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  • Matt Moloney

How Arlington County, VA’s BizLaunch is building a strong business community with Open Rewards

At Bludot, our Open Rewards program powers shop local programs across the country. We recently caught up with the Arlington County, VA Economic Development (AED) BizLaunch team for a deep dive on their Open Rewards program. 

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What is Open Rewards?

Open Rewards is a community-wide rewards program that stimulates the local economy by incentivizing consumers to shop local. The program lets consumers earn a percentage of rewards when they shop at the eligible businesses within the community, and can use the rewards they’ve earned at any other eligible businesses within that same community.

The community program administrators may decide the appropriate percentage, funding, eligible businesses and additional program parameters. Since launching in 2022, Open Rewards is live in communities across the country such as the City of Las Vegas, NV and the Hermiston, OR Chamber of Commerce, with over 85% of users indicating that it has positively influenced their decision to shop local.

How AED’s BizLaunch team uses Open Rewards to drive local shopping

The way Open Rewards works is simple. After signing up in the Open Rewards app, residents can visit the businesses in the program and pay like they usually do. Then, directly from the app, they can upload the receipt and earn 5% cashback to use towards purchases at other local businesses. It’s an incredibly easy way to encourage your residents and visitors alike to shop locally. 

“This effort not only helps Arlington’s small businesses, but also allows the consumers to earn cash back rewards by supporting them. In today’s economy, when everyone is watching their spending, this effort is a win-win for businesses and consumers.” Tara Palacios, Director of AED BizLaunch

Arlington County has been using the Open Rewards program since 2022—and since signing up has seen a 24x return on investment in local economic impact.

“The Open Rewards program has been received incredibly positively; almost 90% of folks who use Open Rewards have said how it encourages them to want to shop small.” Tara Palacios, Director of AED BizLaunch

In the past 2 years, the Arlington County Economic Development Department has invested $12,500 in the program, and has seen over $260,000+ spent at local businesses in the Open Rewards program. This is an incredible return on their initial investment that has provided their community with a supercharged way to support their local businesses. 

Usually, it can be extremely challenging to define the economic impact of a shop local program, since they’re usually managed via paper coupons, gift cards or punch cards. However, by partnering with technology forward tools like Bludot, they’re able to see the impact firsthand and learn the success of a shop local program.

Supporting all small businesses in Arlington County

AED’s BizLaunch program exists to support a variety of small businesses—including all industries from IT companies to government contractors to retail. In any given year, they touch over 6,000 small businesses. In addition to Open Rewards, they have a variety of programs they host that support their many small businesses. 

One of these programs are educational workshops and webinars, accessed easily via their online calendar—they also share past recordings on their YouTube channel. These workshops discuss everything from marketing tips to how-to access to funding, as well as people management workshops, like “Burnout-Proof Your Organization”. BizLaunch has made sure they’re able to provide value to all of the industries they work with. 

“It’s very come as you are. Don’t feel that you need to be an expert. We’ll bring the experts to you, and we’ll help you through the process. It’s been great. We’ve had about 200 very diverse entrepreneurs go through the program, and they have gone viral. They’ve had influencers come and visit them because now they’re discoverable. That’s been a lot of fun.” Tara Palacios, Director of AED BizLaunch

In addition, they have marketing support, such as access to their small business directory, a business spotlight media post, as well as social media exposure. A small business directory is an easy way to make it easier for residents and businesses to find each other. Being listed on Bludot’s Open Rewards is another way for residents to find businesses they’d like to support—and Bludot provides marketing resources as well. 

"The Open Rewards program is one of BizLaunch’s many innovative tools that small businesses can leverage to help them." Tara Palacios, Director of AED BizLaunch

Small businesses are an integral part of our local economies and make up the fabric of our communities. Finding the right tools and programs to support them can be challenging! However, by investing in programs and resources that are easy to access for businesses and shoppers alike, you can make sure your investment will pay off. 

For easy to use tools that can super-charge your economic development strategy, schedule a demo with Bludot today.


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