeBrun and Adrian Bartha.


Is mompreneurship for you?

A growing number of mothers are becoming mompreneurs, launching their own businesses to have more flexibility and availability for their children. Is it a move for you? In February, we ran an online discussion with the co-founders of Admiral Road Designs and the co-authors of a then new book, Mom Inc.

Got a tip on news, events or other timely information related to the small-business community? E-mail us at yourbusiness@globeandmail.com

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