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Photo courtesy Andrew Deer

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

In a previous Small Business Focus, we mentioned the release of two new market research databases that you can access for free with your library card, Statista and Demographics Now. We thought we’d use this week’s Small Business Focus to describe the advanced business intelligence you can discover for FREE using these two databases.

While Statista is good for gaining broad-based national and global statistics, Demographics Now is highly useful in seeing demographics within a city, state or even within one mile, three mile or five-mile radius from a particular address. One of the demographic traits you can view is pet ownership, available through the Simmons Pet Related Summary Report found in Demographics Now.

After walking Wilson Boulevard or visiting the Shirlington Dog Park, one would think that dog ownership in Arlington would be high. However, based on the reports in Demographics Now, dog ownership in Arlington is 41% below the national average. At the same time, cat ownership in Arlington is 27% below the national average. Based on the Simmons Pet Related Summary Report in Demographics Now, Arlingtonians are more likely not to have either a dog or cat. Among pet-owning residents, Arlingtonians are more likely to own a cat over a dog.

While the Simmons Pet Related Summary Report in Demographics Now seems to conflict with many people’s assumptions, the low pet ownership rate compared to the national average makes sense when understanding household demographics. For example, most housing units in Arlington (57.2%) are renter-occupied.

Many landlords don’t allow pets or have pet restrictions that may allow cats but not dogs, which may explain why pet ownership for dogs and cats is lower than the national average in Arlington. In the same report for Fairfax County, dog ownership is only 12% lower than the national average; however, the housing units are mostly owner-occupied (67.7%). The owner-occupied housing rate for Fairfax is 25% higher than that of Arlington.

Demographics Now offers a wealth of information on consumer demographics. If you have an existing business or plan on starting a business, this is a valuable resource to understand consumers’ demographics and spending habits within a particular area.

As mentioned in our previous Small Business Focus, the best thing about these databases, they are FREE to use with your library card. Additionally, anyone living within the DMV can access a free library card from the Arlington Public Library.

Is there a demographic question that you have? Drop it in the comment section, and it might be the focus of a forthcoming Small Business Focus. For more information about BizLaunch and to access our free market research tools visit www.bizlaunch.org.

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

After more than a two-year hiatus due to the global pandemic, BizLaunch events are springing into action this spring with two can’t-miss opportunities.

The SWaMmy Honors

In celebration of Business Appreciation Month, BizLaunch and the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity are partnering on the SWaMmy Honors. This hybrid event celebrates Virginia’s small businesses while recognizing the resiliency of small businesses as they build back our economy after the global pandemic.

This year’s event is on May 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 10 SWaM certified businesses from around the Commonwealth will be recognized. Businesses will be honored as a Legacy Business — those in business 20+ years, or as a Community Impact Business — those who have made a positive contribution to their community.

While the honorees will be recognized in person in Richmond, Virginia, attendees will be able to watch and participate via Google Meet. Register today and help us honor Virginia’s small businesses.

Brunch and Business: Celebrating the Joy of Black Entrepreneurship

BizLaunch’s signature program is back and better than ever with a brand-new partner, The Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, serving as our host for the event. We will feature and celebrate Black-owned companies in Arlington that exemplify what it means to launch and manage a successful business at this special event.

Panelists for this year’s program include:

Unlike previous Brunch and Businesses, we can have exhibitor space for Black-owned food companies. Interested Black-owned food-based businesses should reach out to Alex Held for more information about securing exhibitor space.

Join us on June 8, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as we celebrate Arlington’s diverse small business community.

For more information about BizLaunch and to stay up to date on events and programs, sign up for our newsletter or visit www.bizlaunch.org.

Clips from the virtual SWaMmy Honors held in October 2020.

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

A hairstyle helps people look fashionable, but it is also used to self-identify. Whether short, long, curly, or straight, people have found ways to use hairstyles to represent themselves and convey their personalities.

Due to COVID-19, many people let their hair grow. They were working from home, barbershops were closed, and most had no experience in cutting hair.

Those concerns and the resulting lack of customers hit small businesses like Lyon Park Barber Shop especially hard. Owner Janeth Gonzales decided to look for resources to help her achieve a new market and gain more customers. As a result, she heard about BizLaunch and applied for one of its programs, ReLaunch. The ReLaunch program has helped businesses like Gonzales’ reach new customers, create new marketing strategies and branding, digital presence, strategic planning, create a website and more.

BizLaunch has provided me with tools and information to develop and improve my business. Also, the constant communication and assistance they offer have helped me to be aware of more opportunities for my business,” Gonzales said.

If your business is going through the same struggles as Lyon Park Salon, ReLaunch brings you the opportunity to understand better how to operate and recreate your business structure, obtain a website and more. In addition to this, your small business will grow and reach a new target market through one-on-one counseling.

As for Lyon Park Barber Shop, BizLaunch helped increase the customer flow through marketing and promotion. Now that she has completed the ReLaunch program, Gonzales’ customer flow and digital presence have improved.

If you would like to obtain the same benefits and advantages Janeth did, visit www.BizLaunch.org and apply today.

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

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we thought we’d use this as an opportunity to highlight one of Arlington’s many women-led companies.

Founded in 2014 by Lindsey Hinton, Puppy Luv is a luxury pet company that provides dog walking, pet grooming, obedient training and pet sitting services to clients across the DMV. While Arlington is home to many pet care companies, Puppy Luv is unique because they focus on the community aspect of dog services.

Since the company’s founding, Puppy Luv has hosted over 100 dog parties, partnering with everyone from JBG Smith to Amazon. The events allow neighbors to come out and connect while their dogs play, making new friends in the process. “These events have been a contributing factor to our success,” says Hinton.

While Puppy Luv is a group effort made up of nine dedicated individuals, one team member that has been essential to the company’s growth is Jerome McCollum, who has been with the company for five years and wears many hats. Not only is McCollum the operations manager, but he also serves as the IT specialist and, for special events, moonlights as the company’s DJ.

“Jerome is dedicated and passionate about his job, and we’re so happy to have him on the team,” says Hinton.

An Arlington resident for the last 15 years, Hinton says she’s has seen the community change during that time.

“One of the best things about Arlington is that it’s close to city life with a suburban feel while still offering many outdoor spaces and parks for events and playtime,” says Hinton.

One of her favorite things to do in Arlington is to take walks near Long Bridge Park when not working. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live; it’s an even better place to work,” she says.

With the continued success of Puppy Luv Pet Services, in five years, Hinton would like to see her company’s growth measured in quality. “We are striving hard to create more volume and more awareness of our brand while continuing our sense of community,” she says.

For more information about Puppy Luv Pet Services and to book your next pet service, visit www.puppyluvme.com.

If you’re a woman owned small business in Arlington, we’d love to feature your business. Check out our free promotional opportunities today and sign up today to get your business featured for free.

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

Two years into the roaring 2020s, a new year means new resources. With 2022 marking a fresh start for what we hope will be a spectacular year, the team at BizLaunch is committed to making sure the small business community is ready to succeed.

Free of charge and easily accessible with an Arlington County library card, BizLaunch is excited to welcome DemographicsNow, IBISWorld and Statista to its database family. Each of these resources has been curated to assist businesses in these unprecedented times; from the shift in eCommerce rates to learning more about the post-pandemic consumer, business owners will have answers to all questions they have about today’s small business climate. With cutting edge statistics, real time research in your industry, and an abundance of market analysis, this powerful trio has Arlington’s small business community in mind.

DemographicsNow is a 25-year-old full-service spatial analytics firm designed with features such as sales forecasting, customer profiling, market analysis and much more. This concrete location-based data can offer insight that may be exactly what you’ve been seeking. With DemographicsNow, you’ll know the who, when, where, how and even which locations hold the highest level of consumer engagement. In turn, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of how to take advantage of where you are and turn it into where your customers can live, work, shop, and more.

IBISWorld, a staple database in the business world since 1971, offers in-house analysts that provide economic, demographic and market data. What does this mean? All of this combined helps businesses make informed decisions with all variables and factors considered. They have an assorted portfolio of products, providing clients with things such as: industry research, financial ratios, risk ratings and Business Environment Profiles, just to name a few. With a full suite of industry research and expert tools that are accessible globally, IBISWorld aids a diverse range of clientele: from commercial banks to academic institutions alike.

Only a little over a decade old, Statista has taken the industry research field by storm. With more than two million registered users, one million statistics, 31 million visits per month and 170 industries covered, Statista has mastered the art of consolidating data and making it palatable. Information like research and analysis (combined) and eCommerce are what makes Statista stand out from most databases.

It has even been cited in articles by some of the largest media companies of the world, including Forbes, the New York Times, and the Financial Times. Additionally, it works closely with academic institutions like Harvard and Yale University, further building credibility of this influential database

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

The AWE Women in Business Summit is back again in 2022, and BizLaunch is excited to support the program once again as the keynote sponsor.

The Summit is hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Marymount University on February 4. This impactful half-day conference features panel discussions and presentations from experienced female leaders from across the region.

“Female entrepreneurs are starting businesses at record numbers, not only in Arlington but also across the country. We’re thrilled to be able to help women achieve their entrepreneurial dreams through this dynamic conference,” says Tara Palacios, Director of BizLaunch.

Designed for women entrepreneurs, executives and professionals of all levels, all genders and gender identities are welcome at the AWE Women in Business Summit.  The Summit will provide education, inspiration and connections to foster success, helping attendees achieve their personal and professional goals.

Exclusive for ARLnow readers, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is offering $20 off the prospective member registration. To take advantage of this special offer, use promo code AWENOW at checkout. To view the full agenda and speaker bios for the event, visit the Arlington Chamber’s website.

For more information about BizLaunch, visit www.bizlaunch.org. We look forward to seeing you on February 4, at the AWE Women in Business Summit.

Photos courtesy of Tara Palacios taken from the 2020 AWE Summit before COVID-19 restrictions and when the AWE and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce merger was announced.

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

Now that we’re in 2022, many small business owners may be wondering what they can do to make their business more prosperous in the new year.

For our first Small Business Focus of 2022, we thought we’d have a Q&A with our BizLaunch Director, Tara Palacios who will share some tips from her 20+ years of experience in helping small businesses start, grow and scale.

1.) The last two years have been extremely challenging for many small businesses. What is one action item that you’d recommend that all business owners complete in 2022?

If there is anything the pandemic has taught us, it is to make sure you have your house in order. One action item is to make sure that you are ready to take an opportunity that presents itself. Do a business audit ensuring that the formation of your business is solid. This includes making sure you have your EIN and that it matches your legal name of your business with the SCC. If you’re using a trade name for your business, ensuring that is registered with the SCC. You want to ensure everything matches with various regulatory agencies.

Additionally, you will want to make sure that you are current on all your bills, including your tax obligations to compete for opportunities. Last year, many entrepreneurs faced challenges regarding their legal structure, and you cannot apply for a grant or other forms of capital if your legal name does not match with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) or if you are not current on your financial obligations.

I would also recommend business owners check that their social security number or EIN has not been compromised, meaning someone else has not used your personal information. Individuals can pull a copy of their Social Security Statement and credit report to ensure everything matches their records. Maybe even consider getting a credit monitoring service as cybercrime continues to rise and small businesses are an easy target. The new year is a wonderful opportunity for businesses to audit these areas.

I think before the pandemic many businesses may not have been aware of certain regulatory requirements; however, at this stage of the game it’s imperative businesses have their house in order. Having your house in order will ensure you’re able to compete in 2022 whether that be for financial or business opportunities.

Finally, with so much disruption affecting businesses, I think conducting a SWOT analysis is helpful in analyzing future opportunities and threats and how businesses can combat those.

2.) If you could look into your crystal ball, what are some opportunities that small businesses can take advantage of in 2022?

I would say that in any type of crisis, there is always opportunity. There is always need, and there is always the ability to be able to build your business. Therefore, if I were to look into my crystal ball for 2022, I would say anything around making life easier for people whether through technology or superb customer service. If you can build innovation that makes things easier for people to navigate, that’s the way to go.

This is also the time to have your employees trained on customer service, ensuring your service to customers is on point. Having employees trained to provide top notch customer service is one way not only to differentiate your business, but also to retain talent.

3.) Finding and retaining talent continues to be a challenge for many small businesses. How can small businesses best compete for talent in 2022?

The biggest thing small businesses can do is create an atmosphere where employees can access professional development opportunities. Take advantage of the resources available through the Arlington Employment Center and the Workforce Investment Board. These services are free and provide training and recruitment services for employers.

Employees want to feel empowered and that they are making a difference in the work they are doing while also feeling challenged and growing. A job is not just a place to make money, but rather a lifestyle. People are doing jobs today because they feel an affinity for the work.

4.) What are some of your favorite small business resources?

My favorite small businesses resources are the online tools provided by the Arlington Public Library. You can access free business intelligence, market research and industry analysis. We’re also excited to be able to provide additional databases this year such as Statista, Demographics Now and IBIS World.

I also love Canva, which is an online graphic design tool that is very easy to use and gives businesses the ability to develop upscale marketing collateral and access licensed professional imagery.

However, I can’t forget BizLaunch’s ReLaunch program, a free resource where businesses can access consulting and website development services. That program is one I would take advantage of in 2022.

I think sometimes businesses think they must spend a lot of money on these resources; however, many are accessible for free in Arlington.

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

While Jolly Ole St. Nick gets all the credit for delivering gifts every holiday season, this year BizLaunch has pulled together its resources to bring together some awesome opportunities for small businesses this year and beyond.

Funding for BizLaunch’s ReLaunch program now extends into 2023. With a bit of help from our dear friend at the North Pole, we’re able to help small businesses launch their storefront online and provide high-level business counseling services through 2023.

ReLaunch is a free program for small businesses that started in 2021, with two components, ReVitalize and ReNew. Through ReVitalize, companies can access up to 10 hours of business consulting services. Through ReNew, companies can get support in enabling technology in their business. An example could include the development of a website/e-commerce solution or helping small companies implement business analytics into their current website.

Since the program began, we’ve been able to help 163 small businesses in Arlington and recently have completed 17 website/e-commerce projects. For our Small Business Focus, we thought we’d share with you some of the firms that have received a new website/e-commerce solution thanks to ReLaunch.

Island Jewelry

As with many small businesses, Island Jewelry wasn’t immune to the effects of COVID-19. Like many legacy businesses, Island Jewelry, located in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, didn’t have a website to reach a wider audience and depended on foot traffic.

“However, finding ReLaunch was like finding light at the end of the tunnel. ReLaunch was perfect for my small business. I was thankful to be able to gain assistance with developing my website,” says Danitza Galindo, Owner Island Jewelry.

With the help of Nub8 and AWS, Island Jewelry now has a new, secure website that is easy to update. “In fact, on the first day of the launch of our website, I had my first online sale!” said Galindo. “I would like to acknowledge the experts and team of professionals that helped make my dreams come true to serve my online community. Helping me reach a broader audience of current and future clients.”

If you’re looking for eco-friendly gifts this holiday season for women, men and children, check out Island Jewelry’s beautifully designed online shop today. 

Danitza Galindo, Owner Island Jewelry

The Food Sherpa

Now is the time of year when many people put together their New Year Resolutions. If you or someone you know resolves to eat better, or maybe even get more fit, The Food Sherpa is for you.

Started in 2007 by Keith Steury, the Food Sherpa is your guide to great food. The Food Sherpa provides customized meal plans, cooking classes and special events for busy clients. Like many startups, Food Sherpa launched its website in 2007 and redesigned it in 2014, using it as a tool to onboard clients over the last 14 years.

“My old website was pretty content-heavy, and that my website had served as an integral part of the on-boarding process for new clients. For this reason, I was a little hesitant to launch this project”, said Keith Steury, owner of The Food Sherpa.

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

Since its founding in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday has encouraged thousands of shoppers from across the country to shop small and support local businesses.

With many small businesses still navigating through the challenges of COVID-19, now more than ever small businesses need your support this holiday shopping season. This year Small Business Saturday will take place on November 27, and shoppers from the DMV have a unique opportunity to discover local businesses by shopping small.

Since its founding in 2011, One More Page Books has consistently leveraged the marketing efforts surrounding Small Business Saturday. In fact, One More Page Books welcomed President Barack Obama along with his daughters, Sasha and Malia, on Small Business Saturday in 2012.

Thanks to One More Page Books, Arlington shoppers will have the opportunity to participate in a passport program encouraging shoppers to shop local this holiday season. Additionally, through the passport program, shoppers have the chance to win prizes and find deals, all while supporting our community’s vitality in keeping dollars local.

Interested shoppers can pick up a passport at any participating business, which can be found online. Many local businesses are running specials on Small Business Saturday.

To be eligible to win one of three Grand Prize baskets, shoppers need to collect at least five stamps from the participating businesses. Once completed, the completed passports can be returned to One More Page Books or left at the last participating business shoppers visit.

Winners of the baskets will be randomly drawn from all completed passports on November 28 at 3 p.m. at One More Page Books and notified via e-mail.

If you’re a small business owner wanting to capitalize on Small Business Saturday, American Express has developed customizable Small Business Saturday graphics. Furthermore, American Express has made it even easier to find local businesses near you to shop small through their Shop Small Map.

The BizLaunch team hopes you have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and hope you support our community by shopping small on Small Business Saturday on November 27.

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

CAKE Society Co., founded by Executive Director Colton Gibbons, provides access to health, dance, fitness and community in a group fitness setting.

Opened in March of this year, CAKE Society Co. is different from other fitness organizations. It is one of the only BIPOC (Black Indigenous Person of Color) and trans-led dance-oriented fitness organizations.

“I created Cake Society Co. to challenge the traditional toxic fitness culture which supports only one kind of body and vision,” Gibbons said. The word “cake” is an acronym and a pledge for the organization’s main pillars — Community, Activism, Kindness and Equity.

Like many Arlingtonians, Colton moved to Arlington for graduate school and fell in love with the community. “I love the passion and activism that the community offers,” Colton said. “I like that Arlington is intentionally working on a more inclusive and equitable future for all of its residents.”

In starting Cake Society, Colton wasn’t alone. Not only does he have a community of great leaders helping him launch his business, Colton also sought out help from BizLaunch, Arlington’s Small Business Assistance Center.

“I worked with Alex from BizLaunch to help guide me on local business permits and licenses that I needed,” Colton said. “Additionally, Alex helped me brainstorm new ideas and ways to support my organization.”

Recently Cake Society received its 501c3 designation from the Internal Revenue Service as a community-based not-for-profit. Cake Society currently is offering classes by Zoom and at local community spaces. Colton hopes to see a thriving dance-fitness studio fully staffed by exceptional individuals with those from historically underserved communities in leadership positions in five years.

In addition to building an inclusive fitness brand, Cake Society Co has released new efforts providing resource distribution to the trans and gender-expansive community. They also host mental health events and support groups both through Zoom and in person. If you’re interested in attending an event, check out Cake Society’s event page.

For more information about Cake Society Co. and to try out a Zumba class, visit www.cakesocietyco.org.

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Yard signs marketing the GRANT 2.0 placed throughout Arlington

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

In our last Small Business Focus, we announced Arlington’s Small Business GRANT 2.0 and focused on eligibility. Now with applications underway through Oct. 20, we thought we’d use this opportunity to explain how small businesses can leverage GRANT 2.0 funds.

Similarly, to GRANT 1.0 released in 2020, funds from GRANT 2.0 can be used for the following:

  • Retaining and/or supporting employees
  • Restoring financial resiliency
  • Increasing technology capacity
  • Creating new marketing strategies
  • Revising business plans

Many businesses awarded a GRANT last summer used the funds to pay rent and payroll expenses. However, some used their grant to revise business plans or to better leverage technology.

For example, Educational Theatre Company used their grant to purchase a third Zoom line to offer simultaneous summer camps online. Another example is Compass Coffee, which used its grant to cover marketing expenses to expand its online sales.

Compass Coffee also used a portion of its funding to revise its business plan. It  purchased a machine to produce K-Cups and Nespresso pods to add to their product mix for customers stuck at home with cravings for their favorite local cup of coffee.

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