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Is Now a Good Time to Start a Business?

Latham's story is indicative of the sea change the country's workforce is going through that is placing a larger emphasis on entrepreneurial career options as big corporations look to remain lean and mean coming out of the recession.

Last year, roughly 514,000 new businesses were formed per month, a rate that is higher than pre-recessionary and long-term levels, according to the annual Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Given the improving economy though, the rate of new business formation actually slowed from the year before to 0.3% from 0.32% in 2011, Kauffman said.

Still, entrepreneurism is back in fashion. The U.S. has roughly 28 million small businesses and the Small Business Administration means to recognize them through its 40th annual National Small Business Week, which kicks off today. The week-long event will feature events and panels across the country related to entrepreneurism and small-business ownership.

So is now a good time to start a business?

Technology advancements as well as the advantages of using social media as a key element of marketing means "the opportunity has never been better" to launch a business, says Fran Tarkenton, the former Minnesota Vikings star quarterback and a serial entrepreneur.

"These people have more access to technology and marketing and access to knowledge and information," says Tarkenton, who has started a variety of technology, financial and business coaching firms over the past 20 years. "When I started it was much harder than it was today."

Tarkenton means to make it even easier for entrepreneurs to launch their businesses. He has partnered with Office Depot (ODP) to launch his latest venture, a Web site featuring articles, multimedia content and custom-tailored advice from small-business experts to help entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses.

Lawton Ursrey, owner of green clothing manufacturer Indie Peace and a product marketing manager at cloud-based invoicing, accounting and collaboration tool Sage One, agrees. He says using Web-based tools like Shopify to create his online store and Odesk for outsourcing administrative tasks is crucial to his venture's success.

Web-based tools are a "great complement for someone that needs to wear a lot of hats to their business," Ursrey says. "You're able to run a cleaner, lighter business model with cloud technology being a huge part of that."

And what about the current economic environment?

Industry observers say with the advent of alternative funding models, in particular, the potential for crowdfunding, small-business owners are no longer beholden to banks for their capital needs.

Mark Cerminaro, senior vice president for sales and marketing at alternative lending company RapidAdvance says his company is seeing more small-business owners eager to grow.

"Many of the small business owners we work with, including those as early as a year into their founding, are reaching out to purchase new equipment, ramp up their marketing efforts and expand into new areas," Cerminaro writes in an e-mail. "We also are seeing established businesses using our capital to open new locations. Overall, they are expressing greater confidence in a future where consumer confidence is trending higher and the economic outlook is brightening."

"That confidence and those gauges should have no less influence for the first-time entrepreneur looking to start a business," he adds. "Our experience is that the optimal time to start a business is in a strengthening market -- not at the bottom or at the top. All indications are we are somewhere in that sweet spot right now."
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