Owning It: Small Business
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11 common reasons small businesses fail

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Sometimes the critics of a new business concept are right: Founders are wasting their time on an idea that's a dud or is ill-timed—and haven't done enough testing or market research to find that out. "If you're not keeping up with the trends, there's a good chance customers won't purchase your services," AmeriMerchant's David Goldin said.

Ask Jordan Malik. The entrepreneur from Levittown, New York, co-founded LookTrade in 1999, a tech start-up that helped companies run their own online auctions. It imploded in 2001, during the dot-com bust. "The reality is, everyone was doing the eBay thing," he said, looking back with 20-20 hindsight.

Malik learned from his mistake. He left the start-up world behind and eventually got a job at a major advertising agency, selling products on eBay and Amazon on the side. In 2009, after losing his job, he dove back into entrepreneurship and started what became a group of five small businesses to help e-commerce merchants improve sales and profits, offering systems he developed to do so. The sites include FindSpotter.com, which tells merchants what to sell on Amazon and where to find it. Today they collectively generate more than $500,000 a year in revenue for the solo entrepreneur.

"I advise entrepreneurs not to be bullheaded about an idea when everyone is saying the idea doesn't work," said Malik, now 43.

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