Arlington, VA

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

By Alex Held, Small Business Manager

While Columbia Pike Laundry has been a staple of Columbia Pike since 1993, we wanted to highlight how the owners, Daniel and Dara Logan, are leveraging technology in their small business to better serve their customers and reach additional markets within the region.

The Problem

Being busy professionals and balancing work and family schedules themselves, the Logans understood the chore of laundry and could empathize with customers who have similar schedule demands. When they purchased the firm in June 2018, they wanted to continue providing self-service laundry while offering additional convenience for customers, who, like them, felt as though they had too few hours in a day.

“We wanted to provide convenience to our customers, similarly to how many of them order a ride or food through an app,” Daniel says.

Furthermore, many of their competitors were already tech-enabled, making it even more imperative to adapt.

The Solution

Initially, Columbia Pike Laundry launched wash and fold laundry service as part of its service mix and started going after business accounts. Then in November 2018, the Logans established their laundromat online (www.columbiapikelaundry.com), allowing customers the ability to schedule a pickup for wash and fold service, complete their purchase, and have it delivered within the website or app. After the initial launch online, they began to acquire additional customers through their platform.

Toward the end of 2019, they updated their website and app, making it easier for customers to navigate. “I’m a lifelong digital learner,” Daniel says. “We’re constantly making improvements to make it easier for our customers to access our services, and we still offer clients the ability to call and schedule a pickup.”

Then in March 2020, the world changed, and as with many small businesses, Columbia Pike Laundry was not immune to the abrupt shift caused by the pandemic.

“Our self-service segment saw a dip as a result of the pandemic, and while it has since rebounded, our self-service segment has mostly plateaued,” Daniel says.

However, because Columbia Pike Laundry took the necessary steps to enable technology in their business, the investment helped them reach new customers and made them more resilient and ready to adapt to the changing times.

“Now where we see consistent growth is not only with our B2C customer base but also with the B2B segment, which we can directly attribute to our website and app,” Daniel says.

And heads up: Columbia Pike Laundry is offering new customers a 25% discount on their first order. Use promo code BIZLAUNCH25 at checkout to take advantage of this special offer for readers.

“We enjoy serving Arlington and the surrounding communities,” Daniel says.

Next Steps

If you’re ready to enable technology in your small business but don’t know where to begin, the BizLaunch Team is here for you. Visit www.relaunch.business to take advantage of some of the free tools developed to help you get online and sign up for our newsletter to be notified when applications for ReLaunch go live.

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

Since BizLaunch’s inception 20 years ago, we’ve hosted numerous workshops to educate small business owners about the tools and resources available to help them take their business online. While many have launched an online marketplace, some have felt that they’ve been in business long enough and that their customers know who they are or haven’t seen the need to develop an online presence until recently.

Since the abrupt shift in consumer behavior that started with the shutdown orders last March, it’s becoming clear that many of these new trends are here to stay. A recent survey from McKinsey & Co. found that three out of four consumers have tried a new shopping method within the last year. Nearly 70% of consumers surveyed intend to continue buying online for store pickup.

Before 2020, much of the growth of e-commerce was driven by millennial consumers and early adopters. Now with many baby boomers at higher risk for developing complications from contracting COVID-19, they are embracing online shopping. Between January and October of 2020, consumers 65 and older spent on average $1,615 online, a 49% increase from the previous year, according to The Washington Post. National brands are taking note, expanding customer support, educating customers how to shop online, and making their platforms more accessible and intuitive to cater to baby boomers.

In developing programming to support small businesses dealing with the ongoing public health emergency, the BizLaunch team was mindful of the need for capital but that the amount available wouldn’t be very impactful to the majority of businesses. From there, ReLaunch was born, a new initiative from BizLaunch in partnership with Amazon Web Services and additional partners to provide in-depth technical assistance, financial assistance to build out a website and an e-commerce platform, and numerous free resources.

Our first program in a four-part series, held last week, gave an overview of the program along with free technology consultations. On Feb. 18, Amazon Web Services, Amazon Business and Nub8 will discuss how small businesses can utilize Lightsail to build a website and e-commerce platform and to sell through Amazon.com.

Additional information about ReLaunch, including how to leverage the resources outlined for your small business, is available at www.relaunch.business. Stay up to date with us by signing up for our e-newsletter or following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and now TikTok.

Si está interesado en aprender más acerca de los nuevos recursos disponibles que tiene BizLaunch para apoyar su negocio por favor visite la página web www.relaunch.business. Adicional a ello si desea recibir información sobre diferentes iniciativas y recursos ofrecidos para su negocio suscríbase a nuestro boletín electrónico.

@aedbizlaunchAre you looking for FREE technical services? Click the link in our bio to get exactly that. #voiceeffects #arlingtonva #fyp #smallbusiness #ReLaunch♬ original sound – Josh Lepulu

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This article was written by Tara Palacios, Director of BizLaunch, and Alex Held, Small Business Manager, at Arlington Economic Development.

BizLaunch is pleased to officially announce its latest initiative to help small businesses during the health pandemic, ReLaunch, which kicks off this month with a webinar on Jan. 27. As part of the ReLaunch efforts, local businesses will have the opportunity to apply for a complimentary suite of business services and technology assistance to help their business in the upcoming months.

If you’d like to be sent a notification about the upcoming initiative or to learn more about what’s happening in the small business community in Arlington, please sign up for our BizLaunch newsletter. We hope you apply!

Paycheck Protection Program Update

On Monday Jan. 11, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reopened its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for new PPP borrowers. Starting today, small businesses that have received PPP funding previously are able to apply for additional PPP funding accessing what is called a Second Draw PPP Loan.

In order to promote access to capital, only community financial institutions are able to make First Draw and Second Draw PPP loans this week. Community financial institutions include Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs) and Microloan Intermediaries. To help borrowers prepare, sample applications for both the First Draw and Second Draw PPP loans are available on the SBA’s website.

In Arlington, two of our CDFI partners, Latino Economic Development Center and ECDC Enterprise Development Group, are both participating in the program, and businesses that don’t currently have a relationship with a 7(a) lender are able to apply. Shortly thereafter, the program will open to all participating PPP lenders, and all eligible businesses will be able to apply for the program. Businesses should consult with their financial institution, and visit the SBA’s website to learn more about the Paycheck Protection Program in order to take advantage of this resource.

For more information about capital resources available through the SBA, visit its website and stay up to date with us by signing up for our email.

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This article was written by Tara Palacios, Director of BizLaunch at Arlington Economic Development.

This week marks the official beginning of the holiday season. Sugar plums and New Year’s Eve preparations are generally at hand; however, many business owners are navigating the negative impact of the current health pandemic on their business. What are the key action items you should do for your business before the year ends?

BizLaunch recommends these five steps to take before we say hello to 2021:

1. Before the year ends check in with your accountant.

Before you know it, tax season will be upon us during the first quarter of 2021. If your business was awarded a CARES Act forgivable grant from a government entity you will need to take the funds in as income. You will want to know how those funds will impact your bottom line before the tax season begins. The Paycheck Protection Loans (PPP) have new guidance as well from the U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Treasury Department encourages businesses to utilize the forgiveness portion of the PPP as soon as possible.

2. Undertake a business audit.

Be ready for funding opportunities in 2021. If Congress successfully passes an additional stimulus package for the U.S .before the end of 2020, ensure your business is prepared. Do a quick business audit so you can apply and be awarded funds. Here is a quick crib sheet to audit your business and be prepared for new potential opportunities in 2021:

3. Pivot again in 2021? Be open to your options.

The impact of the health pandemic changes daily. It’s challenging to design a long-term plan as a business with so many unknowns; however, as a business owner you will want to have a pulse of what is going on in your industry real-time. Some trends may be long lasting, and you’ll want to stay ahead of the fray. However, pivoting again based on the facts of the moment may help your organization as we move into 2021. Follow the opportunities, and think twice before you keep doing business as usual since these are unusual times we are living in.

4. Follow the opportunities in 2021.

Pay close to attention to emails and newsletters that support local businesses. If there are grants, resources and potential business prospects, you don’t want to miss an opportunity because you didn’t know about it. If you haven’t already, sign up for our Economic Development newsletter and BizLaunch newsletter. We will be communicating all business intelligence we find in those communications platforms.

5. Reach out for help.

You may feel like the world is on your shoulders; however, reach out for help when you need it. Don’t wait. The longer you wait, the harder the challenge becomes. We recommend having a business mentor or participating in a mentorship program to help you work through an issue you are facing. It may help you look at the situation in a different way or allow you to speak with someone who has faced a similar challenge. Watch this space because BizLaunch is planning to offer new resources for our business in the coming year.

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

Over the weekend and especially in Arlington, shoppers came out across the country to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Here in Arlington, BizLaunch has been abuzz with local businesses showcasing their products, offering special discounts or even giving a behind-the-scenes preview of their stores. With small business facing many challenges this year, there’s never been a more important time to #shopsmall and specifically #shoparl.

There’s still time to have your business featured on our social media or if you have a favorite business that you’d like for us to profile let us know in the comments. Sign up today and check out some of the businesses we featured as part of Small Business Saturday below.

Follow @aedbizlaunch on Instagram to see more features from local businesses.

Now we want to hear from you. In the comment section, let us know your favorite local businesses that you’d like to see us profile.

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

With 2020 being an incredibly difficult year for small businesses, it is important for our community to come together and support our local businesses this holiday shopping season and #ShopARL when possible.

As an Arlington resident, there are many ways you can support small businesses this holiday season, the most important to remember is to #shopsmall and #shopARL whenever possible. To help you search for local businesses, BizLaunch has compiled a list of small businesses on our business directory or check out our story highlights on Instagram to see the businesses featured as part of our holiday takeover.

American Express has also developed a handy tool that puts small businesses on the map, literally. When you shop local don’t forget to use #ShopARL, we’ll reshare.

As part of our marketing efforts for Small Business Saturday (November 28), we’re giving Arlington small businesses the opportunity to take over our Facebook and Instagram story feed for an entire day. What is a social media takeover? A social media takeover is your opportunity to highlight your small business on our Facebook and Instagram. All through November and December, small businesses can submit video and photo content to be included in our Facebook and Instagram stories.

More than ever, consumers want to support small and local businesses, and we want to help small businesses reach them. Ready to take over @aedbizlaunch? Follow these three simple steps to help you prepare for your takeover day.

  1. Create Your Content: Think about what you what you want to share with potential customers. Your story could include the products you sell, holiday specials, or even your entrepreneurial story. For more tips and ideas of what to include, check out our filming guidelines. Don’t forget to film your video vertically for best results. For maximum exposure submit at least three different videos, each no longer than one (1) minute. Also check out our Instagram for a sample takeover to get your creativity going.
  2. Submit Your Content: Have all your content and ready to submit? Use this form to upload your content. Feel free to include additional content such as pictures, logos, etc., that you also want included. The BizLaunch team will reach out to you to schedule your takeover date. Currently, takeovers are scheduled on a first come first served basis.
  3. Sit Back and Relax: In reality, it’s only two simple steps, but with e-commerce dominating the retail landscape, here are some simple tips to help your business.

We hope you join us in sporting small businesses this holiday season and we look forward in featuring Arlington small businesses all throughout the holidays.

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

By Alex Held, Small Business Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tara Palacios

2020 has been a tough year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tara Palacios

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

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

BizRefresh Session 1: Know Your Why

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

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

BizRefresh Session 2: The Economist Viewpoint

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

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

BizRefresh Session 3: Demystifying Your Target Market

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

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

BizRefresh Session 4: Is Your Business on Brand?

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

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

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

BizRefresh Session 5: Maximize Your Digital Presence

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

October 8 |  10-11:30 a.m.

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

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

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

BizRefresh Session 7: Business Sustainability Planning

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

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

BizRefresh Session 8: The Pitch of Your Perfection

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

October 29 | 10-11:30 a.m

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

By Tara Palacios

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

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

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

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

5 Things to Check Under the Hood of Your Business:

Reevaluate your vision, mission and goals

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

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

How is your business structured?

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

Do you have the same customers or target market? 

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

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

Access to Capital 

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

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

Identify your Top 5 Opportunities 

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

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

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