Small Business Resources: Tools for Starting and Growing a Small Business in Prince William County

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By Jane Fullerton Lemons

For those with entrepreneurial dreams, the Prince William area’s growing population and expanding  economy make this a prime location for launching a small business or start-up venture.

A look at key demographics helps explain why the area is attractive to small business owners:

  • Prince William County’s population of more than 468,000 makes it the second largest county in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Of those residents, 72% are in the workforce, 89% have a high school degree or higher and the starmedian household income is more than $101,000, according to census data.
  • In June, Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park all had unemployment rates of 2.6% — below the national jobless average of 3.8%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

For anyone considering opening the doors — real or virtual — to their own business in this thriving region, there are numerous resources to get the process started.

“For those interested in exploring whether opening a business in the area is the right choice, we can help you research who your competitors are, what sort of salary and wages you would need to budget for, and the trends, growth and forecasting for your industry — all at no cost to you,” said Katherine LaVallee,  librarian II supervisor with the Prince William Public Library System.

Here’s a look at resources and programs offered by the library and other local organizations.

City of Manassas: SBDC Programs at CenterFuse

The City of Manassas has partnered with CenterFuse — the coworking space at 9071 Center Street in Old Town Manassas — to create an entrepreneurial development center that combines shared work space, conference room rentals, business incubation and small business development services in one location.

In January, the city began collaborating with the George Mason Small Business Development Center — part of the George Mason University–Mason Enterprise Center in Fairfax — to hold weekly office hours at CenterFuse. In addition to its general business guidance and access to capital marketing, there are programs tailored to the specific needs of small retailers, restaurants and government contractors. For more information, got to masonsbdc.org.

Along with the counseling offered by the Mason SBDC, CenterFuse offers programs including:

  • Launch-A-Business business incubator program, which offers 10-week programs designed to help solopreneurs, spin-offs and small businesses succeed. For more information, go to
    centerfuse.work/lab.
  • 1 Million Cups, the Prince William chapter of this nationwide group, which meets every Wednesday at
    CenterFuse. It provides a free program designed to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs. For more information, go to 1millioncups.com/pw.
  • Regularly scheduled Lunch and Learn programs as well as Pitch Competitions. Through its partnership with the city’s Economic Development Authority, CenterFuse also offers referrals to service providers, mentors and partners for small business owners.

Most of these programs and services are available to CenterFuse members and the public for free, although some have fees associated with organizing the events and supplying the materials, according to Patrick J. Small, the city’s economic development director.

“This one-stop shop is the perfect accelerator for the city’s existing and prospective small business owners  and entrepreneurs,” said Small. “It’s location in the center of historic downtown Manassas is another shining example of our historic heart and modern beat.”

Prince William County: Small Business Focus at Brickyard

Prince William County has several programs focused on small business and entrepreneurs, administered by an integrated network of development agencies within the government and partner organizations.

The county also plans to collaborate with the Mason SBDC to provide free assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs near the I-95 corridor. The program will be located at the Brickyard coworking space that is scheduled to open at Neabsco Commons in Woodbridge this fall. For more information, go to
thebrickyard.co.

The Department of Economic Development provides a checklist of business basics, resource guide and demographic data on its website to help potential small business owners get started. For more information about the county’s small business programs, go to pwcecondev.org/small-business-and-entrepreneurs.

In addition, the Department of Development Services has instituted a small business project management program to facilitate the permitting process for small businesses. For more information, go to pwcgov.org/business-services/start-abusiness.

“Prince William County has long recognized the importance of our existing small businesses and the pivotal role they play in setting the foundation of the county’s robust economy,” said Chris M. Price, deputy county executive. “Without question, we are excited to be able to provide services that will allow them to continue to thrive.”

Prince William Library: The MAGIC Ingredient

The Prince William Public Library System provides small business resources as part of MAGIC, the Management and Government Information Center.

The program has specialized staff and resources to help community members start or grow a business, retrieve industry information, seek grant funding, or access laws and regulations. MAGIC is located at the Chinn Park Regional Library. You can learn more on the library’s website at pwcgov.org/government/ dept/library/Pages/magic.aspx.

In addition, MAGIC offers free business-related programs for the public. For a schedule, go to the library’s home page at pwcgov.org/government/dept/library and click on events.

Upcoming programs include:

  • You’ve Started Your Business: Now What? – Montclair Community Library, multiple dates:
    • How to Start Your Own Business, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
    • The Marketing Plan, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m.
    • Doing Business With the Government, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m.
  • Protecting Your Business – Montclair Community Library, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m.
  • Introduction to Grant Proposal Writing and Project Budgets – Chinn Park Regional Library, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.
  • Financial Planning – Montclair Community Library, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.
  • Is Starting a Nonprofit Right for You? – Chinn Park Regional Library, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.

“We want to be your community resource to provide you with timely and accurate information so you can make informed, educated decisions,” said LaVallee.

Additional Small Business Development Resources

There are several other organizations aimed at helping area residents start or expand small businesses, including the following:

  • The Virginia SBDC Network is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration, George Mason University and a variety of local organizations, including universities, chambers of commerce and economic development groups. It offers a wide variety of resources for starting or expanding a small business, including business management counseling and training programs. For more
    information, go to virginiasbdc.org or call 703-277-7703.
  • The nonprofit Community Business Partnership provides education, technical assistance, business incubation services, and access to capital and networking opportunities to small business owners and entrepreneurs in Northern Virginia. For more information, go to cbponline.org or call 703-768-
    1440.
  • The nonprofit Enterprise Development Group provides refugees, immigrants and low-income community members with access to loan capital and help improve their general business skills. For more information, go to entdevgroup.org or call 703-685-0510.
  • SCORE — a nonprofit that’s a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration — offers a network of volunteer, expert business mentors, as well as online workshops on topics ranging from startup strategies to marketing and finance. For more information, got to score.org or call 800-634-0245.

Jane Fullerton Lemons (jlemons@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer and journalist. A longtime resident of Prince William County, she holds an MFA from Goucher College. Follow her work at janefullertonlemons.com and on Instagram.

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