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Many of us use coffee to perk ourselves up on a slow day, whether for the taste or the energy.

Regardless of how we use coffee, many drink it with friends, family, or on a date to lighten the mood. Despite knowing the benefits of our favorite coffee, do we know where it comes from and the provider’s history?

That was the question that sparked the curiosity of Maria Martinez and Maximilian Ilea, owners of Red Bean Harvest in Arlington; this small business imports authentic Colombian coffee from various regions of Colombia and focuses on offering its customers an exceptional customer experience. The business works in collaboration with coffee growers in Colombia to select high-quality beans and ensures that every coffee bean sold has the best possible flavor.

“We work directly with farmers to ensure that all our specialty coffee comes with a hundred percent traceability guarantee. In addition, we embrace certifications such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, and Organic to help reduce food waste and make that cup of coffee more enjoyable,” Maria said.

Another important aspect of this business is its commitment to sustainability. Red Bean Harvest cares about the environment and works to minimize its impact on the planet. It uses recyclable and compostable materials for wrappers and other disposable products. Red Bean also ensures that it buys coffee beans from suppliers who use sustainable cultivation and production practices. Consequently, a unique and delicate marmalade is made from the coffee skin so that coffee farmers can reduce food waste and make the process more sustainable.

Before opening the business in Arlington, Red Bean Harvest sought help from BizLaunch en Espanol for guidance on fulfilling the county requirements and complying with all the regulations. Since Red Bean Harvest is a home-based business, it needed to have a website and e-commerce. Thus, BizLaunch helped Red Bean Harvest create those platforms through ReLaunch to expose its business to a new target market.

“BizLaunch has been an incredible help, for which we are very grateful for the exposure that Red Bean Harvest has received. This year we will start selling at events during spring, summer, and fall, and very soon at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market,” Maria said.

Red Bean Harvest products focus on offering their customers an exceptional coffee experience with high-quality beans, expert preparation, sustainability, and accessibility.

If you would like more information about Red Bean Harvest, visit, or learn more about BizLaunch en Español resources.


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

By Alex Held

BizLaunch and the Arlington Public Library have joined forces to host a panel discussion celebrating Women’s History Month. The Panel will feature four Arlington-based women entrepreneurs who have successfully launched a business.

Whether you are a female business owner who wants to connect with other entrepreneurs or an entrepreneur who’s thought about starting your own business, the Inspiring Women in Business Panel Discussion is for you.

Meet Our Powerhouse Panelists

Paulina Enriquez, Director Wonder Kids Learning Center, founded Wonder Kids in 2022. Wonder Kids Learning Center is a high-quality childcare program for children 0 to 5 years old. It offers a Spanish immersion program in a loving and enriched environment.

Jennifer Jones, Creative Founder, Cosmopolitan Plated: Jones is a female entrepreneur of color and thought leader. She uses interactive cooking activities as metaphoric and experiential experiences to build and strengthen communities with diverse and inclusive perspectives. Through her company, Cosmopolitan Plated, she has provided and facilitated recreational and team-building classes for more than 10,000 participants.

Jennifer Mulchandani, Founder and CEO, Arlington Strategy: Mulchandani founded Arlington Strategy in 2012 with a mission to build thriving brands working to better the world. She leads a growing team of marketing, branding and advertising professionals who support nonprofit organizations, public agencies and businesses at every growth stage.

Alexandra Trakas, Founder and CEO, Bash Boxing: Trakas has spent ten years in the fitness and wellness industry. In 2017 Alex began her entrepreneurial journey. She conceptualized and founded Bash Boxing alongside her four partners. Trakas grew the brand to two locations in less than one year while grossing over $1.4 million in their first year in business. Trakas led her team and company through the COVID-19 pandemic, defining the brand’s path toward corporate and franchise growth. In September 2022, Bash opened its third location in the Mosaic District and recently opened its fourth location in Gainesville.

Join us on March 8 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library in the Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium for this inspiring discussion, networking and light refreshments.

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By Alex Held

Are you a SWaM certified business? Then BizLaunch and the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity want to hear from you.

SWaM — Small Women and Minority Owned — businesses are the cornerstone of the Arlington and Virginia economy, and we want the chance to honor you this year at the 2023 SWaMmy Honors.

At last year’s SWaMmy Honors, we were thrilled to have Arlington’s Casual Adventure recognized as a SWaMmy Honoree, and this year it could be you. As we move forward out of the pandemic, tell us how the past three years of the pandemic have changed or transformed your business and the innovations you have made.

  • Did you innovate your businesses’ goods/service offerings?
  • Did you innovate in the delivery of goods/services?
  • Did you innovate your business practices?

Nominations for the 2023 SWaMmy Honors are now open and due by April 1, 2023. Eligibility for the 2023 SWaMmy Honors are as follows:

  • Businesses must be SWaM certified
  • Businesses must be headquartered in Virginia
  • Businesses cannot be debarred from doing business with the Commonwealth of Virginia

Nominate your SWaM certified business today.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a goal to have 42% of procurement dollars go to SWaM certified businesses. While the amount varies each year, that equates to approximately $7 billion annually that is awarded to SWaM certified businesses.

Don’t miss out on your chance to reach new customers. To learn more about certifications, visit the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity’s website.

Don’t forget, the Commonwealth of Virginia issues solicitations through eVA. Learn how you can register for eVA today to find state and local procurement opportunities.


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

By Prakriti Deuja

Arlington loves to add sweetness to its nonprofit and small business community, and OpenGrants is the box of chocolates we’ve all been looking for.

And, thanks to BizLaunch, this sweet treat is free of charge to ALL users. With three dominant and dynamic databases already in stock, adding OpenGrants only further candy-coats the data Arlington offers.

OpenGrants, a grant finding database, is an all-in-one platform that helps you find grant opportunities across the nation. A tool that is free easy to use with a simple login you create, the dashboard is user-friendly and catered completely to you. The way it works? Fill out some information about yourself and your nonprofit or business, and grants will come find you!

Once your dashboard is configured and complete, you can easily access unique features of the resource. From finding a grant writer to assist in making the grant writing process easier to creating an organized panel with your projects consolidated into one page, this database is one that was created with you in mind.

Used (and loved!) by more than 12,000 grant-fingers and experts, OpenGrants has created an effective and personable hub for start-ups, small businesses, and nonprofits alike. Access to webinars and news pertaining to grants can also be found across the website, in addition to the many other tools available from the site alone. If you’re looking for access to capital, OpenGrants is free to use and ready to find grants just for you.

A free account with OpenGrants can be created at For any questions about the database listed, feel free to contact BizLaunch Administrative Specialist, Prakriti Deuja, at [email protected].


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

This is part of a series on how to sell to the Government. Upcoming pieces in this series will cover areas like contract vehicles, small business set-asides, unsolicited proposals and more. See more on Bidscale’s blog, BidBlogs.

By Bidscale Staff 

Did you know that the U.S. Federal Government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services?

Yearly new contract spending has hit $680 billion. From spaceships that orbit the moon to ballpoint pens, those funds ensure the U.S. Government (USG) has everything it needs to run smoothly. That money can also change lives and invigorate communities. Large contracts and a steady customer can alter the trajectory of a business and provide jobs in economically disadvantaged areas.

The Federal Government understands the impact of its purchasing power and its ability to achieve socioeconomic goals. Every year it sets aside billions of dollars for small businesses, minority-owned companies, and more, though rarely, if ever, depletes all the funds.

If the money is there, why doesn’t every business sell to the Government? The short answer, it’s hard; it takes time and background knowledge. On average, a Government contractor goes through 18 months of researching, planning, developing, and defining before winning its first contract with the Department of Defense (DoD), the largest provider of Federal contracts. Many companies have to hire contracting experts to guide them through the process, a role that can cost upwards of $85,000 annually.

On the bright side, slowly but surely, more tools and resources have emerged to help guide businesses through this process. It’s a win-win; the Government gains access to innovative solutions and products, while businesses gain access to Government funding. So what do you need to know to get started?

First, a contract is how the USG buys products and services. It’s a legally binding agreement that allows a Government entity to purchase something for “the direct benefit and use of a Government agency.” These contracts are regulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), an essential but complex set of guidelines.

According to the General Services Administration (GSA), there are three steps a company must take to potentially win a contract. “Find available opportunities with the Government relevant to their business capabilities, make necessary preparations for bidding on a GSA contract, submit an offer.” This is the overarching approach to this process, but administrative steps must be taken before you can even start searching for available opportunities.

Step 1: Obtain a CAGE Code

Issued by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code is a five-character ID number necessary when being awarded a contract by the Federal Government. It’s free to get and/or update this code and can be done online through the DLA. If you run into any roadblocks obtaining a CAGE Code, there’s an email contact ([email protected]) and or a number (877) 352-2255 that can be called for assistance.

It’s also possible to just register for and click “No” in the section regarding the CAGE Code, meaning your entity will be assigned a CAGE Code following the registration. There are some restrictions to this that the GSA has outlined.

Step 2: Register with

Now it’s time to register for or, The System for Award Management. It’s the official USA Federal contracting website and is free to use, and anyone can create a user account on Except in rare circumstances, if you want to apply for federal awards as a prime awardee, you need a registration to bid on government contracts and apply for federal assistance.

It’s quite the process to sign up, but has an excellent FAQ page to assist with any roadblocks. The registration process with will also provide you with a Unique Entity ID (UEI) which has taken over for the DUNS Number. If you would like to read more about the transition, has posted extensively about it.

Step 3: Market Research

Market research is crucial before searching for opportunities. It’s a step you need to take upfront, but it’s also a step you will consistently need to come back to throughout your time selling to the Government. Competition for Government contracts can be tricky, so learning about the space and finding a niche is vital. Market research is an extensive topic. Check back with Bidscale’s blog, BidBlogs, as other parts of this series will be dedicated to market research.

Coming out of market research, you will want to start looking for opportunities. The Government signs millions of contracts each year, so finding a contract your company could fulfill can be daunting. Opportunity searches can be performed through, as it’s required that contracting officers post all opportunities on this website.

Another great tool that just hit the market is Bidscale Connect, which pulls all opportunities posted to and reposts them immediately. Unlike, Bidscale Connect uses an AI-powered search, which steadily hones in on users’ preferences as they use the platform, ensuring only relevant opportunities are pulled to the top of search results. It’s a streamlined way to search, ultimately saving users time, which can be used in the actual proposal writing process.

These basic steps will help your company start selling to the Federal Government, but there’s still plenty more you need to find success in this space.

To learn more about federal, state or local procurement opportunities, reach out to BizLaunch to schedule a BizLaunch consultation in the new year. Check back with Bidscale’s blog, BidBlogs, for upcoming posts covering market research, small business set-asides, small business tricks and tips, unsolicited proposals and more.

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

The largest indoor holiday market is coming to Arlington December 17-18 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City!

Brought to you by Forever Grateful Market, sponsored by BizLaunch and the Hyatt Regency.

This two-day indoor market will feature over 100 vendors from Arlington and across the DMV. Meet some of the vendors who are going to be there December 17-18:

Read More


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

This year, Small Business Saturday, the annual shopping event that encourages shoppers to support small businesses, will be held on November 26.

Since its founding in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday has inspired thousands of shoppers to support local businesses.

With consumers and businesses facing rising costs due to inflation, starting today, BizLaunch is offering shoppers 5% rewards throughout the holiday shopping season for every purchase made at local businesses in Arlington through Open Rewards. The program, a partnership between Arlington Economic Development’s BizLaunch and a technology company Bludot, is a customer rewards program that incentivizes customers to shop locally.

“Small businesses are the fabric of Arlington and truly make our community unique,” says BizLaunch Director Tara Palacios. “The Open Rewards program is one of BizLaunch’s many innovative tools that small businesses can leverage to help them during these turbulent economic times.”

BizLaunch has invested $5,000 to pilot the Open Rewards program. The funds will provide shoppers with a 5% rewards incentive, which can then be redeemed to shop again at local businesses. To participate, consumers can download the Open Rewards app from the App Store or Google Play store, shop at eligible businesses and redeem rewards by uploading a receipt or linking a payment card.

Arlington small businesses with an Arlington Business License in the personal service, restaurant and retail sectors are automatically enrolled. There is no cost for businesses or consumers to participate. Arlington small businesses that want to participate in the program can visit BluDot online.

This holiday shopping season, get paid to shop local with Open Rewards. For more information about BizLaunch, visit


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

By Guest Author, Jennifer Skow, Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development

Before the COVID-19 pandemic we were already living in an increasingly digital world. Then the pandemic made accomplishing daily tasks, obtaining information, and interacting with the world more intertwined with the internet than ever before.

Business owners without adequate capital for digital platforms or the skills to navigate technology risk being unable to compete for clients, customers, and more.

To find out if local businesses have the connectivity and the skills they need, Arlington County is conducting an online assessment called the Business eCheckup. The Business eCheckup will help the County learn about common e-commerce practices among our businesses, barriers to adopting online practices, revenue impacts, and internet quality and price. The eCheckup includes a built-in speed test for your connection.

Whether you are a business or organization that does not have adequate access or good connectivity, or you are a business with a strong internet connection and technical skills needed to leverage online platforms (or you’re somewhere in between), Arlington needs to hear from you! We encourage everyone to complete the eCheckup so we can get a full picture of Arlington’s internet use.

An eCheckup is also available for Arlington households. Both are part of a larger countywide Broadband Study to better understand the internet landscape in the County.

Ensuring local competitiveness in the use of online practices is why Arlington Economic Development created ReLaunch — to give small businesses tools to evolve and expand, despite our new normal.

Since its inception, nearly 200 businesses have received free consulting services that range from website and ecommerce development to leveraging social media and marketing and branding strategies. Through this program:

  • Arlington businesses are getting noticed — Through website development and better managing their online presence, program participants have expanded the number of customers in and outside of Arlington.
  • Businesses are navigating away from predatory behaviors and security issues — Participants learned the importance of setting up secure email addresses, gained a better understanding of cyber security and digital tools, and redirected lost profits to third parties charging for free services elsewhere.
  • Businesses are seeing their investments in broadband and more online exposure improve their bottom line — With access to capital, more digital tools, and a better understanding of online practices, many participants reduced costs and increased revenue for their business.

Share your story with us by taking the Business eCheckup or Household eCheckup — and encourage your friends and colleagues to take it as well. An investment of 20 minutes of your time will help the County plan for the future and provide needed resources for our community!


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

With more people embracing the cultures and stories of their native countries, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate our global community’s diverse businesses and entrepreneurship.

During this Hispanic Heritage Month, we will be highlighting the work of area Latin American entrepreneurs and how their cultures have inspired them to become business owners. Arlington County consists of 15% Spanish speakers; in this group of people, we can find endless stories, experiences, knowledge, and cultures.

And with some assistance from the BizLaunch en Español program, which provides business assistance to Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, quite a few of these individuals with unique knowledge and passion have turned those skills into successful business ventures.

BizLaunch en Español has worked with a variety of industries in Arlington from restaurants, cleaning companies, beauty salons, and much more. Guiding entrepreneurs on the right path has become one of the most important aspects of the BizLaunch team.

Out of the Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs who have been helped, several did not have the necessary knowledge of the English language or the tools to navigate the Internet before reaching out to BizLaunch. For that reason, the BizLaunch en Español program has been an excellent resource for people who own a business or want to open one in Arlington County.

Conveying Culture

Our Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs often highlight their unique culture through the businesses they open.

For example, Los Chamacos, Café Sazón, and other restaurants shared their gastronomy with the community. Lyon Park Barber Shop and others shared their hairstyles,  The Cleaning Crew and BEJ Cleaning Services shared their work ethic and responsibility when cleaning houses. And, La Union Grocery, Garden of Dreams, and MTB’s Early Enrichment Center shared their passion to serve the community. These are just a few examples of many other entrepreneurs who used their own culture’s values, beliefs, and styles throughout their businesses.

In the same way that these entrepreneurs have shared their culture with the community, BizLaunch en Español is focused on being able to share all available resources easily and directly. Reliable information is crucial for people who have a dream to excel in this country. Therefore, having access to a program in Spanish has been very rewarding and helpful for entrepreneurs of Hispanic nationality.

What is next?

During Hispanic Heritage Month, we can see the triumph of Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs in the United States. Some say guidance from a coach is an essential tool in reaching their business objectives.

Entrepreneurs can also take full advantage of the various resources offered by BizLaunch en Español. To learn inspiring stories from entrepreneurs in the area and utilize of all BizLaunch resources, we invite you to our Brunch and Business: Celebrating Dynamic Hispanic Entrepreneurs, where we will highlight successful Hispanic-owned businesses in Arlington through a panel discussion.


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This article was posted on WTOP News and written by Vanessa Roberts as part of BizLaunch’s collaboration with WTOP News on Small Business September.

Although budding businesses in Arlington have long had BizLaunch as a stalwart partner, the county organization radically reimagined itself in several ways during the pandemic. And many of the changes it made to help small and midsize businesses survive are here to stay, says Director Tara Palacios.

“The pandemic I don’t think was on anybody’s bingo card,” Palacios told WTOP during Small Business September. “We did not know that this was going to happen.”

Palacios created BizLaunch within Arlington Economic Development 20 years ago with the goal of providing local government resources to small businesses and startups. “It really is a local municipality wanting to support its local small businesses so that they can thrive, survive, succeed, grow and build sustainably,” she said.

We talked with Palacios about BizLaunch programs and asked how they help SMBs launch and succeed. During the discussion, she shared ways that BizLaunch has evolved over the past two years and where it’s going next to continue its mission to help local businesses grow.

BizLaunch Flex 1: Engage with small businesses and underserved communities any way possible.

BizLaunch is no stranger to using digital and social tools to reach entrepreneurs and business owners in the community. It connects with people on all social channels, even TikTok, Palacios said. But it upped its game during the pandemic.

“We had to get extremely creative,” she said. “We were out putting up yard signs about our grants, about different marketing promotions and programs that we were having. And believe it or not, people were getting in their cars, they were seeing the yard signs, and calling and reaching out.”

It reinforced the importance of being adaptable. Palacios pointed out that it’s unfortunate when a business shares that it wished it had heard about a program or a support service available.

“The way we were using social media prior to the pandemic has shifted, and how you use search engine optimization and how you get your content out there is so different,” she said.

BizLaunch Flex 2: Ensure even the smallest businesses are digitally savvy.

“We were worried about the businesses that were used to having a storefront and people coming to the storefront,” she said. “With the stay-at-home orders, the whole way people buy products and services shifted.”

At first, BizLaunch focused on establishing new programming, webinars and educational materials to help SMBs learn how to market themselves in this new environment. But it increasingly began also expanding technical assistance so the businesses could establish online storefronts and offer other ways to sell and deliver their goods and services.

Given that many small businesses are micro businesses with often just a handful of employees, the organization also partnered with Amazon Web Services to help businesses design websites and ecommerce tools to compete in the world’s new normal, Palacios said.

“It’s very come as you are. Don’t feel that you need to be an expert. We’ll bring the experts to you, and we’ll help you through the process,” she said. “It’s been great. We’ve had about 200 very diverse entrepreneurs go through the program, and they have gone viral. They’ve had influencers come and visit them because now they’re discoverable. That’s been a lot of fun.”

Plus, it’s not a one-and-done program. BizLaunch gives each business a marketing and branding guidance book and a technical tactics book. It also continues to connect with businesses after the initial design and development phase to provide support, Palacios said.

BizLaunch Flex 3: Help SMBs create financial resiliency to pivot and be ready for future challenges.

A continual issue for startups and small businesses throughout the pandemic has been access to capital, Palacios said. It was why Arlington Economic Development immediately established grant programs. But access to funding has continued to be a chief challenge for SMBs, she said, and having a solid financial foundation is critical for resiliency and long-term success.

“On our horizon is looking at programming where we can educate people no matter what background, color, creed you are. We want to be able to help empower women-owned businesses, BIPOC — Black, indigenous and people of color communities — everyone to understand what you need to do to access capital and make that process very transparent and very understandable,” she said “We’re going to be doing a lot of work in this upcoming year on whether it’s debt equity, or venture funds, or whatever it is that you’re looking to do.”

To discover more insights for entrepreneurs, startups and SMBs shared during WTOP’s Small Business September, click here.


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

With summer ending and students getting ready to head back into the classroom, we thought we’d highlight one of Arlington’s newest childcare centers, Wonder Kids Learning Center.

Founded this year, Wonder Kids Learning Center is a Spanish immersion childcare program offering high-quality care for children between zero and five years old. Started by Paulina Enriquez, who also serves as the center’s director, Wonder Kids Learning Center is more than a business.

It is a place to contribute to children’s lives, providing a loving environment. Here they can learn a second language, develop skills and techniques to manage their feelings while respecting diversity, and love and value themselves. “My company is a result of my experience and passion for education,” says Paulina Enriquez.

Having worked in the County for the last 20 years, Paulina is no stranger to Arlington. “I chose Arlington because I am very familiar with the services, childcare regulations, neighborhoods and the needs of the families in Arlington,” says Enriquez.

“The most challenging aspect of opening my business has been the permits and regulations that affect my particular industry,” says Enriquez. However, to help her navigate the regulatory environment, Paulina sought support from BizLaunch.

Paulina worked with Tara Palacios and one of our SCORE counselors Richard Rose to help launch her firm. “Mrs. Palacios guided me from the beginning in the right direction to create my business and take it from an idea to reality. Even more than her knowledge of the regulatory environment, her kindness and encouragement helped me to achieve my goals,” says Enriquez.

“I am so proud to help Paulina open the Wonder Kids Learning Center. She is so committed to the Arlington community and worked so hard to open the center to take care of Arlington’s youngest members. Wonder Kids is a beautiful addition to Arlington, and we welcome the team with open arms,” says Tara Palacios, Director BizLaunch.

Of course, developing a business plan and finding a suitable commercial space for a childcare center doesn’t come without its challenges.

For help, Paulina turned to Richard Rose, a Washington, D.C. SCORE counselor.

“Richard Rose was my business mentor who worked with me to make my business plan and budget ‘one of the best,’ he told me. He guided me in my bank loan application, selecting realtors and attorneys and connected me with additional resources to establish my company,” says Enriquez.

As many entrepreneurs know, starting a business is a journey, with many stops along the way. For Paulina, starting Wonder Kids Learning Center was no different. “My favorite story was when my business mentor explained the process and said it will take 18 months or more to open; I was thinking, why that long,” says Enriquez. “However, he was right, it took us 18 months to get here, and everything happened as he said it would.”

For more information about Wonder Kids Learning Center, visit, or join us for their grand opening at 12 p.m. on September 10, at their location in Ballston at 907 N. Quincy Street.


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