Arlington, VA

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

By Tara Palacios

Where did the summer go? It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming summer, and now retailers are offering school supplies and tax breaks to the kids.

August has arrived! Hopefully, you had the opportunity to revisit your business strategy and take some time to exhale because this fall, my prediction is there will be no rest for weary entrepreneurs.

BizLaunch has experienced some positive changes this summer. Thanks to the Arlington County Board we have added an additional position to serve more small businesses in Arlington. We are pleased to announce we will be having a new BizLaunch Small Business Manager beginning this September.

Stay tuned! The manager will be responsible for creative programming with Amazon as well as coordinating events and outreach initiatives.

We are also pleased to announce a wide roster of innovative programming to meet the needs of our fast-paced entrepreneurs. We have invited several expert speakers who will address topics on marketing, networking and strategic planning.

Our extremely popular Brunch and Business series is back for the fall, and on October 23, will address how to recover from disasters that impact your business such as flooding or other acts of nature which could negatively impact your business. This is in direct response to the summer floods which impacted many of our favorite local businesses.

This fall, we will continue our steadfast collaboration with Arlington Public Library by offering the wealth of free (yes, FREE… did I say FREE?!) business resources to the small business community. Entrepreneurs can also benefit from meeting one-on-one with the Libraryʼs Business and Nonprofit Librarian, Alexandra Schultz. Alexandra and I will be offering walk-in business clinics this fall where we can meet one-on-one to help with resources and strategies for our local businesses. We are extremely proud of the Libraryʼs resources.

Last but not least donʼt forget to set up your complimentary mentorship appointment today with SCORE or BizLaunch. We can help you explore new ideas or improve upon an existing strategy. Mentorship and counseling is also absolutely FREE.

We tend to book up quickly during the fall season so if you are interested in coming in we recommend you call our office (703) 228-0808) asap or click here to schedule a meeting today.

We hope to see you at BizLaunch soon!

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

By Tara Palacios

Nonprofits are the fabric of our community.

The impact of their work directly and indirectly touches everyone in Arlington each day. We are grateful for the tireless work of such dedicated organizations that seek to help older adults, young people, the homeless, people of diverse backgrounds and affordable housing programs, to highlight a few areas of nonprofit work.

Arlington County works with several nonprofit organizations through our Community Development Fund each year to ensure a maximum reach for nonprofit providers is varied and reflects the needs of our community. The process to apply and the notice of funding availability (NOFA) for the County’s upcoming fiscal year (2021) is nearly upon us.

If you’d like to learn more about the process to apply, come network with other nonprofits in Arlington and hear from Jennifer Owens President of the Arlington Community Foundation who would like to cordially invite you out to brunch on July 23 at Arlington Economic Development from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. To register please click on this link.

Nonprofit work never ends — even in summer. We hope you can join us on July 23!

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

By Tara Palacios

The summer of 2019 is here!

People are leaving for the beach and heading out of town on vacation. Good for them. The reality is as an entrepreneur the work never ends.  There is literally no rest for the weary; however, summer is the opportune time to re-evaluate your business strategy. Carpe Diem.

Need more business? Jumpstart the summer by auditing and redesigning your networking strategy. Do you find you are meeting the same people at events and not attracting new business? Are your opportunities growing or getting sparser?  Summer is the perfect time to review the types of events you attend as well as identify new business opportunities as we enter the second half of the year.

Business is built on relationships, and you need to dust off your networking plan from time-to-time. The following tips are 7 simple ways you can network like a pro for the remainder of the year:

Tip 1 — Be Strategic

Don’t attend every event. You are one person. Carefully plan the number of events you’d like to attend on a regular basis. Seek referrals for upcoming events your network found rewarding. Attend only the events where you know you can make solid connections.

Know the audience and ask for a list of participants ahead of time (some groups provide the list as part of the networking experience), also research the host organization. If you can attend an early morning networking event you can plan to work for the rest of the day. Set up a return on investment (ROI) process whereby you can evaluate if the event was meaningful. Set a budget and stick to it.

Tip 2 — Be Yourself

Be your authentic self. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not (people can read when you are not your true self). Develop your pitch into an interesting format that you feel comfortable conveying. It doesn’t have to be forced or contrived but tells the story of how you got into business and how your product/service will help your clients.

Tip 3 — Make A Lasting Impression

Something that will set you apart is to “listen” to the people you are networking with. Yes, listen. Don’t feel like you must fill the space with words. When you actively listen people take notice and feel a deep appreciation that you understand and respect them. In this fast-pace world of social media and things going viral — to make a lasting impression by being yourself and listening to others will set you apart from the rest.

Tip 4 — No Need To Close A Deal

Don’t put too much pressure on the situation. Don’t feel you must close a sale at the event. In fact, you may decide to take a softer, indirect approach where you are planning to really get to know a person before you strike up a pitch. See what you have in common with others and set a conversational tone. We do business with those we trust. Trust and credibility take time and need to be cultivated.

Tip 5 — Dress To Impress

Know your audience, know the situation and dress accordingly. I once heard a Venture Capitalist say they knew within 36 seconds whether they’d provide funding for a startup venture based on the person’s appearance as well as understanding of the opportunity. You want to make sure to have them at hello.

Tip 6 — To Card Or Not To Card

Card. Definitely card. Whether it is a business card, QR Code or pamphlet — have a way for people to remember you by or to get in touch. If you’ve made an impression with a potential client, you need to be able to get back in touch. Keep your communication tools in briefcases, pockets or bags and always have plenty on you.

Tip 7 — Follow Up

This is a critical tip. Please follow up with people you meet while networking. Take notes on the back of the business cards you collected with any action items or follow up requests for potential clients. If it is a simple note to say it was a pleasure to meet or to stay in touch — now is the opportunity. Don’t let too much time get away. Send out notes no later than 48 hours after meeting.

Networking like a pro is to make sure you have a plan and stick to it. Don’t let time get away from you strategically meeting with clients or influencers in your field. Seize the summer, and dust off your plans for the fall. It will be September before you know it.

Happy Networking!

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This article is sponsored by Arlington Economic Development.

We all know that teachers are amazing, but did you know that best practices for teachers can also be useful to the larger business community when coaching and mentoring employees?

For the past four months, Arlington has been home to EdConnective, winner of Arlington Economic Development’s Startup Arlington program and EdTech startup providing virtual teacher coaching to school districts across the country.

EdConnective’s Director of Instructional Coaching, Lauren Vargas was kind enough to share key tenets of their teacher education program that apply not only to teachers, but to leaders and managers in all types of businesses.

Here are five ways to improve your employees’ performance the EdConnective way:

1. Use “Glow and Grow”: Be sure to name what your employees are doing well along with what needs improvement. This ensures employees can keep playing to their strengths while improving their development areas.

2. One Next Step: Give an employee too much feedback at one time and they’ll lose focus and be unable to execute. This is one reason that traditional, yearly reviews don’t work. Focus on one thing at a time, give actionable next steps keeping your employees accountable.

3. Practice: Going over implementation strategy during a feedback session is key. “It’s quite different when you do something versus think you have it in your head,” said Vargas. Role playing, planning or walking through a skill or activity helps cement it.

4. Define What Success Looks Like: EdConnective uses a teaching rubric that can be explained on one page.  Having a reference point and keeping it simple helps employees know what you expect and makes accomplishing those objectives easier. You can copy this technique by keeping one-pagers for each role at your company or on your team.

5. Define Data Points: Process metrics can help an employee keep track of what they are doing to improve, but never lose sight of outcome metrics. Outcome metrics ensure the processes you put in place are leading to the results you want. If a teacher masters a skill, it is only helpful if it impacts student outcomes and the same goes for your business. Make sure you draw a clear line between skill development and how it impacts your bottom line.

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

By Tara Palacios

Each day we are bombarded with advertisements on TV, online, radio and print.

We are constantly exposed to information to entice us to buy products and services. Adding to the mix are the various platforms where these ads can reach us: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, blogs… and the list goes on and on. According to several leading marketing experts we are exposed to 4,000-10,000 ads per day.

How does your business stand apart and get noticed?

This question is super important for a business in 2019. It all leads back to the clutter. With so much information hitting our target markets daily — how do we stand out? Here are 5 Quick Tips we believe can help you:

Tip #1 — Tell a Story 

Everyone has a story to tell. Interweave it into your business. Make your unique story interesting and part of your business. We remember people through the stories they tell.

Tip #2 — Design a Solid Plan

I can’t emphasize this enough. Don’t throw everything and the kitchen sink at what you are trying to do. Develop a feasible marketing strategy that is clearly defined and keep doing it (lather, rinse, repeat) to build your pipeline.

Tip #3 — Understand Your Customer’s Needs, Not Your Needs

Your customer’s needs. Ask your clients directly what they like and don’t like about your product or service. Never assume you know what they need. ASK.

Tip #4 — Be Different by Being Distinct

Your branding is important. If there are industry trends make sure you incorporate those into your business brand; however, be distinct so that you stand out from the crowd. Whether attending a networking event or showcasing your product — dare to be different. It will make your business memorable.

Tip #5 — Be Yourself, Be You 

Being yourself is a great way to feel comfortable in any given business situation. Don’t be something you’re not in trying to stand out from the crowd. Your competition and clients know when you are authentic.

If you’d liked to learn more about making your business distinct, please join us June 13, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development as Zack Miller presents on Anomaly: How to Finally Stand Apart from the Crowd.

Zack started his first business at the age of 10. Since then he’s spent decades helping other people successfully start, grow and dominate their businesses through his company, Hatch.

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This article was written by Marian Marquez, Director for Global Markets & Retention at Arlington Economic Development.

Earlier this month we introduced Arlington Economic Development’s (AED) business engagement program and reviewed the many activities that will be taking place in May for Business Appreciation Month.

A number of these efforts have focused on shining a light on local companies with ceremonies, and we have been so pleased to see the many Arlington businesses who have been honored with prestigious awards and recognition this month.

Each year, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce holds its Fantastic 50 awards, honoring the fifty fastest-growing companies for their entrepreneurial success and contribution to Virginia’s economic vitality. At this year’s awards ceremony, 22% of the winners were Arlington companies, including the winner of the prestigious Vanguard Award for service, which went to U.Group (formerly ByteCubed).

We were not surprised to see many of these names, as we have watched these companies blaze trails in recent years to win many local, state and national awards. For example, Enterprise Knowledge, a first time Fantastic 50 winner, has won Arlington’s Fast Four award and many others since then, as have Convoke, Eagle Hill Consulting and ByteCubed.

Among the 11 Arlington awardees were some repeat Fantastic 50 winners, including Firebird AST, Eagle Hill, Neostek and Convoke. Firebird also won a prestigious SECAF award the very same evening.

Last week at AED’s Arlington Premiere, we turned our attention to our legacy businesses and honored three of Arlington’s longest-standing retail businesses with a Legacy Award, presented by Arlington County Board Chair, Christian Dorsey. Each of these businesses has been operating in Arlington for 35+ years, which is no small feat in our competitive market.

The 2019 Legacy Awards went to Papillon Cycles, a bike shop located on Columbia Pike for 35 years; Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, located in Arlington for 44 years; and Crystal Boutique which has been serving clients in Crystal City for 49 years!

It was truly an honor to recognize these legacy business owners who have kept their businesses in Arlington through thick and thin; we truly appreciate the impact they have had on our community.

There is more to come in the final days of Business Appreciation Month; this week AED is hosting seven Arlington startups at Virginia’s booth at Collision, North America’s fastest-growing tech conference.

We also have a great line up of companies vying for the Arlington Chamber’s Best Business Awards tonight. Last, but not least, follow us on Twitter for the rest of this month to learn some fun facts about Arlington businesses, both legacy and nascent.

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

By Tara Palacios

What do CFO Services Group, Horizon Paramedical, Jamie Nicholas Printing & Graphics, Digital Recollections and Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant have in common?

All 5 businesses were started by members of Arlington’s LGBT community. A recent study by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce found, “…if all LGBT-owned businesses in America are projected, their contribution to the economy exceeds $1.7 trillion.” The impact of entrepreneurs in the rainbow community is priceless.

Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, which began on June 28, 1969. Each year, Pride events are held during the month of June to recognize the millions of moments of LGBT Pride, and the impact they have had on the world, and to understand the path to equality.

2019 is special because it marks the 50th Year Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Events around the world culminating in New York City will celebrate and honor the history of LBGT people and their fight for equality.

In Arlington, we celebrate 50 years of Pride by honoring our local entrepreneurs on June 5 who have had such a great impact on our community. Hear the personal journeys of business owners as they describe how they live their dream of entrepreneurship each day.

Understand the founder’s challenges and celebrate their victories at our final Brunch and Business: BizPride, Celebrating Arlington’s OUTstanding Entrepreneurs.

For more information or to register click here.

Brunch and Business is a quarterly series of hot business topics sponsored by BizLaunch, the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. We hope you attend our final Brunch and Business for the season on June 5.

We look to inspire you into next season! Brunch and Business will return in the fall.

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This article was written by Marian Marquez, Director for Global Markets & Retention at Arlington Economic Development.

Did you know Arlington is home to almost 10,000 business establishments, including thousands of small and independent businesses and four Fortune 1,000 companies?

Each year during the month of May, which is Business Appreciation Month, we try to find as many ways as possible to showcase our local businesses and highlight their contributions; after all, studies have shown (and our data supports) that existing businesses are responsible for roughly 80% of job growth in an economy.

So, it is only fitting that we should make an extra effort during this month to recognize those companies whose success and innovation have made the Arlington economy what it is today.

But this work of highlighting our local businesses is not confined to just one month per year. We carry out year-round business engagement activity at Arlington Economic Development (AED), otherwise known as our Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program.

While BRE activity doesn’t often make headlines, it’s an important part of our economic development strategy, and we spend a lot of time and effort finding creative ways to engage local companies in ways that add value.

What constitutes “value add” is not the same from one company to the next. For companies seeking connections to potential customers, partners or decision makers we offer networking events such as the Arlington Premiere, executive lunches, industry roundtables or, simply, introductions.

For smaller companies, or those that may not have the bandwidth or in-house expertise, we offer a variety of marketing and promotional activities including ribbon cuttings, media promotion and award nominations. Similarly, AED’s business intelligence team performs ad-hoc research on everything from real estate options to demographics for companies looking to move or expand.

What remains constant is that our team is always focused on what might help our companies grow and succeed and we build our work plans based on what companies tell us they need. We are a small but nimble team with a solid track record of trailing recommendations into new programming by leveraging our creativity and our strategic partners.

We are always eager to hear new ideas, let us know yours!

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

By Tara Palacios

Recently, Arlington has been featured in the news for its collaborative approach to innovative alcohol safety measures.

The Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI) was developed as a voluntary accreditation program to increase the overall safety of customers, businesses and neighborhood residents in areas with nightlife and entertainment.

Through a collaborative approach between government agencies and businesses that serve alcohol, Arlington County has improved the strategies and standards of establishments serving alcohol while building positive community relations, reducing crime and recognizing responsible businesses.

Restaurants, many of those that are small local businesses earn accreditation in ARI by writing and adopting employee policies that meet the ARI standards to reduce alcohol-related harm and increase safety. Restaurants that display the ARI Accredited Restaurant decal on their door demonstrate their commitment to the safety of their patrons and the community.

Event Details

Patrons, restaurant staff, and those interested in maintaining Arlington as a safe destination for entertainment are encouraged to attend a community conversation on nightlife safety. The event will feature panelists from various Arlington County departments speaking about how they collaborated to build trusting relationships with restaurant staff and improve safety.

‘A Conversation about Nightlife Safety’ will take place on Wednesday, May 1 from 7-9 p.m. at the  John T. Hazel, MD Conference Center, 1701 N. George Mason Drive Arlington, Virginia 22205.

To learn more about ARI or to register for our conversation about Nightlife Safety visit here. We hope you can join us to learn more about Nightlife Safety.

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This article was written by Erik Skantze, winner of Arlington Economic Development‘s Startup Arlington Competition and Chief Production Officer for Richmond-based education startup, EdConnective.  

It’s hard to believe that I arrived in Arlington only two short months ago.

Somewhere between working at SPACES in Rosslyn, getting a fabulous introduction to the area through Chasing Dragons, and enjoying the daily breakfast buffet over at the Residence Inn Marriott, I came to the realization that Arlington has some excellent offerings for entrepreneurs. These are my top three.

Hidden Serenity

Startups are a lot like rollercoasters. Sometimes you experience the thrill of rapid twists and turns in a growing business. Sometimes you experience a knot in the pit of your stomach as you are staring over the edge of what looks like a bottomless abyss.

Other times you are just inching along a steep hill, grinding it out to get the next client, investor or product iteration that will propel you to the next stage of the startup lifecycle.

In the latter scenario, I like to take Steve Blank’s advice and “get out of the building” not only to connect with the community around me, but also to give myself the space and time to reflect. Arlington is full of hidden gems that are ideal for this activity — my favorites (so far) are:

  • Freedom Park makes for a quiet walk in the heart of Rosslyn (outside of lunch hours, at least!) with great views of D.C. and plenty of opportunity to admire the local architecture.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Island is Arlington adjacent and accessible by a quick bike ride or walk — after a short walk you will be so surrounded by nature that you may even forget you are in one of the most populous metro areas in the U.S.
  • Although the George Washington Memorial Parkway might not always be associated with relaxation during rush hour, a quick stop along the overlook (or a walk through Potomac Overlook Park) makes for a great drive/walk combo.

East Coast Early Adopters

Does anyone really need same hour grocery delivery? Probably not, but it does have its novelty and it might even save you some time during a hectic day. Sure, almost every city has an unending supply of new services and early adopters, but what I love about Arlington is that it is jam packed with early adopters.

Whether it’s the ubiquitous electric scooter, Balkan cuisine, board game bars or home cooked ketogenic meals delivered to your door, the excitement, buzz and conversation about new concepts and services is what sets Arlington apart.

That’s not to say that every idea is a winner or even that most of these concepts will endure the test of time, but Arlington presents an attractive proposition for an entrepreneur who thrives on feedback and needs to test his or her creation in a tangible way.

Convenient Transportation to Basically Anywhere

Yeah, this one is decidedly less exciting than the other two, but I have come to find options in transportation to be a huge advantage. Hungry? Nothing beats an afternoon walk along Custis trail to Mom’s/Naked Lunch or (on those rough days) a quick scoot to Ben’s Chili Bowl for a fully loaded half smoke.

Tech MeetUp? The metro gets me where I want to go. West coast conference? Both Reagan National and Dulles are a short ride away.  Bonus: the trip to our Richmond office is just a couple hours by car or train, which means I can catch a morning meeting and be back in time for lunch!

In closing, I’ll mention this: every conversation I have with an Arlingtonian (yep, I looked that up) ends the same way. I always ask, “what is the number one ‘must see‘ or ‘must do‘ on your list of Arlington-based activities and why?”

I haven’t gotten a bad answer yet, so I figure that’s as good a way as any to end this article. What’s your recommendation? Hit me up at @edconnective or [email protected]!

Erik Skantze is the Chief Product Officer for EdConnective and has mixed feelings about electric scooters (loves riding, hates dodging). As the winner of the Startup Arlington Competition, EdConnective is excited to work with local educators, investors, and mentors to help empower principals and teachers to impact student outcomes.

Photos via Rosslyn BID

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

By Tara Palacios

Calling all Arlington, Virginia business owners!

Is your business stuck, and not growing year-to-year? Are you looking for new tools to take your business to the next level? At BizLaunch, we have discovered the secret way to grow your business in 2019 — Scaling4Growth.

BizLaunch, and the Virginia’s Department of Small Business Supplier Diversity division are pleased to announce a free opportunity for Virginia-based businesses to Scale4Growth.

In partnership with Interise and using their StreetWise ‘MBA’, business owners who are selected for this 6-month business co-hort will increase their network, further their business knowledge and enhance their management know-how to grow their established business.

In 2017, 70% of Interise businesses who completed the Streetwise MBA increased their annual revenue by an average of $399,600.

If you are interested in applying for this innovative program, class begins May 23, and will meet every other Thursday through November from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development, 1100 N. Glebe Road, 15th Floor, Arlington, Virginia.

According to Tracey G. Wiley, Agency Director of Virginia’s Small Business Supplier Diversity, “Executive education is the key differentiator for businesses experiencing exponential growth… This is the Commonwealth’s investment in partnering to grow small businesses through development opportunities.” All businesses selected for the program will attend with no fees.

Basic requirements for the program include the following:

  • Certified by Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity as a Small, Women or Minority-Owned (SWaM) business (Note: If your business is currently not SWaM certified the SBSD will work with you to receive this certification ahead of class)
  • $250,000-$10,000,000 in annual revenues
  • One other full-time employee besides the owner(s)
  • Been in business for at least 3 years
  • Willingness and ability to attend class for 6 months, complete mandatory assignments and complete program survey’s as requested.

Testimonials from recent alumni of Virginia’s Scaling4Growth can be found here. This is the first time Scaling4Growth is held outside of Richmond, Virginia.

If you are ready to apply today click here!

It is a simple process, and will be a rewarding opportunity for all local businesses interested in taking their firms to the next level. If you have additional questions please contact Kathy Dolan, with Virginia’s SBSD at 804-786-1087.

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