This question tops my list ~ “Don’t you have a husband who can help you with this?” If heard in my gynecologist office or fertility clinic might not raise an eyebrow. I think the ONLY time this statement might be appropriate is in a conversation about conceiving a child. This would be NOT be an appropriate statement to make to a successful [female] business owner when applying for a business license and trying to determine the zoning required the business. This statement was not made 100 years ago or even in a local that might be a bit behind the times. This was right here near our nation’s capital and occurred just this past month. Are you offended? I am. And I plan to let Alexandria City know.
Many of you may have been following the saga on the blogs of Kristine, Wendy or Cindy. Or you may have even contacted City Hall yourself. I decided to take a few minutes to educate myself about Alexandria City, as I am a Fairfax County resident. I support many of the small businesses in Alexandria, especially those surrounding my favorite store, Knit Happens. But I hadn’t a clue about Alexandria City's thoughts on developing business within their city limits. Especially those owned by women. Here’s what I found and my thoughts after following the recent experience Kristine has had.
I started with the Mayor’s State of the City address from this year. The following is an excerpt:
While Alexandria's economy remains healthy, the Council's Strategic Plan includes a goal for "a strong economy that is growing in varied small businesses and job opportunities." At last year's State of the City, I introduced the newly appointed Business Facilitator, Tom Fairchild. I hope by now most of you have had an opportunity to meet and work with Tom. The Business Facilitator is key to Council's commitment that Alexandria is "business friendly" and to help small businesses and all businesses - thrive in Alexandria.
Interesting. IMHO, there hasn’t been much action to prove these statements true. If this is
Alexandria City’s answer to providing a community that is “business friendly” and helps small businesses thrive, the bar is very low. Especially when it comes to female owned businesses. You’d think that a city with a Business Facilitator would provide that person with the tools for his job and city government employees would be most responsive when business are working with this official. That hasn't been the case. Perhaps some people in City Hall should read the Mayor's address.
Such a sexist statement made by anyone, let alone a Government worker, doesn't indicate to me a friendly environment of any kind. This isn't a Lemonade Stand Kristine is trying to open. (Although if she did I'm sure it would be a success.) This is Knit Happens, the ONLINE Nirvana for Knitters! HELLO jobs and a tax base for the city. Maybe they should do a little research on how much knitters spend. (Well, as long as the Husband doesn't get a look at my total, k?)
we will continue to make our City government more business friendly. We will be committed to cross-training our staff, creating efficiencies in time and resources - from plan reviews to inspections. We will continue to support small businesses.
Oh. My. Goodness. Was he kidding? Perhaps the Mayor should take a trip to City Hall and visit with small business owners trying to navigate the system in real-time. I went on one such visit with Kristine, Wendy on another, I’m not sure either of us want to do so again. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy. (Picture borrowed from Cindy.)
No one seems to have a clear or consistent answer as to why Knit Happens Online is an S-1 and requires a 3 hour fire rating on the ceiling, walls and floor. And hey, why review the plan with City Hall? The answer changes from the time you call, pre lease signing, to when you actually apply for the CofO and business license. Yes, the space you are leasing is proper for the business you are running. Opps! Sorry, that employee was new.
The reference to cross-training the staff might have meant what sneakers they would be supplied with in the event of actually moving between offices to speak and understand their own codes and guidelines.
So, now that I have a bit of insight as to what Alexandria City believes they are, I’m going to let them know they need a new mirror. I believe they have mine. (I look good in multiple shades of orange, really!) Their appearance isn’t nearly as “Business-friendly” as they think they are.