Arlington, VA

This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Alex Held, Small Business Manager

As one of our inaugural SWaMmy Honorees, Dana Mitchell, Founder of ButtarCup Fancy Face Painting, noted in her recorded speech, livestreamed on October 15 at the inaugural SWaMmy Honors, “COVID-19 and 2020 has been quite mean.”

Many businesses across Virginia have gone to extraordinary lengths to pivot but remaining consistent and apparent in many video submissions submitted by small businesses from across the commonwealth was their passion for their business and the perseverance to succeed.

The SWaMmy Honors was originally envisioned as an in-person awards celebration to be held in May in Richmond. However, like many of the small businesses we serve, we ourselves had to pivot and reimagine the program, but one aspect of the program that remained constant was our desire to promote and recognize Arlington’s and Virginia’s inclusive business community.

Along with our partners, BizLaunch and the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, sprang into action to reimagine The SWaMmy Honors, coming up with the idea to have SWaM certified businesses who had originally submitted a nomination before we were forced to cancel the May celebration and businesses from across the commonwealth the opportunity to submit a short video talking about their passion, how they pivoted and their small business story. The best videos would be included as part of the livestreamed program.

We were touched and inspired by the stories many small businesses shared in their video submissions, that we felt it was wrong to keep it a secret. Therefore to celebrate Virginia’s diverse and passionate small business community, we compiled all the videos which included over 60 minutes of recorded content submitted by businesses into a YouTube playlist to share their stories with the world.

We hope you are inspired as we were by the passion, compassion and perseverance of Virginia’s small business community.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

2020 has been a tough year.

Businesses have had to quickly pivot and are searching for new opportunities to grow. Target markets are shifting, and the way customers purchase goods and services are simply not the same. Businesses are looking for new ways to engage in the market and time is of the essence.

Why not give your business a boost this fall by participating in our upcoming FREE virtual program: Boost Your Business on Local Governments. Arlington County’s BizLaunch program and the Arlington County Purchasing Office are partnering to bring you new business opportunities from around Northern Virginia each Friday during the month of October beginning October 9 at 10-11:30 a.m.

The program features business opportunities in Arlington (October 9) the City of Alexandria (October 16), Fairfax County (October 23) and Prince William County (October 30).

Each Purchasing office will share upcoming bids and procurement notices from around the Commonwealth as well as how to do business with their respective jurisdictions. In addition, each municipality will explain the specific process of doing business with their community.

Special guests include Virginia’s Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD). The SBSD is currently managing the ReBuildVA Grant Fund which recently changed its qualifications to open the program to more of Virginia’s small businesses. Click here for more information.

We hope you join us during the month of October to discover opportunities for your business into 2021.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

Don’t miss your opportunity to learn from some of the regions most experienced business consultants!

Collectively the BizRefresh trainers represent over 100+ years of experience to address key topics impacting your business due to the effects of COVID-19 on the economy. Did we say the cost to attend the co-hort is free? Yes, this 8-week course is at no charge.

BizRefresh Session 1: Know Your Why

Rita Ricks has successfully led Virginia’s Scaling 4 Growth initiative which is an intensive executive-level training to help accelerate the growth of Virginia’s small businesses. Rita is experienced in leading businesses to success. In our first session, business coach Rita Ricks will help you get to your why, helping you develop a resilient vision, mission and strategy.

September 10 | 10-11:30 a.m.

BizRefresh Session 2: The Economist Viewpoint

Exclusive invitation to hear Anirban Basu, the nationally renowned Economist from Sage Policy Group. Mr. Basu will discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on the regional and national economy. Local businesses and organizations are invited to participate in this important discussion which will provide keen insight into our future economy as we begin to strategize during and post-COVID-19.

September 17 | 2-3:30 p.m.

BizRefresh Session 3: Demystifying Your Target Market

Greg Payne is the President and Principal Consultant at Emerging Market Enterprises. Greg is experienced in helping clients navigate private capital, acquisitions, client management and project execution. He has a passion to help small businesses and nonprofits grow and scale their businesses when facing challenges. Greg, will do a deep dive to help you better identify your target market, target customer and market size while also framing the competition.

September 24 | 10-11:30 a.m.

BizRefresh Session 4: Is Your Business on Brand?

Carla Uriona is the Chief Content Officer and Founder of Arlington-based Factor 3 Digital. Carla led the first design team at the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she helped Pew launch its first-ever data visualization products. Carla has spearheaded 360 rebranding projects, mentored writers on how to create for digital, and worked with many organizations transitioning from print to digital.

In this session, Carla Uriona, Founder Factor 3 Digital, will help businesses craft a powerful marketing message that not only matches their brand but also resonates with their target market.

October 1 | 10-11:30 a.m.

BizRefresh Session 5: Maximize Your Digital Presence

In this session, Carla Uriona, Founder Factor3 Digital, discusses how to develop a powerful digital marketing strategy building on lessons learned from the previous session ensuring your virtual storefront harmonizes with your brick and mortar store.

October 8 |  10-11:30 a.m.

BizRefresh Session 6: Back to Basics — COVID-19 Style

Carl Hairston is a 30-year Banking Executive in the D.C. metropolitan area. He has led innovative teams in the Mid-Atlantic to provide small businesses access to capital and financing opportunities. Carl is currently leading banking efforts at First Citizens Bank serving as their Area Director.

October 15 | 10-11:30 a.m.

BizRefresh Session 7: Business Sustainability Planning

Building upon lessons learned in the previous session, Carl Hairston Area Executive at First Citizens Bank, returns to discuss how to reassess your current business plan for resiliency and best practices in financial record keeping.

October 22 | 10-11:30 a.m.

BizRefresh Session 8: The Pitch of Your Perfection

In this session, acceleration guru Will Fuentes of the Maestro Group will discuss the art of perfecting your sales pitch during COVID-19. Information on sales trends and how best to communicate to close deals during the current health pandemic are key. Three participants will have the opportunity to present their pitch at the culmination of this final BizRefresh session.

October 29 | 10-11:30 a.m

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

It appears as if COVID-19 is going to be with us for the better part of the year, and possibly into 2021.

Since the Stay-at-home orders were issued in March, the Palacios Family — like many families across the U.S. — have been looking closely at the way we manage our household and developed new efficiencies like never before. We’ve repurposed our work spaces in anticipation of a virtual fall and identified simple tools to help us with this transition.

Just as we have been making our workspaces more productive — now is the time to look under the hood of your business to ensure the engine is running smoothly and continues to run smoothly as we move through the current health pandemic.

A definite area of importance is to make sure your business has access to personal protective gear, masks, sanitizers and the sanitizing products for the workspace as well as ensuring social distancing of at least 6 ft. Those PPE business needs are a reality of 2020; however, you will also want to make sure the engine is running well under the hood.

5 Things to Check Under the Hood of Your Business:

Reevaluate your vision, mission and goals

COVID-19 has changed the way we do business.  Have you had the opportunity to reevaluate and modify your company’s mission and vision to reflect the differences the health pandemic has impacted on our society? Are your vision, mission and goals the same?

If the vision and mission of your business is different, how have you communicated your messaging to your key stakeholders and customers? If your vision, mission and goals are the same, should they be changed to reflect a different business environment?

How is your business structured?

What type of business structure are you? (E.g., Sole proprietor, LLC, Partnership, Incorporated etc.) When was the last time you reached out to your accountant or attorney to ensure your business structure still matches the vision and goals of your business from when you first started? Have you grown your business or are you the same sized-business as you were 2, 5 or 10 years ago? Make sure your business structure aligns with the structure and offerings of your business in 2020.

Do you have the same customers or target market? 

Is your business stagnant or growing? Do you have the same customers or has your target market shifted due to a decrease/increase in demand or because of a change in technology? Are your customers buying your product or services the same as they did in 2012 — or are you finding most customers are now online versus buying from you in-person?

Audit your customers and ask them directly how like they are to engage in business with you. A fall survey is a great way to make sure that you are offering the best services and products you possibly can as we move into 2021.

Access to Capital 

How much buying power do you have for your business as of August 2020? If you need cash do you have enough money to pivot, target a new client-base or move your services online? How much would these investments cost and how much do you need to be a key player in your industry? Reach out to your financial institution and have them do a financial audit of your business.

If you have a relationship with your bank this is a great way to identify new products and tools that can help you manage opportunities and continue to build your business. If you don’t have a relationship with a bank, begin to build one now for future possibilities and direction.

Identify your Top 5 Opportunities 

As we say goodbye to 2020, (…believe me a lot of us can’t wait to see the back of this year…) what are the remaining 5 opportunities you can identify to help grow your business? There are still four solid months left in the calendar year. What are the opportunities you can squeeze in quickly to help grow your business and give you a giant positive leap into 2021?  Brainstorm with your team and find the opportunities.

In BizLaunch, we continue to keep the under the hood dialogue moving forward. We have two free workshops coming up this month you can participate in. We hope you join us.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

After experiencing a global health pandemic during the last several months, the one thing we’ve learned is the importance of community.

Arlington is made up of dynamic communities bound together and committed in their support of one another, and the local businesses that make up the woven fabric of diverse neighborhoods. Surviving a health crisis is challenging as our way of life as we know it is so vastly different.

In BizLaunch, we are currently working on designing curriculum this summer for our small business community to help aide with challenges facing businesses as we work through this international health crisis. We are committed to introducing the latest round of funding sources offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia and organizations that support small businesses. The following are potential grant opportunities for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

On Monday, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced its RebuildVA Small Business Grant. The Grant has $70 million for small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be made available through Rebuild VA, a new economic recovery fund, and grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to approximately 7,000 applicants to cover eligible expenses. The application opens August 10, 2020 and you can find specific details about the program here.

Rebuild VA will be administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD). Eligible businesses and nonprofits must be in good standing, have annual gross revenues of no more than $1.5 million, and have no more than 25 employees.

Eligible organizations include food and beverage establishments, non-essential retail, exercise and fitness, entertainment and public amusement, personal care and personal grooming services, and private campground and overnight summer camps. Businesses must also certify that they have not received federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds or other funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as local government funding.

Information sessions will be held on July 31 at noon and, August 4th at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The following grant opportunities have been compiled by the BizLaunch Team and are available for eligible small business funding. Click on the hyperlinks below for more details:

  • LISC — Small Business Grant. Applications accepted through August 3, 2020.
  • Red Backpack Fund — Applications open August 3rd and are specific grants for women entrepreneurs .
  • VISA and IFundWomen expanded their GRANT program for Black women-owned businesses through July 31, 2020.
  • Nav Small Business GRANT

Another summer opportunity is BizTalk. BizTalk is a new series of webinars hosted by BizLaunch which features hot topics of interest. Please join us on August 20th at 10 a.m. as we feature Arlington’s own Alan Zucker who will speak on “Adjusting to Uncertainty.”

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

The GRANT provides immediate financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arlington County today announced 394 businesses are receiving the Small Business Emergency GRANT (Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term).

The GRANT program provides financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GRANT funds were designed to bridge the gap to provide near-term relief for businesses and nonprofits, some of whom have experienced delays or limitations with federal relief initiatives.

Businesses and nonprofits considered for the GRANT had to be located in Arlington County, have fewer than 50 employees, and demonstrate revenue losses of 35 percent or more as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The GRANT is being made on behalf of Arlington County, the Arlington Industrial Development Authority and the Ballston, Crystal City and Rosslyn Business Improvement Districts (BID). The GRANT will provide a total of $2.8 million in funding.

This amount includes an increase of $1.6 million from CARES Act funding that the Arlington County Board approved yesterday — more than doubling the funding available for applicants. Based on the available funding, 394 businesses (53 percent of eligible applicants) will receive a financial grant. Businesses across the County, in a wide variety of industry sectors and geographic locations, received grants.

Award amounts varied, up to $10,000 per business. More than 37 percent are restaurant and food service businesses and nearly 26 percent are personal service businesses, approximately 10% are health and medical businesses and 10 percent are retail businesses. Recommended grantees are concentrated along the major commercial corridors. Nearly 44% of awarded businesses are in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor (Zip Codes 22201, 22203 and 22209) and 20% are along the Route 1 Corridor (Zip Code 22202). Approximately 13% are in the Columbia Pike Zip Code area.

“With our small businesses among those most affected by the pandemic, the Board thought it was important to provide more funding for GRANT,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “This new funding will make it possible to provide much-needed funding to more than 50 percent of the eligible applicants. For those that do not receive funding, we still offer business and financial planning assistance. We hope that our small businesses will seek our advice if they would like, and will continue to pursue other avenues of support. We want all our businesses to be able to recover and thrive again as we continue our phased reopening.”

“Throughout the pandemic, we heard over and over again that financial assistance was what our business community needed most,” said Telly Tucker, Director of Arlington Economic Development. “And we’ve kept in constant contact with all our businesses to provide a variety of resources to help, from these GRANT funds to individual meetings to sessions on how to effectively pivot operations in order to continue through the last few months. As we now look forward and begin to reopen, we’re hopeful these GRANT funds will help those businesses hit the hardest — those that would be unable to continue operations without this financial aid.”

Applications were evaluated through a competitive process. More than 1,100 applications were received for consideration. Applications were evaluated based on criteria that considers the impact to employees, business operations and the Arlington business community.

GRANT funds must be used for employee salary and benefits and other business capital and operating expenses directly related to the immediate impacts of COVID-19. Recipients are required to submit a final report to Arlington Economic Development and provide documentation of grant use.

A list of the GRANT recipients is available on the Arlington Economic Development website.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Alex Held, BizLaunch

As small businesses navigate how they reopen and when, one thing remains certain, no small business wants to be forced to close because of large gatherings or be seen on social media enabling an environment that isn’t safe in the era of COVID-19.

In order to help small businesses thrive, BizLaunch along with our partners, has developed a series of webinars called Onward Arlington. Each webinar will focus on a specific aspect of reopening processes small business owners need to consider, protecting the safety of their customers, employees and themselves.

In our first webinar Onward Arlington: Reopening Safely During the Era of COVID-19, BizLaunch is bringing a host of subject matter experts from across Arlington County Government to address policies and regulations to open business safely. At the end of this webinar business owners will understand Phase One of Forward Virginia, and how their industry is affected, and will also address the new process for temporary outdoor restaurant seating.

While understanding the regulations and requirements is fundamental, small businesses will also need to be prepared to handle questions, emotions, attitudes, opinions and even fears customers and returning employees may have as they reopen. What can customers and employees expect as small businesses reopen? How can small business owners best communicate their new normal? How can small businesses remain nonpartisan in the COVID-19 era?

In our second webinar Onward Arlington: Communicating the New Normal, we’ll be addressing these issues while helping small business owners develop the right message for their customers and discuss practical communication vehicles to help business owners communicate their message effectively.

As we move through future phases of Forward Virginia, we’ll continue to provide small businesses with timely content and resources to support as we transition together through our new normal. For more information on business resources visit www.bizlaunch.org.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Recently, the Arlington County Board approved the creation of the special Arlington Small Business Emergency GRANT Program.

In Arlington Economic Development, we’ve been reaching out to the business community since this pandemic began, and what we heard was needed most was access to capital. We wanted to do something to help. And now, with additional contributions from the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) as well as the Rosslyn and Crystal City BIDs, the fund is at more than $1 million.

It’s a countywide effort for a good cause — supporting the small businesses that make up the character of Arlington County.

The Arlington Small Business Emergency GRANT (Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term) Program will offer competitive grants of up to $10K to Arlington companies that have been directly affected by COVID-19. To be eligible, businesses must have an Arlington County business license, be in good standing on Arlington County taxes and have fewer than 50 employees.

To apply, businesses also need to demonstrate that they’ve experienced at least 35% of revenue decline because of the pandemic and provide details on how grant funds will be used to support employee salary and benefits and other business capital and operating expenses directly related to the immediate impacts of COVID-19. A diverse panel will review the grant proposals and consider a variety of criteria, including need, business sustainability, and level of business disruption from the pandemic to ensure we can assist as many businesses as possible.

Applications will open in early May, and the application process will be open for two weeks. In the meantime, individuals can sign up to be notified as soon as the application goes live online.

Arlington Economic Development’s outreach has shown that more than 90% of Arlington’s small businesses have reported that the closures and modifications associated with the pandemic have been significantly disruptive to their businesses, and the GRANT program is just one way Arlington Economic Development and its BizLaunch team are working to help Arlington’s business community weather this crisis.

In the coming week, additional Information will be available regarding the GRANT in English, Spanish and Amharic with the application itself also available in multiple languages. We have counselors available for one-on-one virtual sessions.

More information is available on the COVID-19 Support section of the AED website, or those with questions can call us at 703-228-0808.

We’ve all learned a lot in the last few weeks, but what this pandemic has shown us more than ever is that Arlington’s business community is innovative, resilient and above all, ready to do whatever it takes to remain strong. We’re going to be here to do all we can to help make that happen.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Alex Held, BizLaunch

Calling out to all our cool quarantine kids, we’re still #BizStrongArlVa and because Arlington loves its small businesses, we wanted to share with you how you can show your favorite small business some love.

https://twitter.com/AEDBizLaunch/status/1248619723907981312

On April 10, BizLaunch and the Arlington Restaurant Initiative along with community partners such as the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, Rosslyn BID, Crystal City BID, Ballston BID and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, kicked off a day long tweet storm highlighting local businesses and providing timely information. Throughout the day residents tagged their favorite local business using the #BizStrongArlVa and small businesses highlighted their products and services, unique ways in which they have pivoted and special hours and pickup or delivery options.

Read More

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Alex Held, BizLaunch

While we are experiencing unprecedented times, it’s important to know we are in this together and we will overcome this as a community.

In challenging times, small business owners wear many hats and keep changing hats as they work to retain their staff and fight the effects of COVID-19. Today Governor Northam’s executive order goes into effect limiting gatherings to less than 10, closure of dining areas such as restaurants (restaurants may still offer takeout and delivery) and closure of public access to recreational facilities such as theaters, fitness centers and more. It truly is an unprecedented day.

Representing almost a quarter of all employment (47,834 jobs) in Arlington County, small businesses have always served as an integral component of the local economy encompassing 92% of all business establishments. Not surprisingly to what we have encountered, many of the early responses to Arlington Economic Development’s recent business survey indicated small businesses are feeling the pain.

If you haven’t yet, please take AED’s COVID-19 business survey. For the small businesses wearing more hats, here are five tools to survive a pandemic:

  1. New Grant Opportunity — Arlington/Alexandria Layoff Aversion Program: Layoff aversion funds can be utilized to help maintain business operations. Such examples include cleaning/sanitation service, purchase of software or remote access supplies such as laptops, or the purchase of an online sales platform. Applications are accepted through March 27 at 5 p.m. with award notifications on March 30. For more information or to apply visit the Alexandria/Arlington Workforce Council or join our webinar on Thursday with the SBA and the workforce council.
  2. SBA Disaster Assistance: Arlington businesses can apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans in which qualified borrowers can receive up to $2 million for working capital. In addition, SBA is implementing automatic deferment on existing SBA Disaster Loans through end of 2020. To help businesses in applying for loans, BizLaunch in partnership with the SBA for an online webinar on Thursday to provide businesses a forum to ask questions and learn what documents are required.
  3. Unemployment Insurance: For businesses who have had to lay employees off because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Northam has directed that the one week waiting period to receive benefits be suspended. For detailed instructions on how to apply for unemployment benefits visit the Virginia Employment Commission or join us on Thursday to hear from the Arlington Employment Center and the SBA.
  4. BizLaunch Resources: We’ve been curating and providing resources to help businesses on our website to provide you with easy access to information as well as information on the virus.
  5. Webinars: All of our webinars including those on emergency management and our most recent on maintaining sales during a pandemic are available online and can be used to reference. New topics will be announced in the coming days.

Most importantly the BizLaunch team is here for you. We’re taking appointments by Microsoft Teams or over the phone, and we are here to answer your questions or to provide you with the tools you need to support your business during these challenging times.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive information about upcoming topics and information about additional resources. We look forward in seeing everybody safe and healthy soon; however, in the meantime, please stay in touch with us and let us know how you and your business are coping during these unprecedented times.

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

What’s the Virginia SWaM Program you may ask yourself?

The SWaM Procurement Initiative was established to enhance business opportunities for small, women and minority-owned businesses and to ensure a level playing field for all small businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia. SWaM is the acronym for Small, Women- and Minority-owned businesses. A SWaM vendor is a business that has been certified by the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity and is listed in the SWaM Vendor Directory.

How can I win a SWaMmy?

The Commonwealth of Virginia in partnership with Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch is honoring businesses who are certified small, micro, woman-owned, minority-owned and service- disabled veteran-owned *SWaM kicking-off Business Appreciation Month (BAM) May 2020.

The SWaMmy Awards celebrate the successes and the steadfast achievements of our diverse business community in Virginia — who reflect and support our government efforts each day. Year-over-year, small businesses play a fundamental part of our Virginia business ecosystem which is why we are honoring the best of the best.

We need your SWaMmy nominations by COB March 20

Is there a small, micro, woman-owned, minority-owned, or service-disabled veteran-owned business in your Virginia community you’d like to see honored? We cordially ask you share the nomination form with them today.

Simply click here and have the business fill out their personalized information on SurveyMonkey. Be as detailed as possible. We are seeking SWaM businesses in the Commonwealth that have made a direct contribution to their community as well positively growing, and have a unique story to tell.

The top five nominees in each category will be invited to attend the SWaMmy Awards in Richmond on May 4, at the Omni Richmond Hotel from 5-8 p.m. Small businesses are eligible to apply if they receive their SWaM certification by COB March 20.

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