If you’ve spent any amount of time in or around Arlington’s local businesses, you’ve more than likely enjoyed the fruits of Tara Palacios’s labor. Working as the Director of BizLaunch in Arlington Economic Development (AED), Tara and her tenacious team of six colleagues have dedicated themselves to providing access and opportunity to even the smallest of Arlington’s businesses.
“Everyday is something different, unique, and fun. We work with people that are just starting their businesses. It’s the first time they have really talked with someone about it and they are so excited, but they are so humble at the same time. For anyone to come and share their dreams and their future–it’s priceless,” Tara explains.
BizLaunch supports businesses by promoting shopping locally. As we get closer to the holidays, Tara wants to remind everyone of the importance of shopping locally. Tara tells us about this year's Open Rewards program. She shares, “What I absolutely love about Open Rewards is that when people shop locally they get so much back from the receipts . . . As people are shopping, they see places they love on the listing, shop at the store, and then they upload their receipt to get some funding back. It really is to incentivize and encourage people to shop locally.”
But that’s not all Tara and her BizLaunch team have to offer Arlington this holiday season. Tara tells us about the recently launched Small Business Directory. She says, “We have uploaded about 4500 + small businesses that are located throughout Arlington County. The businesses can claim their business and then they can add different promotions that they may have, job openings, upload photos, add their hours–they can really personalize it. So when people search it's deeper than just claiming your google. It’s extremely robust. We are really thankful to Bludot for creating it and doing the geo mapping.”
Through this Small Business Directory, folks can also search for and shop in LBTQA+ friendly spaces or support women owned businesses over the holidays. “You can pick and choose the location, but you can also pick based on other values when you are shopping,” explained Tara.
As if all these programs weren’t enough, Tara goes on to explain the myriad of other offerings through BizLaunch. “The biggest thing that came out of the pandemic was our Relaunch Program. We saw legacy businesses who were impacted by the pandemic–they needed the capacity to sell online. They had to pivot,” Tara explained. Quickly jumping into action, AED hired a consultant who provides up to 13 hours of assistance to businesses on things like strategic planning, pivoting to ecommerce, negotiating their lease, or marketing and branding. After going through this program Arlington businesses walk away with, not only new found knowledge and direction, a website or e-commerce site.
Palacios explains some of the programs further saying, “We have business intelligence and market research databases that we in Economic Development underwrite and we’ve partnered up with our friends at Arlington Public Library, so all you need is a library card and you can access these databases 24/7.Additionally my co-worker, Prakriti, will sit down with you. Many people who start a business might not know how to find the research or understand where to get this information…Prakriti will sit down with you and work you through it.”
“I’m really proud of the Open Grants database because you can create a dashboard for your industry sector for grant opportunities. If you need assistance they have someone who can help you- a grant writer or an expert in the grant writing space and it's either free, pro bono, or you can pay a stipend depending on your needs and budget,” Tara explained. People can access and get real time data including pricing. “Sometimes people really devalue what they are doing and we are here to say ‘Don’t do that!’ Making sure that the pricing that you are coming out with is competitive with industry standards,” said Tara.
Tara and her team at BizLaunch are working tirelessly to ensure Arlington's businesses thrive. To learn more about what they are doing for our community or to engage with any of their programs, please visit any of these links included above or go to their website.