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

1. Shark Tank too intense for you? Try the Guppy Tank.

Calling it a "less carnivorous, user-friendly" version of

Shark Tank

, ABC's popular reality show where entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to get an investment or partnership,

The Guppy Tank

is launching in Southern California.

For SoCal entrepreneurs looking for funding, connections, mentorship or partners, The Guppy Tank may be the opportunity they have been seeking because it is a "less intimidating group of investors called Guppies who instead of fighting each other for the next best company to invest in, instead work together in funding the next up and coming local business mavens," according to its website.

Its sponsor, Super G Funding and BizCash, have designated a minimum of $500,000 for a funding pool from which money will be awarded in the form of loans, equity investments or a combination of the two. In addition to the funding, each of the recipients will be given the opportunity to work with the Guppy investors and receive advice on how they might best grow their businesses and use the capital.

Selected entrepreneurs will present their business and ideas on Oct. 25 in Newport Beach, Calif., to the investor "Guppies."

"The Guppy Tank was created as a way to reach out and help local businesses get the funding that they need," says Guppy Tank founder, Darrin Ginsberg. "We want to find businesses that will have a positive impact on the local community, have a real passion for what they do and then help them take their business to the next level."

Businesses wishing to apply must operate a for-profit organization in Southern California that has been in business for at least one year and must


by Oct. 11 for a pre-event audition.

2. How to avoid business credit card mistakes.

It's no secret that a majority of new small business owners rely on credit cards to fund their business, but using too much plastic too soon reduces chances of business survival, according to


Entrepreneurs avoid the perils of credit card funding by seeking investors early. And to do that, you need a solid proposal, complete with a business plan on how you plan to make money.

MultiFunding's Ami Kassar

has proposed taking on debt as opposed to equity funding, but the


article says entrepreneurs won't have to "waste crucial early-stage revenue paying down debt or the interest associated with it."

That being said, using credit card debt to fund a startup isn't a mistake, since it helps cash flow and even earns rewards points and establishes a credit history. "That will be very important when your business has matured enough to move to the next level and seek a bank loan," the article says.

3. Small manufacturers hire in 2012.

Sage North America

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reports in its latest "snapshot" survey that small manufacturers are adding jobs and more optimistic about the economy.

Of the 134 small manufacturing companies polled, 73% reported that they had hired new staff in the last six months.

Sage North America, a provider of business management software and services for 6 million small and mid-sized businesses, says the findings also show that one-third of respondents plan to add staff in the next six months, indicating potential future growth in the sector. About 53% said they intend to maintain their current level of employment.

The survey was conducted by email to U.S. manufacturing executives between July 11 and August 1. Seventy percent of respondents had between 10 and 100 employees, and two-thirds of them manufactured durable goods.

When asked about the specific conditions of their own manufacturing business over the next six months:

49% believed that new orders would increase.

47% felt that production would increase.

23% believed that inventories would increase.

"Manufacturing continues to play an important role in the American economy, and for this reason, we wanted to gauge the health and stability of this sector. While the findings show slightly different outcomes than recent national reports, we're glad that our results seem to indicate that SMB manufacturers are hiring -- and will continue to hire in the coming months -- and that generally they're optimistic about their businesses," says Joe Langner, executive vice president of Sage North America's mid-market solutions.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Follow @LKulikowski

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