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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Three Ballston Plaza

A sponsor for Arlington’s premier youth soccer league is helping girls hone their skills as players and coders.

Tim Yang, who owns an online coding school called 355Code, has been hosting classes for members of the Arlington Soccer Association Girls with Goals program this year.

Girls With Goals is a free, six-week after school club that helps low-income families at select elementary schools in Arlington Public Schools participate in sports. It aims to break down barriers to participation, including cost and transportation, while increasing membership in the soccer league.

Yang, who liked the mission of the program, decided to offer his services as a coding coach during a six-week session this spring at Drew Elementary School.

“I felt Girls with Goals was a great program and wanted to connect further,” he told ARLnow.

Tim Yang provides coding coaching to two girls through Girls with Goals (courtesy Jerome Boettcher)

Yang says elementary school students are the “perfect age” for the first stages of instructional coding.

In the last session, Yang — who has previously worked as a software engineer for the IRS, the bank Citigroup and Nike — conducted 45-minute classes. Girls warmed up with 15 minutes of typing, moving to 15 minutes of computer activities and then 15 minutes of theory connection, reflection and discussion.

After witnessing the girls’ passionate, dedicated attitude and persistence, Yang says he hopes to continue hosting classes for Girls with Goals this fall.

“The girls are great — they work very hard,” Yang said. “There is no reason not to [continue].”

The coding lessons were in part possible through the partnership Girls With Goals has with the Extended Day after school program through Arlington Public Schools.

Christyna Haskins, a program assistant supervisor, says coding was new to the girls and they love it.

“Every day they come in asking if he is coming today,” she told Arlington Soccer Association. “They really do enjoy it. Some of the girls said they want to do coding as they get older. So it has opened new doors for them.”

Yang offers classes for Javascript and Python to students from grades 4-12. This summer, he is offering a Javascript course for one hour a week, on Zoom or in person at 901 N. Glebe Road, according to the Arlington Soccer Association.


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Three Ballston Plaza

After raising tens of millions of dollars, Ballston-based catering startup HUNGRY says it is on the verge of being profitable.

Last week, the company — which partners with chefs who prepare meals for offices and events — announced that it raised $10 million in possibly its last fundraising round. HUNGRY has raised $60 million to date and is now valued at $270 million.

A number of professional athletes, including players from the Portland Trail Blazers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans, contributed to HUNGRY’s $10 million Series C1 funding round.

The company has also received funding in previous years from rapper Jay-Z and comedian Kevin Hart.

In a statement, co-founder and CEO Jeff Grass he is proud that HUNGRY has attracted the attention of big-time investors and leading investment funds.

“It’s a recognition of the unique strengths of our business model and how far we’ve progressed since inception in late 2016/early 2017,” he told ARLnow. “It represents a step-up in valuation during a time where average valuations have fallen a great deal. It also represents investor confidence in our team and a recognition that, with Return-to-Office driving accelerated growth in office catering, we’re a fast growth company in a fast-growing industry.”

Indeed, Inc. 5000 has recognized HUNGRY as one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies.

Since the recognition last summer, the company has been setting new sales records monthly, Grass said. The company also acquired NatureBox and now delivers health-conscious snacks to offices in a bid to lure workers back to the office after Covid and the embrace of remote work.

HUNGRY founders Eman Pahlavani, Shy Pahlevani and Jeff Grass (photo courtesy HUNGRY)

The startup has expanded to 13 U.S. cities, according to its website. The chefs and meals available vary based on the location of where the order is placed.

Through this expansion, Grass emphasized the importance of HUNGRY’s Arlington roots.

“Most of our senior leadership team works out of our Arlington office,” he said. “We’re proud of where we come from, as Arlington provides us access to some of the best talent in the country.”


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARMnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Three Ballston Plaza. 

Legroom while traveling tends to be limited. With small pockets on the back of airplane seats to store belongings, one tray that opens to set things in front of you and no cup holder. Passengers can be uncomfortable for hours.

However, a Clarendon resident’s product is working to change that.

The Airplane Clip by FLYGA — previously known as the Sip n’ Clip — was created in 2017 to benefit travelers.

The product clips to an airplane’s backseat tray table — in its upright position — to hold drinks and provide more leg room, or to be used as a phone stand to watch movies on during a flight, owner and inventor Seth LaPierre said.

The Airplane Clip by FLYGA (photos via Seth LaPierre)

He explained how his company and product have changed since last speaking to ARLnow, when the clip first gained traction on Amazon and in airports.

The first change LaPierre made was transitioning to a new product name that aligned more with the one product and its use.

He also landed a deal with 40 Boxes, the website linked to the Deals & Steals segment on Good Morning America.

“They liked my product and wanted to make a deal,” he said. “This is hopefully a good first step to eventually get the product on an episode of Good Morning America itself.”

In April, LaPierre was able to sponsor the Airport Customer Experience Symposium by giving away branded clips with the event’s logo. This led him to gain Freeman, Deloitte and the Charlotte Airport as new clients.

The local inventor says he also received “verbal yeses” from Peet’s Coffee and InMotion’s National Airport locations, as well as the San Diego Airport to test sales of the product in their stores.

After setbacks due to Covid, LaPierre expressed his excitement over travel resuming post-pandemic since the official launch of the clip in 2022.

LaPierre started his company in Arlington and explained how influential the county has been in the creation and success of the clip.

“My product was designed throughout my journeys flying out from DCA. Access to that airport and living in Arlington were instrumental in my design process,” he said.

The attractions in the D.C. area allow for Arlington to be a hub for business travelers and tourists.

“Being a travel product in an area with so much travel has been… important for my business,” he said.


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

(Updated at 2 p.m.) Participants in a county-led tech pilot program graduated on Friday and nearly all of them have jobs lined up already.

The Arlington Talent Pilot Program, hosted by Arlington Economic Development, began in 2022 as a way to bridge the workforce gap in the tech industry, according to AED. It got its start with funding from the Covid stimulus package dubbed the American Rescue Plan.

It provides on-the-job training to aspiring software engineers who miss out on  interviews owing to a lack of job experience.

During the program, the participants had temporary, full-time paid roles at the software company Exelaration and received mentorship from company developers.

AED says the company, which provides software solutions for organizations of all sizes, is the second-best tech and engineering internship provider in the U.S.

Working for Exelaration, participants saw an average pay increase of 26% and an average of 11 more hours per week of work. There were 11 participants — including one from Alexandria, who was admitted though technically separate from the program for Arlington residents. All 11 participants completed the program and 80% have jobs.

Local and state officials attended a graduation luncheon on Friday to congratulate the participants and stressed the need for more programs like this one, according to a press release from Exelaration.

The dignitaries present included Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey, Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola and Rep. Don Beyer, as well as Exelaration CEO Steve Cooper.

“This program works because Northern Virginia companies stepped up to be clients of the program,” Cooper said during the event, per the release. “Our expert-led teams, staffed with our new engineers, built valuable working software that clients desperately need.”

Arlington Talent Pilot Program participant Eric Enkhbold Bayarsaikhan and Exelaration CEO Steve Cooper (courtesy Exelaration)

He praised Arlington for meeting a regional shortage of tech workers. The region is also pinning its hopes for a larger tech workforce on the forthcoming Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria.

“NoVA’s tech leaders said they needed experienced tech talent and Arlington is delivering it,” Cooper said.

AED highlighted the program and its participants in a recent video.


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Arlington-based fintech company Rize Money was started seven years ago with a simple goal: to help consumers navigate the opaque world of financial services.

Although CEO Justin Howell steered the company from serving people to fintech and technology companies in 2021, the underlying point of simplifying transactions stayed the same.

“Our goal was to break down the barriers between various financial siloes and enable financial user experiences that were simple and intuitive,” he tells ARLnow.

One service it offers is an “embedded payments platform,” which companies can use to provide customers with a seamless experience paying for a service, like an Uber ride, without leaving its application to make the payment.

But Howell had goals beyond what Rize could achieve on its own as a startup, though it raised several million dollars in early financing rounds.

Justin Howell Headshot - High Rez
Rize Money CEO Justin Howell (courtesy Rize)

The biggest opportunities we see in the market require a level of scale that is very difficult to achieve on a standalone basis as a startup,” he said.

Enter Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank, which acquired the startup as part of its goal to capitalize on emerging technology in the banking sector. The Washington Business Journal first reported the move.

“While there will certainly be changes moving from a stand-alone venture-backed startup to one of the largest banks in the U.S., working with the Embedded Payments team will enable us to remain tech-first; only now we’ll be more equipped than ever to have a lasting impact on the sector,” he said.

Howell is optimistic about joining forces with a banking institution that is staying on top of market trends by acquiring fintech companies.

“Fifth Third brings the scale, Rize Money, Inc. brings the technology, and by joining forces, we’re able to meet the needs of the best clients,” he said.

He said his goal is to make embedded finance a “mainstream reality” and that Tom Bianco — general manager of embedded payments at Fifth Third Bank — and his team are the perfect partners for reaching this goal.

Through the acquisition, Howell intends to add to his team of staff.

“We will rearrange the structure of our team as we integrate with the Embedded Payments team, but our team will only grow,” he said.

Howell says Rize will have succeeded when it is “attracting the largest clients and growing the high-margin revenue base.”

“Joining Fifth Third means we’ll have 100% alignment among the tech
platform and the bank as we conquer the space,” he said.


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Arlington-based entrepreneur Elodie Cally will be in New York this week showcasing her clean, sustainably made products at a trade show focused on non-toxic beauty brands.

Cally will be displaying the cleansing balm, serum and men’s aftershave from her brand, Elodie’s Naturals, at Adit Live, which connects makers like Cally with retailers as big as Costco and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The chance to network with household-name retailers is a big opportunity for Cally, who currently sells her wares at Virginia Mercantile in Clifton, Slow Down Market in D.C., Atlas Bodyworks in Falls Church and Pura Piel Skincare Studio in Annandale. Her eventual goal is to sell through third-party platforms that focus on sustainable products, such as Credo.

Cally started Elodie’s Naturals in response to the need for clean, non-toxic skincare in the United States, getting her start by running camps teaching children how to make organic skincare. Now, she offers classes to kids and adults as well as ready-made products, which she began developing in the last two to three years.

A French lab has tested all her products to ensure they meet standards for products sold in France. It is a high standard high in her home country, where people talk of le bombe toxique when discussing the list of chemicals and hormone disruptors in everyday products — from skincare to furniture glue to cleaning supplies.

In America, by contrast, skincare brands are not similarly regulated or have as stringent product testing requirements.

“When you put a product on the market, there’s no regulation in the U.S.,” she said. “In France, you need to go through so much testing.”

That is starting to change, however. She is starting to see a shift among her American customers, who are beginning to care more about what goes into their products and the packaging they come in.

“People want to know it’s healthy for them and good for the planet,” she said. “It’s a good trend, I love it.”

Elodie Cally of Elodie’s Naturals skin care (courtesy Elodie Cally)

She notes that her customers 50 and older frequently request details about ingredients, as they want to know what they’re putting in their bodies.

That may be plum oil, shipped directly to her door from France, but it won’t be the more than 2,000 ingredients banned in Europe, of which most are permitted in the U.S.

“The less you use, the better (the product) is,” Cally said.

Her younger customers, meanwhile, are attracted to the sustainability of the packaging. Many send their used products back to her or by way of the stores where she sells her products.

“Almost every week, I have a bag on front of my porch from people giving back to me the containers so I can recycle them,” Cally said.

She says her minimal ingredient list and sustainable packaging will be points in her favor at Adit Live. The retail expert assigned to Elodie’s Naturals by Adit Live told Cally the brand will stand out among other clean skincare businesses attending the show, where she hopes to land a contract with a retailer as well as press from attending magazines, including Glamour and Elle.

For Cally, going to New York City culminates months of work.

“It’s challenging to be honest, it’s been a year and a half to make this product,” she said. “Not only developing a formula but also the manufacturing process — it’s very difficult, very technical.”

Elodie’s Naturals hyaluronic acid serum (courtesy Elodie Cally)

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

An Australian company with its American headquarters in Arlington says it is part of the fight against online radicalization.

Fivecast is a software company specializing in mining intelligence from publicly available data, which is also known as open-source intelligence.

The company, with its U.S. headquarters in Courthouse at 2311 Wilson Blvd, recently raised $20 million that it will use to further develop its products, hire some 50 employees, expand into new markets and meet a surge in demand for its services in the U.S.

That demand, the company says, is driven by a need among law enforcement agencies for better intelligence to counteract radicalization happening on the internet.

“Within the U.S., there are specific areas of high demand for Fivecast solutions: U.S. law enforcement are looking to address the growing challenge of violent extremism and online radicalization exacerbated by the continuing divisive U.S. political environment,” Marketing Director Monica Brink told ARLnow.

In recent years, scholars, media outlets and government agencies have increased their focus on how online forums and communities expose young men to extremist ideologies and radicalize them to these causes.

The increased attention comes as extremist-related murders actually have been trending down — from highs in 2015 to 2019 — but the number of murders committed by far-right extremists has gone up, according to a report by Anti-Defamation League. (The mall shooter in Allen, Texas, for instance, is said to have had neo-Nazi sympathies.)

A connection between social communication platform Discord and far-right extremism, in particular, is also firming up. Most recently, the government seemed blindsided by the fact that a young man could — and did — leak classified documents in a Discord channel where he and other young users talked about guns and posted offensive memes.

Fivecast says understanding these online havens for extremist thought and getting ahead of threats is hard and growing more difficult.

“An increasingly complex and growing threat landscape combined with the sheer volume of data available online make it extremely difficult for intelligence teams across both the public and private sector to collect, filter and analyze data in a timely way,” Brink said.

That is where its product comes in.

Fivecast runs a platform that collects and analyzes publicly available information for tasks such as identifying violent extremism and foreign influence operations as well as countering terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, she said.

Private companies and public agencies turn to the company’s platform for help surmounting growing obstacles to protecting communities and businesses from threats.

Fivecast co-founders (left to right) David Blockow, Ross Buglak, Brenton Cooper and Duane Rivett (courtesy photo)

Fivecast says there is an ongoing need “for insider threat detection, large-scale security vetting and protective security” across U.S. government operations — and this is one reason it settled in Arlington.

“Fivecast chose Arlington due to the high demand for our open-source intelligence technology within the U.S. government sector as well as the talent available within the intelligence industry in this region,” Brink said.

“Arlington is well suited to our overall company mission of enabling a safer world,” she continued. “The business environment here is filled with government agencies who have a similar mission and understand the value of applying the latest AI-enabled risk analytics technology to address important intelligence challenges and keep communities safe.”

Outside of the U.S., Fivecast operates in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Together, these five countries comprise what’s known as “Five Eyes,” an alliance among the countries with roots in intelligence-sharing activities during World War II and the Cold War.

The company says it intends to use its new funding to grow its presence and staffing in Australia, the U.S. and the UK. It also intends to get into new markets, including corporate security and financial intelligence.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

A Rosslyn-based startup says it is on a mission to help companies adopt artificial intelligence responsibly.

The company, Trustible, announced in mid-April that it emerged from “stealth” — a quiet period of growth and initial fundraising — with an “oversubscribed” $1.6 million in “pre-seed” funding, tech news outlet D.C. first reported.

That money will go toward hiring employees and improving its government compliance solutions. These are aimed at helping companies demonstrate they are following emerging government regulations, such as those poised for adoption by the U.S. and the European Union, per a press release.

As this technology rapidly improves, companies worldwide are racing to adopt and adapt to it. In that haste, however, Trustible founders Gerald Kierce and Andrew Gamino-Cheong worry organizations could wind up not complying with government regulations and unleashing harmful applications of AI.

“AI is becoming a foundational tool in our everyday lives — from business applications, to public services, to consumer products,” they wrote in a blog post last month. “Recent advances in AI have dramatically accelerated its adoption across society — unquestionably changing the way humans interact with technology and basic services.”

Trustible founders Gerald Kierce, left, and Andrew Gamino-Cheong (courtesy photo)

Companies ramping up their use of AI are entering uncharted waters, however. The founders say these organizations have to answer tricky questions like whether AI can be biased and who is liable AI breaks the law or produces results that are not factual. They worry about misuses such as wrongful prosecution, unequal health care and national surveillance.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” they say. “Despite good intentions, organizations deploying AI need the enterprise tools and skills to build Responsible AI practices at scale. Moreover, they don’t feel prepared to meet the requirements of emerging AI regulations.”

That is why demonstrating trust in AI will be key to it being adopted successfully, say Kierce and Gamino-Cheong.

“Many of the challenges we’ve outlined require interdisciplinary solutions — they are as much of a technical and business problem as they are socio-technical, political, and humanitarian,” per the blog post. “But there is a critical role for a technology solution to accelerate Responsible AI priorities and scale governance programs.”

That is where Trustible comes in. It provides all the minutiae companies need — checklists, documentation tools and reporting capabilities — to adopt AI as governments try and concurrently develop ways to regulate it.

The platform helps organizations define policies, implement and enforce ethical AI practices and prove they comply with regulations, in anticipation of compliance reviews and AI audits.

Trustible logo

Already, the U.S. and Europe appear poised to adopt regulations, they say.

In the U.S., the National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a framework the founders believe will inform any pending federal regulations. Meantime, the White House has released an “AI Bill of Rights” the founders say serves as a blueprint for institutions looking to develop internal AI policies.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Anna Sullivan remembers when she used to mark out her travels on a physical map using push pins.

It helped her visualize everywhere she had ever been — but, being a map, she could not just pull it out if a friend planning a trip asked her where to visit or eat. Sometimes, her mind would go blank during these “on the fly” requests for recommendations.

“It’s hard to think back on a trip sometimes,” she tells ARLnow. “I thought, ‘It’d be cool to have this with you all the time.'”

That is how the former Ballston resident came up with the idea for Pinplanet, which she describes as a digital travel scrapbook and trip planner. While she is the creative force behind the app, Harout Boujakjian, who lives in Courthouse, handles the technical, programming side of things with a third team member, Andrew Hornstra.

Pinplanet app cofounders Anna Sullivan and Harout Boujakjian at Chichén Itzá, a Mayan archeological site in Mexico (courtesy photo)

Sullivan and Boujakjian tested out Pinplanet on recent trips to Ireland and Mexico. Now instead, of trying to remember which restaurants they ate at or excursions they went on, they can pull up locations and experiences they pinned.

“It’s nicely curated,” he said. “It’s so much easier to point people to it.”

Sullivan had been kicking around the idea since college but it never went anywhere until she met Boujakjian in the summer of 2021. They began talking about making the app that fall and had a soft launch of a progressive web application by May 2022.

“Friends and family who tested it out wanted it to be a native mobile app,” he said. “So we took the plunge and got an iOS app out in November 2022. That was our hard launch.”

Since then, Sullivan and Boujakjian have honed the app, finding and fixing bugs or discovering new features to add, while on trips to New York, Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

Next, he and Hornstra will build an app for Android, which he said is not an easy feat for such a small team, all of whom have day jobs.

Another function he aims to realize in the next year would be something like an “explorer page,” which would use pinned trips from followers — paired, perhaps, with machine learning — to generate a grid of recommended places to inspire future trips for users.

Taking a page from the book of social media and popular music platforms, Sullivan says she wants to create a year-in-review feature.

“We’re probably going to dive in more on the travel stats and figure out other ways to make it interactive and flashy — have a yearly snapshot of your travels,” she said. “We’d put together a video of places you pinned in 2023 and make that something you can share. People love that kind of stuff.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

A local data analytics company is bringing on new leadership as it plans to find new uses for artificial intelligence.

Rosslyn-based Association Analytics (1560 Wilson Blvd) hired a new Chief Product Officer and Executive Chairman, Rob Wenger, and a new Chief Technology Officer, Conor Sibley. The two men worked with Association Analytics President and Chief Revenue Officer Mark Lowry to build Ballston-based Higher Logic.

The hiring news caps significant growth in recent years, according to Chief Marketing Officer Dave Bornmann. The small company, which has north of 50 employees, doubled in size over the last couple of years. With new leadership focused on product development and expanding uses for AI, he anticipates more growth to come.

Like Higher Logic, Association Analytics works with professional societies that individuals join, largely in healthcare, real estate and STEM, as well as trade associations that companies join, he said. The company currently brings together data that is typically scattered across platforms associations use to run events and host online communities.

“These [platforms] don’t talk to one another,” says Bornmann. “We bring that together in one platform and serve up data visualization and dashboards that give insights they didn’t previously have because they couldn’t see data together.”

It uses AI to help associations predict, for instance, who might attend an event or renew their membership. That function has been critical as in-person events — the second largest revenue source after membership for many associations — resumed after Covid lockdowns and restrictions let up.

Using Association Analytics, clients noticed a trend they did not expect, Bornmann said.

“With insights from our platform, clients realized that, during the pandemic, they got people attending virtual events and paying money and then, when the in-person events came roaring back, there were segments of their membership who — it turns out — only showed up for virtual ones,” he said. “They realized they had this unmet need that got met during the pandemic by necessity.”

Up until now, Association Analytics has limited its use of AI to predicting outcomes based on available data, leaving analysis up to professionals. As the technology underpinning AI advances, the company will be looking into ways that AI can suggest actions to take based on trends.

As part of that recommendation, AI will look at what similar associations, based on size, industry or location, are doing.

“Those are the types of things that we’re starting to work with, and Rob and Conor are bringing depth of expertise in that area,” Bornmann said. “Their expertise — not only in tech but product development — and deep understanding of association industry is exciting. They’re able to step in and almost immediately get at it.”

Rob Wenger (left) and Conor Sibley join Association Analytics (by ARLnow)

Wenger founded Higher Logic and was its CEO up until two years ago. Sibley was the CTO and seventh employee, joining before the firm experienced substantial growth, acquiring a slew of companies in recent years. Both are based in Arlington and spent the last 18 months starting a company called Cloud Generation, a credentialing platform for associations.

They connected with Association Analytics CEO Julie Sciullo over their shared enthusiasm for data and how the association industry can use this information to run more effectively, Bornmann said.

“They both had an ‘aha’ moment and realized, ‘This is perfect,'” the marketing officer said.


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Arlingtonian Akilah Beavers is all about empowering women in their own homes.

She envisions a future where more women pursue careers as independent “handywomen” and even those not pursuing such work professionally feel better able to replace toilet tank parts and install new backsplashes themselves — rather than leaving these projects to a husband, boyfriend or contractor.

After seven years of planning, last year Beavers founded My Favorite Fixer, handy service and home repair referral center, to realize both these goals. She says she hopes most of her service providers will be women, but finding enough of them is a tall order.

“I am doing my best to recruit more women,” she tells ARLnow. “It’s easier for me to, of course, recruit men but that’s not my goal.”

Right now, she is visiting local high schools and trade schools to find women who are handy with tools or who want to be. She is offering a scholarship to help them buy books and pay for tuition to attend area career and technical schools.

“It’s really frustrating that there are so few women in the field,” she said.

She sees this field as an empowering one, especially for mothers, students or anyone else who wants to work for themselves and not work a 9-5 job. The lack of representation, meanwhile, can be a potential safety issue.

Akilah Beavers, the founder of My Favorite Fixer (courtesy photo)

Beavers got the idea for My Favorite Fixer after experiencing an unwanted sexual advance from a foreman in her former home in Orlando, about seven years ago.

“He was on my body,” she recalled. “It was such an uncomfortable position.”

Luckily, a friend happened to call her, which gave her a way out. The experience also gave her new resolve.

“I don’t want another woman to feel like she can’t be in her own home without being creeped out or feeling less than safe,” she said.

Women should not have to take extra precautions — such as opening doors, calling friends or going into a different room — to feel comfortable, Beavers said. For this reason, My Favorite Fixer checks potential handy people for a history of violent crime or robbery in addition to good quality work and customer service.

Ultimately, she wants to see more women take on projects for themselves, too. My Favorite Fixer will kick off a series of free classes this June for women on “the basic stuff” like changing toilet tank parts, doing preventative maintenance, gardening and changing a kitchen backsplash.

My Favorite Fixer logo (courtesy photo)

My Favorite Fixer is a side-hustle seven years in the making.

“I have learned to trust the process and everything is not going to happen overnight,” she said. “I’m just learning to trust the process, listen to customers — the ones I’m developing relationships with — to see what their needs are and listen to other entrepreneurs.”

Beavers credits Arlington Economic Development for helping her stand up a website, provide advice and help her establish a business plan.

“I have to give a shout out to [Small Business Manager Alex Held],” she said. “He really believed in me… He’s always there to point me in the right direction.”

This year, she aims to get her name out there, recruit more contractors and find more “future fixers” to take advantage of her scholarship.

“It’s my passion,” she said.


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