FCEDA celebrates 5,000th participant in Entrepreneurship 101 workshops for new businesses

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) celebrated the 5,000th participant in its Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County” workshop series on Tuesday.

The FCEDA recognized Esther Clark of Ellipsis Education Inc. as the 5,000th attendee since the workshop program began in 2003. This month’s workshop coincided with the celebration of National Small Business Week.

Clark is applying her science background and talents as a writer, producer and editor to her company, which she started in McLean in 2017. “I started the company six months ago and I am excited to be here to learn what I need to know for the company to grow,” she told other attendees.

Part of the FCEDA’s mission is to build a diverse and innovative business ecosystem. One of the ways it accomplishes that task is to offer the E101 seminars, now conducted in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity and the Fairfax County-based Community Business Partnership.

The free workshops provide an overview of start-up basics, including county licenses and permits, state workforce and training programs, and federal financing and certification resources.

Clark, a member of the U.S. international sport rocketry team for 10 years, came to the morning workshop with an exceptionally strong foundation. With a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania and experience teaching science to children in multiple countries, her goal is to help people of all ages learn science through documentary and dramatic film production.

Many attendees come with less experience or less-refined concepts, but all share a vision of business success. The E101 series helps entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds avoid common missteps while creating networking opportunities with others starting companies in the county.

The seminars typically draw more than 30 new participants each month. Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the FCEDA, said he is gratified that so many entrepreneurs and business people have attended the workshops.

“These are people who wanted to start their own businesses, whether it is in retail, importing and exporting, or technology services,” Gordon said. “To me, it is very satisfying to know that there are thousands of businesses that have become even more successful than they might have otherwise been due to this program.”

Brenda Brown and Tammy Phipps are examples of entrepreneurs who have benefitted from the E101 experience.

“The class taught me what I needed to know about licensing and how to access county resources to complete the monumental task of building the physical space to house my company,” said Brown. CEO of Frontier Kitchen in Lorton, which provides co-working space for food service providers including food trucks and caterers. “Not only was that information valuable to me, it has paid off exponentially in assisting all the new entrepreneurs that I coach and work with. From concept to the stage we’re in, as an established company, the FCEDA continues to be an essential resource.”

Phipps, president and CEO of the Driver Rehabilitation Center for Excellence in Chantilly, also utilized lessons learned from E101.

“It turns out there is no [universal] road map for business startups,” Phipps said. “All entrepreneurs know they need to create a business plan, search for a location and find funding. But even if you have a degree in business, it’s difficult to navigate the process in its entirety. We discovered that what we didn’t know would prove to be our biggest obstacles.

“This workshop not only gave us the resources we needed to obtain licenses, permits, certifications and financing, it provided us with a network of support that has been invaluable. We learned things like how to obtain small-, minority, and women-owned certifications and what, specifically, is required to do business in Fairfax County.”

Karen Smaw, director of business diversity at the FCEDA, designed the workshops to include multiple sources of information for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Sessions usually are held the first Tuesday of the month and take place at FCEDA headquarters in Tysons Corner. The remaining workshops for 2018 are scheduled for June 5, September 11, October 2 and November 6. For more information and registration, click here.

Time magazine called Fairfax County “one of the great economic success stories of our time.” Business growth and innovation helps Fairfax County fund one of the nation’s most prestigious school systems and other public services that contribute to the quality of life of residents. Fairfax County offers businesses a state-of-the-art infrastructure, access to global markets through Washington Dulles International Airport, a vibrant investment capital community and a highly skilled and well-educated workforce.

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 Corner, Fairfax County’s largest business district, the FCEDA maintains marketing offices in six important global business centers: Bangalore, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Seoul and Tel Aviv. Follow the FCEDA on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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