Interview with 2008 BusinessPremier Small Business Award Winners

Tim Neill, CEO and President
Small Business of the Year

Q-Industries is an interactive agency that designs and builds online brands, websites and advanced Internet-based applications, with expertise in online marketing, social networking, and new media services.

What makes your business different from others in the same field of expertise?
The Web has gone through two different cycles: technical and creative. Some businesses separate the technical from the creative sides, but recently we have seen a trend to merge the two. In the past we were more technology based, but to remain innovative we recently added a creative department. This shift has allowed us to excel in design graphics and at building applications and technology on the web.

What major obstacles have you overcome in starting, growing, or operating your business?
Q-Industries was financed strictly through cash flows. Our business was bootstrapped from the very beginning—we started with next to nothing. We still continue to operate by reinvesting our profit back into the business.

What about the District of Columbia has helped to make your business so successful?
Because of our affinity for the region, we are a DC corporation against advice to incorporate in Delaware. People like to buy DC—this keeps our client base diverse. We have a commercial and association client base and we do some work for the federal government as well. This blend of clients has helped us grow steadily since the turn of the century.
Rob Vickers, Director of Lending
Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC)
Small Business Initiative of the Year

LEDC is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1991. LEDC’s mission is to improve the wealth-building capacity of low- and moderate-income Latinos and other underserved communities in the Washington area.

What makes your organization different from others in the same field of expertise?
LEDC is a nonprofit that has been in DC for 15 years. Historically it has provided many different types of services to the community but has never focused on micro-finance. The goals of LEDC are to provide cultural support and make the opportunity to expand a reality for the Latino business community. Because of our client base, we have had to overcome some cultural challenges in our pursuit to change people’s views about what development means. We want to change the perception of charity –what we do is similar to the old adage of ‘teaching a man to fish’; our goal is to bring about long-term impact. We are very focused on impact and strive to be more efficient and sustainable.
What financial help did you receive in starting or growing your program?
As a community development nonprofit we receive a good portion of our funding from government grants and other sources of funding. The District of Columbia’s Department of Housing and Community Development has helped us finance the Microloan Program through a grant.
What inspired you to initiate the Microloan Program?
The unmet need for financial services by the underserved Latino and local business community, served as the foundation for the development of the Microloan Program. We realized a need to start a finance initiative. And though it began in 1997 with modest funds, it was not until recently that we obtained the resources to take the fledgling program and made it as sustainable and successful as possible.
James Didden, President
The National Capital Bank of Washington
100 Year Old Business of the Year

For almost six generations, The National Capital Bank of Washington has been serving residents and businesses in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

What inspired you to start your business?
In 1889, there weren’t any banks on Capitol Hill, so members from the community—business men—got together and decided to start one. These men, started the bank to serve the financial services needs of their community. My grandfather, Albert Carry, was one of the founders. Today, we continue to serve the community—not only Capitol Hill, but also Friendship Heights; we also serve customers all over the city, the suburbs, and all over the world. We like to think that once a customer starts banking with us they never leave. We have a theme of ‘generations’. We have dealt with members of the same family; we have customers that have been with us for 40, 50, and 60 years. The community aspect of our business is that we recognize our customers—they feel as though they are part of our family.

What about the District of Columbia has helped to make your business so successful?
Everything about the District–our market is DC–we have always been here. During the riots, some institutions did not want to stay, but our roots are here so we remained true. Our success depends on the entire economic environment of the District that is why we reinvest our money. Any money we take in from DC, we put back in.

What tips for longevity would you share with others to stay in business?
Since our founding, we have weathered things like the bank Crisis of the 1890’s, the Great Depression, and the Bank Crisis of the 1970’s. Many banks failed during these times, but we attribute our success to our conservative fiscal management. My best advice for a business would be to keep your feet on the ground. Be prepared for rainy days—when the business cycle goes down. Be a responsible member of the community and support community efforts so that people recognize your commitment.

Posted Under: DC News