News

Biz expo dubbed a ‘success’

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Kitsap County writer

The first West Sound Business Expo took place at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds this week, giving 140 local businesses a chance to interact with each other and create networking opportunities.

“It has been a fantastic experience,” said organizer John Hunter, who owns the Logo Loft in Bremerton. “I have gotten positive feedback all around. Everyone was excited beyond belief about the turnout.”

Hunter, who had the idea of a local expo almost a year ago, recruited seven local Chambers of Commerce to support the idea. Businesses, who paid $100 for a booth (far less than the average trade show) needed to have a chamber membership in order to participate.

“We are trying to give mom and pop businesses the opportunity to be on the same stage as bigger companies,” Hunter said. “We took in enough to cover expenses and even made a little money. But that wasn’t what this was about.”

Exhibitors reflected a wide range of different businesses and non-profit organizations. This included those specializing in home improvements, special event planning, business assistance and services, health and wellness services, real estate, banking and insurance.

Several local restaurants also participated, serving free samples of menu items later in the day.

It was also an opportunity for untraditional businesses to show their wares. LocalStarz is an advertising broker for independent movie houses, developing slideshows that precede movie showings at three local theaters. Owner Jane Albee said the company develops customer profiles for each location, then presenting ads for targeted local businesses.

The results are quite different than a national chain, which will show ads that locals cannot relate directly to. And instead of the movie star trivia that spices up national chains’ advertising, LocalStarz provides a local slant--showing a Kitsap landmark and asking the audience to identify its location.

Albee said her businessÕ biggest obstacle is “educating our potential clientele about the benefits of onscreen advertising. We need to get across who it is a local medium that is effective and affordable.”

While Albee hadn’t landed any new contracts at the show, she hoped that other exhibitors would become clients after the expo.

“We almost decided not to come today,” said Dona Keating of the West Sound Technology Professionals Association, a local trade group. “I’m glad we decided to come. We were surprised by the amount of people offering businesses and services.”

“A lot of times we are talking to the same people over and over,” she said. “There are a lot of companies that we didn’t know about.”

“We send our products all over the world,” said Annette Catania, a sales rep for Northstar Sportswear Corp. in Kingston. “But we are here to show other local businesses that we can provide better service than an out of state company, and keep the money in Kitsap.”

Hunter was unable to provide final attendance numbers at press time. He did say the turnout was higher than his estimates, and expected the expo would become a yearly event.

“We will definitely have one next year,” he said.

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