Ready to start that business? Prince William County has the space and services to help you succeed

“There’s something magical when businesses really know all the little nuances of starting a business. They really feel empowered as owners,” says Clarice Grove. And in her job as small business development manager for Prince William County Economic Development, Grove aims to be the one waving the wand to spark that magic.

And Grove definitely has a few tricks up her sleeve. Before she took her job helping entrepreneurs in Prince William County, she was exploring the path of being an entrepreneur herself. That journey sparked a passion to help others like herself, said Grove, who spoke about the small business support available in Prince William during WTOP’s Small Business September.

“Trying to start my own business, there were a lot of things that I didn’t know. I was just figuring it out,” she recalled. “My main priority is helping businesses get in touch with business literacy.”

It’s core help that businesses need to launch and then succeed, Grove said, noting that having a brilliant idea for a product or business has little to do with the operational aspects of running a business.

The magic and power of business literacy

Through programming and outreach launched in 2020 with the creation of the small business development program, Prince William County Economic Development aims to cover a lot of territory when it comes to helping people build their business literacy.

In tandem with community resources and services, Grove and her team provide business owners with a range of development offerings, from financial planning, licensing and permit information, and certifications guidance to product strategy, technology assistance and marketing training.

She said the aim of her program is for business owners to “feel that they have subject matter experts to talk to and bounce ideas off of and say, ‘Hey, could you look at my business plan and help me through this?’ Or, ‘Is this really the industry that I want to get into?’ Or, ‘Am I going to have the customers that I hope to have?’ We really want to provide those business literacy tools for small businesses.”

Why Prince William County?

Just beyond The Beltway in Northern Virginia, Prince William County has begun focusing on startups and entrepreneurs looking to launch their businesses by promoting the county’s spaciousness, diversity and cost of living relative to other suburban Washington, D.C., locations.

But Grove also likes to point out an equally compelling item from an entrepreneurial perspective: Prince William is an underserved market when it comes to the products and services available.

A study by the county found that the population has a surplus of income relative to what it spends, Grove said. “We need more product for them to spend it on,” she said. “We need more places for them to spend.”

It also likely means a bit less direct competition, depending on the product or service.

Ensuring programs support all small business owners

Because the small business program in Prince William launched just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grove said her team almost immediately went into recovery mode to ensure businesses had access to federal relief funds and local grants.

That pivot also led to a major realization that the new program needed to ensure all business owners in the county had access to resources and services to thrive, she said. Since the pandemic, “we hear about it on a national scale how women- and minority- and veteran-owned businesses have different challenges to growing their businesses,” Grove said.

As her program continues to evolve and grow, a next-up focus will be identifying and removing any barriers that make it tough for underrepresented businesses in Prince William to take root and become successful, she said.

“We’ve actually appointed a consultant to support our staff to help us to do a study of where Prince William County is now,” Grove said. “What assets do we have that are helpful? And what assets do we have that can be improved on — whether that’s later hours for counseling to accommodate schedules or if that’s offering more bilingual courses? We want to know what those challenges are so we can do something about it.”

To discover more insights for entrepreneurs, startups and SMBs shared during WTOP’s Small Business September, click here.

Listen to the full interview:

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