Spotlighting Fairfax County’s Black-owned companies

Fairfax County has long prided itself on being a welcoming, inclusive community, and this is reflected in the diverse business community that makes the county the economic engine of the Washington, D.C., area. During Black History Month, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is proud to note that the county is home to 639 Black-owned employer firms — businesses with payrolls. That is the highest number of any locality in Virginia, according to the most recent Annual Business Survey published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

These businesses generated $1.8 billion in annual revenue and employ more than 11,000 people, the Census Bureau reports.

Black-owned businesses in the county range from Thompson Hospitality, which is based in Reston and is the largest minority-owned food service and one of the largest retail food and facilities management companies in the nation, to The St. James, a 450,000-square foot athletic and wellness center in Springfield, and GoOats, which began in Lorton and developed a healthy oat-based snack and whose creator appeared recently on “Shark Tank.”

The economic downturn created by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a higher toll on minority-owned businesses. In response, the FCEDA has worked with hundreds of businesses to help them bridge the pandemic through local, state and federal assistance programs. The Fairfax RISE program approved by the county Board of Supervisors provided grants to more than 4,800 businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Some 72 percent of the businesses were minority-, woman- or veteran-owned.

Last August the FCEDA teamed up with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner to present a webinar on helping minority business people gain access to capital and other business resources.

“Fairfax County has a notably diverse business community – it is one of the county’s biggest assets and we are proud to celebrate it,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the FCEDA. “At the same time, we recognize the additional difficulties that Black- and minority-owned businesses have faced in the last year. We have been honored to help so many Black-owned businesses and small businesses of all kinds survive the pandemic, and we will continue to do this work to help them be stronger when it is over.”

The FCEDA’s Business Diversity Division assists the region’s minority business community by offering a range of services, including a free monthly workshop, Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County, to help startup businesses get off the ground.

As part of the E-101 workshop on January 12, Karen Smaw, director of the FCEDA’s Business Diversity Division, interviewed Nahum Jeannot, who refers to himself as “Chief Oatmeal Officer” of GoOats. He appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on October 23rd to see if he could get an investment in the company. During the show, Jeannot, who had been working as a chef at the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner before the pandemic, pitched the product to the Sharks and got a bite from Barbara Corcoran.

“I was born to be an entrepreneur. Cooking and eating food are two equal passions of mine,” Jeannot told Smaw. “Beginning in my early teenage years, I had the opportunity to step into leadership whether that be in inner city restaurants or luxury hotels. As I continue to build my company, GoOats, not only do I get to inspire and empower my team and those around me, but I also get to create truly innovative foods the entire family can enjoy.”

Click below to see the full interview with Jeannot:

Virtual Black History Month program to be held on Friday, Feb. 19

In celebration of Black History Month, Fairfax County, in partnership with Cox Communications, proudly presents the first virtual Black History Program, taking place on Friday, Feb. 19 from 7-8:00 p.m.

Explore Black history in Fairfax County and honor Black perseverance and resiliency through speakers and entertainment. Tilly Blanding, retired Fairfax County social worker, will emcee the event, which will also feature:

The program can be viewed on Channel 16 or via live stream by clicking here. After Feb. 19, the event can be viewed on demand.

February 11, 2021