What’s going on:

Sports retailers hoping hockey brings back customers: Small sports stores, some of whom say sales decline this holiday season, are hoping a tentative deal to end the NHL lockout will bring back hockey fans.

Microfinance operation launches in D.C.: Kiva, a San Francisco- based nonprofit, has launched operations in Washington, offering a new, potentially more accesible source of capital for the region’s new firms.

FDA unveils regulations: Regulators have proposed the most significant rule changes in a decade for farmers and food manufacturers, and it could cost businesses half a billion dollars per year to implement.

Keep an eye on:

Optimism rising slowly: Small business owners’ confidence increased only marginally in December, leaving it at near-record lows, according to the latest survey from the NFIB.

Helpful advice on:

How to succeed behind the scenes in business (OSB)

How to take marketing to the next level (Fast Company)

How to develop an effective brand strategy (YFS)

How to make your business resolutions stick(Newsday)