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Small Biz Focus: The Summer of Small Business Startups

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

By Tara Palacios

As we enter the dog days of summer, business is flourishing in Arlington.

This summer BizLaunch, Arlington’s small business assistance network has seen a 30% rise in the number of entrepreneurs starting businesses. People across the county are launching businesses at a fast clip in a wide variety of industries such as childcare, fitness, eCommerce, financial management, retail as well as consulting.

Ages of new business owners range from young to older adults — and BizLaunch is also experiencing an uptick in the number of women entrepreneurs.

What is the root cause of why so many people are interested in launching their business this summer?

Most new business owners state they were interested in leaving their current jobs and starting their own businesses because they felt they had more to offer than what they were doing for a larger corporation.

They also want to improve industry standards based on their own experiences. Many startups expressed a desire to be engaged in social entrepreneurship — because they are interested in giving back to the community they live in for a variety of causes.

In response to the large number of new businesses, this fall, BizLaunch will host a variety of specialized programs to address the increased needs of new entrepreneurs in our community.

BizLaunch will be bringing back its hugely popular quarterly series of Brunch and Business events with our sponsors Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, Spaces at the Artisphere and partner the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Please save the date — we will kick off the first Brunch and Business on October 3 at Spaces at the Artisphere and will be addressing the current Trade War and its effect on local businesses.

Bookmark our BizLaunch events Webpage today to stay abreast with all of the upcoming small business activities including training, educational workshops and networking opportunities.

We hope to see you there this fall!

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Small Biz Focus: Return on Creativity Series Continues at The Alcove

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

Telling the story of how business and branding work gets a novel look when creatives become published authors.

In the third seminar in the Return on Creativity Series, Arlington Economic Development partners with Arlington Public Library, the Rosslyn BID and the American Advertising Federation in Rosslyn’s brand new pop-up retail space at The Alcove.

Keynote speaker Greg Kihlström is Senior Vice President, Digital, at Yes& and Chair of the American Advertising Federation National Technology Advisory Committee. His new book, “The Agile Brand,” traces the evolution of branding, from its beginnings to its authentic relationship with brands that modern consumers want.

The book gives practical examples of how companies can create a more modern, agile brand while staying true to their core values.

According to Kihlström, being an agile brand means taking part in a relationship with consumers. While this means giving up some control, the reward is loyal, long-term customers.

Immediately following Kihlström’s presentation, a distinguished panel led by moderator Genelle Schuler of Arlington Public Library will continue the conversation and discuss the place that books play in today’s society and their approach to writing.

Panelists include Geoff Livingston, Principal, Livingston Campaigns; Lisa Nirell, Chief Energy Officer, EnergizeGrowth; and Scott Williams, President & COO, Newseum.

Date: Thursday, August 16
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.
Location: The Alcove in Rosslyn, 1800 N. Lynn Street

Event is free. Register here.

Supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and creatives is all part of Arlington’s Creative Economy initiative. With public/private partnerships, growth of these endeavors is an important part of business sector diversity and economic sustainability.

Check here for ongoing Creative Economy listings and opportunities. More Creative economy stories on the blog.

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Small Biz Focus: 3 Arlington Businesses Unite — Yoga & the Power of Giving Back

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

By Tara Palacios

Arlington is ranked the fittest City in the U.S. Not surprisingly, BizLaunch is seeing an uptick in the number of entrepreneurs starting health-related businesses across Arlington County.

Boutique fitness centers such as personal fitness, cycling, running and boxing — as well as yoga are on the rise. Many of these businesses are seeking ways to combine social impact with living a healthy lifestyle.

Three local Arlington yoga businesses have united together to work with veterans, military families and first responders as well as communities affected by addiction, violence and poverty.

Vetoga, Rebel Yoga and WRKwell are three Arlington-based organizations that are interested in giving back to the communities they serve.

Vetoga

Justin Blazejewski’s launched Vetoga after discovering that yoga helped him with a back injury he sustained while serving in the Marine Corps. Justin observed how yoga also helped heal the mental and emotional burdens he carried traveling in and out of war zones.

With 2,000+ hours of training in his yoga toolbox, Justin founded the Arlington based nonprofit organization Vetoga whose mission is to provide yoga, meditation and healing arts to military, veterans, their families and communities.

Vetoga accomplishes this by holding free monthly yoga classes, events and veteran specific 200-Hour Teacher Trainings throughout the year. Today, Vetoga has trained 90 veterans yoga teachers, impacted the lives of 10,000+ veterans and created new yoga-focused veteran communities in 65 U.S. cities and Melbourne, Australia.

Rebel Yoga

After Arlingtonian and Air Force Veteran Daniel Steiniger’s second back surgery from snowboarding, he found his way to yoga to try and prevent back injuries from occurring in the future. Daniel created Rebel Yoga to bring yoga teachings back to its roots.

Committed to sharing the benefits of yoga with underserved populations, Daniel founded the Rebel Yoga’s Foundation, Rebel Recovery, a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is: Seva (selfless service), providing free yoga, meditation and other services as needed to communities affected by addiction, violence and poverty.

WRKwell

Claudia Cavazza, recently transitioned out of her career in the athletic apparel industry to start the Arlington-based corporate wellness business, WRKwell. WRKwell designs VOI (Value on Investment) focused stress management solutions for local corporate clients.

Dedicated to leaving a positive social impact on the world, Claudia has chosen a shared value business model for WRKwell, to specifically create social value by offering custom-designed yoga and meditation focused stress management programs to veterans and first responders with limited access to it, at no cost to them.

In collaboration with Vetoga, WRKwell is also committed to provide professional opportunities to veterans interested in pursuing a career in the corporate wellness space.

Lovelight Yoga and Arts Festival

All three Arlington yoga experts will all be on-hand and demonstrating their knowledge and expertise at the international Lovelight Yoga and Arts Festival on September 21-24 in Maryland.

Lovelight is a curated festival featuring yoga masters such as Sri Dharma Mittra and music artists such as Krisna Das, with the mission to celebrate life with yoga, to create community with music and to enlighten ourselves… one chant at a time.

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Small Biz Focus: Hungry? Thursday Pop-Ups at Courthouse are Mighty Tasty!

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

It was about to reach 89 degrees outside with high humidity. But when Rob Kingsbury started pouring his special recipe of iced lavender lemonade, the outdoor heat was barely noticeable.

As the vendors were setting up outside the Plaza Branch of the public library at Courthouse, the summer story time for preschoolers was winding down with catchy songs. So yes, there might have been some humming along.

Thursday, June 28 was the kickoff of the summer pop-up series in the lobby outside the Arlington Public Library Plaza Shop in the Bosman Government Center.

The ongoing compliment to the Made in Arlington initiative and partnership with Arlington Public Library is taking an edible turn this summer with vendors serving up mouth-watering treats. Kingsbury Chocolates and an array of yummy cookies from Bakeshop were first up to show off their entrepreneurial spirit.

Inside the Plaza Shop, bright new artist designed t-shirts from David Amoroso, whimsical cards from FastSnail and irresistible baby onesies stamped ‘Made in Arlington’ from Dennison Lane are adding fun, color and new inventory to the shop.

Probably not what most people would expect to find in a government center office building lobby, but Arlington is stepping up to create a place that is as much community as it is convenient for doing business.

Supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and creatives is all part of Arlington’s Creative Economy initiative. With public/private partnerships, growth of these endeavors is an important part of business sector diversity and economic sustainability.

So if it’s Thursday and you hear small voices singing and big voices swooning over sweets, you’re in the right place.

Thursday pop-ups:
July 12: BAKT by Ingrid: healthy can be super delicious
July 19: FastSnail greeting designs and PinUp Preserves
July 26: Livin’ the Pie Life and Commonwealth Joe coffee

12-3 p.m.
2100 Clarendon Blvd. 1st floor lobby

Check here for ongoing Creative Economy listings and opportunities. More Creative economy stories on the blog.

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Small Biz Focus: 3 Tips Before You Fall in Love… With a Location

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

By Tara Palacios

“Location, location, location.”

We’ve all heard the famous real estate saying — it’s all about location, location, location.

It’s true.

Customers value a location they can easily get to and parking. Popular pedestrian and neighborhood destinations are key for a small business to thrive.

Strategically targeted locations throughout Arlington fit the bill; however, before you sign a lease you need to keep in mind not to fall in love before you follow these simple steps.

Tip 1: Understand the Regulations

Commercial property is governed by Arlington’s Zoning Ordinance. Once you’ve identified a potential location you can check with the County’s interactive Zoning Map to see if the business use can be conducted in the leasable space.

Familiarize yourself with any policies that may impact the day-to-day operations of your business. For example, if you are interested in opening a Childcare Center your facility will need access to outdoor space — all regulations that can impact where you decide to locate your business.

If you have questions about regulations feel free to reach out to BizLaunch before you fall in love with a space.

Tip 2: Hire a Real Estate Broker

Finding the perfect location can take time.

The average length of time to find a retail location is between one to two years. The more experts you have helping you the better.

Space can be competitive; however, at the end of the day do not fall in love until the lease negotiations have ended. A broker can help identify space (that may not be published) and help with negotiations. Most landlords do not want to negotiate directly with the business owner.

More tips here on hiring and evaluating space. Remember do not fall in love yet — contact BizLaunch.

Tip 3: Negotiate the Lease

Negotiate.

A lease is meant to be negotiated prior to signature by both parties. Do not accept the proposed terms without having a professional review. If an offer is not favorable to your business prepare to walk away.

One example, of an area to negotiate is when the lease will commence. An entrepreneur can request to have the lease begin after construction is complete and a certificate of occupancy is issued. This could save money for the business owner in case of buildout delays.

Do not fall in love until the keys are in your hand and the terms of the lease are finalized. Need help? Contact BizLaunch.

Stay tuned. BizLaunch will be offering a course on lease negotiations in the fall. You can sign up here to keep up with the latest workshops and networking opportunities.

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Small Biz Focus: Return on Creativity — An Arlington Asset

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

In its second seminar in the series “Return on Creativity: An Arlington Asset”, Arlington Economic Development partners once more with American Advertising Federation (AAFDC) and Virginia Tech Research Center to tap the intersection and impact of creatives in the business community.

The June 28 session will draw on digital, media and creative companies who are changing the face of the area’s decades long work with government clients.

Once largely dependent on the federal government, the increase of private and commercial businesses moving into Arlington have attracted and seeded a new crop of creative and digital companies in the area.

Hear from industry leaders about the increase in creative reputation and business solutions being offered to these companies.

The ROC series will offer networking opportunities, first-hand insights and compelling evidence that Arlington is an accelerator to personal and organizational growth and prosperity. Learn about the companies that are improving the area’s creative reputation and earning new business from a variety of consumer companies.

Panelists include:

  • Greg Kihlstrom, SVP Digital — Yes&
  • Mike Kapetanovic, President — LMO
  • Vajaah Parker, Director of Digital Strategy — WDG
  • Victoria Mottesheard, Outfront Media

Join the next conversation and register here for “Return on Creativity: An Arlington Asset.”
Thursday, June 28 at VATech Research Center
Event is free with a reception to follow

Check here for ongoing creative economy listings and opportunities.

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Small Biz Focus: Bank on Your Creative Workforce

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

What if the art and design students teamed up with engineers, business majors and programmers to tackle issues in banking and health care? What if scientists using data for biocomplexity and behavioral research tapped creative thinkers for breakthrough results?

What if your creative ‘side hustle’ is now contributing to a $6 billion online sector? And what if the competitive advantage in a 104-year-old blue chip ‘startup’ company is a big team of creatives?

Hearing these questions — and answers — is what galvanized those who came to hear the presenters of Return on Creativity: An Arlington Asset at Virginia Tech Research Center on April 26.

It was off to an energetic start with Arlington Economic Development’s Director Victor Hoskins, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to be competitive and uniquely positioned to attract business. “We’ve been driving the idea of a creatively-driven commerce for years — through policy, support and development you quite frankly don’t see in many communities.”

Matt Woolman, Director of Creative Entrepreneurship in the School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University, opened the presentations. Pioneering a new workforce, Matt strives to keep his students out of the classroom and in real world problem solving environments.

Design may be the entry point for students in the School of the Arts, but it’s simply foundational for the exit strategy.

What has creativity got to do with biocomplexity research and behavioral science? Just ask Gizem Korkmaz from the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech and Sean Marsh, CEO of Fors Marsh Group and you’ll hear how digging deeper than the surface analysis, deploying creative tactics and atypical data sources, has been the key to novel outcomes.

Is what you do outside your day job contributing to a growing sector minimally estimated at over $5.9 billion? The findings in Robert Shapiro’s report, Unlocking the Gates: America’s New Creative Economy, is just the tip of the iceberg of how many in our workforce are creating unique content.

Finishing out the program was Michael Dumlao, Director of Brand, Booz Allen Hamilton.

Part super creative, part social scientist, Michael found himself at the epicenter of overseeing the company’s shift in internal and external culture. Growing a creative team from 7 to 140 in 4 years was instrumental in transforming a strictly suit and tie, government core brand to one of powerful innovation.

Want to join more programs about the impact and influence of creatives in business? Sign up for ongoing news and updates here.

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Small Biz Focus: Brunch and Business — The Successful Journeys of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

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

By Tara Palacios

Arlington is comprised of people from all walks of life.

Immigrants journey here for many reasons. Some individuals flee to escape social injustice, others to reunite with family or to seek economic independence by living the American Dream.

Starting a business is daunting for most people who are born here in the United States. The risk for immigrants is much higher. Each day immigrant entrepreneurs face: language barriers, cultural nuances, different laws and regulations as well as access to capital to name a few challenges.

As an immigrant, the risk of failing at launching a business can be devastating. And yet — immigrants start businesses every day. They have a huge impact our economy.

Their entrepreneurial journey is riveting.

We would like to share their stories with you.

On behalf of Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, BizLaunch and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, it is our honor to invite you to attend our upcoming Brunch and Business on June 6 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development. Hear the entrepreneurial journeys of three local Arlington business owners:

We would be honored to have you join us! For more information or to register click here.

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Small Biz Focus: Is Your Business Waterproof?

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

By Tara Palacios and EmilyJane McLoughlin

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 25% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster.

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, something like a broken pipe that causes a leak can be catastrophic to a business. Even a small fire can lead to water damage, therefore we are asking the question, is your business waterproof?

The Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (DPSCEM) has kicked off a new Public-Private Partnership initiative to engage the Arlington County business community and support overall community resilience.

This initiative will support the business community developing resilience as individual businesses and as a part of a larger whole community effort. DPSCEM is partnering with BizLaunch to hold a webinar entitled “Is Your Business Waterproof?”at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30 to help businesses take steps to get back to work faster and talk more about the initiative.

EmilyJane McLoughlin, the department’s Regional Emergency Management Planner is spearheading these efforts. She brings continuity planning expertise from her time working with FEMA’s National Continuity Programs Directorate.

She explains, “…the value of this program cannot be understated. Today’s best practice for whole community resilience focuses on ensuring the economic base can stay in business or get back to it quickly.” It is with this in mind that the program was created.

As the first public engagement opportunity for the initiative, the webinar will address simple steps businesses can take to be ready for all types of disasters, even small ones like water damage.

The tools that will be offered during the webinar will make it easier for businesses and their employees to get back on their feet and get back to work. If you are interested to attend the Webinar you can register here.

If you can’t join us for the webinar, please email EmilyJane McLoughlin at [email protected] for more information about the Public-Private Partnership initiative.

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Small Biz Focus: Made in Arlington Pop-Up Coming Back to Courthouse

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

Shopping local took on a new flavor over the holidays with Made in Arlington items featured on the shelves of the Plaza Shop in the Courthouse branch of Arlington Public Library.

Underscoring local talent and unique products, the initiative took shape as a new partnership between Arlington Economic Development and Arlington Public Library. What had been a steady source for Arlington logo decorated accessories, the offerings now began to reflect the makers and artisans calling Arlington home.

Patrons stopped in to find a book and were now greeted by an emporium of individually made chocolates, handmade textiles, locally roasted coffee, home accessories made from Arlington fallen wood, 3D printed puzzles and artist designed t-shirts.

While you’ll still find locally made items central to the shop, a new array of weekly pop-ups will be appearing in the lobby of 2100 Clarendon Blvd. for five weeks this summer.

Starting Thursday June 28, from 12-3 p.m., individual Made in Arlington vendors will be on hand to sell unique items, talk about their craft and sometimes have an edible sample!

Interested in being part of Made in Arlington or having a featured time in the lobby pop-ups? New vendors are welcome to apply and should contact AED for more information.

Supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and creatives is all part of Arlington’s creative economy initiative. With the resources and partner relationships developed within the public sector and with private sector business, growth of these endeavors is an important part of business diversity and economic sustainability.

Check here for ongoing Creative Economy listings and opportunities. More Creative economy stories on the blog.

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Small Biz Focus: 3 Digital Marketing Tips to Grow Your Business

Today’s Small Business Focus is guest written by Justin Gooderham, owner of Dalton Digital in Arlington. This column is sponsored by BizLaunch a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Growing your small business is no walk in the park. You’ve honed your skills, you’ve ventured out on your own and set up shop, virtually or otherwise, now you just sit back and wait for the customers to roll in, right?

Well, not so much. As most small business owners will attest, starting and then growing your business poses a unique set of challenges. With the help of these simple yet effective digital marketing tips and a little effort and determination, you’ll be off to a great start building your customer and referral base.

1. Your Website Matters

A solid digital foundation starts with your website. It’s a virtual front door that often makes the very first impression a potential customer will have of you, so you must make it count.

This holds especially true for businesses that rely heavily on referrals: the first thing a new customer will do is ‘Google’ your business. That’s why it’s vital that your website reflects positively on the quality of your work.

In addition, it’s critical that your website follows the 10 second rule. Within 10 seconds, a visitor should clearly understand:

  • Who you are and what services you provide
  • What locations you serve
  • How to get in touch with you easily

2. Get Found on Google

Unlike in the 1989 acclaimed film “Field of Dreams,” if you build it, they won’t always come. Many small business owners think that just because their business is focused on a certain industry, they will naturally appear at the top of Google when someone does a search. It doesn’t quite work that way.

Google has a secret formula for showing websites in its search engine results pages (SERPs). There are several factors that influence which websites Google will show for a search, such as the content of your website and how many other important websites are linking back to you.

You should include keywords in the copy of your website when describing your service. However, they should be integrated into your copy in a way that sounds natural, not forced. Then, when a potential customer ‘Googles’ the keywords related to your business, you will have a better chance of showing.

Much like high school, search engines are a popularity contest. Google likes websites that other people like. For example, if you are a photographer, offer to write a blog post on the Top 5 Tips for taking the perfect picture.

Reach out to influential websites and offer to let them feature your blog post. If they do, that link to your website serves as a ‘popularity vote,’ signaling to Google that your site is important and relevant.3. Content is Key

A sure-fire way to differentiate yourself and to be seen as a thought-leader is to create helpful content for your prospective customers. Blog posts, how-to’s and infographics are all great examples of content that you can create.

Whatever your format or topic, you can deliver the content via email and social media channels. Be sure the original content resides on your website and always link back to your site and capture that lead!

Once you’ve seen success in creating content, go ahead and sketch out a schedule of future content topics and when you’ll deliver them. Keep your content fresh. Visitors (and Google) like that.

Bonus Tip – Get out from behind the Screen

This tip isn’t exactly related to digital marketing, but it is something that can help businesses find success. It’s easy to get comfortable hiding behind the screen, but making human connections is just as important as digital marketing.

Pick up the phone and sell! As a small business owner, you’ll need to get used to talking about yourself and your business to strangers. So practice your pitch, start calling prospects and hear the objections and questions that will inevitably come up. Hearing them now will only help you provide even better answers in the future.

Pick up the phone and network! Start building relationships with like-minded professionals who can serve as future referral sources.

Are you a graphic designer? Call a marketing consultant who may need to refer you to their client for a re-branding project. You’d be surprised how receptive other professionals will be to you since you can help them show their value to their clients.

The Takeaway: Growing a small business is as exciting as it is challenging but following these tips for digital marketing success will make it easier for clients to start finding you!

Let’s keep the conversation going. If you’d like more information on Digital Marketing join us for a free workshop on May 9 from 11 am-1 pm at Arlington Economic Development as we discuss how to develop your digital media strategy.

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Small Biz Focus: The Changing Face of Retail

This column is written by Tara Palacios and sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Retail in 2018 feels different.

There are many contributing factors which directly impact how we buy goods and services today. Technology has played a tremendous role in changing the landscape of how, where and when we make purchases.

The malls of the 1980s have been replaced with more outdoor, walkable options and online retail gives us the flexibility of being able to make purchases without leaving our homes.

Innovative and interactive storefronts are a definite trend for retail in 2018 which also includes state of the art mobile trucks, pop-up shops and unique fitness and health opportunities. Augmented reality and robots will also play a role in defining the future of retail.

If you own a retail shop — what are you doing to remain competitive?

If you shop for goods and services how will these trends affect the way you buy? Today many people are concerned about privacy, and may not be interested in sharing their data with retailers; however, online shopping is a fast-growing retail market. Opportunities still abound for brick and mortar retail stores.

We will be tackling the issue of the Changing Face of Retail with our partners from the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, April 18 at our free Brunch and Business event from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Experts will be addressing the future of retail and its many changes in 2018. Confirmed speakers include representatives from Ballston Quarter, Arlington Economic Development, Kinder Haus Toys and Bash Boxing. We hope you can join us to delve into this timely topic!

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Small Biz Focus: Color This Pop-Up Awesome!

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

What’s really getting people’s attention is the color. Lots and lots of color.

Right next door to an all white store, the fanfare of dazzling colors is stopping pedestrian traffic. A bright pink print velvet sofa, vivid paintings, an orange lacquered cabinet, swatches of fabrics, textures, wallpaper and almost everything but candy.

Is it an art gallery? A home accessory store? A design center? Inspiration? Yes, yes, yes and yes. In this Clarendon Market Common store, a pop-up shop in a former women’s clothing store is waking up the neighborhood.

First opened in the fall, artist Sabrina Cabada put her imprint on the vacant shop for a bustling holiday market. Re-opened in February alongside textile designer Kate Hougen of Mira Jean Designs and interior designer Nicole Lanteri, these artisans together total way more than three.

Walls of patterns and floors covered in one of a kind throw rugs are an invitation to buy original art, explore home design options as you get guidance from a pro and rethink textiles that will transform your rooms.

Much the way Arlington has supported the Made in Arlington pop-up markets, this venture is taking the spirit of artisan entrepreneurs to the retail streets.

Can this be the new wave of experience retail? For the property management, the lively shop is advertising in real time. And for the consumer, it’s the local creative economy and full of surprises.

Sabrina Cabada pop-up gallery is at 2700 Clarendon Blvd (next to the Apple Store). Gallery hours: Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday by appointment.

Events coming to the gallery:
How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe with DC Style Factory Owner and stylist Rosana Vollmerhausen on April 12, 6-8 p.m. Purchase tickets here.                 

Gunston Art and Video Showcase Party, Friday April 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Celebrate creative Arlington students and their short films. Free.

Interested in starting a business and finding retail opportunities? Check Arlington’s BizLaunch programs.

Check here for ongoing creative economy listings and opportunities.

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Small Business Focus: Top Tax Tips for 2018

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

Businesses sometimes fall prey to tax scams especially during the tax season. BizLaunch reached out to our partners at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to find out what business owners should be concerned about in 2018. The following blog post by IRS Senior Stakeholder Liaison Anna Falkenstein provides tips on what to do to secure your information and scams to be aware of this tax season.

Guest BizLaunch Blogger: Anna Falkenstein, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Senior Stakeholder Liaison

While the Internal Revenue Service reports that the number of reported fraudulent returns have decreased, the number of incidents and the variety of scams makes it a major focus again in the current filing season. Fraudsters are creative and consistently find new ways to scam innocent taxpayers (individuals and businesses).

The IRS has posted their annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” scams annually. You can check this year’s list at Annual List of Dirty Dozen Scams.

The IRS encourages business owners to take these scams seriously and take steps to try to prevent them. Create unusual passwords and change them periodically. Don’t use the same password for every system. Update/change passwords if an employee departs the business. Provide training regarding emails, links and attachments. Publication 4557 Safeguarding-taxpayer-data  is a good tool to use to train and refresh employees on protecting data on behalf of employees and clients. Don’t forget to update anti-virus protection, encryption software and firewalls.

Should you receive an IRS notice or find something in your records that leads you to believe that you have become a victim of Tax Identity Theft, there are steps you should take to immediately circumvent the fraudsters.

Notify the IRS immediately! The faster you act, the better chance the processing units at the IRS has at stopping the fraudsters from using your information. Individuals can contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 or File a Form 14039 (Identity Theft Affidavit) with their tax return.

Businesses who suspect a data loss from hacking can email [email protected] to start the initial reporting. Businesses should also follow state requirements to report the data loss as well.  They can start this at [email protected].

Once you have determined that you are a victim of tax identity theft, you have several other steps that you can take to minimize the damage.

These include reporting to the FTC, your Insurance company, police and credit bureaus. If your theft includes personnel or client information, you will want to notify them as well. News Release 2018-27 provides the steps a business victim should take to minimize the effect of data theft: Steps Business Victims Should Take

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Small Biz Focus: Testing the Marketplace? Try Prototypes.

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

Let’s face it. We live in a fickle marketplace.

Shoppers have a short attention span and consumers are easily bored and quickly want the next cool thing.

Entrepreneurs are notorious for being spurred on by a single idea, that literal lightbulb moment, that drives their passion and turns their focus to producing one item or service. Some invest all their savings and resources into the promise of a profitable future, and if you’re lucky, smart, well timed and well promoted, that one product or service could be the only one you’ll ever need.

But even for hugely successful items (like the dizzying fidget spinner?) there can be a quick peak and never return to popularity.

Few have the opportunity or resources to get input, organize focus groups or engage deep demographic analytics that will help grow their business or keep their ideas competitive.

But for startups and small businesses in Arlington, more options for creating a stable path are all part of the County support for creatives.

For Lorilee Stultz at Dennison Lane, participating in Made in Arlington was the first step to a new product idea. Using a hand stamping process and natural fabrics, Dennison Lane was already well versed in table linens and home accessories that blended tradition with craft.

So when a fan of Made in Arlington said, “wouldn’t it be great to have the Made in Arlington logo stamped onto baby onesies?” Lori didn’t hesitate to say, “let’s try it!” Welcome to the prototype stage. Picking samples of soft baby onesies and using the Made in Arlington stamp in colors for girls, boys and ‘we don’t know yet!’ The items are now getting ready for sales.

Where can creative Arlington entrepreneurs look to test the market?

  • Limited edition items in small shops
  • Pop up retail like Made in Arlington at Plaza Shop
  • Local boutiques
  • Farmers markets
  • Seasonal opportunities such as Art on the Plaza

Alongside the vast array of business development services available through BizLaunch, the path to success is often taken in baby steps.

Check here for ongoing listings and opportunities.

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