Build It With #FairfaxEDA event salutes and advises small businesses of opportunities for growth and success

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) celebrated National Small Business Week by hosting a half-day workshop, featuring award-winning financial planner Ric Edelman as the keynote speaker.

The FCEDA designed the May 8 event, Build It With #FairfaxEDA, to help small businesses grow in Fairfax County. Small-business experts presented information, tools and ideas to help companies get off the ground and prosper.

“This is a pretty exciting place to live and to build and grow a business,” said Edelman, whose Edelman Financial Services started from scratch in Fairfax County in 1986 and has expanded to include 180 locations and about 1,400 employees nationwide. ‘If you could pick pretty much anywhere in the country that you wanted to start a business, I would have to argue that Northern Virginia and, in particular, Fairfax County, is probably the place to be.”

Antonio Doss, U.S. Small Business Administration district director, provides opening remarks at the FCEDA’s Build It With #FairfaxEDA workshop. (Photos, FCEDA)

Edelman based that assessment in large part upon Fairfax County’s highly educated workforce, proliferation of high-tech businesses, proximity to Washington, D.C., and government operations and tourism as well as geographic considerations including the mountains, ocean and three international airports within easy driving distance.

“The economic opportunities — the technological opportunities that exist that make it cheaper and easier to start a business and run a business, have never been greater,” said Edelman, who urged the audience to consider longevity in terms of business sustainability financial planning, which is becoming more complicated with longer life expectancies.

Edelman also noted that philosophies of entrepreneurs and financial planners sometimes conflict. “In business you have to be agile,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to be responsive to competition, to technology, to regulation, to consumer demands. You have to constantly change and update your business so that it remains viable. That’s the exact opposite approach that you need take with personal finances. You want to hold onto your investments for very long periods of time.

“Also, in business, you need to focus all of your energy, all of your time, all of your money on your business if you’re going to succeed. That is the exact opposite approach that you want to take on a personal finance basis. You want to diversify your investments. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.”

Providing the event’s opening remarks, Antonio Doss, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Washington, D.C. Area Metropolitan Office, noted that Fairfax County is home to more small businesses than any other jurisdiction in Greater Washington. Karen Smaw, director of business diversity for the FCEDA, said that 94 percent of the county’s businesses are small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Click here to learn more about Ric Edelman’s thoughts on investing and on doing business in Fairfax County.

Doss said that small businesses are the sign of a strong economy.

“Each year, this is the week we celebrate all the great work that small businesses do, the impact they have on our economy, the way they help us with our lifestyle, the support they provide to government and big businesses and the innovations they provide,” Doss said. “All those things are reason to celebrate, not to mention that small businesses are really the ones that help create all the private sector net job growth.”

Advice to small business attendees came from a variety of featured speakers. Jen Dalton, CEO of Brand Mirror, urged attendees to clarify their brand identity before launching a full-fledged marketing campaign. Dalton also echoed a key piece of Edelman’s advice: to target specific customers.

“The customer wants to hear ‘how can you help me?’” Dalton said. “You have to be very specific about who you can help and how you can help them…Be specific to be terrific.”

Meaghan Kiefer, business experience partner, Office of the Fairfax County Executive, informs the workshop audience about county rules and regulations.

Other speakers at the event included: Talmar Anderson, CEO of Boss Actions; Rosemarie Salvino, COO of business messaging platform Gravatate; Karlene Sinclair-Robinson, assistant director of the Business Finance Center at the Community Business Partnership; Meaghan Kiefer, business experience partner, Office of the Fairfax County Executive; Theresa Rhodes, FCEDA manager of business research; and Stephen Tarditi, FCEDA commercial real estate manager.

Catherine W. Riley, interim president and CEO of the FCEDA, observed that Build It With #FairfaxEDA was a chance to not only salute small business and take note of the array of resources the county and the FCEDA provide to help startups succeed.

“Success for your business really means success for Fairfax County,” Riley said. “We are here to help because quality of life is such an important part of economic development. The kind of services we provide to help promote small business, including those that are minority-, woman-, and veteran-owned, are about building success within our community and, ultimately, that quality of life that we all enjoy.”

The FCEDA presented Build It With #FairfaxEDA in conjunction with the Fairfax County government and FCEDA partners: the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, Community Business Partnership, Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Small Business Administration, Virginia Hispanic Chamber, and Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity.

In conjunction with National Small Business Week, on May 7 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors proclaimed May 5-11 as Small Business Week in Fairfax County.

The award-winning Fairfax County Economic Development Authority promotes Fairfax County as a business and technology center. The FCEDA offers site location and business development assistance, and connections with county and state government agencies, to help companies locate and expand in Fairfax County. In addition to its headquarters in Tysons, Fairfax County’s largest business district, the FCEDA maintains marketing offices in six important global business centers: Bangalore/Mumbai, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Seoul and Tel Aviv. Follow the FCEDA on FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.