Yelp, the online business directory and user review site, could have some small business owners screaming Yikes! Rumor is spreading through the blogosphere that Yelp is coercing small businesses into buying advertisements. Critics and other conspiracy theorists say that Yelp is approaching local businesses and promising to remove negative reviews about them in exchange for $299 a month in ads. Let’s reiterate: this is just a rumor. Yelp is successful enough without having to shake down the neighborhood nail salon. And the blogosphere has been known to get a few things wrong. (Personally, we were shocked, shocked to discover that Bigfoot isn’t really roaming the remote woods of northern Georgia.)
Scam alert: Some business owners will tell you that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), while not quite a Ponzi scheme, is still a sham because of its egregious lending rates and endless bureaucracy. Well, here’s a real SBA swindle: Con artists have been sending out fraudulent letters on what looks like SBA stationery. The letters ask business owners for bank account information so they can qualify for a tax rebate under the economic stimulus act. The letters are false and you should not respond to them, the SBA insists.
Laid off from your eight-figure investment banking gig? Then New York mayor Michael Bloomberg wants you. He’s hoping to prop up his recession-ravaged city by turning downsized Wall Street types into business owners. Specifically, Bloomberg is inviting would-be entrepreneurs to participate in a business plan competition. In a novel twist, the business plans have to focus on financial services, an industry that’s fast becoming an endangered species on Wall Street. The winner of the competition gets two years of free rent at a prime Manhattan address. After all, the mayor has to do something with all that empty office space.
Where’s the exit? Speaking of Wall Street, BusinessWeek has an interesting article on what some downsized financiers are up to these days. Seems many of them have indeed taken an entrepreneurial turn, but, sorry Mr. Bloomberg, their endeavors are far-removed from high-finance. Jessi Walter, a former VP at Bear Stearns, now runs Cupcake Kids!, which does hands-on cooking events for birthday parties. Ederle Green, a former business planning analyst at Citigroup, started Sacred Glo, which makes body lotion candles and aromatherapy massage oils. And then there’s Peter Ubriaco, who previously worked in global funding at Lehman Brothers. He started a GPS mapping service for mobile devices. Why? Probably because he needed the fastest way out of Wall Street.