Entrepreneurial communities are alive and well in America. With more and more emphasis on starting a small business and making an impact on the world, finding a helpful community can do a lot for newly flourishing businesses. Angie Fox of Crystal City Business Improvement District led the transformation of Crystal City into a tech hub for many. We sat down with Angie to learn more about Crystal City’s transformation, her background, and why DMV is a great place to be an entrepreneur.
Tell us about yourself an how you became the CEO of Crystal City Business Improvement District
I always loved math and science, so I set out to study electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. I was also trying to figure out what my father, a PhD in Nuclear Engineering and CEO of a tech company did all day – I still don’t know the answer to that question! After graduating with highest honors, I was recruited by Bell Atlantic (now Verizon). There, I was promoted through five different jobs in nine years. I moved through the company working in engineering standards, IT, consumer services, new product development and merger negotiations. After nine years at Bell, I was recruited to run strategy for a technology start-up and then started my own consulting firm.
Though I kicked off my career in the technology industry, I was always passionate about theater and the arts. At Bell I spent my off hours avidly attending Washington theaters and began donating to Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. They quickly asked me to join the board and within six months, I was elected to chair the board. In this role I helped raise more than $9 million dollars and guide the building of a new theater facility in the heart of DC.
After consulting for several years, I had the opportunity to pursue this passion professionally when I was recruited to be CEO of Cultural Tourism DC. While there, I was responsible for strategy, fundraising, creating and developing programs to promote the Nation’s “Cultural Capital,” as well as running the day-to-day operations of the organization.
Admiring my work at Cultural Tourism and leadership success in guiding Woolly Mammoth, a property owner in Crystal City, VA (just outside of Washington, DC) asked if I would consider leading the Crystal City Business Improvement District, which was just being formed. As a resident of Arlington, I saw the potential there and was excited at the prospect of impacting my own community. I took the position and have been transforming Crystal City since 2006.
What is Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID)?
A Business Improvement District (BID) is a public/private partnership in which property and business owners elect to pay an additional property-based tax in order to achieve a different level of service than the baseline offered by a local jurisdiction. Specific services are dependent on the needs and goals for that business boundary and can include marketing and promotion, physical enhancements, landscaping, security, clean streets and more. There are many BIDs throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area and across the country that work to solve the unique issues that their communities face.
For the Crystal City BID, this means that we work with local businesses and partners to make sure that Crystal City is an innovative, active, artful, accessible and green place to work, live, play and stay.
What are some initiatives for BID?
Crystal City is known for its unique events throughout the year including Wednesday Night Spins (a weekly indoor bike race) every Wednesday in March, 5K races every Friday in April, free outdoor yoga and zumba, weekly outdoor movies in the summer and social events such as Wine in the Waterpark, Blues and Brews, Sip & Salsa, and Pups and Pilsners. In early February, the BID also hosts Crystal Couture, our popular runway and pop-up shop fashion event.
We love all of our events and are committed to ensuring that we’re being environmentally conscious. The BID has instituted a low to no waste policy for all events, created the Crystal City FRESHFarm Farmers Market, established a Community Supported Agriculture program, community compost, and initiated the Power Purge program, which gives offices, workers and residents in Crystal City a place to recycle their electronics safely and securely for free.
What transformation have you seen in Crystal City? Where do you see it in the next 5-10 years?
When we started the BID in 2006 our main challenge was image. We needed to transform the way that people saw Crystal City and we have come a long way. Nine years later, Crystal City has become a destination that is innovative, active, artful, accessible and green – and we’re really proud of what we have accomplished so far. We have achieved this through creative programming, unique partnerships, fun events and innovative initiatives.
The BID has worked hard to position Crystal City as a great place for startups and entrepreneurs. In the last year we have become home to Crystal Tech Fund, Paul Singh’s $50 million fund that focuses on backing post-seed startups, The Iron Yard, a 12-week coding academy that trains developers and TechShop, a membership-based workshop, fabrication studio and innovation hub. TechShop helps members to go from vision to reality by providing access to over $1 million worth of professional equipment in a 21,000 square foot maker space. Eastern Foundry, a Veteran owned incubator for startups also recently launched in Crystal City and is revolutionizing the government contracting industry.
Through the BID’s work, we have attracted some other amazing entertainment partners and have become home to several celebrity restaurants including José Andrès’ Jaleo, Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery, the second location of Capitol Hill institution We The Pizza, and Kora – an Italian restaurant by Iron Chef Morou Ouattara.
Crystal City is evolving. As a mixed-use neighborhood, change is always underway. With the growing demand for real estate, more apartments are being built in the surrounding areas. Millennials that are drawn to the creative and accessible neighborhood are starting to have families. As the neighborhood changes, we, as a BID, must be adaptable, respond to those changes and continue to bring innovative programming and fun events to the area.
Why is the DMV as a whole a good place to be an entrepreneur or business owner?
I think that the DMV area is a great place to be an entrepreneur or business owner because resources available to entrepreneurs, startups and business owners continue to grow. Not only is there a growing network of venture capital available at firms like Crystal Tech Fund, but we have also seen an increase in other innovative resources such as co-working spaces, including DesignLab based in Crystal City. The DMV area also offers many different networking groups and professional organizations. For example, here in Crystal City we host networking events with organizations such as Women 2.0 and Tech Cocktail, which help members of the local technology communities connect and grow.