The Buzz with Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets
Anas “Andy” Shallal is founder of restaurant, bookstore and fair trade market Busboys and Poets—a space where art culture and politics intentionally collide. He is Chairman of Think Local First DC, a local business association, and is an advocate for small business in the District. Andy will deliver a keynote address at WDCEP’s Small Business Awards program, emphasizing the importance of local business in DC.
Busboys and Poets has been a success in the DC area. Where did the inspiration behind your concept come from?
Washington, DC has been my home for over 40 years. I see so much potential in this city. The idea that a place can exist that is welcoming to all Washingtonians of all races, backgrounds and interests was intriguing to me. I wanted a place that people would walk into and say, “This is so Washington.”
Why is DC a good place to start or expand a small business?
DC is big enough and small enough to start and expand small businesses. It is a town that has been underserved and underestimated for too long. We have a long way to go to make this city friendlier to small businesses. However, many of us independent business owners are beginning to play a role in the future of this city. This has not always been the case.
As the Chair of the Board at Think Local First DC, what initiatives have you developed to help small businesses in the District?
The main thing that small businesses need is to better understand the process of doing business in DC. They also need to better connect with other small and independent business owners. We have had many initiatives to help small businesses become more green and more competitive. One of the most successful series that we do is the Think Local First DC Breakfasts—once-a-month gatherings of small business owners discussing challenges and opportunities, and networking with one another.