3 Things You Should Know About Small Business: April 10

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

1. Small-business optimism slides in March. After six months of gains, the Small-Business Optimism Index fell by almost 2 points in March, settling at 92.5, according to the monthly index by the National Federation of Independent Business, adding fuel to the fire that economic growth slowed last quarter.

Nine of the ten components to the index dropped in March, most notably small business' future hiring plans and their expected real sales growth. The two components "each taking a significant dive, in spite of owners reporting the largest increase in new jobs per firm in a year," the NFIB says.

"March came in like a lion, with Main Street seeing significant job growth in March, but it appears to have gone out like a lamb and with no cheer in the forward-looking labor market indicators. What could have been a trend in job growth is more likely a blip. And what looked like the start of a recovery in profits fizzled out," NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement.

Inflation also seems to be a growing problem. According to the 757 small-business owners who were surveyed, 9% reported inflation as their top business problem, up from 6% in January. Twenty-one percent of the owners plan to raise their selling prices in the coming months, the NIFB says.

The sour news doesn't bode well for other signs that there is a broader slowdown occurring in the economy. Employers added just 120,000 positions to their payrolls last month, which is "less than half the average monthly increase in the prior three months," Reuters says.

2. Is Instagram's crazy valuation a sign of the times? Launching a start-up only to sell it a few years later for a number with multiple zero's is every entrepreneur's dream. That's what happened yesterday with mobile-only photo sharing application, Instagram that will be acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. Yes that's $1 billion.

Small Business Trends points out that investment interest in tech start-ups is ramping up.

TheStreet contributor Eric Jackson also notes how hot "mobile" is today - Instagram won't immediately add to Facebook's revenue because "Instagram itself has no revenue and no plan to charge users."

Following Instagram's lead, the market will likely see a host of new mobile-only app start-ups, but public investors won't have a chance to invest in most of them for a long time, if at all, Jackson says, suggesting that public companies like Yelp ( YELP), LinkedIn ( LNKD) and possibly Groupon ( GRPN) should remake themselves into mobile-only apps.

3. "Win a Sweet New Office! Office design consultant Turnstone is offering five small and emerging businesses a chance to win a $25,000 makeover. Contestants have until Apr. 15 to submit their video demonstrating why an office makeover will make a difference in their work and workplace.

Small businesses are competing hard for today's global talent pool, and one way they can differentiate from larger competitors is by offering creative work environments, Turnstone says.

A panel of judges will select the top 25 videos and then the public will vote on which five companies get the prize. Public voting will begin at the end of April and the winners announced in May. Contestants must have fewer than 100 employees.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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