Small Business Week Aims to ‘Educate, Celebrate, Accelerate’

Organizers of Loudoun Small Business Week are hoping to draw on the success of previous years, and put the county’s small business community in the spotlight for all it has to offer.

For Vanessa Wagner, the small business and entrepreneurship manager at the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development, and her Small Business Week team, preparations for the 2017 event, the sixth annual, started last May.

“It’s an opportunity to uniquely celebrate Loudoun County,” she says of the May 15-21 schedule of events.

And doing that within the guise of its constantly growing small business community means getting a pulse from its entrepreneurs and executives on what they would like to see featured during the week. Wagner also takes into account what types of inquires the Department of Economic Development receives from its business community throughout the year, including what challenges they are facing and what questions do they have.

Armed with that data, Wagner said her goal for 2017 was also to highlight some of the emerging industries within Loudoun. The craft brewing industry gets its moment in the sun, with a Tuesday, May 16, panel discussion and movie screening. The emergence of unmanned aircraft, i.e. drones, and the opportunities it presents businesses will also be the focus of a Friday, May 19, educational panel.

Another new addition to the events roster is a daylong conference to kick off the week’s festivities. The Small Business Conference on Monday, May 15, will feature educational workshops on managing and growing a small business and networking opportunities that include breakfast, lunch, and an evening mixer and resource fair.

The daylong conference is an opportunity to catch some small business owners who may not be able to make it to multiple events throughout the county in a week, Loudoun Small Business Development Center Manager Eric Byrd said.

“In years past, we have had multiple educational opportunities throughout the week that were in different locations throughout the county and happened on various different days within the week. We noticed last year that can become a problem for small business people—they either don’t get to go to the events they want to or they get to go to all the events but they don’t get any work done,” Byrd said. “… we said let’s put them all together and have a full day of education right at the beginning of the week.”

The mid-point of the week, Wednesday, May 17, contains the annual Leesburg Business Appreciation Awards, an important opportunity to “celebrate the success of the small business community,” Wagner says. And the week concludes with the weekend-long Spring Farm Tour, where the rural economy gets its time in the spotlight.

Leveraging its army of community partners has been essential in spreading the word to the growing business community about the events that are available not only during Small Business Week, but throughout the year.

“If they don’t know about the resources they don’t know to use them,” Wagner said. “The county has done a fantastic job of supporting entrepreneurial assets and they are here for entrepreneurs to utilize. And it’s my job to add more of those resources.”

In her three years of helping to run Small Business Week, Wagner said this is the first time she’s received daily calls and emails about the planned events.

“That’s a testament to the growth of Loudoun County,” she said.

Wagner emphasizes the importance of attendees registering for events ahead of time. Some events are free, while others have a nominal cost.

The daylong Small Business Conference has a $97 fee, which includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks during the evening reception.

To register or for more information on the conference, go to loudounconference.com.

For more information and to register for other Small Business Week events, go to loudounsmallbiz.org.

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

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