(Washington, DC) – The DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) and the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) awarded 21 DC entrepreneurs today with new tools to better integrate technology into their business operations. The event marked the culmination of the 10-month Small Business Success Project with awards ranging from iPad tablets and Square cash registers to laptops and client relationship management (CRM) software.
The integration of low-cost technology tools can help small businesses with fewer resources work smarter and thrive in today’s digital economy. Since November 2012, the Small Business Success Project has connected more than 200 DC entrepreneurs with the skills and tools to advance their business goals and remain competitive in the digital economy. A majority own businesses in Wards 5, 7, and 8, where research based on the 2010 Census reveals that a significant digital divide exists as broadband adoption is below 40 percent.
"The Small Business Success Project is a fantastic example of how the public and nonprofit sectors can work together for the greater good of broadband inclusion to assist local businesses and further strengthen communities,” said Rob Mancini, District Chief Technology Officer.
By integrating technology, DC small business owners are now poised to boost their sales, efficiency, and market share given the significant number of potential customers online. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, approximately 78 percent of adult U.S. internet users look for information online about a service or product they are thinking of buying, 71 percent buy a product, and 37 percent rate a product, service, or person using online rating systems.
Through a host of trainings – a mix of classroom instruction and online webinars in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese – on topics including basic computing, website development, social media, and CRM software, LEDC helped entrepreneurs get comfortable with technology tools. Many businesses also received technical assistance in areas including business planning, loan assistance, and website development to strengthen their businesses.
“Technology is one of the most powerful game changers for small businesses today,” said LEDC Small Business Development Director Marla Bilonick. “By integrating social media and technology into their day-to-day operations, our Small Business Success Project clients are able to work smarter and faster and are reaching new markets in the District and beyond.”
Twenty-one DC-based businesses received hardware (including laptops, tablets, square registers) and software (including Quickbooks, Microsoft Office, CRM software, or Point of Sales Systems) to complement their new skills and education. Roughly 40% hail from Wards of 5, 7, and 8; 81% are women-owned businesses; 6 own day cares, 3 own food businesses, and 12 represent a wide array of professional services (life coaching, commercial refrigeration, transportation) and retail offerings (aquatic supplies, knitting supplies, beauty).
In August 2011, Ward 5 business owner James Jones started DMV Aquatics, an online fish store specializing in tropical crayfish. A fish hobbyist from an early age, he turned a personal passion into a professional opportunity. Through the Small Business Success Project, James registered for a Square cash register and an iPad tablet to accept credit card payments from his customers. By developing a social media platform to promote his expertise, fish, and equipment, James has used technology to improve his customer service for his growing customer base. “The tablet is going to allow me to take care of a lot more business because I travel a lot,” James says. “I’m also going to be able to let my clients that pay for tank maintenance use credit cards instead of having to go to the bank because I don’t accept personal checks.”
Connect.DC was established by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) of the District of Columbia Government to draw attention to the advantages of technology and collaborate with government, nonprofit and corporate entities to advance citywide broadband access and education initiatives. Connect.DC is funded by a combination of OCTO resources and two American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants—State Broadband Initiative (SBI) and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)—through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the United States Department of Commerce.
Working families deserve to live in affordable homes and own successful small businesses – but too many are unable to turn these dreams into a reality. The Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) equips Latinos and other DC-area residents with the skills and financial tools to create a better future for their families and communities. Participants in our programs learn how to buy and stay in their homes, take control of the decisions affecting their apartments building, and start or expand small businesses. For more information, please visit http://www.ledcmetro.org.
Ash Kosiewicz (202) 425-1303
Jill Melnicki (202) 442-3201