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Welcome To Our New Executive Director


After three years of leading CHAMPS as executive director, Julie Aaronson is departing to return to the federal government. We greatly appreciate Julie’s work at CHAMPS, particularly to strengthen our relationships with key District agency leaders and our councilmembers. Her work on advocacy and connecting businesses with each other and the larger community is a great base upon which her successor can build. We are pleased to welcome Tony Tomelden as our new executive director. Tony’s experience managing restaurants across DC brings valuable small business owner insights and relationships to CHAMPS as we build on previous successes to develop and grow our Capitol Hill economy.

CHAMPS has formed a partnership with Heartland Payment Solutions that can bring the best in payment and HR technology to your business. If your business needs HR or payment solutions, consider reaching out to Heartland! William and Alam can help identify where their resources can help your business save money and work more efficiently.

Our relationship partners are:

William D. Simmons II., Senior Product Advisor, 202.491.4202

Alam Vides, Relationship Manager

CHAMPS and our business members urge our elected officials to consider ways to protect the Capitol without imposing limitations on our business and economic development.

Permanent fencing around the Capitol and associated buildings is a detriment to our neighborhood and makes Capitol Hill a less appealing destination. Capitol Hill is not only the Capitol complex, it is a thriving multigenerational neighborhood where approximately 40,000 residents live, work, and play. Permanent fencing with razor wire is not a welcoming gateway to our neighborhood.

We are particularly concerned about the closing of Constitution and Independence Avenues, which creates a huge separation between the Capitol Hill neighborhood and downtown. The fencing impacts visitors, tourists, and residents stopping by retail businesses and restaurants.  Permanent closure of these roads will hamstring customers’ access to our small businesses at the same time that vaccine availability gives us hope for bringing more people into stores and restaurants.  Additionally, permanent fencing gives residents and visitors alike a feeling of imminent threat and can deter people from coming to the neighborhood. Shoppers and diners have many choices across DC, and as we seek to emerge from this pandemic that has decimated small businesses, we ask that decision makers consider safety options that strike a balance with the traditional openness of our neighborhood and access to retail and dining.

Supply chains are delayed, mail service is delayed, and stores can accommodate a smaller number of shoppers due to social distancing requirements. This means it will be more important than ever to shop early and shop local! While the graphic is focused on books, the message is universal for all small businesses.

Below are links to several size posters and an Instagram sized post that you can print to hang in your shop, use in social media or in your newsletter to remind customers to shop early!

Thanks East City Bookshop for sharing this resource from the American Booksellers Association.

Embrace fall and support local businesses with CHAMPS Shop Fall Event! Participating business will be open online, in store or on the sidewalk (weather permitting) on September 26 and 27! Shoppers can register to access discount codes and be eligible for giveaways by participating businesses! 

Please wear masks, socially distance and follow businesses’ shopping guidelines. Registrant email addresses will be provided to CHAMPS participating businesses. 

Capitol Hill Art League – 545 7th St SE. Sidewalk. Capitol Hill Art League Artists will be showing and selling Sept. 26 ONLY from 11-5pm on CHAW’s front lawn. Colorful, original art, prints, greeting cards and more from local artists including Karen Cohen, Allison Stettler, Nancy Arbuthnot, Felicia Reed, and Elin-Whitney Smith. Shop for gifts or yourself!

Bitter GraceOnline – Bitter Grace is a lifestyle brand beyond clothing that offers a holistic approach to helping people improve their style and self-confidence so they feel empowered to influence and lead without compromising who they are. Cap Hill location coming soon!

Clothes Encounters – 202 7th Street, SE. In store and sidewalk. Shop inside and out for great deals on sustainable clothing and hourly giveaways! Open 10 am – 4 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Clutter Doctor Online. Provides customized, hands-on residential organizing services for a tiny closet or your entire home. $50 off your first organizing session!

DCanter – A Wine Boutique – 545 8th Street SE. In store and online. Shop from a global selection of boutique wines made by small producers and family-run wineries. Our selections include sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines. Shop in-store from 12pm-6pm on weekends and 4pm – 9pm weekdays. Shop online anytime! Registered participants receive a discount code for an online purchase.

East City Bookshop – 645 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Suite 100. In store, online and sidewalk (courtyard of 645 Penn Ave SE). 1 pm to 6 pm Sat and Sun. Register to win a totebag of books!

Frager’s Hardware – 1115 Pennsylvania Ave SE. In store and online. 50% off our selection of boutique outdoor patio furniture! Available in store or online!

The Hill Is HomeOnline – Love the blog? Love our mugs? Get your very own adorable The Hill is Home mug! Only $20. If you buy more than one mug, you’ll get a THIH Capitol Hill Bingo t-shirt– while supplies last.

Hill’s Kitchen – 713 D Street SE. In store. No products available online. Face masks required for indoor shopping (covering nose and mouth) and limit of 4 customers at a time. We aim to make this a safe shopping experience!

Johnson Law Group – 1321 Pennsylvania Ave SE. Online. Twenty (20) percent discount on legal services: wills and estates, business law, property issues and transactions; elder law.

Labyrinth Games & Puzzles – 645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Online, in store, sidewalk. Join us for prizes and community fun! Open 11am to 5pm Sat. and Sunday.

Magic Maker SolutionsOnline. Home & office organization. Complete downsizing & moving coordination. Personal & professional lifestyle management. Instant stress relief. Fall in love with your home (or office) again! Call us for your FREE 15-minute Wish List Review and receive Friends & Family pricing when you book our Virtual Power Hour or a Magic Making Mission.  

Maria Helena Carey Photography – Online – It’s almost holiday card season! Memorialize your pandemic posse with a #porchportrait by local photographer Maria Helena Carey. Contact her at or follow her at Maria Helena Carey Photography.

The Miracle Theatre – 535 8th Street SE. In store (see hours) and online.

Register for a chance to win a tote bag or t-shirt. 

While closed, The Miracle Theatre is offering the following:

  • Curbside Concessions every Friday from 5-7pm
  • Virtual Cinema: new independent films added each week!
  • Online Store: t-shirts, tote bags, gift cards

PHOTOPIA portraits by elizabeth dranitzkeOnline – Authentic portraits of families, playful but professional head shots and empowering portraits of women. Register for Shop Fall to win a Fall Family Mini Session: a 20 minute weekday shoot at a safe distance in a fave Capitol Hill park or landmark or on your front stoop.

The Yard: Eastern Market – 700 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Online. Purchase Day Passes online for access to work from the space during business hours, M-F 9am – 5:30pm. Purchase a one or two week bundle and receive a discount!

Guest blog by Amy O’Donnell, Magic Maker Solutions

What a whirlwind, roller coaster ride, and really strange trip this has been…

I hope this finds everyone safe and still relatively sane. The last 2 1/2 months have been life-changing in more ways than any of us could have ever imagined. 

It’s been exhausting to take everything in, adjust, pivot, change everything we know and love, and, to think about what our personal and professional future will and could look like EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It doesn’t matter now if you’ve taken this time to relax, re-consider, re-create, re-build, or rejuvenate—hopefully, you’ve been able to balance of all of the above.  And now that you’ve gotten used to a whole new world at home… it’s about time for your professional fresh start and to get back to business.

Here are what I feel are the most important things to remember about reopening:

Safety first. Your health and that of others are STILL the #1 priority. Having sanitizer handy, making mask-wearing mandatory, hand-washing, cleaning, social distancing–that’s going to be the new normal for a while. Set the example and your expectations with everyone NOW. 

Take the time to learn how everyone has REALLY been and where they feel they’re at now—maybe they’ve found new talents, interests, or ideas of their own that could be beneficial to your business. Find out what kind of support they need to get back in the groove.  You know how hard it is to come back after a long vacation?  It’s going to take a lot more time and energy to recover from a crisis.

Be patient. Get used to just being back at work and the new way of doing things.  It may take someone a little longer to pick up a new process. Give them grace like you’ve been giving yourself and let them know you’re there for them.  After all, they’re there for you. 

Wish you had done more to prepare?  Don’t worry…you still have plenty of time.  Just focus on what’s in front of you now and staying healthy.   Business may not pick up right away—remember, everything else is starting to reopen too. 

Be mindful and observant of others when you’re out and about. Instant gratification is virtually impossible right now…especially with so much going on behind the scenes with staffing, scheduling, and sickness.  I couldn’t believe how many complaints I heard about 2-day shipments coming late when millions of other orders were being placed at the same time. Think of the logistics. The technology, the number of steps, and how many people it takes to get something done during a pandemic when you’re trying to protect yourself and your family.  The mode of transportation to get from point A to B and beyond.  

Yes, we all have high standards and want to go above and beyond for our clients, but, sometimes, it’s not going to be humanly possible.  I hate feeling like I’ve been stripped of my superpowers, but if this time has taught us nothing else, it’s that we can’t control everything.  And it’s ok.  

Just breathe, do your best, keep the lines of communication open, and be honest with yourself and others.  Take baby steps and pace yourself.  We’re conditioning for a marathon now and just need to make it through Phase 1 now. We have 3 more after that. 

Every day will be a victory and an opportunity to discover different, better ways of doing what we love.  Surprises, struggles, and setbacks…we can’t stop those, but we sure can choose how we react to them and who we need by our side to get us through this. 

You are NOT alone. We ARE stronger together.

Amy O’Donnell
Founder/CEO & Main Magic Maker
Magic Maker Solutions Inc.

Mallory Corlette of Office Accomplice joined CHAMPS and Eastern Market Main Street for our May 2020 Capitol Hill Business Series. Particularly during the pandemic, it is important for business owners to identify their core business functions and evaluate the time, effort, and resources needed to strengthen, develop and promote that business. Check out her presentation below on how to think through these “simple but hard questions” and then determine what items you might want to outsource so you can focus on your core business. You can reach Office Accomplice here.

How You Can Help

Financial Resources

  • DC Small Business Microgrants – deadline is 6 PM on March 31. Get your application in as soon as possible. 
  • SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans, including a PowerPoint on applying

Families First Coronavirus Response Act and employer paid leave obligations

This Federal measure requires employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate, to employees. Employers with fewer than 50 employees can seek an exemption from the Department of Labor if providing this leave would jeopardize the viability of their business. Per DOL ” To elect this small business exemption, you should document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations.” DOL Frequently Asked Questions

What questions do you have in navigating and taking advantage of the DC and Federal coronavirus laws and regulations? Contact CHAMPS to see how we can help!

Being a small business owner and entrepreneur is challenging. There are plenty of critics out there, and often we are our harshest ones. What if we could learn to tame that inner critic, or better yet use it for motivation, rather than a stumbling block in our path?

Life coach Sarah Curnoles walked CHAMPS members through just that process during the February entrepreneur meeting.  Below is my summary from the discussion and resources that Sarah provided to help “quiet your inner critic.” Looking for more information or focused guidance? Reach out to Sarah directly at, or (443) 720-6715.

Sarah started out by asking us – what does your inner critic sound like? What does it say, whose voice does it use? After we went around the table and responded, she noted that every time she asks this question, people respond that the voice is comparing ourselves to others. We never note that we didn’t hit our goal or achieve something we wanted to. We always compare our progress to what others are doing – someone else is crushing it at their entrepreneurial business, why aren’t I?  Someone else has successfully competed for and won several contracts, why haven’t I? Why would someone come to me for x, y, or z when they can go to a competitor that is so obviously successful (insert every Instagram post ever here).

Why does this voice compare me to others? Sarah says it is because it is formed when you begin to develop your identity, around 5 years old. She notes that’s why the voice often sounds like a bratty kid.

You may also feel physical sensations when you hear the critic. She had us think of a moment of failure and then do a body scan (eyes closed, sitting quietly, focus on parts of your body from your feet to your head or vice versa and pay attention to what you feel). This helped us understand what sensations we feel in these critical moments. Flushed faces, sweaty hands, tight chests and throats, dry mouths are all sensations that we can feel as the inner critic dialogue starts. 

So how can we start to quiet the inner critic? Sarah shared several tools.

First, acknowledge the critic. Sarah notes that the purpose of the critic is to protect you. It’s there to let you know that you’re standing out in the crowd, you are going against conventional wisdom, and that you are at risk. She also notes that like a kid, it will just get louder and more annoying if you don’t give it some attention.

Second, get curious about the voice. Why now? Who does it sound like, what exactly are you trying to tell me or warn me about?

Third, thank the voice. Recognize it is trying to protect you. The voice is associated with high stakes and is encouraging you to play it safe.

Fourth, take action. You are in control. You are the decision maker. You can listen to advice and recommendations, including from your inner critic, but at the end of the day, as Sarah says, “prove that you can take care of things.”

Fifth, communicate the plan. You’ve made a decision – now think through the plan to execute it, and get the critic on board. Sarah notes that by developing a plan, you can temper the critic and ease fears and concerns.

During this discussion, I found the most difficult question that Sarah asked – and the one I’m still pondering – is “how would I be different without the inner critic?” For me, I think the answer is that I need to learn from the inner critic. After the event or decision point, look back at what happened. Was the voice right or wrong and why? Take those lessons and apply them to the next challenge. And if it turns out the voice was wrong, recall those successes the next time the voice gives you pause. And try to recall those feelings and then the success that occurred afterward.

Sarah noted that “if you spot it, you got it.” She said we often we use comparison as a mirror, so those traits you admire in someone else are ones you can cultivate in yourself. Understanding what we want is the first step to cultivating those characteristics.

One last resource Sarah shared is a tool to help push back on the inner critic. It’s Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule . Essentially, you have 5 seconds to act instinctively on an idea before your brain takes over. She uses a countdown method to push yourself to take action, like counting down to a launch. 5-4-3-2-1. Try it and see how it works for you and what you can accomplish!

You can find a copy of Sarah’s strategies for quieting the inner critic below.