Arlington resident Celia Edwards Karam is at the top of her game.
Zola’s founder, Shan-Lyn Ma, tapped Karam for the position, and after a series of conversations with the company’s leadership, Karam was officially in.
“I guess I must have done okay in those interviews,” she said, laughing.
While she got married before anything like Zola existed, Karam said she is joining the board to help Zola find opportunities for growth and new corners of the $55 billion wedding industry to explore.
The appointment adds to a resume that includes degrees from Harvard and Stanford universities, 14 years at Capital One and volunteer work with the nonprofit Commonwealth, which helps vulnerable people achieve financial security.
Her achievements seem to flow from one source. “It all comes back to [the question], ‘How might we make choices that are actually helping people get to better outcomes?'” she said.
Karam draws inspiration from her experience as a Jamaican immigrant. She came to the U.S. with her family when she was five years old, and watched her parents work hard to give her and her siblings access to education and better opportunities.
“Financially speaking, we didn’t have a lot to work with,” she said. “The sense you get instilled is one of gratitude and one to give back.”
This sense manifests in Karam’s concern for people, and making their lives easier. She says Capital One, Zola and Commonwealth share this customer-centered pursuit.
But these companies also share Karam.
In recent years, the chief audit officer has grown more confident in sharing her perspective as a Black woman — something that she did not always do. As a child, she was taught that the way to achieve equality was by ignoring color.
“The way to succeed, in my mind, was for my bosses not to notice the differences,” she said. That changed five years ago.
“I came to what might sound like a ridiculous conclusion: The fact that I am a Black woman actually makes me different,” she said.
Keeping in mind her bad experiences suppressing her identity, today she encourages business leaders to show employees that their perspectives, informed by their diverse identities, are valued. It is one reason she said she admires and wants to work with Ma — one of the relatively few women running successful new tech companies.
“If you don’t have the numbers, there’s nowhere to go from there,” she said. “But you only get a diversity of perspective if the people who are there feel like they can actually share what’s on their minds.”
Karam jokes that outside her work, she does not have too many hobbies she can pursue because she has three kids — ages seven, 10 and 12 — who she shuttles to “what feels like hundreds of sports activities.”
In the 10th month of remote work since the shutdown this March, she said she and her kids have started taking lots of walks with the family dog through Arlington. She, her husband and kids have called Arlington home since 2007.
“Arlington is actually a pretty amazing place to live,” she said. “It’s exactly right mix of urban and suburban for our family.”
Photo courtesy Celia Edwards Karam
The SunTrust Bank branch at 4710 Lee Highway, near the Lee Heights Shops, is set to close later this year.
The bank notified customers of the impending closure in a recent letter. The branch is scheduled to close its doors at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Those who avidly follow corporate mergers and acquisitions might have noticed that SunTrust and BB&T have branches across the street from one another on that block of Lee Highway. That’s of note because the two banks announced a $66 billion merger last year, with BB&T buying SunTrust in an all-stock deal. The combined company is now known as Truist.
As might have been predicted, the branches are now being combined, with the current BB&T branch at 4707 Lee Highway set to serve customers of both banks starting on Monday, Nov. 9.
“At our blended branch you’ll continue to receive the personal care you’ve come to expect from SunTrust teammates, whether you visit us in the lobby or use the drive-thru lanes,” the letter said. “There will also be BB&T teammates on hand to assist BB&T customers. There will be no changes to the ATM.”
Those with safe deposit boxes at the SunTrust bank branch will receive instructions on transferring them to a new location, the letter says.
Photos via Google Maps
Two new businesses are setting up shop right next to an entrance to the Pentagon City Metro station
As previously reported, chicken nugget and sandwich purveyor Chick-fil-A is coming to the ground floor of the new Whitmer apartment building at the corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. The space is currently under construction.
Also coming to 710 12th Street S. is a new Chase bank branch. Construction workers could be seen inside the future bank this morning.
There is no word yet on when either will open. Chick-fil-A previously refused to confirm that it was coming to Pentagon City, even after “Chick-fil-A coming soon” signs were put up. (They were later removed.)
The Chick-fil-A and Chase will joining the recently-opened Wiseguy Pizza on the ground floor of the apartment building, which is directly adjacent to the Metro station’s eastern entrance, across from the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall and two blocks from Amazon’s under-construction permanent HQ2.
Hat tips to @KalinaNewman and @Calebfiles
New N. Va. Unemployment Claims Drop — “New claims for unemployment benefits filed by Northern Virginia residents fell last week to their lowest level since pandemic-related business shutdowns began, even as thousands of area residents continue collecting unemployment.” Arlington had 352 new claims and 5,280 continuing claims. [InsideNova]
Developers ‘Double Dip’ PPP Loans — Companies affiliated with major local developers received million in PPP loans, in some cases with multiple loans backing individual properties in Arlington, D.C. and elsewhere. [Washington Business Journal]
Another Flash Flood Watch Today — Updated at 8 a.m. — “More thunderstorms with heavy rain are expected today. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect again this afternoon and tonight for much of our area.” [Twitter]
Citizen’s Police Academy Seeking Participants — “The Arlington County Police Department is now accepting applications for the 24th Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA). The CPA is an educational program designed to create better understanding and communication between police and the community they serve.” [Arlington County]
New Mural in Crystal City — “Last week, the @gensler_design team helped JBG SMITH paint a mural at 2250 Crystal Drive in National Landing to remind our neighbors that ‘even through tough times, the sun will always rise.'” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Vincent
“My understanding is that banks will be offering some form of SBA loan for payroll support, with a provision for the payroll costs to be forgiven after a few months,” said the email, sent two days before the CARES Act was signed into law. “That is something we both very much need and want. Can you put me in line to apply for it when the bill passes and we know what the terms are?”
We’re not alone, millions of small business — including Ben’s Chili Bowl — are facing the same reality. And while the program is likely to be replenished by Congress soon, those left behind still have the uncertainty of not knowing whether we’ll get the loans this time around, and whether it will be too late to save the business as it exists now, even if we eventually do qualify.
Thanks to the loyalty of our long-time advertisers and the generous contributions of our readers, ARLnow will weather this storm in one form or another. But a PPP loan would make a big difference in our ability to retain our workforce and our level of original reporting going forward.
For those interested in the nitty gritty, the following is an account of our experience with PPP. Hopefully it can be instructive for those trying to understand how it worked (and did not work), or cathartic for small business owners in the same boat.
But first, three caveats:
- It’s not unique. Lots of small businesses also were left high and dry.
- It’s just a snapshot. We only applied through one bank, so those who applied through other banks would have different experiences.
- Plenty of businesses did get PPP loans. Clarendon-based media company Axios announced today that it qualified for a $5 million PPP loan. Shake Shack got $10 million, but is giving it back amid a backlash. Tens of thousands of businesses in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. collectively received $16.5 billion. And those that bank at smaller community banks seem to have fared better than those who use big banks.
Friday, April 3
We emailed the person we were told was our main point of contact at PNC’s main Arlington office, on the day that the Small Business Administration was slated to open up its PPP loan processing window.
“It sounds like banks can start lending under the Payroll Protection Program in the CARES Act.” we asked. “How can we move forward with that?”
Our PNC contact responded promptly, letting us know that “like other financial institutions, we are reviewing the additional guidance from the U.S. Treasury and waiting for the final guidelines and details from the Small Business Administration.” This would be the last time we would hear from a human at PNC until a check-in email on April 16, the day the program ran out of money.
Applying with PNC made the most sense for us. We’ve banked there for the past decade as a business, and our owner has banked there personally since he was a teenager in the 1990s. Plus myriad articles on the subject of PPP said that business owners would have the most luck applying with their existing bank, which is more familiar with their financial history.
The fact that we also have a lending relationship with PNC, in the form of a long-standing line of credit, would also help, theoretically.
PNC opened applications on its website Friday night, but did not announce it to customers (at least not to us) via email.
Monday, April 6
Not wanting to wait to hear back, we checked the PNC website, and after clicking around a bit found out that the bank was accepting applications online. Do not try to apply with a branch, the website is the only way to submit an application, it said.
Local Business Owners Still Waiting for Loans — “Like many business owners across Northern Virginia, Cyrille Brenac is still waiting to hear back from his bank about his application to the Paycheck Protection Program… For Brenac, who lives in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington, the money would help him rehire about 50 employees of his two French restaurants he laid off when the economy abruptly shut down as the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.” [Connection Newspapers]
County Board Salary Raise Unlikely — “The COVID-19 health pandemic and resulting economic downturn have snagged another victim – big pay raises for Arlington County Board members. Raises totaling more than $50,000 spread across the five board positions, which were included in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s pre-virus budget proposal in February, have been red-lined out.” [InsideNova]
Bearded Goat Barber Dies During Home Isolation — “We’ve already had quite a tragedy of our own — a barber who was in recovery from heroin addiction. He told us a couple times in the first few weeks, ‘It’s not good for me not being busy like this… not being able to work.’ We didn’t know just how bad it would be for him. He relapsed and got a bad batch and died.” [InsideHook, Facebook]
Campaign to Help Nurses, Restaurants Raises $30k — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) began its ‘Buy a Nurse Lunch’ initiative several weeks ago to raise money for restaurants along Columbia Pike in Arlington, while simultaneously providing meals for nurses and medical staff at the Virginia Hospital Center. In just two weeks, the organization says that over $30 thousand was raised, providing much-needed revenue for small, locally-owned restaurant.” [WJLA]
County to Consider More Retail Conversions — “For many years, county officials were insistent that retail be placed in office and residential buildings in certain areas. The problem – as developers apparently knew but county leaders seemed to miss – is that retail spaces are dependent on visibility and foot traffic, which each can vary widely even within the same building. (At one business-organization meeting years back, developers simply shrugged their shoulders, saying they often penciled in ‘zero’ for the expected revenue.)” [InsideNova]
Local Man Recounts Coronavirus Experience — “He had been in the hospital for seven days when doctors declared he might not make it out alive. His blood oxygen levels sank. His lungs struggled. The ventilator helping him breathe, doctors at Virginia Hospital Center said, did not seem to be doing much good. Nurses called his family. His family called a priest. They wanted to make sure Francis Wilson, 29, received last rites before the end.” [Washington Post]
Raccoons Rescued from Trash Can — “Officer Cameron got a surprise yesterday when she responded to a call about a raccoon stuck inside a bag inside a trash can. After she ‘unstuck’ the raccoon, she found 2 raccoon kits with her! Officer Cameron made sure they were all safe, releasing them to a quiet place nearby.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington]
Arlington Musicians Play Mozart From Self-Isolation — A group of Arlington musicians joined those from elsewhere to perform Mozart: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ (1st movement) remotely. [YouTube]
Falls Church Senior Care Centers Face Outbreaks — “Three Falls Church area senior homes are now confirmed to be fighting outbreaks of the coronavirus, with Chesterbrook Residences telling the News-Press today that a total of 17 of its residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by P Ranfone
Silver Spring Man Wins Soggy MCM — “Jordan Tropf just wanted to see what he could do. Turns out, he could win the Marine Corps Marathon. Leading from the start, the 27-year-old Silver Spring resident built a lead of a 1:26 at the halfway point and went on to win by 70 seconds in 2:27:43, much of the second half coming in a driving rain.” [Run Washington, Washington Post, WTOP]
Arlington World Series Surprise on ‘Today’ — The Today Show aired a segment on the Nottingham Elementary School crossing guard who was surprised with World Series tickets from parents and students. [Twitter]
Shirlington Employment Center Moving — “The Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC) is gearing up for a two-digit move – from 22206 to 22204. Facing the need to decamp from its office space (and facility for day laborers to congregate) in its namesake Shirlington, SEEC has worked with the Arlington County government to obtain space in Arlington Mill along the Columbia Pike corridor.” [InsideNova]
Dorsey Pushes for Clearer Metro Refund Policy — “When one Metro train crashed into another soon after a Nationals playoff game, Metro decided to cancel its ‘Rush Hour Promise’ refunds for the following afternoon’s commute… Arlington County Board Chair and Metro Board member Christian Dorsey hopes for more discussion about how explicit the terms should be, even if it is not reasonable to foresee every possible event.” [WTOP]
Nearby: New Bank Near Fairlington — “A new Bank of America location is coming to the Bradlee Shopping Center in Alexandria. The space at 3690G King Street was previously home to Queen Bee Designs.” [ALXnow]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
JPMorgan Chase is continuing its Mid-Atlantic expansion with a new bank branch in Ballston.
A Chase Bank location is currently under construction at 850 N. Randolph Street, in the former Pizza Autentica space. Permits show the new branch will include a coffee bar, among other amenities.
No word yet on when the Ballston location will open.
A new JPMorgan Chase bank branch is coming to Rosslyn.
The bank filed for a building permit in April for a 1,688 square feet space at Rosslyn City Center (1700 N. Moore Street), according to Arlington Economic Development.
The building is in the middle of an overhaul by owner American Real Estate Partners, though one smaller than what was initially proposed. Interior alterations include changes to the first-floor lobby and building facade.
It’s unclear which space inside the building will house the bank. Inside Rosslyn City Center, there are more spaces empty than full, including two spots vacated by other banks — Bank of America and Presidential Bank. Presidential Bank moved nearby to a new space at 1515 Wilson Blvd.
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.
When Erik Neighbour’s sister gave birth to a baby boy a little over a year ago, like a lot of new uncles, he began to worry about the child’s future.
Around the same time, Neighbour said he read an article about the high number of Americans that would struggle to handle emergency expenses.
Guardian Savings, a new app to help teach children financial literacy, was born out of Neighbour’s desire to help give kids like his nephew a head start on lessons about banking.
“An emergency can happen any day due to something medical or a crash,” said Neighbour. “That was a really shocking statistic, and with my sister having just given birth, I started thinking about how I would teach my nephew about money so they don’t become one of those statistics about financial literacy.”
The group is still in its earliest phases, with a team of three working from home. Two are located in the Courthouse neighborhood, with the third in San Francisco.
Neighbour said the idea was to include behavioral incentives and rewards for good financial behavior that could change and evolve as the kids grew up and learned more about finances.
“Most of the time, financial literacy happens at home,” said Neighbour. “Schools teach theoretical concepts. I learned how to do algebra in high school, but I didn’t learn how to invest or do taxes. But most families aren’t necessarily the best equipped to teach kids, so it’s a never-ending cycle [of financial illiteracy].”
The development featured feedback from local teachers, which Neighbour said was critical in building the app’s interfaces and features.
Almost two weeks ago, the group launched a prototype of their app for elementary-aged children, with future modules planned for older ages. The app currently has around 20 users.
“We’ve been collecting a lot of really useful data points and feedback,” said Neighbour. “We’re looking to expand and improve the prototype for the full launch. It’s not an app like in the app store, so that’s the next step.”
But while Neighbour’s team works on building the prototype, he also said the group is started to look at how to make the app financially sustainable. The long term vision is for the app to grow along with its users, so children who start with the basics in elementary school can learn more about investing and taxes and insurance as the children reach middle or high school.
If they can achieve that, Neighbour said he hopes to earn revenue from referring fees to larger financial institutions, like banks or credit card companies. But this is reliant on building a generation of users, which is still an optimistic vision several years in the future.
“In the short term, we’re considering a premium model where there are features families can pay for,” said Neighbour. “A feature like that would be offering a debit card where you can control what vendors it’s authorized for and spending limits, so you can give your kid a card when you’re not with them.”
Photos courtesy Guardian Savings