As the year comes to a close, let's look back at some of the most promising moments for entrepreneurs in 2012.
Apple plans a factory in the US
During an interview with Brian Williams on December 6 on NBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that a line of Macintosh computers would be manufactured in the United States in the next year. While underlying the jobs that Apple had already helped to create in the US, ranging from retail positions to component parts to app development, Cook's announcement was closely watched by a number of entrepreneurs hoping it spurs more American production.
Google's Project Glass had technology-watchers cheering. The slim wearable augmented reality get-up will allow you to access appointments, contacts and the web while on the go through voice commands. Multi-tasking entrepreneurs are naturally salivating over it. The device begins shipping to developers next year.
Inc Magazine named Zumba its "company of the year" in 2012. Why? Because it's a testament to the success of word-of-mouth marketing and the gumption of entrepreneurial franchisees and instructors. Zumba is growing at an incredible rate. Want to learn more about the risks and rewards of going the franchise route? Click here.
Everyone's a programmer
A spectacularly useful new service called IFTTT (If That Then This) allows you to create time-saving mashups of some of your favorite online services including Google Calendar, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. Hunting for an apartment? Create a "recipe" that will send you each new Craigslist posting that meets your parameters. Or, get a text message every time your local weather changes. Automate your social media posting and it will look like you have a team of awesome assistants -- even if you are a solopreneur.
Online goes offline
A curious trend took hold of the startup space in 2012: online-based communities offering innovative ways to get their customers…offline. Take dating destination HowAboutWe. Seeking to expand their market share, they are planning real-world dates for already established couples. Or, craft marketplace Etsy. This year they established a successful retail "pop-up" just in time for the holidays stocked with homespun wares and real-live artisans at work. The lesson in all of this real-world experimentation is that no matter how innovative your business, people still crave the human touch.
The JOBS Act
The JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in April of 2012, and is aimed at freeing up capital for small businesses. A key provision? It makes it easier for individuals to invest in small business -- in fact, companies can raised as much as one million dollars a year from individual investors. Look for the law to take effect in January 2013.
Crowdfunding goes mainstream
While "crowdfunding" wasn't invented in 2012, it certainly found its greatest momentum this year, especially in terms of funding inventors, small businesses and micro-enterprises of all types. While Kickstarter certainly started the trend, you can look for a proliferation of new options in the new year, some targeted at specific business niches. Look for more about crowdfunding when we cover the topic of fundraising this year.
The robots are coming! "Baxter" burst onto the scene this year -- he's a low cost robot who can be taught to do repetitive tasks and can use "common sense" to work intelligently next to people. This adaptable workmate promises to be indispensable to many small businesses in the years to come.
Who would have thought a relatively unknown (at least in the States) K-Pop artist named Psy would become the biggest YouTube sensation ever? Gangnam Style exceeded one billion views this December and created its own little cottage industry for imitators and parodies. The lesson for entrepreneurs? Fortune favors the bold. Or, in Psy's case, those who can horse dance.
Inexpensive online education is everywhere
Skillshare, Udemy, Code Academy -- if your goal in 2012 was to pick up new business and technology skills, the web had a plethora of options covering everything from user acquisition to programming in Ruby on Rails. We are really living in an absolute golden age for inexpensive online education. And remember -- if you want in on a free "year of entrepreneurship" here at About.com, be sure and read more here.