Arlington, VA

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

By Tara Palacios

After many years of working with entrepreneurs — it wouldn’t be a stretch to say launching and running a small business is not for the faint of heart.

The risk of failure is constant. An entrepreneur needs to have both eyes open for every pitfall and danger sign. From industry changes, to knowing your competition and fighting for capital — today’s entrepreneur must be on their “A,” game — everyday.

One area of importance for entrepreneurs to bring their “A,” game is in preparedness.

We don’t always talk about preparedness because the likelihood of a natural or man-made disaster happening may appear to be small; however, when it does happen you’ll want to be ready. The best time to have your business ready is now. Flooding, fires and other acts may seem unlikely, but it is best when running a business to err on the side of planning. Mitigate risk by anticipating all aspects that could negatively impact your business.

PLAN is a great four-letter word. Here are 5 areas to make sure your business is prepared for a disruption.

Familiarize yourself with the types of hazards your business could face:

  • Natural Disasters (I.e., hurricanes, tornadoes earthquakes etc.)
  • Health Hazards (I.e., flu, measles, virus etc.)
  • Human-caused hazards (I.e., active shooter, on the job accidents)
  • Cyber threats or power outages.

Develop a plan

Ready.gov offers great resources and toolkits to help your business to come up with a plan. Ensure you have identified hazards you are most likely to encounter and work through a practical application.

Practice Your Plan

Make sure every member of your team is familiar with the details of how to execute the plan. Don’t let the plan gather dust. Update information and offer training on a regular basis.

Reach out for help!

Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management has several local tools to make sure your business is prepared. You can also reach out to them with help or assistance as you fine tune your plan.

As you plan, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper coverage necessary to ensure there is no long-term disruption of your business. The US Chamber of Commerce provides tips on how to make sure you have the right insurance coverage for your business in a recent blog post. FEMA also offers several tips and links on how to acquire the right flood insurance for your business.

Save the date! As part of BizLaunch’s Brunch and Business Series, on October 23, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development we will be addressing the topic of business disruptions and how to overcome them in more detail with a panel of experts.

You’ll find more information on our event page in the coming weeks.

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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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