More than 75 Loudoun County small-business owners and service providers gathered at George Washington University’s Ashburn campus this month for the official launch of Loudoun SourceLink, an online tool that connects budding entrepreneurs with resources to help them establish their businesses.
The centerpiece of Loudoun SourceLink is its “resource navigator,” a database that directs new business owners to more than 50 resource partners, local service providers that can assist in areas such as business planning, financing, site development, law, taxes and human resources. The Web site, www.
loudounsourcelink.org, also offers an economic development blog, tips for people who are starting businesses and a calendar of business-oriented events.
Scott K. York (R-At Large), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, characterized the Web site as a “one-stop shop” for small business.
“We wanted to create a Web site to help people find resources to put a business plan together, to find resources to help grow your business, to find ways to market your products and to help you find angel investors,” York said.
Debi Roder, small business and entrepreneurship manager for the Loudoun Department of Economic Development, said that SourceLink helps business owners “find critical assistance through providers who they might otherwise not know, in a way that saves them time and stress.”
Loudoun SourceLink is an affiliate of U.S. SourceLink, a national initiative developed in Kansas City, said Jeremy Hegle, project director with U.S. SourceLink. Hegle consulted with local economic development officials on the creation of Loudoun SourceLink. U.S. SourceLink has affiliate programs in 22 states, Hegle said.
Susan Henson, regional manager of the Mason Enterprise Center for Leesburg and Loudoun, a business incubator, said that entrepreneurs looking for resources are frequently referred to several different service providers, none of which offer the service the entrepreneurs need.
Henson said that she became familiar with SourceLink in Kansas City, where she worked before coming to Loudoun. The service helped reduce frustration on both sides among entrepreneurs and resource providers, Henson said.
Demetrios Sapounas, managing director of SoftDsk, an information technology consulting company based in Sterling, was cautious in his initial assessment of SourceLink.
“As you engage with these resources, if you really start getting the value, that’s great,” Sapounas said. “It’s a good concept, because it brings a lot of resources together. Time will tell.”
Representatives of several agencies that provide resources for small businesses attended the launch event to provide information and, in some cases, to conduct transactions with people starting new businesses. Business Tax Assessor Curtis Snyder said that the Office of the Commissioner of the Revenue handed out about eight applications for business licenses and that half of them had been completed and entered into the system on the spot.
Marsha Keim, zoning permit manager for the county’s Department of Building and Development, issued several home occupation permits. She said it was the first time the department had ventured outside the office to issue permits.