Today at AsItChanges, we’re going to take a look at some interesting activity going on in the world of small business. If you’re a small business out there trying to get yourself off the ground, it helps a lot to learn from those who are at the same place as you are, or who are one or two steps ahead of you. We’re offering the links and stories below for you to help spread the education around!

1. ExportNow in the News

Lavin’s connections are helping him build a new kind exporting business. Export Now (it shares his book’s title) is a middleman for U.S. manufacturers that want to sell their consumer products in China. Headquartered in Akron, not far from Lavin’s hometown of Canton, Ohio, the 15-person business handles the headache-inducing back-end work for its clients, from customs clearance to trademark registration to order fulfillment. Lavin says Export Now, which also has an office in Shanghai, is backed by “a few million dollars” in equity capital. Rather than negotiate with retailers as a traditional distributor would, Export Now posts product descriptions on its storefront on Alibaba Group’, an Amazon (AMZN)-like shopping colossus in China that is adding more foreign retailers as demandamong its nearly 500 million registered users increases for U.S.-branded goods.

ExportNow is an innovative firm helping small business in the US export directly to China by listing their products on the ExportNow TMall store (sort of like Amazon for the Chinese market). They’ve been featured twice in the news recently, on both BusinessWeek and ChinaDaily. Though some small businesses out there may not be as well connected as ExportNow, everyone can learn from thinking about how they leveraged the connections they have to get coverage from such big sites at a relatively early point in the game.

2. Opening Stuck Jars from

Graci Kim of, a New Zealand Foreign Service officer living in Taipei, Taiwan has recently launched her new cooking show. In this “wee bite,” Graci shows us how to open stuck jars using a simple trick. You might wonder what bearing Graci’s elegant trick has on small business? It’s simple. You run up against stuck jars in business all the time – little obstacles and barriers which prevent you from getting what you want.  When you take a step back, look at the problem from a creative angle, and leverage the tools you have at your disposal, you’re almost certain to find your own little trick to overcome them. You see another neat obstacle-breaking trick from Graci in her first “wee bite,” which is on track to surpass 40,000 views on Youtube.

3. Mountains are not Mountains, from Sebastian Marshall

Sebastian reminds us, on a similar note, that not all obstacles are as we think they are. Sebastian’s writings are excellent to follow for anyone out there in Small Business, and are sure to be an inspiration to you in some way, shape, or form.

The sword as an art easily fits a Taoist paradigm, articulated through the kôan of a Chinese master, who said that before he ever studied Ch’an, he always thought that mountains were just mountains. Then when he began studying, he found that mountains were not mountains (a typical Taoist paradox). After long study, he stopped worrying about this and mountains went back to being mountains again. This easily describes the stages of reaching enlightenment through meditation, but it can also describe the stages of learning an art or skill, not just something like the sword, but even very humble skills.

How do you for people who have done so much for you? How do you thank them?

Well, first let’s get something out of the way. Very rarely does anyone else help anyone else out for genuinely altruistic reasons. Unless your mentors were blood relatives, they took an interest in you in large part because there was an interest in it for them. Having a whiz kid or a protege around is good for business, that’s why they’re doing it.

So deliver. Have your shit together. Want it more than they want it for you. Don’t be crazy. Spot new opportunities, never care about credit. All the “Advice to a Young Man” stuff.

Great thoughts from Ryan Holiday on how to repay your mentors. Not just applicable to repaying your mentors, but generally applicable to repaying friends, colleagues, and anyone who is invested in your success. Be on top of your game, and drive things forward for yourself more than anyone else in your life.