Tomorrow, the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO
) and the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC
) will present 21 small business owners in the District with free software and hardware for their successful participation in the Small Business Success Project
. Business owners will be recognized at a free event at 10 a.m. at OCTO headquarters, 200 I Street, SE.
According to Marla Bilonick, small business development director for LEDC, OCTO launched the Small Business Success Project with a competitive RFP process in 2012. LEDC applied for the $68,000 grant and won the bid in October 2012. Half of the funds were used to conduct training programs on a variety of business topics, from basic computer skills to dedicated sessions on Quickbooks, CRM software, Google applications for small business and social media applications. The other half of the funds were reserved for purchasing hardware and software to award to small business owners who completed training programs and won a competitive application process. LEDC was able to match some of the funds received from OCTO with additional grants.
"Technology is an immediate game changer," explains Bilonick. "These small businesses will have the ability to work more effectively with the click of a button." Each winner will receive a technology package tailored to its needs. The packages can include laptops, tablets, Square registers (to receive credit card payments on the go) and business software.
James Jones, owner of the online tropical fish store DMV Aquatics
, is one of the 21 small business owners who will receive a technology package tomorrow morning. Jones will be receiving an iPad and a Square reader and says that the technology will allow him to give "real-time responses back through email and social media." He will also be able to accept more forms of payment.
"I was limited to PayPal and cash," Jones says. "A lot of local people didn't have PayPal, and cash is a security issue. Square is cheaper than PayPal…and [with] less overhead, I can pass that savings on to my customers."
DMV Aquatics is Jones's first business. He says that participating in the project "put my social media presence on steroids. I can go ahead with confidence." Jones is planning to launch two additional businesses in the near future, one to do with social media marketing and one to do with teaching entrepreneurial skills.