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Columbia Pike Incubator Aims to Help Refugees and Immigrants Build Independent Businesses

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

For both new arrivals to the United States dreaming of starting their own business and locals who need a place to work, Columbia Pike’s Enterprise Development Group (EDG) strives to give them solid footing.

The Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) works to help refugees and immigrants, and within that organization the EDG strives to help entrepreneurs launch their own businesses.

“Our business incubator is a program where EDG rents office space below market rate,” said Fikru Abebe, managing director of the EDG. “This program primarily offers new start-up business access to free internet, free training meeting rooms and free utility. Participants will eventually graduate and move out.”

The ECDC launched in 1983 and the EDG was incorporated as a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2001. Funding for the incubator comes from a variety of public and private sources, though Abebe said continuing to raise funds to manage the program has not been easy.

The incubator is based out of 901 S. Highland Street, just off Columbia Pike.

Successful graduates from the program include a few local healthcare professionals and attorneys, like the firm DC Metro Immigration Law, according to Abebe.

For those who aren’t successful and want to shut down their business concept, Abebe said the low cost and flexibility of their month-to-month lease can keep that from being a career-ruining collapse.

Members of the group also receive access to classes for creating business plans, handling taxes as a small business, and more.

There are currently 22 businesses in the incubator, ranging from lawyers, IT consultants, cleaning services and more. Abebe said the program is currently at around 85 percent capacity with four offices left.

A fact sheet for the program says it strives for low vacancy, but high turnover.

“A successful business incubator would have all space filled, but it would have a balanced rate of new clients, existing clients, and graduated clients,” the fact sheet notes.

Photo via EDG/Facebook

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