Photo: Denis Bocquet/ Flickr
Washington, D.C., is known for its cut-throat politics and its power players.What many do not know is that D.C. is now a hub for business innovation.
With an established cultural presence, a burgeoning food scene, and a growing startup presence, D.C. is a great place to start a business.
The businesses we selected all either have a novel product or solve a problem in a unique way. From Arlington, Virginia, to Chevy Chase, Maryland, here are some of the most innovative businesses, restaurants, startups, and bars in the D.C. area right now.
What it is: A modern and creative Balkan restaurant.
Why it's innovative: Ambar brings the first Balkan cuisine to the D.C. area, serving traditional ingredients from the region in a modern and creative way. The menu is comprised of small plates that are presented in a whimsical manner.
What it is: A bar with a unique pricing strategy.
Why it's innovative: The Big Board treats beer like a commodity: the price of beer fluctuates depending on the supply and demand, just like in the stock market. Beers are listed on, well, a big board that displays the prices in real time. They also serve typical bar fare.
What it is: A bar with a twist.
Why it's innovative: The Board Room is unique because it has a collection of board games that you can rent for $1 to $5, such as Mousetrap and Clue. It also has a variety of interesting beers.
What it is: A restaurant with a unique mission.
Why it's innovative: Busboys and Poets is a restaurant where art, culture, and politics are just as important as the food. There are live poetry readings and performances at night. It also gets its food products from small family-owned farms and has many vegan and gluten-free options.
What it is: A membership bike-share program.
Why it's innovative: Capital Bikeshare has approximately 1,670 bikes docked at over 175 stations around the D.C. area. Members can easily pick up a bike at any of the stations, ride it wherever they want, and return it to another station at any time of day.
Membership options range from as little as one day to a whole year (only $75). The first 30 minutes of each trip is free, and there is an additional fee ($1.50--$8.00) for each additional half hour.
What it is: A green energy company that is sustainably operated.
Why it's innovative: Clean currents promotes sustainable energy solutions -- and it practices what it preaches. The sustainably-operated business uses wind and solar power to generate electricity for residential and commercial customers across Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
What it is: A website that helps event planers promote and manage ticket sales.
Why it's innovative: Event Farm's founders noticed that one of the greatest difficulties they faced when planning events was the hustle and bustle of ticketing. They created a platform that makes it easy for event planners to promote and mange ticket sales, and they also give the companies advice on how to ensure that the right people RSVP and actually attend the event.
What it is: A gelateria with creative flavours made from local ingredients.
Why it's innovative: Dolcezza loves to keep creative sourcing as local as possible. The store teams up with D.C.-area artisans to create flavorful new gelatos and sorbets, such as a Cucumber Tarragon Gin sorbet, which includes a gin made by local distillery Green Hat Gin. Another popular flavour is the Penn Quarter Porter gelato, which includes ingredients from the local D.C. Brau Brewing Company.
What it is: A creative video agency powered by a curated crowd.
Why it's innovative: Genius Rocket is a video production company that uses a crowdsourcing model. It allows many professionals to collaborate on a project, which allows for more ideas and creativity. Because projects are protected by non-disclosure agreements, those who want to tap many creative minds at once can finally do so, without fear that private information will become public knowledge.
What it is: A cupcake shop that has its own reality TV show.
Why it's innovative: Georgetown Cupcake was launched by two sisters who decided to abandon their careers in fashion and venture capital to do what they love most: baking. The shop serves over 100 flavours, including several gluten-free options, and has since opened locations in New York, Boston, and L.A . The store is the star of TLC's reality TV show, DC Cupcakes.
Georgetown Cupcake has also devised an innovative shipping technique that involves freezing the cupcakes overnight before shipment, and using special packaging to keep the frosting intact when the cupcakes arrive at your door.
What it is: A website that gives people financial guidance by helping them budget their expenses.
Why it's innovative: Hello Wallet functions like a personal assistant for your finances. The site will send you a weekend spending guide and a budget update every week and automatically describes and categorizes your transactions. By downloading their apps you can also get their financial advice on the go.
What it is: An environmentally-sustainable fine jewelry store.
Why it's innovative: I. Gorman is a family-run jewelry store that sells high-end items in what they call a 'no pressure environment.' The store also prides itself in being environmentally conscious by using more sustainable materials and energy efficient equipment. They also carry jewelry made from recycled metal, conflict-free diamonds and fair-trade gem stones.
What it is: An online social media hub for students that makes studying easier.
Why it's innovative: Koofers uses university data to create a space that functions a lot like Facebook but is exclusively for students. Students can bounce around ideas and help each other study by sharing course materials, class and professor ratings, study aids and more online.
What it is: A bookstore that has a bar and restaurant inside.
Why it's innovative: When it opened in 1976, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe was the first bookstore/cafe in the country to feature cappuccino, espresso, a full bar and food. Now, it's one of the most popular D.C. hangouts -- especially since it's one of the few venues in D.C. that's open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and brunch on the weekends.
What it is: A daily deals website.
Why it's innovative: Living Social is an online platform that allows users to browse through anything from events to stores to takeout available nearby. Merchants can partner up with Living Social to promote their businesses and consumers get discounts off their purchases.
What it is: A restaurant with imaginative culinary creations.
Why it's innovative: Minibar is a product of celebrity chef José Andres. The restaurant uses innovative cooking techniques, such as molecular gastronomy, and artistic presentations to wow diners.
The restaurant is also home to Barmini, the cocktail laboratory next door where bartenders employ the same creativity to concoct mind-altering beverages.
Reservations must be made far in advance.
What it is: A bar that runs on a sustainable model.
Why it's innovative: Meridian Pint is a bar that strives to be environmentally sustainable: it composts waste, uses energy from Wind Mills, sources ingredients from local farms for its cuisine, and serves American craft beers. It's fun to drink there too, since every table gets its own beer tap.
What it is: A vintage clothing store.
Why it's innovative: Nana not only sells vintage clothing but it makes new clothing that mirrors the vintage look. It is well known for its trendy handbags and hand-crafted jewelry. The store was inspired by fashion icon Jackie-O.
What it is: A company that gives advice on how to use energy in sustainable cost-effective ways.
Why it's innovative: Opower has a variety of tools and products that help people lower both their environmental impact and energy costs. With its assortment of apps, it makes it easy to save energy and participate in special programs with your utility provider.
What it is: A film distribution company, cafe, and bookstore that showcases African and African American films.
Why it's innovative: The cafe and bookstore is a cultural and intellectual space where literature, music, and film by and about African Americans are shared with the public. Sankofa hosts film screenings, book signings, scholar forums and exhibitions by artists.
What it is: A Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the Newseum.
Why it's innovative: Located inside the Newseum, this restaurant offers two dining experiences: the ground floor features a traditional Japanese menu and the upstairs serves contemporary Asian cuisine. There are two-story floor-to-ceiling windows that cover the entire restaurant, adding to the modern and refined atmosphere.
What it is: A coffee shop by day and a bar by night.
Why it's innovative: During the day, this charming hangout that is inviting for laptop users, who sip on coffee while working. At night, Tryst transforms into a bar and lounge that serves specialty craft cocktails. This is a unique and quirky venue with an eclectic style -- it takes pride in the fact that it's furniture and silverware do not match.
What it is: A market with restaurants, food trucks, specialty vendors, and everything else food related.
Why it's innovative: Union Market is a bustling marketplace devoted to all things food. It serves everything from high-end caviar and fresh fish to cheap tacos from a truck and high-quality knives.
What it is: A dance hall and bar with an 'Alice in Wonderland' theme.
Why it's innovative: This grungy hangout was inspired by Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland.' The dive bar features vintage posters dedicated to the theme, and there's even a sign behind the bar that says 'drink me.'
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