Virginia Kinneman was born and raised in Northern Virginia and currently serves as the chair of the Board of Directors at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and owner of Kinneman Insurance.
What is your top focus and goal for your term at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce?
I want to walk away at the end of the year feeling like I helped the chamber become a better bridge between the business community, the city and the nonprofits of the city. I’m looking to help create more synergy. I like the word bridge, so that we’re all working together for similar goals and a mission that helps all of us.
It’s been almost a decade since a woman sat as the chair of the Chamber of Commerce, what unique views and systems will you bring to the table?
I’ve owned my agency since 1997. In 1997, when I was approached to become an agency owner, there were less than 10 percent of women in the industry who owned insurance agencies. I think I bring a very unique approach to business in general. With 90 percent of agency owners being men and me being successful, I had to have a different approach to how I was able to get business and grow a business. I do that a lot through collaboration and working together. I don’t make it about selling, but about the customers that I serve and recognizing that relationships are where I’ll be successful. I do the same with the chamber. I work to find what a good return is for other members. They know they can come to me and ask for help, so I take a very different perspective.
With a focus on new developments (i.e. the waterfront plan) how are you planning on bringing the focus to all businesses in Alexandria, not just the downtown section?
My business is on the West End, so right away I have a different focus than Old Town. I realize for one part of Alexandria to be successful, all of Alexandria needs to be successful. Personally, my agency has joined all of the business associations in the area, so I have joined the West End Business Association, The Eisenhower Partnership, the Del Ray Business Association and Old Town Professional Business Association. As the chairman of the board being a part of all these associations, I can help represent them all.
What are the hurdles you see for businesses in the future?
The biggest hurdle we have is that often citizens don’t recognize that business is good for everybody. I say that because there’s a good and evil about development. It can bring in congestion, but at the same time it brings income to the city. The hurdle I see is helping the city government and helping the planning commission recognize the balance that we need to find a way to bring business in to support income so that it doesn’t all fall on the backs of the citizens of the city.
When you end up leaving your seat, what do you want your legacy to be?
Business is a good thing in Alexandria and that we do partner with the community. It’s not an adversary; we are working together for businesses to prosper, for affordable housing, for working with the city government and even Richmond, so that Alexandria is able to prosper overall.