) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Wal-Mart looks for the next great product from small business.


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has launched the

"Get on the Shelf"

contest for a chance for any business or entrepreneur to

get their product sold

on and in stores.

The contest will be similar to


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American Idol

contest. Contestants will create videos of their latest inventions and the public will vote online for the winners. Any kind of product carried by Wal-Mart is eligible, from housewares and electronics to toys and apparel, the company says.

"We know there are some great undiscovered products that have not yet reached our shelves," said Venky Harinarayan, senior vice president of Wal-Mart Global e-commerce and co-head of @WalmartLabs. "For a long time, the ability to get a product into a retail store was at the sole discretion of the store buyer. Today, we are removing these barriers by giving anyone a chance to launch their product at Wal-Mart and reach millions of shoppers nationwide."

The company soft-launched the contest a few weeks ago, it said, but went big with it Jan. 18. Already there have been submissions for a hot sauce, hair accessory,


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iPad pillow and paw puffs for dogs, among others.

Contestants have until Feb. 22 to submit their videos.

Discount retailers seem to be looking to highlight small-business contributions. This spring,


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plans to launch

The Shops at Target

, in which small businesses will be featured in various product lines.

2. Small businesses react to the State of the Union address.


National Small Business Association

gave President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech a thumbs-up for mentioning the importance of entrepreneurship and the need to eliminate burdensome regulations and reduce the deficit. What was less clear was how he plans to do that, and he missed "a critical opportunity to call for broad tax reform which could kick-start the economy," the organization says.

The NSBA acknowledged the president's comment to ease restrictions so small businesses can raise capital, something the advocate has been urging for some time. It also liked Obama's nod to small business hiring. Still, "NSBA had hoped that broad tax reform -- and not just those taxes focusing primarily on large, multinational companies -- would have been mentioned, given that the overwhelming majority of small-business owners pay taxes at the individual income level," it said.

The NSBA says it advocates on behalf more than 150,000 small businesses across the country.

3. How to get more Twitter clicks.

Social media expert Dan Zarrella offered an interesting graphic suggesting how people -- and businesses -- can

get more out of Twitter


"You should be creating a ton of interesting content and sharing it with your followers. To that end I've done a bunch of research on how to optimize the click-through rate of the links you're tweeting," Zarrella writes.

Some of the things mentioned in the graphic include writing Tweets that are between 120 to 130 characters (out of the 140 allowed), using more verbs and fewer nouns in the tweets and tweeting later in the day and on the weekends.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:


To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to:!/LKulikowski


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