For three startups tracked by the New York Times, 2008 was an eye-opening year. Online T-shirt retailer Mamaisms Gear has closed down, while Sweet Bites Bakery and Café had to cut payroll and expand opening hours. Only Jeff Takle, founder of RentingYourHome.com, saw his business take off. His Web-based management software for small landlords proved especially timely, as many homeowners unwilling to sell at a loss became "accidental" landlords. He says he's on track for $500,000 in revenue in the first half of 2009.

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