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The Biz Roundup December 22

If the shoe fits, throw it. No, seriously folks, shoe me the money! Wacka wacka!

Although his assertion has been impossible to verify — cobblers from Lebanon, China and Iraq have also staked claims to what is quickly becoming some of the most famous footwear in the world — orders for Mr. Baydan’s shoes, formerly known as Ducati Model 271 and since renamed “The Bush Shoe,” have poured in from around the world.

A new run of 15,000 pairs, destined for Iraq, went into production on Thursday, he said. A British distributor has asked to become the Baydan Shoe Company’s European sales representative, with a first order of 95,000 pairs, and an American company has placed an order for 18,000 pairs. Four distributors are competing to represent the company in Iraq, where Baydan sold 19,000 pairs of this model for about $40 each last year.

(“‘Bush Shoe’ Gives Firm a Footing in the Market” New York Times, December 20) The oxfords heard round the world provide one of the biggest opportunities for fleet-footed entrepreneurs since John McCain called (President) Obama “that one.” Expect years of micro- to macro-fortunes to be made from bricolage of all stripes, from tee-shirts to bumper stickers to “throwing” shoes. The “Air Zaidi” anyone?

What happens when God goes out of business?

During this holiday season of hard times, not even houses of God have been spared. Some lenders believe more churches than ever have fallen behind on loans or defaulted this year. Some churches, and at least one company that specialized in church lending, have filed for bankruptcy. Church giving is down as much as 15% in some places, pastors and lenders report.

(“In Hard Times, Houses of God Turn to Chapter 11,” Wall Street Journal, December 23) I suspect that the recession is going to devastate the small, community-based churches and synagogues, particularly those serving the poor. It will pinch, but not punch, the “big business” churches. Is the community church about to go the way of the family farm only to be replaced by the “industrial” church, the Jesus versions of Monsanto and Con Agra? You remember my question, “what happens when the news goes out of business?” What happens when God goes out of business? When all that’s left is God, Inc.?

Join the club, guys. The party’s just getting started.

Japan reported yesterday that its exports plunged a record 27 percent in November, signaling a dramatic deterioration in the world’s second-largest economy and the collapse of the export-led boom that had lifted many Asian nations.

Indeed, even mighty Toyota said yesterday it will post its first operating loss in seven decades, providing a vivid example of how some of the world’s most profitable companies have been quickly humbled by the global recession.

Japan’s stunning decline in exports is being echoed across Asia, where country after country is reporting data that has exceeded even the grimmest forecasts.

(“Plunge in Exports Reverberates Across Asia,” Washington Post, December 23) There are two prediction challenges entrepreneurs face. The first is what the chaos in currency markets and international trade over the next few months will mean in terms of business opportunities. Is the time right to get your product made in China? Are there openings in markets dominated by imports? (Like, why-o-why aren’t the big three American automakers exploiting the increasing costs of Japanese cars?) The second is what the world will look like when everything is back to “normal.” Is the trade balance going to shift to other countries? Back to the U.S.? Or back to China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Taiwan? Instead of offshoring to China, should you be laying down plans to offshore to Uzbekistan?

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