3 Things You Should Know About Small Business: May 8

Tickers in this article: JPM

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Chase and LivingSocial launch "Mission: Small Business" grant program. JPMorgan Chase is partnering with LivingSocial to award up to $3 million to small businesses across the U.S. The program, which is also supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will award up to 12 individual grants of $250,000 to provide small businesses with capital and marketing resources needed for their business.

Small business owners have until June 30 to apply for a grant. The business has to have been operating for at least two years and have fewer than 100 employees. Each business will be required to answer questions about why their business is unique, outline a proposed plan for utilizing the grant to grow their business and describe how the business is involved with its community.

Consumers can vote for their favorite small business. For each pledge of support, Chase will add five dollars to the grant pool, up to $3 million, and businesses must receive at least 250 votes to be considered for a grant. Grant recipients will be announced by Sept. 15, 2012.

2. Local card store throws in the towel. TheStreet wrote about Avant Cards & Gifts shortly after the Lincoln, Neb., store pleaded to customers on Facebook to come in and support them as they struggled to stay in business. Unfortunately, the spike in sales during the holiday season was not enough to keep this small business afloat.

Owner Duane Krepel wrote on Avant Cards' Facebook page today that in June he will have to close his store -- the last remaining of three that he once owned -- unless he finds a buyer.

"We really appreciate the support you have given over the years, especially this last December. It meant a lot. However, the debt being so great we must either liquidate or sell the business to pay back the bank," Krepel writes.

The store began its liquidation sale on Monday.

3. Here's how to make the most of an off-site employee strategy session. This may not be for every business but more than a few could benefit from creating an all-day (or two) strategy and planning session -- that's not in the office.

While these types of meetings were once considered only for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses can benefit tremendously from these types of outings if they're well planned, says Huffington Post .

"Getting away from the office, and the usual interruptions, can revive your enthusiasm for a business or project and rev up your focus. The trick is to make the most of your time away," branding expert Karen Leland writes.

To get the most out of your time away from the office, go easy on the PowerPoint presentations and instead implement some team-building exercises, group discussions and other hands-on sessions as well as demonstrations, even outside speakers, which keeps employees engaged instead of nodding off.

Try to keep some breathing room. A tightly packed schedule leads to information overload and the possibility that employees retain little. Alongside that, be flexible: if a presentation leads to an engaging discussion by staff, don't cut it off just to keep to the schedule.

"The point of the retreat is to draw people in and get them to think, act and participate in new ways," she writes.

And don't forget to schedule some fun while you're at it.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Tickers in this article: JPM