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Congress Tackles Crowdfunding, Romney Helps Etch a Sketch, and So Much More — This Week in Small Business

Dear campaign aides,

When a journalist asks you if your candidates stances might hurt him in the general election, it’s best not to answer like this: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”


Mitt Romney, who’s been unfavorably compared to noted “flip-flopper” John Kerry, couldn’t have been happy about Eric Fehrnstrom’s answer on CNN. His Republican rivals? They couldn’t have been happier.

The Ohio Art Company, makers of the Etch a Sketch, a toy which kept me quiet on many backseat car rides as a kid also enjoyed that political blunder. We’ll start this week with a story of free publicity and move on to some other business stories that caught our attention.

Etch a Sketch Sales Boom After Romney Aide Gaffe

“Talk about stimulating the economy,” writes the Daily Beast’s Daniel Stone. In just a day, the sometimes maddening art toy jumped 1,200 spots in Amazon’s rankings and the phone is still ringing off the hook. The Etch a Sketch manufacturers are keeping their nose out of the political debate though, content to live out that tried and true adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

The New Law That Will Turn the Start-Up World Upside Down: Crowdfunding

We’ve long been believers in Kickstarter, the website that allows folks to raise money from friends, family, and followers in order to fund their projects. Bands have financed their new CDs, amateur scientists have backed their new theories, and video game manufacturers have raised over 3 million dollars for a single game. Now, Congress is thinking about changing the laws so micropayments from a mass of people can be used to fund startups. The House has passed the bill 407 to 18 and the petition, if you want to sign it, can be found here. The time when we’re all venture capitalists may be just around the corner.

What We Learned at South by Southwest

Yesterday, we recorded a podcast about Rocketlawyer’s trip to SXSW. We got some great interviews with three diverse entertainment attorneys about where the music business is going, how bands are entrepreneurs, and what the future of streaming music is. We have a chance to sit down with Scott Case of Startup America, and learned about what makes a successful startup. We had a lot of fun with this one and, if you’re a musician doing this on your own, it’s an informative half hour of your time.

The End of Pax Papyra and the Fall of Big Paper

Sorry Michael Scott, but Big Paper may finally, finally be on the decline. For years we’ve heard about the “paperless office,” the death of the newspaper, and environmental impact of all that paper. But paper products and Big Paper itself didn’t really suffer, as least not in the way experts predicted. Are they finally right this time? Before you answer for sure, make sure to check your pockets. If they’re like mine, they’re filled with receipts I never asked for in the first place.

The Right Way to Reward Your Employees for Innovation

When Jeffrey Phillips, author of Relentless Innovation writes, “humans are rational actors who seek to undertake work resulting in rewards and avoiding actions that lead to reprimands,” small business owners should see the problem immediately. On the one hand, you want your employees accountable for their responsibilities. But on the other, does a heavy focus on deliverables keep them locked away from their innovative side? As the business and tech worlds continue changing at an ever more rapid pace, innovation becomes more and more important. So how best to spurn new ideas? Phillips has a few answers.

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