Q&A with Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce Chairman Samuel Wiggins
In recognition of National Black Business Month, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) interviewed Samuel Wiggins, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce (NVBCC). Located in the same suite of offices as the FCEDA in Tysons, NVBCC is a partner organization of FCEDA, and a member of the Multi-Cultural Chambers Alliance, along with the Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber.
The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to the growth and development of its member partners and those businesses that wish to partner with them. The Chamber’s goal is to facilitate the economic empowerment of Black-owned businesses in Northern Virginia and promote growth and development of the region.
Sam Wiggins is the Chief Executive Officer for Wiggins Advisory, and the Chief Operating Officer for Soteryx Corp. Sam has over 25 years of experience in executive leadership, security, and risk management. His expertise in the management of projects, people, and resources spans both private and government sectors.
Sam’s distinguished career includes extensive government service. He has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency. He was a United States Federal Agent from 2002 to 2017. During that time, he served as the Special Agent in Charge of an executive protection detail for a member of the President’s cabinet; worked with the National Joint Terrorism Taskforce, and served as the Associate Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Homeland Security.
Since taking the helm as Chairman in January 2022, Sam has led a variety of initiatives on behalf of the Black business community. At NVBCC, Sam focuses on the continued pandemic recovery efforts for its membership, as well as its traditional functions, including advocacy, education, networking and events. FCEDA asked Sam a few questions in this interview, which is condensed for brevity. Find out more about the NVBCC at www.northernvirginiabcc.org.
FCEDA: How does the Chamber help Black-owned small businesses in Northern Virginia?
Sam Wiggins: We are able to offer businesses a variety of programming and services, including strategic initiatives that will help them grow. For example, from the pandemic to the present, part of our focus has been on recovery initiatives and connecting our members with the resources that they needed to get their businesses back on their feet.
We continue to develop a pipeline of programs for businesses, including education and training, business development, and resources to help them thrive.
We are also advocates for Black-owned businesses. We have built strong working relationships in our state government as well as cities and counties in Northern Virginia as part of our advocacy efforts. We work with the federal government. One of the initiatives I personally took part in before and after becoming Chairman involved meeting with the Office of Small Business and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for each agency or department in the federal government. We also have a great relationship with Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner.
FCEDA: What does your Chamber do to promote National Black Business Month?
Sam Wiggins: In addition to our regular initiatives, we have a special dedication for Black Business Month on our website. We ask businesses and individuals to support Black businesses. Click here to access the NVBCC directory of Black-owned businesses.
We also take pride in celebrating Black-owned businesses, especially during National Black Business Month. We recently held a jazz event to celebrate the success and the need to support Black-owned businesses.
And finally, we have a monthly digital magazine dedicated to the success of Black-owned businesses: Thrive Magazine. Click here to view the magazine.
FCEDA: How does the Chamber partner with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority?
Sam Wiggins: As you mentioned, we are located in the same suite as the FCEDA in Tysons, which is quite convenient since we work so closely together. We communicate regularly, especially with Karen Smaw, the Director of Diversity Business Investment and Entrepreneurship at FCEDA. Karen provides valuable information for us about FCEDA programs and initiatives. One of the biggest things the FCEDA does for us is sponsoring the Multicultural Chamber Alliance. Through that and other projects, we collaborate on activities to support economic growth in Northern Virginia and the success of Black-owned businesses.
FCEDA: Tell us about the success of Black-owned businesses in the region.
Sam Wiggins: The Commonwealth ranks number one for Black entrepreneurship. I think that organizations like FCEDA and the Chambers present a great environment for Black businesses.
In Fairfax County, alone, the numbers are great in terms of Black business owners, and minority businesses altogether. In the whole of Northern Virginia, the economic impact of these minority businesses is just amazing. Black-owned businesses bring a lot of money to the table for Northern Virginia. They also create an economic bridge in the region. Most Black-owned businesses are small and community-based. And once they become successful, they tend to hire within the community. Their employees then see that they too can be successful being an entrepreneur. This creates an incentive to emulate what those businesses have done. So that is a bridge to the entrepreneurial path, actually, a network, which is what we’re about: the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce.
FCEDA: Do you feel like a lot of the Black-owned businesses are still struggling at this point because of the impact of the pandemic?
Sam Wiggins: I think that there are lingering impacts that may take as long as a decade to recover from. I mean, once you get hit with an economic setback, you have to rebuild those funds. You have to rebuild those earnings and re-invest in your business. And that leads to the one major problem still facing Black-owned businesses. They don’t have the same access to resources, like investors, bank loans, or a reservoir of funds that non-Black business owners have. So it is an ongoing struggle.
FCEDA: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Sam Wiggins: If you really want to support Black businesses then join our organization and become a member. We are composed of primarily Black-owned businesses, but anyone else is always welcome to join. Please consider visiting our Directory to support Black-owned businesses. And join us at our events. If you can’t come to our events, please consider donating to our organization. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) nonpolitical organization. Every donation we get we use for helping Black-owned businesses.