Friday, May 06, 2016

Six Years & Counting: The HIVE 2.0 Small Business Owners Make a Difference in Wards 7 & 8

This week was DC Small Business Week. And as a small business owner myself (and advocate for small business) I thought today would be a good idea to highlight some of the small business owners east of the river. To start, I am going to include profiles of some of the small business owners at The HIVE 2.0 -- the ONLY small business co-working space located east of the river. The HIVE 2.0 hosts free small business and entrepreneurship works, provides free small business technical assistance and provides below cost office and meeting space -- they have even provided business loans for local businesses in need. I had the pleasure of launching The HIVE in 2010 and worked for years as the Managing Director for five years when I was with ARCH Development Corporation. During that time I had the pleasure of working alongside 100's of amazing Ward 7 and 8 business owners and watched them develop and succeed. Their presence in the community was (and remains) significant and invaluable. Hands down one of the best times of my life were working with small business owners from my own community. In many ways, the the presence of so many minority and women-owned businesses owners is what made The HIVE and The HIVE 2.0 so special.

Businesses like CayBri's Cupcakery

While "diversity" is one of those buzz words that are tossed around to justify this or that it was amazing to see that Ward 8 could have a place made up of people who reflected the community -- of people who reflected me and my experience as a woman minority.  And to that end I was happy to say that when I worked at The HIVE and The HIVE 2.0 we spent all of our energy working with and for our small business owners. That was the most important thing, not focusing our efforts looking like we were doing a great job -- but actually doing the work. I would joke that sometimes I was a much better advocate than marketing maven because it was much important for me to make a difference than a headline. It wasn't about looking like we were the saviors of the east of the river community but realizing that small business owners were the key to east of the river's revitalization and they deserved the benefit of all of our resources (no matter how limited they may be). The successes attributed to the Anacostia business district today could directly be tracked to the hard work and investment of the small business owners, nonprofits and community stakeholders that saw the potential in Anacostia years and decades ago and acted on it -- before it became fashionable (or frankly profitable) to do so now. 


Example of some of the regular programs and workshops
at The HIVE 2.0


To be honest, not all of The HIVE businesses were "sexy" according to DC's tech focused yardstick.  While there were tech innovators in the traditional sense, many of the business owners at The HIVE & The HIVE 2.0 were more modest and practical but they were no less important, no less vital to DC's economy. In many ways they spoke directly to the many needs east of the river has to fill. Particularly because the small business owners who base their operations east of the river actually have skin in the game -- have literally put their hearts and souls in this community. And weather they are black, white, male, female, gay or straight, rich or poor that is to be applauded. Anyone who steps out on faith -- and sometimes no more than that -- and puts their life and livelihood on the line deserves our respect and our appreciation. They deserve our heartfelt acknowledgement. 

All that aside, at times I saw things that damn near broke my heart. The public promises of partnerships with big name "innovators" that never seemed to materialize. The offers of government support that always seem to be cancelled at the last minute. The initiatives that were allegedly created to include east of the river businesses but never seem to last beyond the press conferences. The funding that always seemed to flow west of the river that was intended to support east of the river businesses in their own community. 


These were/are times that my frustrations would turn to tears and my tears have me questioning the sincerity of DC's commitment to east of the river and those were/are my darkest hours. The crushing disappointment of hoping for more in a program (or person) can be pretty hard to reconcile.

And although I haven't worked at The HIVE for over a year I am still a member, my own small business is based there. I am so proud of the work being done at The HIVE and The HIVE 2.0 and the business owners that passed through those doors and the impact they have east of the river, DC and beyond. They don't always get the attention, honors, press conferences and funding they so readily deserve so I want to take a moment here to highlight their achievements in some small way. To salute them.

Hopefully it will lead to a little more understanding and a lot more genuine support. They deserve nothing less than the best. 

P.S. Don't miss out on this upcoming event at The HIVE 2.0

Wed, May 11, 2016
Noon - 1:30pm
Capital One Business Bankers Lunch & Learn
Allowing you the opportunity to participate in a discussion about your small business banking needs.
To register: http://ow.ly/4nncyG


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