NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What's happening in small business today? 1. Large-bank lending to small businesses improves in January. Banks with more than $10 billion in assets approved 15.3% of small-firm loan applications last month, up from a 14.9% approval rate in December, according to Biz2Credit.com's Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of 1,000 loan applications. The approval rate at big banks is the highest recorded by the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index and marks a four-tenths of a percent jump from the previous month and a 31% increase over the January 2012 figure of 11.7%, Biz2Credit says. "It appears that big banks are back into the small business lending. Sovereign, Citibank and Citizens Bank have been particularly active. This is good news for small businesses in search of capital," said Rohit Arora, Biz2Credit co-founder and CEO, who oversaw the research. "The big banks can no longer just sit on their assets. They are lending again, and this is how it should be." 2. Business funding for women entrepreneurs. Research says that venture-backed companies with more women on their executive teams are more likely to succeed versus those with only men executives, with success defined as "going public, operating profitably, or being sold for more money than they've raised," according to Forbes. Yet only 12% of angel investors funded women entrepreneurs in 2011, the article notes. Astia Angel, a nonprofit organization that trains and mentors high-potential women entrepreneurs, has created a new group of angel investors dedicated toward boosting these high-growth, women-led ventures. 3. The return of the small bookstore? According to the American Booksellers Association, 43 new independent bookstores opened in 2012. Could it be because of the closures of Barnes and Noble and Borders stores? The Los Angeles Times took a closer look at one local bookstore, Cellar Door Books, which opened in October. "People are so excited about having a bookstore," owner Linda Sherman-Nurick says. "It gives them a sense of home, a sense of belonging." -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.Follow @LKulikowski To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.