GMS’s Melanie Hayes Excited by 2022 Opportunities
By February 9, 2022 0 432•
As the new chair of Georgetown Main Street (GMS), Melanie Hayes – Vice President, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty – is enthusiastic about her GMS team and their group’s mission to help revitalize Georgetown.
In October 2021, Hayes took over GMS’s leadership from outgoing chair, Daphna Peled.
Founded in 2017 with the mission of assisting small businesses along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor from Whitehaven Parkway to K Street NW, GMS is funded by the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) as well as contributions from its own fundraising initiatives. GMS’s current budget is $150,000 per year, according to Hayes.
The Georgetowner spoke with Hayes about GMS’s projects, initiatives and outlook for 2022. As a real estate agent serving Georgetown, Hayes set up her own website, GeorgetownPropertyListings.com, to feature homes and blog about goings on in the neighborhood, posting about Georgetown’s best coffee shops and art galleries. She first became involved with GMS when her business worked with its technical assistance programs and joined GMS’s Board three years ago.
As chair of GMS, Hayes works with the organization’s all-volunteer committees and executive director, Rachel Shank (the group’s only paid employee) to provide “grants, plan events to attract people to the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, and offer technical assistance programs” to business owners to focus on “improving [their] business operations.” GMS has also been focusing on marketing and public relations to “elevate and raise the profile of some of the smaller businesses” that Hayes said “people might walk by and not necessarily be tuned into.”
Hayes is excited to help boost small businesses through coordinated online marketing campaigns combining high-quality photography, story-telling appeal and useful business information. GMS’s latest campaign – The Faces of Georgetown – has profiled seven small businesses along the 1800 block of Wisconsin Avenue on Instagram and GMS’s Facebook page and plans to keep “moving down” the corridor for future online profiles. GMS hired a lifestyle photographer to snap photos of each of the owners in front of their shops to help personalize the businesses.
“We wanted people to see the human correlation and say ‘Ah, so this is Dawn of Georgetown Beauty Bar.’ So, we posted Dawn’s story … outside their storefront and then in the text we had a profile with their contact information and what their expertise is…. The businesses that are not super savvy with publicity, we try to give them a little attention.” GMS also provided paid sponsorship boosts to each post so they could be widely disseminated.
GMS’s Instagram following is growing quickly, providing a strong base for such campaigns. “There’s a lot of data that suggests we’ve been gaining traction,” Hayes said. With more than 6,000 Instagram followers, GMS can quickly disseminate a highlight reel featuring the “really personable” owners of the seven promoted businesses in addition to promoting #TakeOutTuesday, Small Business Saturday, Rose Park events or Shop Georgetown initiatives.
One of Hayes’s favorite moments during the Faces of Georgetown campaign was getting to know Chichie Tascoe of Chichie’s Grooming Spa at 1742 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
“I actually hadn’t known there was a pet groomer there in Georgetown,” she said. “And we got a sort of action shot of them actually brushing-out one of the dogs…. It was great… People will realize — just as I did — that they can bring their dogs there” to be groomed.
Hayes is pleased with GMS’s recent work helping businesses with publicity. On GMS’s Marketing and PR Committee, Duk-ki Yu, owner of men’s shoe boutique Major at 1515 Wisconsin Ave. NW helped strike a deal with VistaPrint graphic design services to help small Georgetown businesses create logos and advertising materials.
Hayes credits Executive Director Rachel Shank for the enormous success of this year’s Georgetown Cookie Tour where patrons went from shop to shop to gather cookies for cookie-plate holiday gifts. After local Instagram influencers such as ClockoutDC started posting about the event, ticket sales skyrocketed. “The Cookie Tour sold out within days… and we had 97 percent attendance out of those who bought tickets,” Hayes said.
This year’s Art All Night festival which GMS helped boost was a huge hit, drawing massive crowds to Georgetown. More than 800 people attended events at the African Union on Wisconsin Avenue that June evening, Hayes said. GMS sponsored 75 percent of the festival’s featured art. “We know for sure that Art All Night and the Cookie Tour will be annual events,” Hayes said, “They were so much more successful than we could even have imagined.” GMS’s next major fundraiser will be a Shop Georgetown spring campaign – with lots of social media push.
With each successful fundraiser and promotional event, GMS can garner funds to be disbursed as direct grants to Wisconsin Avenue corridor small businesses. “I do think there are a lot of small businesses that have been positively impacted” by GMS’s grants, Hayes said. “It’s been a positive force for them to have those grants, so we’ve made progress on that. I think fundraising has been a huge focus because the more we’re able to fundraise, the more we’re able to give in grants.” The Chicken Pot Pie-athon from Jenn Crovato of 1310 Kitchen “raised $5,000,” Hayes said. Enough to “make a meaningful grant we can provide.”
Besides promoting small and local businesses, the heart of GMS’s work is to provide direct grants to help smaller enterprises succeed. Currently, GMS has $30,000 “ready to deploy” to assist such businesses, Hayes said. A major goal for GMS in 2022 is to fundraise to double that amount to at least $60,000 – the amount disbursed last year. In 2021, GMS gave out $3000 grants to 20 small businesses along Wisconsin Avenue. One such recipient was Los Cuates restaurant at 1564 Wisconsin Ave. NW, which used their funds to “improve the back patio so that it could accommodate customers outside” and purchase “furniture and materials,” Hayes said.
To fundraise, Hayes is also hoping to appeal to individual donors from Georgetown who see the mutual interest between Georgetown’s residential neighborhoods and a thriving commercial corridor. For Georgetown business owners, GMS’s grant application period this year starts in March, with awards granted by April 15. Applications can be found at Georgetownmainstreet.com. Besides donating to GMS, Hayes said, “one of the best things a Georgetown resident can do is to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram.”