Perhaps no one in Loudoun County is more of an expert at ribbon-cuttings than Chamber President Tony Howard.
Since taking up the reins of the Chamber of Commerce in 2006, Howard has witnessed hundreds, if not more than 1,000, of them. With oversize scissors in tow, Howard and other political and community leaders have welcomed just about every type of business into the county with an event that is part celebration and part marketing tool.
He’s seen ribbon-cuttings with hundreds of attendees, and others with just a handful. And some along the way have stuck in his memory.
Howard recalls one ribbon-cutting in particular that he admits he wasn’t at first excited about attending. It was a rainy Saturday and he had family in town from which the event was taking him away. On top of that, he didn’t realize the new comic book shop, Comic Logic, was on the other side of the shopping center from where he parked. And so he arrived, wet, weary and a bit annoyed.
“I turned the corner and saw something that really changed my attitude,” he recalls.
Stormtroopers. A roller derby team. Costumed superheroes and comic book legends.
“There had to be 100 people there. It was a party. It was hilarious. So much so that even after it was over I stuck around to check [the store] out,” he said. “I thought that was the funniest scene of anything I’ve ever seen before or since.”
Howard also remembers all the ribbon-cuttings he’s attended since the One Loudoun development opened. He was there to celebrate the opening of the temporary visitor’s center and to help open nearby roads, and to help break ground, along with then-Gov. Tim Kaine, on the town center. But it is an aspect of the Alamo Drafthouse ribbon-cutting sticks out in his memory.
“[Alamo] has a tradition; they open a bottle of champagne. This guy takes a saber and he opens it up. The dude did it flawlessly. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty cool way to open up a business’,” he said.
For those new, or soon-to-open, businesses, Howard offers a few pointers on how to execute the perfect ribbon-cutting. The first, and perhaps most important, question a business owner needs to ask is, “how big of a party does a business want to put up,” he said. With that answer in mind, Howard shares the following tips:
- “Recognize it for what it is—it is a photo-op and marketing tactic. This is your opportunity to let the world know you’re here.”
- “Invite as many people as possible. If you join the Chamber, we can bring people to your event and pack them in for the ribbon-cutting and photo-op.”
- Take the ribbon-cutting picture in front of your business’ logo. “Have something in the background that conveys this is what that business is about. You should instantly recognize from the scene that they’re in that this is what the business is.”
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a quality ribbon-cutting. Howard suggests providing a few refreshments and making sure you get the word out about your event. Working with the local media to spread the word is a good idea, he said.
- Have fun. “It’s supposed to be a party. If people go and it just isn’t memorable you haven’t achieved what you set out to do.”
- After the ribbon-cutting, Howard recommends sending a ribbon-cutting photo and accompanying press release to local media. “You are trying to break news, so please make it news …add any element to it that makes it more newsworthy and catches the editor’s eye.”