Support

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 www.bizlaunch.org.

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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!

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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.

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

With Arlington ranking No. 1 on American Fitness Index for the fifth year in a row and many ARLnow readers saying that they feel less fit than they were before the pandemic in an online poll, we thought this was an opportunity to highlight one of Arlington’s many fitness companies.

Founded in 2018 by Laman Ben-Trahoret, Live Laman | Fitness & Nutrition is a fitness and nutrition company that helps people reach their fitness goals holistically and healthily. “We provide the knowledge and access to follow and adhere to a fitness route. Additionally, we provide meal prepping service, helping clients to know what to eat to reach their fitness goals,” says Ben-Trahoret.

In looking for a place to locate his business, it makes sense that the fittest city in the country would be an ideal location. “I started my business in Arlington because I could see the high value people placed on fitness and wellness,” says Ben-Trahoret. “That intrinsic belief was an excellent foundation on which to base my business.”

Since founding his company in 2018, Laman has gotten active in the Arlington business community and has enjoyed being in Arlington. “The community support and opportunities to network have been remarkable. Something that makes Arlington distinguishable are the resources available to small businesses,” says Ben-Trahoret.

Of course, no community is without its challenges.

“With Arlington being named the fittest place in the country, such accolades have attracted many to the area, particularly in the fitness industry. As a small business, it’s easy to get lost or forgotten, especially by larger national brands,” says Ben-Trahoret.

Like many entrepreneurs, Laman sought out resources to combat these challenges. Laman took advantage of BizLaunch’s ReLaunch program and exhibited his meal prepping services at BizLaunch’s Brunch and Business: Celebrating the Joy of Black Entrepreneurship.

As Arlington continues to change with development and new companies calling the community home, many small businesses see this change as beneficial. Ben-Trahoret says he sees huge opportunity with major companies coming into the neighborhood and he envisions partnering with residential buildings, companies and community organizations to better facilitate wellness for Arlingtonians.

Suppose you’re an organization or person that sees the long-term value in offering and participating in wellness services. In that case, Live Laman is a great partner for you. “So much is gained beyond just the physical benefits of having a fitness routine. There are mental, social and community aspects that improve as well,” says Ben-Trahoret.

For more information about Live Laman, check out their website, and don’t forget to connect on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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

In a previous Small Business Focus, we presented information from our market research database Demographics Now. In this month’s Small Business Focus, we wanted to revisit those databases and highlight another report that business owners can access called Consumer Expenditure Food, Beverage, Grocery Detail Comparison.

How is this helpful?

If you’re considering opening a restaurant or food service venture, data from the Consumer Expenditure report can give you helpful data on average household annual expenditures on various categories such as food away from home, bakery products and alcoholic beverages. Additionally, this report provides a five-year forecast.

For example, after looking at the data, it shows that Arlington households spend more on purchases of alcohol than neighboring jurisdictions do. On average, Arlington households spent $705.92 in 2021 on alcohol purchases, whereas our neighbors in Alexandria, D.C. and Fairfax spent $651.26, $667.13 and $673.76, respectively.

So how much do households in other jurisdictions spend annually on alcohol? Here is how Arlington compares to the region regarding annual alcohol expenditures.

Therefore, if someone is looking to open a restaurant, they’d want to also serve alcohol to capture additional sales. Many restaurants opt to have alcohol because of the added markup that alcohol sales provide.

Starting a business is like running up a hill, but with BizLaunch’s free database, you have the power to make smart business decisions. Our free databases provide up-to-date information on demographics, industries and business intelligence so your small business can start successfully.

For more information about BizLaunch visit www.bizlaunch.org, or book an appointment with one of our BizLaunch experts today.

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

Joy! The word itself imbues happiness, positivity, and hope.

We need more joy in this world.

We celebrated the Joy of Black Entrepreneurship at the BizLaunch Brunch and Business on Wednesday, June 8 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City. Four Arlington business owners told the truth of their entrepreneurial journeys and shared their motivation, support, challenges and unending joy of starting and sustaining a business.

Arlington business owners Jennifer Jones of Cosmopolitan Plated; Rudy Burwell of Encompass Supply; Daniel Logan of Columbia Pike Laundry and Khadeeja Honesty of Soultry Brand spoke about their motivation and the “why,” they got into business. The entrepreneurial journeys were tough and not always easy; however, steadfastness, authenticity, a focus on customer service and doing what they loved helped them to succeed.

According to a recently released Brookings Metro Report and Path to 1555, “…if our community grew at least 15% of Black businesses, you would create in the United States 600,000+ new jobs and add $55 billion to the U.S. economy.” The importance of supporting our diverse ecosystem is a win for us all.

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On May 25, at the SWaMmy Honors in Richmond, Virginia, Casual Adventure was recognized as a 2022 SWaMmy Honoree for its legacy in Arlington going back 77 years.

“On behalf of our family, our staff, friends, and customers thank you to the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity for recognizing Casual Adventure for its history, current form, and potential,” said Stern.

Recognized as a 2022 SWaMmy Honoree for its longstanding commitment to Arlington, Casual Adventure is a family-owned small business founded at its current location along Washington Boulevard in 1945. Eric Stern currently operates the company, the fourth generation of Sterns to own Casual Adventure. In 1945, it was called The District Grocery Store, founded by Eric Stern’s great grandfather. “Our store has always been a family business focused on our community, and our staff shares this sentiment,” said Stern.

In the mid-1950s, Eric’s grandfather took over the store and changed the name to The Surplus Center. He altered the product mix from groceries and focused on Army and Navy surplus. After running a successful business for 30 years, Eric’s father took over the company, changed the name to Casual Adventure and added outdoor fitting brands.

Eric Stern has been at the helm of Casual Adventure for more than twenty years and has added sporting goods to the product mix, which many Arlingtonians think of as the Casual Adventure of today. “I’m constantly amazed by how our little footprint continues to make such a large impact. But I’m also reminded that I get to stand on the shoulders of those before me and those around me,” said Stern.

Of course, being in business for 77 years, the Stern family has seen their fair number of challenges. “Each of us faced our challenges: starting a business as an immigrant, living with multiple sclerosis, passing away from a brain tumor, staying relevant in an ever-changing society, just to name a few,” said Stern. However, each generation succeeded by tailoring the business to their strengths.

“I am honored to carry on the traditions set before me — a genuine interest and participation in local activities and organizations, a friendly and sincere engagement with our customers, an ability to adapt and overcome obstacles, and a sense of responsibility to perpetuate these life lessons,” said Stern.

For more information about Casual Adventure, stop by the store located at 3451 Washington Blvd., or check out the online store at www.casualadventure.com.

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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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