Prince William County’s Department of Economic Development (PWCDED) celebrates Business Appreciation Month in May. The 2022 theme Re!magine recognizes the resiliency, ingenuity, and creativity of the Prince William County business community.
Whether you are starting a brand new business or have been a small business owner for many years in Prince William County, consider scheduling a one-on-one meeting with Clarice Grove, PWCDED Small Business Development Manager.
Watch Clarice's video and read some of her answers below to the most frequently asked questions from small business owners.
How do you define a small business?
Here in Prince William County, we learned that we needed to define a small business a little differently than the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) does. The SBA defines small businesses (for most industries) as entities with fewer than 500 employees, but we generally define a small business as having fewer than 50 employees.
And 95% of businesses in Prince William County have fewer than 50 employees. Small businesses can range from neighborhood retail shops and other professional services to home-based childcare providers and consultants.
What is the goal of the Department of Economic Development Small Business program?
Our goal is to focus on building relationships with small business owners in the county and providing resources to help them grow. We want to help them connect all of the dots. It can be chaotic to start a business. There is so much to do just to get open, such as figuring out financing, site selection, zoning regulations, and occupancy permits. We want to provide one central place for someone to go to help them navigate all the departments and subject-matter experts they need to work with.
When did you start doing these one-on-one meetings with small business owners?
We began to revamp our small business program in early 2020, about two weeks before COVID-19 changed everything. We wanted to take the pulse of business owners, no matter where they were in the process—brand new or in operation for a while; an at-home business or a brick-and-mortar establishment; or an employee-based business versus a solopreneur contracting business.
Do these one-on-one interviews with businesses help the county figure out what resources small businesses need?
Absolutely! As we continue to talk with businesses, we have tailored our COVID-related programs based on what business owners are telling us. During the worst of the pandemic, businesses were struggling with their leases and needed help with their rent. That led to our Restore Retail grant. Now we know our businesses are struggling to hire qualified staff, so we reestablished the ELEVATE program, which helps unemployed people get the training they need for the jobs that businesses need to fill.
How has COVID-19 changed the way your department functions now?
The pandemic accelerated the need for us to build relationships with businesses across the county. Their needs were great, and we were able to build trust with them when we could put them in touch with the right resources. We continue to try and meet businesses where they are.
We recognize that our businesses are diverse and that requires a diverse portfolio of programs and services that cater to their unique needs. Our staff try to remain mindful of barriers, such as language barriers or technology barriers. Businesses should feel welcome and comfortable engaging with their local government, and Prince William County is at the forefront for fostering a pro-business environment.
In addition to setting up a one-on-one meeting with you, how else can small business owners learn about what the county has to offer?
Sign up for our newsletter! It’s the #1 way to keep informed about the new programs we have available. Our email updates provide the latest program announcements.
Also, explore the pwcded.org website, read this blog (including posts like this one about our entrepreneurial ecosystem) and follow our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) for information on many of our current services and updates.
What do you wish small business owners and entrepreneurs knew about what the county has to offer them?
We want to hear from you. Our county programs and resources depend on input from our small business owners, so we want to know what challenges you are experiencing. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with me to get connected with the right resources to help you in your business.
We welcome your feedback on what programs you need or how we could tweak the programs we currently offer. We want our business owners to know that we are here to help them succeed and expand. If we can assess where you are in your business journey, we can guide you to resources that can help you.
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