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.
Last week, 15 entrepreneurs spent two days training in a business “bootcamp” hosted by the BizLaunch team of Arlington Economic Development.
They came from Arlington and around the D.C. area to learn how to use software to simplify business operations, file their taxes and learn how to market their product or service, among a host of other skills entrepreneurs have to figure out for themselves.
Realtor and Arlington resident Miranda Carter came to hone her business’ value proposition. She is preparing to launch a business building net-zero emissions, sustainably finished accessory dwelling units that may have a small footprint but don’t sacrifice luxury.
“For me, it’s been good at clarifying and filling in the blanks for things I haven’t thought through,” said Carter. “I knew I needed discipline, and this would force it on me to come back with a viable plan in two days. I know I’m one of those people who’ll have a good idea but won’t do anything about it. It forces me to take action instead of having a plan for five years. I’m hopeful this takes off.”
Carter, who has showed homes to potential buyers and undertaken environmentally sustainable home renovations for years, said the program helped her identify her target customer, refine her elevator pitch and learn how to track metrics.
Another attendee, Yvonne Tazem, spent two decades selling cosmetics before deciding to launch a Vitamin C serum that would work on her sensitive skin. It has since been featured in Vogue and she’s now working on a full line of products. She signed up to learn more about online marketing and also came away with some software she could use to simplify how she tracks online sales.
“I love the ability to give women the option to wear makeup or not,” she said. “Makeup should be a choice. You should be able to have beautiful, healthy, glowing skin without it.”
Carter and Tazem are examples of subject-matter experts who need help with running a business, said Alex Held, AED’s Small Business Manager and the event’s organizer.
“They come to us because they don’t know what they don’t know,” he said. “We help them avoid expensive missteps and start on the right foundation.”
Registration for the free event “sold out” in minutes due to the number of people who recently quit their jobs to start their own businesses, and are part of an ongoing economic trend dubbed the “Great Resignation,” said AED spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. It was the first time AED has offered something like this in 15 years.
The two-day conference was funded with American Rescue Plan Act funding, but the plan is to make it a permanent offering from AED twice every calendar year. The economic development division partners with Boston-based Revby, which works with municipal and state governments across the country to help small businesses with marketing, online presence and finances.
Most small-scale entrepreneurs couldn’t afford these services on their own, said Michael Aparicio, Revby’s founder. He added that Revby partners with small business owners for six to eight weeks.
“We put a lot of attention on the experience someone has with us, not just the deliverable,” because “there’s a lot of emotion” around running a small business, he said.
Revby has been working with Helen Jackson Waldron on a website for her company, Sew Time, through which she teaches sewing to kids and adults. Right now, she teaches adults through Arlington Public Schools, but her goal is to have her own physical location.
Waldron says she comes to AED’s offices at 1100 N. Glebe Road in Ballston “all the time” for the various services it offers small businesses.
“This place is awesome,” she said. “Cara and Alex are right there when you need it. A lot of people, they don’t realize it’s here.”
Often, O’Donnell said, people are surprised to learn AED programming and services are free for users. The added benefit of a program like this is that people from outside Arlington may decide to launch their business here.
Tazem, for instance, lives in Maryland but is often in Arlington as she expands her skin care brand.
“Some businesses come to us and say, ‘I don’t want to start in Maryland, I want to start in Arlington because there are more resources,” Held said.