From politicians to fashion bloggers, Arlington is home to a variety of social media influencers. One common thread among them? Many run their social media feeds like a business.
Angelica Talan, a resident of the Courthouse-Clarendon area, created the blog Clarendon Moms in 2011. Talan often frequented restaurant launches or book signings in the area but noticed she was the only mother present. She created Clarendon Moms as a resource for other Arlington-based mothers to learn about these free events.
The blog eventually expanded to include travel, fitness and fashion advice, and two years later, she began to profit from sponsored posts.
“It was never my intention,” Talan said. “I really just wanted to connect people with what was going on. Never in a million years would I have guessed that you could combine your passion for writing, photography, mingling with people and connecting people, create a blog and make money.”
In 2016, Talan’s friends helped her realize she needed to create a second blog, Angelica in the City, which is geared towards single women instead of mothers. Both of Talan’s blogs strive to promote positivity and an educational purpose.
Talan’s Instagram account has 21,500 thousand followers.
The couple is very particular about the images they share on Instagram; the account now has 5,719 followers.
“On Instagram if you don’t have a good picture people are going to go right past it,” Daveport said.
They launched a website last September, which has the best places to eat, explore and buy a home. The couple started hosting events with local businesses in January.
Sarah Phillips of Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood and Michelle Martin, who lives in Los Angeles, began their fashion blog 52 Thursdays as a hobby.
Both women studied fashion in college, where they were sorority sisters. In 2013, they decided to create a business revolving around that shared passion.
“We came up with 52 Thursdays because our wine nights were on Thursdays,” Phillips said.
At first they did not share the website with anybody. Months went by and the women decided to give their web page a makeover: they organized a photo shoot at a studio and hired a professional photographer.
Now, the women partner with various brands to make a profit. They enjoy working with small businesses in Arlington such as South Block and LavaBarre. The women also offer fashion, blogging, branding and social media consultations as well.
With nearly 5,400 followers on Instagram, Discover Arlington is one of the hottest social media presences in Arlington at the moment.
The account highlights local restaurants, events and other happenings around Arlington — an engaging introduction to the county for newcomers and a way to discover new places for even long-time Arlingtonians.
Two couple behind Discover Arlington is Blake Davenport and Leah Virbitsky. Having moved here two years ago, they may not be the longest-tenured local residents, but they do have an uncommon passion for all things Arlington.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Davenport and Virbitsky about building a social following, about Leah’s event organizing background and about Blake getting his start in the competitive real estate business.
Photo courtesy Potok’s World Photography
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
College students fall asleep in class. It’s an age-old issue. But a new solution to the problem is what prompted the launch of Sunniva, an Arlington-based “super coffee” beverage business.
A couple of years ago Jordan DeCicco was that guy who kept falling asleep in his classes at Philadelphia University. The freshman tried to stay awake using the energy drinks or pre-made coffee beverages available at convenience stores, but he didn’t like all the sugar, fat, caffeine, and calories that accompanied the beverages.
He learned about Bulletproof Coffee — a blended mixture of coffee, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil — and found that it definitely gave the energy boost he needed to stay awake through class. He tried making it in his dorm room but that wasn’t really practical for a few reasons. First, making it ahead of time and trying to chill it resulted in the butter going back to its solid form. Second, it was loaded with fat from the butter. Finally, Jordan just wasn’t a fan of the taste.
That’s when he started making his own coffee drink and it seemed to be a winner. So much so that other students took notice and DeCicco began selling the drink out of his dorm room. He felt like he was onto something and enlisted help from older brother Jake, who at the time was in business school at Georgetown University.
“We’re very much accidental entrepreneurs,” Jake says. “We were just tired college students who needed an energy boost.”
Sunniva’s combination of Colombian coffee, coconut oil, and a lactose-free milk protein is a low-fat, low-cal beverage that, according to Jake, offers a longer-term energy boost compared to other products that often provide an energy spike and a crash later. Each bottle has 90mg of caffeine, which is pretty standard for an 8 oz. cup of coffee.
Sunniva is now about a year old and based out of the WeWork space in Crystal City. Oldest brother Jim is now the CEO and joins middle brother Jake in running the business, while youngest brother Jordan has gone back to school after taking a year off following his freshman year.
The business is coming full circle and targeting the very audience from which the original idea sprouted: Sunniva has found a substantial niche market on college campuses. It therefore relies heavily on digital marketing channels that younger audiences use: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and vlogs, to name a few.
“Being started by tired college kids for tired college kids, we really take advantage of this digital age,” Jake says.
The brothers often are featured in the various social media posts. “We definitely have a personality behind the brand,” Jake says. He laughs as he points out how they often go by “oldest brother, middle brother, and youngest brother” instead of by formal titles like CEO, COO, or founder.
In addition to a growing market on college campuses, Sunniva also has found a home in the cold beverage section of 32 Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as on Amazon.
The product is processed at an aseptic facility in Buffalo, New York. The business tried out different manufacturers and different modes of pasteurization before landing at the current facility. “We had to scale our business appropriately to get there,” Jake says.
Sunniva currently processes about 200,000 bottles per batch. The product now is made in such a way that it doesn’t require refrigeration before opening; it’s shelf-stable for nine months.
Sunniva’s business plan involves further expansion into other Mid-Atlantic and northern East Coast markets up to Boston, with a longer-term goal of becoming a national brand. But the goal for early 2017 is to work on more local market penetration. The brothers want Sunniva to be the “premier bottled coffee in the Washington, D.C. area.”
“Reaching profitability is not a metric we use right now,” Jake says. “Right now we’re really focused on our philosophy of ‘win where you live’ and being hyperlocal.”
The Arlington County Police Department has a new social media platform over which it can share information directly with residents.
The department is partnering which Nextdoor, a neighborhood-oriented social networking site built to connect residents in specific communities across the country.
“I believe this particular program offers unique opportunities we haven’t had in the past,” Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr said in a press conference Wednesday. “This is going to allow us to focus specifically on neighborhoods and concerns in those neighborhoods that are of interest to that particular community.”
However, Nextdoor is not new to Arlington County. According to the company, 73 of Arlington’s civic associations — about 88 percent of neighborhoods — are already represented on the network, and many have been for a few years.
For example, Marcia Burgos-Stone started a Nextdoor page for Columbia Forest shortly after she moved there.
“I wanted to know who my neighbors were, but I moved in and I didn’t really see, talk to or meet any of them,” she said. “It’s a way to help people out, plan social activities and share information. It brings people together.”
ACPD’s district teams will use Nextdoor to share crime and safety information with residents in specific neighborhoods. The department already does that by communicating with civic associations, condo associations and local email listservs, and Nextdoor is seen as another tool for getting information out to the public.
According to Nextdoor Senior City Strategist Joseph Porcelli, the department will operate on Nextdoor for Public Agencies, an interface specifically for government agencies that is also free.
“The interface allows the department to post messages to one, many or all of the neighborhoods in the county, and they can use that to inform residents about things that are happening in those neighborhoods,” Porcelli said. “There can also be a dialogue and conversation around that because it’s individual members of the departments who will be posting.”
Chief Farr emphasized Nextdoor will not be monitored 24/7 and it should not replace calling the police non-emergency line (703-558-2222) to report suspicious activity or 911 in case of an emergency.
Since residents must verify their address in order to join a neighborhood’s page, police officers and officials will not be able to see what residents post on the site — unless they’re specifically replying to a police post or including ACPD in a post.
The “neighborhood watch” functionality of Nextdoor — discussing crime and suspicious activity — is one of its most-touted features, but it has also subjected the company to criticism. Concerns about racial profiling on the site have bubbled up over the past year, in places like Oakland, California and Seattle, Washington. The phenomenon is not exclusive to Nextdoor — around the same time, some businesses in Georgetown were also accused of racial profiling on a different sharing app.
Chief Farr said the department will deal with such issues, if any arise, the same way it does on its other information-sharing platforms.
“Just like in the way you can post anything you want on our Facebook page or on our Twitter page, we don’t erase the negative comments, but we don’t engage in the negative commenting,” he said.
Porcelli said Nextdoor is aware of the issue and is working to combat it.
“We consider any kind of profiling absolutely unacceptable, and we take actions to address that with members who choose to participate in that way,” he said. “We’re working with our product to experiment with new ways to help people make sure what they’re communicating on the platform is neighborly, respectful and constructive.”
Porcelli noted that Nextdoor employees don’t monitor neighborhood activity, but said all members have the ability to flag messages they think are inappropriate. “Nextdoor leads” –neighborhood page founders and power users — also have the opportunity to remove such conversations.
At least in the case of Columbia Forest, Burgos-Stone said she hasn’t seen that kind of activity on the site.
“People are people, and people behave in certain ways, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the website,” she said. “I think it’s more important that people will feel safer and have accurate information when it comes to any kind of police activity in our area. Accurate information is the best information.”
Passenger Thrown from Minivan in Crash — Three people were hurt in an early morning crash on S. Arlington Ridge Road today. Police say a car traveling at 55 mph on the residential street slammed into the back of a minivan near 23rd Street S., causing one passenger in the van to be ejected from the vehicle. [WJLA, NBC Washington]
School Board Approves $100 Million H-B Design — The Arlington School Board has approved a concept design for the Wilson School in Rosslyn, future home of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. With a 92-space parking garage factored in, the construction cost of the school may exceed $100 million. Also last week, the School Board confirmed that it will again ask the County Board for permission to build a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson Middle School campus. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
County Facebook Post Raises Eyebrows — Democratic political operative Ben Tribbett, among others, is calling an Arlington County Facebook post about a local Democratic resolution on the Redskins team name an “inappropriate use of a government Facebook account.” Tribbett was previously hired by the team to defend its name. [Facebook, Blue Virginia]
Nine Arlington Restaurants Make Top 50 List — Nine Arlington establishments have made Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants list. The highest on the list is new-this-year Kapnos Taverna in Ballston. [Patch]
Fisette on County’s Support for I-66 Plan — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette says the county supports a plan for tolling I-66 because it is a regional compromise that’s cost effective, multimodal and not “the typical knee-jerk reaction [of] just widening roads.” Fisette notes that Arlington “was traumatized by the building of I-66 right through some of our neighborhoods” in the 1970s and 80s. [Washington Post]
Four Mile DMV Moving After Losing Lease — Dozens of angry Fairfax County residents came out to a meeting Thursday night to express opposition to a new DMV office in the Barcroft Plaza shopping center. The meeting also revealed more information on why the DMV is moving from its current location on S. Four Mile Run Drive. The DMV reportedly lost its lease due to a planned redevelopment, which has since fallen through. [Annandale VA]
More Info on Courthouse Redevelopment — We now know a bit more about the planned redevelopment of a low-rise office building in Courthouse. A 15-story, 91-unit condo building with 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail space is planned to replace the office building at 2000 Clarendon Blvd. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Arlington public school teachers will have restrictions put on their use of Facebook and Twitter. The Arlington School Board adopted a new policy at its meeting on Tuesday, June 19, setting guidelines for social media use between students and teachers.
The School Board said it recognizes the importance of social media as means for parents, students and teachers to collaborate through evolving forms of communication. However, board members noted the need for clear and reasonable boundaries for interactions between students and adults.
The policy is designed to protect students from misconduct and abuse, and to protect adults from misunderstandings and false accusations. In addition to preventing inappropriate sexual contact from occurring between students and teachers, the policy is also intended to curb harassment and bullying.
Arlington Public Schools will allow students and employees to interact via social media while in online groups, but all content must relate to classroom instruction or school-sponsored extracurricular activities. Adults will not be permitted to engage in one-on-one electronic communication with students, with an added caveat for instances of an emergency.
“One-on-one emergency contact is permissible, provided that the employee would then contact their supervisor, so that the parent could be notified as soon as possible about the reason for the exception being made, or the emergency,” said Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.
APS has defined social media as any online media that allows users to collaborate and engage in multi-directional conversations, to create personal profiles and to view the personal profiles of other users. This may include APS-approved media tools such as BlackBoard or Google. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, online forums and other social media tools generally available to the public are also included in the definition.
The policy is designed to provide guidelines for transparency, privacy protection and responsible use of social media. Some of those guidelines are as follows:
- Information about the use of any social media should be included in the classroom syllabus or extracurricular information, and department supervisors and school administration should be aware of what social media tools are being used. The classroom syllabus should include a clear statement of the purpose and outcomes for the use of any networking tool.
- Teachers/staff must ensure that the social media tools they are using have been submitted to the school administration for approval each school year. This may be an ongoing process throughout the school year, to be reevaluated annually.
- Employees should establish clear rules and expectations and a code of conduct for all network participants. Just as in the classroom setting, online rules should be established to foster an atmosphere of respect, trust, and clear professional boundaries.
- Parents should be informed of the social media tools being used, how their children are being contacted online, and the expectations for appropriate behavior.
- Employees should be aware that they will be identified as working for and representing the school in what they do and say online.
- Communications with students should be professional and appropriate within the context of the teacher/student relationship.
- Employees should not discuss students or coworkers publicly.
- Teachers should treat social media as an extension of the classroom, and should weigh every posting for how it affects their effectiveness as teachers.
- Employees may not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Caution must be exercised with regards to exaggeration, inappropriate language, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.
- All laws pertaining to copyright and intellectual property must be obeyed.
- Remember that all online communications are stored and can be monitored.
- Inappropriate communications with students in any electronic or other format may be grounds for termination and loss of the educator’s license.
- Teachers/employees have the obligation to keep all student information private.
- Users must pay close attention to the site’s security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.
APS said it will regularly monitor social media used by schools and departments. Staff found not adhering to the new policy will be subject to disciplinary actions. Before Tuesday, there was no formal social media policy in place at APS.