NoVA Black Chamber Guides Businesses, Starts Community Outreach

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Emily Leayman
·2 min read
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TYSONS, VA — The Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, an organization aimed at putting Black-owned businesses on the path to success, is in the midst of a rebranding effort and is seeking to expand community engagement.

The chamber offers professional development resources, marketing opportunities and educational webinars to help members manage and grow their businesses. Sheila Dixon was brought in as executive director in 2020 and has been working on rebranding and reaching out to potential members. The chamber is based in Tysons in the same building as the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Since last year, Dixon tells Patch membership has nearly tripled. To date, the chamber has approximately 132 members largely from Loudoun County, Prince William County, Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria. She hopes membership can reach 300 by the end of 2021.

The chamber's ongoing work connects members through networking sessions and helps their businesses navigate resources available to them. For instance, upcoming workshops in February will walk members through how to get a Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business certification in Virginia.

Dixon is aware of a sobering prediction that 40 percent of Black-owned businesses aren't expected to make it past the COVID-19 pandemic and notes many Black business owners did not receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in the first round. In general, she says the biggest challenge for Black businesses is access to capital, but marketing and communications are other areas that businesses can be helped with. She also would like the chamber to develop some sort of funding to assist Black-owned businesses.

This year, the chamber is also turning to community relations. The chamber will host a virtual community brunch focused on food in Black culture on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants are encouraged to pre-order meals from a participating Black-owned restaurant and join the Zoom event with a number of speakers. The event will be moderated by storyteller Arthuretta Martin and include speakers such as Thompson Hospitality founder Warren Thompson, Future Harvest president Steven Jones, D.C. Food Policy Council member, Dyvine BBQ in Motionpit master Derrick Wood and NativSol Kitchen founder and DC Food Policy Council member Tambra Raye Stevenson. Chamber members and anyone in the community can register for this event.

"What we really want is the community to support Black-owned restaurants in Northern Virginia," said Dixon.

In the long term, Dixon is aiming to build up committees and the board at the chamber. She is also looking for volunteers who could help with social media and outreach to members, as well as suggestions from the community on how they can help or help the chamber expand.

"I want this chamber to be personal. I want people to really know each other," she said.

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This article originally appeared on the McLean Patch