Arlington, VA

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

By Tara Palacios

Women are opening businesses at a fast rate.

They are opening businesses exactly five times faster than the national average. In BizLaunch, 60% of new clients are women and we directly see the positive impact of women entrepreneurs on our business ecosystem.

According to the the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report commissioned by American Express, “Between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21% to a total of nearly 13 million (12,943,400). Employment grew by 8% to 9.4 million. Revenue rose 21% to $1.9 trillion.”

The number of “sidepreneurs,” has also increased. [I.e., people who are employed but seeking to launch a business on the side or as a side hustle]. Women are engaging in building sustainability and wealth and using entrepreneurship as a platform to quickly achieve those goals.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, BizLaunch offers two amazing conference opportunities for women who are in business or thinking of going into business:

AWE Summit 2020 — March 12, Marymount University

Join us for the 2nd annual AWE SUMMIT a can’t miss gathering of the most awesome business owners in the D.C. region:

  • Educational and inspiring presentations
  • Informative panels of experts
  • Conversations and connections
  • All-new vendor expo!
  • Morning coffee and a delicious lunch provided
  • 30-Second Pitch competition with $2500 in startup funds

weThrive

Experience a full day of learning tailored to your entrepreneurial journey. Whether you are in the early stages of your business, ready to scale up, or attempting to manage rapid growth, we have a track designed to educate and inspire you. You will self-select from the following life stage tracks:

  • CREATIVITY to Start
  • CONFIDENCE to Scale
  • COURAGE to Soar

Networking Reception: Celebrating Courageous Women

Wednesday, March 18, 6-8 p.m., Arlington Economic Development

The Entrepreneurial Journey Conference

Thursday, March 19, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Silver Spring Civic Center

We hope you can join us!

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

By BizLaunch Team

In addition to the many tools at BizLaunch’s disposal such as Score, one on one consultations and innovative programming, BizLaunch has another resource for businesses with a unique partnership with Latino Economic Development Center. Here is a little about one of the newest members of Arlington’s small business ecosystem.

As a native Arlingtonian, Eddy Campos-Molina is excited to start working with small businesses in the area. Having been raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Eddy has seen firsthand many of the challenges that small businesses face, particularly in the Latino community.

As a Loan Officer & Small Business Coach for LEDC (Latino Economic Development Center), Eddy’s goal is to provide support to Arlington’s existing small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in three main ways. Through business loans, business advice and credit building.

Business Loans

As a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), LEDC provides alternative micro loan options to start-ups and existing businesses that have difficulty obtaining credit from mainstream financial institutions.

Business Advice

As a Small Business Coach Eddy will be providing hands-on workshops and one-on-one business coaching. LEDC helps launch new enterprises and support existing businesses with business planning, financial projections and marketing support etc.

Credit Building

LEDC also provides access to financial products specifically tailored to build one’s personal credit, along with knowledge of what goes into a credit score and how it impacts one’s financial goals.

Make an appointment with Eddy today! Eddy will also be available to take appointments on Fridays at the Bizlaunch office 1100 N. Glebe Rd. Suite 1500.

You can reach Eddy through his direct number and email listed below:

Eddy Campos-Molina
478-324-2839 
[email protected]

Además de los múltiples recursos que BizLaunch ofrece como consultoría uno a uno con asesores de SCORE y programas innovadores BizLaunch tendrá otro recurso para negocios a través de nuestra asociación con El Centro Latino de Desarrollo Económico (LEDC).  A continuación encontrará más información sobre uno de los nuevos miembros del ecosistema de pequeños negocios de Arlington.

Como nativo de Arlington, Eddy Campos-Molina está entusiasmado de comenzar a trabajar con pequeñas empresas en el área. Siendo hijo de una pequeña empresaria, Eddy ha visto de primera mano muchos de los desafíos que enfrentan las pequeñas empresas, particularmente en la comunidad latina.

Como Oficial de Préstamo y Coach de Pequeñas Empresas para LEDC (Centro Latino de Desarrollo Económico), el objetivo de Eddy es brindar apoyo a las pequeñas empresas existentes y a los emprendedores mediante tres formas principales. A través de préstamos comerciales, asesoramiento empresarial y mejoramiento del puntaje de crédito.

Préstamos comerciales

Como una Institución Financiera de Desarrollo Comunitario Certificada (CDFI), LEDC ofrece opciones alternativas de microcrédito para empresas nuevas y existentes que tienen dificultades para obtener crédito de las instituciones financieras convencionales.

Asesoramiento empresarial

Como entrenador de pequeñas empresas, Eddy ofrecerá talleres de capacitación y asesoramiento individual. LEDC ayuda a lanzar nuevas empresas y a apoya a las empresas existentes con asesoría en planificación comercial, proyecciones financieras y soporte de marketing, etc.

Construcción de historial crediticio

LEDC también proporciona acceso a productos financieros específicamente diseñados para mejorar el puntaje de crédito y brinda conocimiento acerca de cómo construir crédito y lograr sus objetivos financieros.

Haga una cita con Eddy hoy! Eddy también estará disponible para tomar citas los viernes en la oficina de Bizlaunch.

Puede comunicarse con Eddy a través de su número directo y correo electrónico que se enumeran a continuación:

Eddy Campos-Molina
478-324-2839
[email protected]

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

By Alex Held, Small Business Manager, BizLaunch

While the new year provides business owners the opportunity to reflect on their successes of the past year and adjust for the future, 2020 offers a unique opportunity for new beginnings.

Not only are we entering a new decade, but also in 2020 we’re entering a new 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac with the year of the rat, the first zodiac animal. As with any new beginning, it’s important to ensure you’re on solid ground, here are some BizSolutions for success in the new decade.

1. Protect Your Business

In the new year it’s great to look at your insurance policies with your agent. As businesses grow insurance needs change and as you take on more assets you’ll want to ensure they are protected. Additionally, it’s a good opportunity to look at what you’re paying to see if there are any savings that you can leverage.

One thing we can be assured of in the new decade is that small businesses and startups are continually going to be targets of cyber criminals. Luckily our first Brunch & Business of 2020 on January 29, called “Keeping I.T. Real” will help prepare business owners with easy steps that they can become cyber compliant as well as protect their business from future attacks.

2. Automate Simple Tasks

Business owners wear a lot of different hats and can get consumed by all the competing priorities. However, with new automation technology increasingly becoming available, small business owners can automate many of the small tasks that can consume their work day and get back to focusing on what’s important while improving work/life balance.

BizLaunch is hosting a workshop on January 9, called “Get Work Off Your Plate“, to help business owners reclaim their workday by automating administrative tasks.

3. Plan Out Your Marketing

While sometimes overlooked, marketing is the lifeblood of any business. The new year serves as a terrific opportunity to plan out your marketing strategies. One thing I enjoy is when businesses’ digital marketing activities mirror or compliment their offline activities. In partnership with Score, BizLaunch is hosting several marketing workshops to help such as:

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

By Tara Palacios

Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Georgia and Ukraine. 

Since 2006, I volunteered and worked with leaders from former Soviet countries through the tremendous efforts of the Open World Leadership Center and the American Councils for International Education. Through the years we discussed best practices in local government and how to best design and encourage an entrepreneurial ecosystem even in the toughest of circumstances.  My case studies came directly from the economic development work we do in Arlington.

Through my work over the years, I was completely honored to be invited recently to travel to Ukraine during Global Entrepreneurship Week to present at the America House through the US Embassy in Ukraine and the efforts of the State Department. This would be an amazing opportunity to directly interact with individuals representing universities, government entities, youth leaders and entrepreneurs.

I conducted 12 presentations in 8 days in the Capital City of Kyiv and the City of Lviv. With Ukraine being in the news every day, I was determined to make a positive impact through our exchange.

I had the pleasure of conducting a Facebook live event in Kyiv where we discussed the intricacies of starting a business and resources for small businesses and how to access information effectively. We also conducted two Starting a Business workshops at the America House.

After reflecting on my work and time in Ukraine I developed the following observations:

  • Globally, small businesses face challenges with access to capital. Finding investors and successfully building cash resources to launch or grow your business is a tremendous hurdle for many entrepreneurs.
  • Globally, the percentage of women starting businesses is growing at a fast pace.
  • Entrepreneurship can be a lonely enterprise; however, there is strength and empowerment in reaching out for help and/or mentorship.
  • Favorable policies and regulations are key to fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Understanding how to navigate the intricacies of regulations are paramount to small businesses and if a jurisdiction can make the process simple and transparent it will encourage the successful growth of business.
  • Creating programming that is reflective of the people who make up your community is key.
  • Never give up hope.

Small business needs are global. If we design and develop specific programming to foster growth we build community, and through our efforts we will have a positive impact on future generations.

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

By Alex Held, Small Business Manager, BizLaunch

While in its 10th year, Small Business Saturday, held on November 30, continues to be incorporated into many families’ holiday shopping traditions. In fact, in 2018 U.S. consumers reported spending an estimated $17.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday.

Additionally, 59% of small business owners report that Small Business Saturday contributes significantly to their holiday sales each year. With those numbers Small Business Saturday is BIG business for many of our small and independent retailers across the country and here in Arlington.

In Arlington, small business patrons can #shopsmall while entering for a chance to win prizes, find deals and discover unique local shops by participating in the shopping passport program coordinated by One More Page Books & More.

Shoppers can participate in the program by picking up a passport at any participating retailer; many of the retailers are also running deals and promotions on Small Business Saturday. In Arlington, the following retailers are participating in the passport program:

In addition to the passport program, shoppers looking to support small businesses in Arlington this holiday season and year round can leverage American Express’s Small Business finder. There shoppers can find any small business that accepts American Express right within their neighborhood.

Locally, BizLaunch offers numerous resources to support small businesses, but one that helps shoppers find small businesses while serving as an opportunity for businesses to receive FREE promotion is the BizLaunch Small Business Directory. Every small business in Arlington is welcome to upload their business listing with links to their website and logo to the directory, easily and most importantly for FREE. Additional resources for Small Business Saturday, including quick branding kits can be found online at American Express.

Programs like Small Business Saturday among others help keep local dollars within Arlington, representing the community’s character, while contributing to a vibrant business community making Arlington an ideal place to live, work and play.

Celebrando y apoyando negocios locales para más información visite BizLaunch en Español.

For more information about how BizLaunch supports small businesses visit www.bizlaunch.org.

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

By Tara Palacios

It’s that time of the year!

Fall leaves mean the holiday season is nearly upon us. Is your business ready? Networking events, holiday parties, seasonal get togethers can all be overwhelming for anyone — much less a busy entrepreneur. The fall season also marks the end of the calendar year, and you’ll want to make sure you are taking advantage of any tax benefits that end December 31.

Your friends at BizLaunch have compiled a quick tip list to help you prepare for the 2019 holiday season.

Tip #1
Make an End of Year To Do List 

Now. Today. While you still have time. I am a firm believer in to do lists. It is a great way to ensure you accomplish what you have set out to do. I keep a daily list and a long-term list to make sure I achieve goals. What are some outstanding items you are still working on that you need to have completed by the end of the year?

Tip #2
Meet with Your Accountant or CPA 

Now. Today. While you still have time. There may be tax items or cost savings for your business that you can take advantage of before the end of the calendar year. Set up a time to meet in November before the holidays.

Tip #3
Create a Holiday Schedule for You and Your Team 

Now. Today. Before everyone asks for the same days off. Be proactive and decide how you want to handle the federally scheduled days off, and if you want to officially close the office until the New Year.

Tip #4
Revisit 2019 Marketing Efforts 

Now. Today. Always. Pre-holiday season is a great time to see how well you did with your marketing efforts throughout the year. Were you able to achieve your marketing goals by increasing sales? How did certain campaigns do overall? Once you ascertain and review your results what would you do differently in 2020? This effort will give you a jumpstart into being ahead of your competition in the New Year.

Do take advantage of all four tips. The holiday season is almost upon us; however, there is still time to be proactive. Also, don’t forget about potential marketing efforts this holiday season.

Save the date! Small Business Saturday is November 30. #ShopSmall #ShopLocal

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

By Tara Palacios

Disaster

A disaster can take many forms. 

Whether a disaster is man-made or natural — the word alone evokes fear. A fear of the unknown and how to best move forward.  Many businesses are not prepared to overcome a disaster in the short or long-term. Entrepreneurs are busy trying to manage and grow their business — not trying to figure out when something bad “may”, happen to them.

In Arlington, we’ve recently experienced a natural disaster — with the fast-moving flood of July 8 as well as a commercial fire in Virginia Square and an unsubstantiated threat of an active shooter in Ballston this summer. On many occasions a business simply isn’t equipped to deal with a disaster. The high cost of insurance, understanding how to access capital quickly and how to best respond to customers effectively are all factors to consider as you plan for a potential disastrous moment.

BizLaunch in partnership with the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce are kicking off their first Brunch and Business of the season by directly addressing how to “Navigate Disastrous Moment in Business,” on October 23, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development.

We have brought together a team of experts in the fields of communications, emergency management, law enforcement and insurance to help business owners navigate successfully through a disaster.

Don’t live in fear — proactively take the steps to plan for a disruption by joining us on October 23 at a free program where you can minimize the impact of a disaster by developing a proactive plan.

We hope you can join us.

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It’s hard to run a small business in Arlington, and Lyndsey DePalma of the former House of Steep knows the ups and downs as well as anyone.

Now, she’s making sure other business owners don’t make the same mistakes she made.

After DePalma sold her Lee Highway teahouse in 2017 — it permanently closed a year later — she took time off to reflect and spend time with her family. One day she had an epiphany: why not turn her experience into an opportunity to help others?

“I call myself a business sanity specialist,” DePalma said in an interview with ARLnow. “I look at people who are overwhelmed and see what we can do to make it better.”

After two years of writing, DePalma transformed her pile of business notes and personal reflections into a book called “READY: What To Expect When Starting a Business.” In addition to being sold online, the book will soon be on the bookshelves of local stores One More Page Books and Trade Roots, she said.

While the book is catered to business owners everywhere, DePalma understands starting up in Arlington comes with both unique hardships and positive value.

“Rent is expensive, sure, but when you rent in Arlington you’re also renting within a local community,” she said. “The county’s only 26 square miles — there’s a proximity and connectedness that makes this special.”

In 2011, DePalma knew her business idea for a “tea house and foot sanctuary” would be a hard sell.

“Everyone kept telling me, it’s too ‘West Coast’ for Arlington,” she said. “But I did it anyway.”

It took a year and a half to get the store off the ground, with multiple roadblocks such as zoning requirements and hiring certified staff.

“And then on opening day, we had things go wrong that we never would have imagined,” DePalma said. “We had a huge check-list, and I threw it out the door.”

DePalma credits much of her early success to a mentorship within the Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch program. BizLaunch is billed as a “small business and entrepreneurial assistance network” and a “one-stop-shop for everything you’ll need to know about starting or growing a business in Arlington.”

DePalma said small businesses should take advantages of opportunities to seek help whenever possible.

“There are still headaches [there], and I wish there was a focus on programs, but small businesses do need to know there are resources there,” she said.

After becoming pregnant with her second child, DePalma made the decision in the fall of 2017 to sell the businesses.

“My identity had been wrapped in this, and I loved every part of it,” she said. “It wasn’t easy.”

One last piece of advice?

“Make those relationships. Start them early,” she said. “That was the differentiator for me, I had time to really get to know the real estate brokers and bankers, and I had to figure out what people I clicked with, and that made the biggest difference.”

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development. This is a guest SmallBiz Focus post written by Justin Gooderham, owner of Dalton Digital in Arlington.

For small businesses, your online reputation can make or break you.

This is especially true for local businesses. About 88% of Google searches on mobile devices are for services or goods in the area, which means that a large number of potential customers who are looking for information on local businesses can be persuaded one way or another based on online reviews.

So, what exactly is an online review? It’s a digital rating of a business or product created by a consumer that appears on a website. Reviews can appear on the company’s own website — think Amazon ­– but review aggregator services like Yelp and Google My Business are just as popular. For home service providers like painters, handymen and landscapers, websites like HomeAdvisor are popular places for customers to leave reviews — good and bad.

Below are three reasons why online reviews matter, and how you can leverage them to grow your business.

1. Digital Word-of-Mouth

In the days before the internet, if you had a positive­ or negative­ experience with a business, you would tell a friend or two and they might tell a friend or two. Nowadays, your online review for a business can be seen by thousands. These ratings are an important factor in a customer’s decision on whether to hire or patronize a business.

According to one study:

  • 90% of consumers read online reviews
  • 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 31% are likely to spend more on businesses with “excellent” reviews
  • 72% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 94% of online shoppers say that they will avoid a business with negative reviews

Take Action Today

Set up a Google My Business listing (GMB). It’s a free and easy way to showcase your business and provides a convenient forum to start gathering reviews. Ask customers to review you by simply sending them a brief, friendly mail and linking to your GMB listing.

If you have more of a niche business, there is likely a review aggregator website specific to your industry, like Angie’s List. Find yours, create a profile and ask customers for reviews.

2. Online Reviews are a Two-Way Street

Consumers today expect companies to respond to their comments. While no company looks forward to a negative review, it can represent an opportunity to connect, clarify or gather feedback that can ultimately help your business in the long run. Be sure to consistently monitor your online review channels and websites and take the time to respond to good and bad reviews­ alike.

While most websites do not let you alter or remove negative comments or reviews, they will usually let you respond. Doing so in a timely, non-defensive and cordial way shows that customer — and potentially hundreds of others — that you care and are responsive to your customers.

Take Action Today

Google yourself and your company name or go to Yelp or your industry-specific review website and do a search. Websites like Yelp allow customers to provide a review about a business, even if the business has not set up a profile.

If this is the case, you can “claim” the page as the owner, which gives you the ability to reply. Identify all the websites that are showing reviews about your business and respond accordingly. Again, be sure to thank happy customers for their review. This goes a long way when others are reviewing the comments.

If there are negative comments, do your best to understand where the customer is coming from and offer to make things right. Don’t lose your cool, as this can reflect poorly on you by others who are monitoring.

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