D.C. Chamber Honors Small Businesses

Barrington M. Salmon | 5/23/2012, 2:48 p.m.

When LaKeshia Grant heard her name announced as the winner of the DC Chamber of Commerce's Women in Business Champion Award, a broad smile quickly replaced the mishmash of anticipation and surprise that crossed her face.

Grant, 35, is the CEO of Virtual Enterprise Architects, a HUBzone information technology company in Northwest that delivers high-quality enterprise architecture and IT services to a range of public and private clients. Grant was one of five local small business owners recognized by the Chamber on Wednesday, May 16.

Barbara Lang, the chamber's president and CEO, said the awards ceremony and small business expo at the Renaissance Hotel in Northwest, is a way for her organization to honor the more than 40,000 small businesses in the District.

"Sixty-seven to 70 percent of our members are small businesses and the bulk of businesses in the city are small to mid-sized," she said. "We wanted to make sure we recognize small businesses. Often when we speak, we say that they are the soul of business."

The awards are presented to companies or individuals who embody the entrepreneurial spirit, demonstrating characteristics such as civic community leadership, outstanding contributions to the community, social responsibility or who have made a significant social and/or economic impact in the District of Columbia's business community.

Lang and Chamber Board Chairman Matthew J. Klein said small businesses are the backbone of the American economy; they generate and drive the majority of American innovations and substantially increase American competitiveness. Klein said 50 percent of the total U.S. workforce is employed by small businesses, while small businesses are responsible for 75 percent of all U.S. growth.

Dozens of small businesses took part in the expo and showcased their wares.

The winners were: Zack Axelrod, founder and CEO of Skyline Innovations, Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award; Urban Alliance, Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award; Christopher Hertz, Small Business Person of the Year Award; Social Driver and Founder/CTO Thomas Sanchez, Small Business Champion Award and Grant, Women in Business Champion Award.

Robert P. Pinkus, vice chairman of Eagle Bank - the event's presenting sponsor - lauded the seminal role small businesses play.

"In D.C., businesses are thriving. They are characterized by innovation, creating and maximizing resources to build a strong foundation," he said. "I heard some strong, thoughtful ways of people doing business in D.C. They are sharing best practices. There are many challenges when we open and grow a business in D.C. We can take advantage of shared experiences and celebrate the successes of people who make it."

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) brought greetings from the city.

"I'm proud of your work and accomplishments," said Brown, 41. "D.C. is hot ... we have $1 billion moving around, restaurants, the best residents and diverse small businesses which are the backbone of this city. We have to continue to make this a place to do business. It's time for government to loosen regulations so that small businesses can grow. [We're] looking into policies and regulations. I'm committed today on a set of initiatives by the end of this year to loosen regulations. Is that OK? Is that OK?"