Tysons, VA

1 Million Cups Fairfax decided to move weekly meetings online to keep helping local startups and tech gurus during the coronavirus outbreak.

The group’s meetings and community events, which were usually in-person on Wednesday mornings, will be held online until further notice through a free digital software called Zoom, Silvia Ferguson, a spokesperson for the group, said.

Ferguson added that more details will be released online shortly.

1 Million Cups Fairfax, which is a part of a chapter initiative, allows local entrepreneurs to network with one another and receive feedback on business pitches.

Though Ferguson said that she isn’t sure how the economic downturn will potentially affect startups, she did say that members of Office Evolution — a co-working space that sponsors 1 Million Cups — and attendees that she has spoken to seem to be in good spirits.

The next 1 Million Cups Event will be held digitally this Wednesday (March 25)  from 9-10 a.m. People should be able to visit the event page soon for an updated link to the digital event, according to Ferguson.

Photo via 1 Million Cups/Facebook

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After Reggie Holmes was laid off from his job, he decided to take control of his career path and begin his own business, Enthuse Creative.

Since its founding in Tysons around 2013, the company has branched out to offer customers a variety of branding, strategy and design services — helping clients develop a unique sense of identity, according to Holmes.

Enthuse Creative operates as a multi-functional branding agency to help companies distinguish their talents and focus their efforts. Though the final product will vary depending on a clients’ needs, Holmes said he wants to help people target their own sense of identity and market.

Regarding the creation of Enthuse Creative in 2013, Holmes said he “wanted to be in a position where I could create my own opportunities,” adding that the ability to be creative and think outside of the box in his professional career is important for him as an art degree graduate.

When Holmes was in the process of the career transition, he said he realized that creative positions were “tenuous,” especially if someone wasn’t a high-up and wanted to solidify their career.

Coming up with the name for his company, Holmes said that “‘to enthuse’ means to build joy or happiness, so at the end of the day I want to help businesses be enthusiastic about their brand.”

Since the beginning of 2020, Enthuse has worked with roughly 20 different clients, many of whom come from different backgrounds and need various degrees of assistance, Holmes said.

One of the most inspiring projects Holmes said he worked on was a campaign for Meridian International Group, which promotes global leadership and U.S. diplomacy efforts.

For the group, Holmes said he helped to create an annual report, as well as marketing materials and a logo for a specific program.

“It’s great to know work I’m doing is being seen outside the United States,” he said, adding that he found it humbling to help improve the quality of life for people he will likely never meet.

As a one-man-show, Holmes said he often hires freelancers and partners from around the area to help him keep up with the workload.

In the summer of 2019, Holmes became the co-chair of marketing for the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and is now on the chamber’s board. He said he volunteers with the group, working to align upcoming businesses with the chamber, promoting economic success and helping to organize events such as Tysons 2050.

Currently, the group is trying to rebrand their image, according to Holmes, who didn’t feel at liberty to expand.

“We recognize the need to go a little bit deeper and create a compelling case as to why a business should partner with us to keep growing,” he said.

Photo courtesy Reggie Holmes

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Three McLean teenagers decided to leave behind the minimum wage grind and embark on their own entrepreneurial journey.

TeenServ is an online platform that connects students to adults who need short-term jobs done, like pulling weeds, cleaning or other types of housework. It began in 2018 under Ben Jeannot, Jack Lannin and Quin Frew, a group of friends who are still in charge of the service’s development and outreach.

The idea quickly spread after the boys decided to promote the service within their own friend groups, according to Lannin.

Since September, the team said they managed to recruit around 200 teenagers from eight area schools including Falls Church, Herndon, Marshall, McLean and Oakton. 

Teens who sign up for the app can accept jobs they are most interested in and make about $17 per hour, according to the founders.

“Because it’s pretty much a free market system, it allows teens to choose jobs they want and think are fair,” one of the members told Tysons Reporter. 

Another group member added that all of the jobs are screened by the founders before being added to the list of available opportunities. This way, they can ensure the jobs are safe and within limits of the site user agreements.

“We tend to stay away from animals or babysitting,” a group member said, adding that any job that involves the liability of a living thing, besides plants, is also off the table. 

Twice a week, the boys said they will meet to discuss goals and next steps.

Currently, Lannin said the majority of their marketing is done through word of mouth and social media presence — including  Instagram and Facebook. The group’s Instagram account has more than 800 followers as of Monday (Feb. 3).

Two promotions were recently announced on the company’s Instagram. The first promotion offers workers an extra 12 percent on top of the listed rate for a job if they bring along a friend, according to TeenServ’s Instagram.

There is also a job lottery that automatically enters students in a giveaway for every job they complete within a certain month.

Photo courtesy TeenServ

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Updated 1/31/2020 — The event will be held on the second level near the Old Navy.

Earlier: Student innovators and entrepreneurs will gather this Saturday (Feb. 1) to showcase their ideas at Tysons Corner Center.

The Junior Achievement Trade Show is set to take place from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on level one of the mall in BrandBox.

Community members are welcome to stop by, ask questions and purchase items sold by the students, according to Gayle Robinson, a spokesperson for the Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.

Students will get the chance to “display, demonstrate and discuss their innovative products and services in the hopes of building brand awareness, selling to new customers and connecting with the local community,” the event page said.

A total of 140 students will be present at the event, Robinson said, adding that they will be broken up into eight teams that will take turns presenting throughout the day.

Tables will be set up “market-style,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

Students tabling their ideas at this event are part of a program that helped them develop a business plan, pitch ideas and build confidence, the website said.

Robinson told Tysons Reporter that the students, who represent the entire D.C. area, have been preparing for this moment since they began the program in September and will be evaluated by judges wandering around the room during the event.

Students who win this competition will be fast-tracked to future competitions later this spring, according to Robinson.

Photo via Junior Achievement of Greater Washington/Facebook

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A group headquartered in Falls Church aims to get women “from the classroom to the board room” by offering developmental resources and networking opportunities.

With more than 1,000 members, the Women in Technology group (200 Little Falls Street) operates around the D.C. area and works with a large variety of age groups — including young girls and women at the height of their careers, according to its website.

“Our scope is to really network and support the advancement of women and girls in this specific area to enter STEM fields,” recently elected Board Member Cristine Gollayan said. “It’s for girls and women at any stage of their life.”

Gollayan’s own story with the group began around 2013 when she said she attended an event and eventually worked her way up the group’s leadership ladder.

Since then, she also served on the job fair committee board and was eventually elected into the WIT’s Board of Directors in 2018.

Gollayan currently works in Herndon as a senior manager for Sony’s Global Information Security team and said events hosted by WIT take place throughout the area, including Tysons — a central location for many of the organization’s volunteers.

WIT has several representatives, who happen to be women of color, on both its board of directors and the executive committee. But, the group doesn’t offer specific programs targeting women of color or transgender women.

Gollayan also said anyone who identifies as a woman is more than welcome to join.

“Anything we promote, we try to ensure that diversity and inclusion is an important piece,” she said.

Two of Gollayan’s favorite events include the leadership awards ceremony and STEM for Her Gala, which Gollayan also said she helps to plan, because the women at both of the events are “so poised and ready to rock and rule the world,” she said.

Other events run by the group include two seasonal job fairs a year, the Leadership Foundry and Girls in Technology. A full list of offerings can be found online.

For example, the Leadership Foundry is a nine-month-long program that teaches women to run board meetings and take on positions of power within their own companies. So far, 20 alumnae from the program have ended up on boards within a corporation, according to Gollayan.

Meanwhile, Girls in Technology is a subgroup within WIT that targets young girls considering careers in STEM.

The CyberPatriot Girls is a program through Girls in Technology that takes 6th-12th-grade girls and challenges them to participate in a “fast-paced and high-pressure” simulation that resembles a mock cyber-attack, according to Gollayan. It is hosted in partnership with the Air Force and the University of Maryland. In the activity, girls form teams and are expected to “protect national infrastructure” while learning technical skills, she said.

For people interested in the group, the next upcoming event, WIT.Connect, is coming up.

On Feb. 20 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., people will gather at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Drive) to network and learn about upcoming technological trends in healthcare. Attendees will have the chance to hear from speakers and WIT members.

Registration is $45 for WIT members or $55 for non-members.

Photo courtesy Cristine Gollayan

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(Updated 12/13/19) Golden Rule, a housesitting service, began in 2018 and expanded to serve clientele in the Northern Virginia area, with a focus around McLean.

Today (Dec. 11), company founder Dan Lender stood in front of fellow entrepreneurs at the 1 Million Cups Fairfax event in Tysons and pitched his company to the room, seeking advice and recommendations on how to better serve his existing clients.

Currently, the company helps around 20 clients to watch their homes, property and occasionally apartments while they are gone for extended periods of time.

Feedback from the event included ways to target his ideal market and focus efforts on specific services.

The clients of Golden Rule consist primarily of people over 50 who spend several months out of the year away from their homes because of vacation or work, Lender said.

Golden Rule staff offer different services for almost every client in order to meet the individual needs, Lender told Tysons Reporter.

The group specializes in services that accompany security measures from larger companies like ADT. Instead of just monitoring the property, Golden Rule will send someone in-person to survey the property, take pictures of things that seem a miss and take care of various tasks.

“A Golden Rule Team Member will visit your home in Northern Virginia regularly to perform a comprehensive, top to bottom, interior and exterior check,” according to the company’s website. “At the conclusion of each check, you will receive a customized, time date and geo-location stamped electronic report with photos and details.”

After each visit from a Golden Rule representative, the company will send an email to the owner with updates.

“You still need eyes and ears on the street,” Lender said, adding that though ADT will call the police, they won’t send someone in person to take care of the property. Unlike other services, Lender said that Golden Rule employees do not stay and live at the house they watch.

The company’s name was inspired by the philosophy of the Golden Rule: “treat others like you’d want to be treated.”

Lender told Tysons Reporter that the company channels this philosophy into their work and treat every client’s home or property like it is their own.

In an attempt to cater to the individual needs of customers, Golden Rule even transported a car for a client and took care of a greenhouse.

When it comes to pricing for the service, it depends completely on what is requested by the client. Though they have basic price points for hourly service and a basic set up fe.

“A lot of our customers recognize the value and they don’t even ask price,” Lender said.

Going forward, Lender told said that although they want to expand, they also don’t want to scale too quickly and jeopardize the quality of the company’s services.

“We don’t cut any corners,” he said.  

Photo courtesy Dan Lender

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Almost every Wednesday morning, dozens of entrepreneurs and tech gurus gather to network and share their ideas at an office in Tysons.

1 Million Cups Fairfax is part of a 160-chapter initiative that invites upcoming entrepreneurs from around the country to pitch their venture and receive feedback from other local stakeholders and innovators.

On Nov. 20, Tysons Reporter attended the weekly event and listened to Malaika Simmons of Momentology Media pitch her brand.

Following Simmon’s pitch, which focused on her plans to help women and kids though life coaching and development of a personal brand, attendees offered to connect her with other people in the field, gave advice and asked questions about her mission.

One person said that her model might be good for couples working through difficult times, while another suggested she should consider partnerships with corporate companies.

“My number one goal is to get corporate sponsors,” Simmons said, adding that she has already worked with the federal government and Fortune 500 companies in the past.

Simmons said that corporate sponsors are the best way to scale her business, but her true passion is working with women and children.

Event organizers told Tysons Reporter that feedback like this is typical and people can feel free to be honest with one another.

1 Million Cups began under the Kauffman Foundation, which aims to help businesses owners from disadvantaged backgrounds reach their potential, according to the website.

1 Million Cups Fairfax, which is Tysons’s local chapter, began about a year and a half ago on Valentine’s Day 2018, John Yu, a spokesperson for Office Evolution, said. Yu said that the program has become increasing in popularity, with presentation spots filling up quickly.

To ensure that the presentations will be productive for everyone, organizers ensure that each entrepreneur has a sense of direction and a business model.

“We very rarely turn anyone away,” Yu said. “We just postpone.”

Anyone is welcome to listen and join in the group discussion.

Several attendees said there is typically a dynamic turnout for these events. Tysons Reporter met a variety of people, including several “serial entrepreneurs,” representatives from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and one man who simply wanted to know more about local business.

The weekly event is held at Office Evolution (609 Westwood Center Drive) from 8:30-10 a.m. and the next session will take place after Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

“We try to give a voice to startups around the area,” Yu said.

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Tysons company Urgent.ly has scored a high spot on Deloitte’s new list highlighting the fastest-growing tech companies in North America this year.

The roadside assistance company nabbed the #6 spot on the “2019 Technology Fast 500 Ranking.”

Earlier this year, the company gained national attention for its partnerships with Uber, Volvo and Amazon.

In total, five Tysons-based companies made the list.

The other Tysons companies on the list are:

The list “provides a ranking of the fastest-growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences, and energy tech companies — both public and private — in North America,” according to Deloitte.

The companies on the list were chosen based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2015 to 2018.

Image courtesy Urgent.ly 

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A Tysons tech company wants to boost fundraising, sales and marketing efficiency for both non-profits and businesses by using artificial intelligence.

BoodleAI (1751 Pinnacle Drive), which eventually branched out to also create guidonAI, began as a small startup roughly three years ago and managed to expand its client base to include around 30 non-profit groups and businesses once product development was complete.

BoodleAI works with non-profits to expand their donor bases, while guidonAI exclusively works with businesses to boost marketing strategies and sales, France Hoang, the chief strategy officer and co-founder, told Tysons Reporter.

Both companies offer predictive analytics to help organizations by taking the clients’ pre-existing data and cross-referencing it with more than 500 other data points on each person, using only names and email. All of the data sets are then analyzed by AI to come up with a predictive model that will be tested for power and reliability, according to the company’s website.

Hoang began the company because he felt that non-profits are an “underserved market.”

“I know the pain non-profits go through trying to raise funds for their mission,” Hoang said.

The company names were inspired by Hoang’s time at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated before serving time as Special Forces in Afghanistan, moved onto law school at Georgetown University and eventually become an entrepreneur.

Everything had its place at the academy, he said, adding that all of the cadets were expected to keep things extremely organized.

“The one exception to that is that you are allowed one exception of cookies, candy and things sent to you by your friends and family back home,” he said, adding that things come in a box and the contents are referred to as “boodle.”

GuidonAI was inspired by the flag that represents a unit. “If you want to know where to go, you look towards the guideon,” Hoang said.

The company offers decreased pricing options for non-profits but the cost will ultimately depend on variables including the size of the organization, the amount of help they need and the size of the problem, Hoang said.

“We would like to be the prime, dominant builder of people-focused, predictive applications,” Hoang said after being asked where he wants to see the company in five years.

Unlike competitors, boodleAI focuses on the fit of a person’s needs rather than on their online behavior, Hoang said, adding that their algorithms can pick out the target market four out of five times.

Hoang said that he loves connecting the world with issues they care about through outreach and the company’s work with non-profits.

“I’m passionate about solving problems in new ways. It’s in my blood.”

Photo via BoodleAI

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(Updated 10/25/19) The City of Falls Church is a 10-minute drive from rapidly expanding Tysons, but members of the Falls Church City Council want to maintain the feeling of a small community while still capitalizing on innovation and growth.

The City of Falls Church operates as an independent entity under the Falls Church City Council while Tysons still has no official governing body of its own, outside that of Fairfax County.

Councilmember Ross Litkenhous said that Falls Church wants to stay unique and its small population and efficient city council allows the city to stay “agile.”

“We are by no means trying to keep up with anybody,” he said.

Tysons Reporter talked to the councilmembers, seeking their input about the future of Falls Church.

“Always Been a Cut-Through”

Several councilmembers said the city is already seeing increased traffic thanks to Tysons’ urban sprawl.

The increase in traffic was brought on by the tolls on I-66 and the increasing popularity of apps like Google Maps, Litkenhous said.

Litkenhous worked in commercial development for 10 years before becoming a councilmember.

Councilmembers were originally told by the Virginia Department of Transportation that the addition of freeways tolls around the area would not impact traffic flow, he said, but people started driving through the city to avoid the tolls.

Now, the city is faced with concerns about pedestrian and bicycle safety that come with more traffic. Litkenhous cited several incidences concerning the safety of residents, especially kids.

There have been a few pedestrian deaths in the last few months in the Falls Church area, which are spurring discussions with officials.

But, Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly noted that it is important to remember that “Falls Church has always been a cut-through” and a “crossroad” in the Northern Virginia area.

“Mini Tysons”

In August, the city broke ground on a new project that focuses on improving pedestrian access and traffic flow near the upcoming George Mason High School.

The $15 million infrastructure investment will make the area safer and open up accessibility to the future mixed-use retail space, Cindy Mester, the Falls Church Assistant City Manager, said.

The mixed-use retail space is being developed by the same people who built the Wharf in D.C., Mester said, adding there will be a grocery store, a senior living facility, an arts center, restaurants and retail shops in the development.

Mester referred to the upcoming space as Falls Church’s own “Mini Tysons.”

Enticing Techies

When it comes to the evolution within the city’s limits, Litkenhous supports the idea of Falls Church evolving as a tech hub.

“Here in Falls Church, we’ve had a chance to capitalize on the indirect spinoff [of Tysons],” Litkenhous said.

With the new startups and tech companies in Tysons, it allows local high school students to take on fellowships or internships with innovative and entrepreneurial companies, according to Litkenhous, further encouraging students to pursue STEM-related fields.

With the new startups and tech companies in Tysons, it allows local high school students to take on fellowships or internships with innovative and entrepreneurial companies, according to Litkenhous.

Though Litkenhous said he would love to have some of these companies move into Falls Church, he realizes offices are limited and added that a co-working space within city limits would be a solution. “We can’t work in a vacuum here and we recognize that,” he said. 

A Stroll in a New Direction 

Unlike Tysons through, Litkenhous said Falls Church focuses on small businesses and walkability within city limits. “We’ve got Tysons beat on walkability by a mile.” 

Last year, the City Council started the “Live Local Campaign,” sparked by Litkenhous, which encourages people to eat, play and spend money within the city’s limits.

Councilmember Phil Duncan said he keeps tabs on local businesses moving into the city and tries to support them by attending grand openings.

“I think there’s a good mix of big names and more local, family-run businesses,” he said, adding that some businesses that would have previously passed up Falls Church might realize that it is a new market.

“This whole area will become a great American city,” Duncan said.

Coming up in November, the city will host its second “Live Local Campaign” to encourage people to spend money within the community by eating at local restaurants and shopping for holiday gifts from small companies.

Both Litkenhous and Connelly said they want people to follow in their example and take advantage of all the dining and shopping options within the area.

Ultimately, Mester said she thinks the people in Falls Church help to make it special and unique.

“We have a caring and wonderful workforce,” she said. 

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