bestofTis the season to look back on the year and identify standout trends, inventions, events, and other noteworthy 2014 happenings. From the economy, to entertainment, education, and entrepreneurship, there’s a best of list for it. While not all directly related to small businesses, the following 2014 best of lists will provide information, instruction, and inspiration that can help you and your small business thrive in 2015 and beyond.

Inventions, Innovators, and Hot Businesses

2014’s Weird, Wild, Jaw-Dropping Innovations from Entrepreneur
This list highlights ten unique 2014 inventions covered by the site (with links to the associated articles). For example, 2014 brought us ice cream that changes color when you lick it, glow in the dark highway paint, sharks that Tweet their location, and my personal favorite a “Password Pill” that when digested transmits a password signal to your devices eliminating the need to ever again remember a password.

The 16 Hottest Startups That Launched In 2014 from Business Insider
By looking at funding, revenue, growth, and investor interest, Business Insider created this top startup list that includes Mink, a company offering a “printer” that prints custom cosmetics; Humin, an app that remembers details about when and where you met a person as you add them to your Contacts list, and also gathers additional details from social media, and displays them when you access the contact record; CyberDust which claims to offer truly self-destructing instant messaging; and the soon to be launched Jet, a new e-commerce startup that purports to be an “Amazon Killer.” In addition to these innovations, Yo is also on the list. Yo is a basic app taking social networking by storm. All it does is enable you to send a pre-recorded “Yo” message to anyone on your list, and enables that person to send one back. Go figure. Just imagine the success you can have with your own small business.

America’s Best Small Companies 2014 from Forbes
This top 100 list of the best public companies with sales under $1 billion covers a wide variety of industries from healthcare to homebuilding, and aerospace to automobiles. While a billion dollars in sales may seem huge to a true small business (as opposed to “small company”) owner, it actually makes for quite a small fish in the giant public sector sea. Forbes creates this list to highlight “up-and-coming companies that have displayed strong, consistent growth.” Reading about these companies can provide both business tips and inspiration for you as you grow your small business into a small company.

Best U.S. Locations for Your Small Business

Best And Worst Places For Business 2014 from Forbes.
To create the best/worst list, Forbes used U.S. Census data, along with other economic research and analytics, to rate the 200 largest metro areas in the U.S. on jobs, costs of doing business and cost of living, income growth, quality of life, and other business and lifestyle factors. The big winner: Raleigh, NC where business costs are 18% below the national average. (PaySimple’s home, Denver, CO, placed 4th because its, “diverse economy and significant outdoor recreational options continue to attract educated, young professionals.” That’s no surprise to us!) For the second year in a row, Atlantic City, NJ comes in dead last and garners the dubious honor of worst place for business in 2014. Its troubles are largely due to the declining casino industry and a dismal jobs outlook over the past 5 years and for the foreseeable future.

2014 United States Small Business Friendliness Survey from Thumbtack.
The study surveyed 12,000 small businesses across the United States and asked about the “friendliness” (defined as a pro-business environment) of their state and local governments. The interactive map shows relative ratings for states in categories including overall friendliness, starting a business, tax code, zoning, and more. The most “friendly” states were Utah, Idaho, Texas, Virginia and Louisiana, and the least friendly were California, Rhode Island and Illinois. Among cities, Colorado Springs, Boise and Houston were at the top, and Sacramento, Providence and Buffalo were at the bottom.

Best Small Business Service Providers

The Best Small Business Web Hosting Services for 2014 from PC Magazine
If your small business does not yet have a website, now is the time. If you’re not satisfied with your current hosting service provider, there is no reason not to make a change. This best of list provides information on 10 top web hosting providers with packages starting as low as $3 per month for a feature packed offering that will help your small business thrive online.

Best Small Business Credit Cards of 2014 from ValuePenguin
This list was independently researched by the ValuePenguin team, and based on a computer model that determines how a card performs and how it compares to other options. Along with details about individual offerings, the post includes an interactive graph that visually displays how cards compare based on key features (Rewards, APR, Annual fee, etc.), and monthly or annual spend either overall or by category.

Best Small Business Books

2014 Small Business Book Awards from Small Business Trends
The awards consist of two lists, judges choice winners and community choice winners, in categories including motivation, technology, economics, marketing, management, social media, startup, and resources. The overall community choice winner was Liber8 Your Business, a guide to planning your small business success from the exit backwards.

The 15 Best Business Books Of 2014 from Business Insider
This list touches all aspects of business, starting with Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership, and also including PayPal co-founder Peter Theil’s Zero to One covering his start-up business philosophy; How Google Works in which Google’s former CEO and current chair Eric Schmidt and former SVP of products Jonathan Rosenberg provide an inside view of all aspects of the company; and Think Like a Freak, a follow-up to the blockbuster Freakonomics in which the authors highlight the “thinking tools” that lead them to create the original book.

Best Small Business Breaks

The Best Movies of 2014 from The New Yorker
This list of 30 top films, culled by New Yorker film critic Richard Brody from a list of around 600 releases in 2014, provides suggestions for a night out or an afternoon in. The list, dominated by independently financed (rather than establishment big-studio financed) films is topped by The Grand Budapest Hotel, a movie that tells “a story of work and art, friendship and love that is about the rise of Nazism and the German occupation of much of Europe—in particular, one small, no-longer-extant Central European country, Zubrowka, where the hotel of the title is located.” In addition to the top 30 list, Brody also includes a list of top undistributed films that you have likely not yet heard about but have good reason to seek out.

Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2014
Whether you listen to music while you work, when you take a break, or both, you’re sure to find something worth hearing on this best-of list. From Rap to Folk, Country to Pop, and everything in-between and outside the lines, there is a stand-out example in the list. If you haven’t heard it yet, check out #2, Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes—a personal favorite for this Jersey girl.

And, that should do it for 2014. Stay tuned for next week’s Tip where we’ll look at predictions for 2015.

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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