Later date, new features to warm up business expo for 2010

‘We want to give vendors and the public a reason to go to the expo. We want to create a buzz about it.’
— Sandy Mull, interim president, Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber

For more than 30 years now, the start of spring and the arrival of the annual Business & Lifestyle Exposition have pretty much gone hand in hand.

This year’s expo, however, will be a mid-spring event, slated for May 13 through 15 — but still in its traditional spot at Yack Arena in Wyandotte.

And the show’s longtime organizer, the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber, is quickly warming to the idea, which originated out of necessity because the arena was not expected to be available at the traditional time due to hockey commitments.

In fact, Sandy Mull, interim president of the chamber since February, is finding a lot of reasons to be excited about the later date.

“One of the big benefits is that other expos that compete with us for vendors will have already taken place,” Mull said. “The last two years our expo was on the same date as one in Novi.

“Another benefit is the weather. People likely won’t need to wear their winter coats to the Black Tie Preview Party, for instance. We’ll also have the option of doing some things outdoors if we decide to do that.”

On the flip side, though, Mull said she and others involved in the planning are working extra hard to spread the word about the later date. The businesses that participate and the people who attend have come to expect the event to be held around the same time of year virtually since its inception as the Downriver Business Expo in 1984.

With several new activities and enhancements in the works, Mull believes that all those who participate in this year’s expo will find it well worth the wait.

Key additions this year include an all-new Women’s Expo called Inside the Expo, and Detroit radio personality Linda Lanci will serve as master of ceremonies for a Saturday Family Fashion Show.

“Other regions have been very successful with women’s expos, and our home-based business tables went over really well last year,” Mull said. “We’ve decided to offer those tables again this year and put them together in one area with booths for business that are looking to do business with women.”

The addition of the Family Fashion Show is part of an ongoing effort to attract more families to the expo. Last year’s event introduced the first Family Fun Zone.

“In the past, the expo wasn’t very exciting for kids, so families often didn’t attend,” Mull said. “Last year’s Family Fun Zone was a big success, so we’re repeating it and actually expanding it this year. Our attendance on Saturday was dramatically increased from the previous year, and we expect it to be even larger this year.”

While the addition of the Fun Zone was a plus for the kids, the chamber still saw a void in terms of activities geared toward their moms.

“One thing we thought moms would appreciate was a fashion show featuring affordable clothes for the entire family.”

Green Street, another new addition from last year, also is expected to have a broader role in the 2010 event.

According to Mull, Green Street evolved from the efforts of the chamber’s Greening Downriver committee, formed as part of the Downriver Summit a couple of years ago. It’s now a chamber standing committee and working to increase awareness of the need for Downriver businesses to consider the environment.

“Last year we decided to have an aisle in the expo dedicated to businesses featuring environmentally sensitive products and/or services as well as those that have adopted sustainable practices,” she said. “It was well received by attendees, but we didn’t have as many vendors as we had hoped. The message is getting out there more and more, so I expect that we will have more vendors on Green Street this year.”

Although she’s only held the interim president title for a few months now, Mull said she is excited about trying some new things to both create new expo followers and re-energize those who have been involved for many years.

“The worst reason to do things a certain way is because that’s how we’ve always done them,” she said. “We want to give vendors and the public a reason to go to the expo. We want to create a buzz about it.”

Drawing larger crowds with more varied interest ultimately should benefit the people that the expo originally was created to help — the 100 or so vendors that come to showcase their products and services throughout the three-day event.

“The more ways we can find to attract larger numbers of attendees and a broader demographic to the expo on the public days,” Mull said, “the more exposure we can give to the vendors and the more prospective clients and customers they’ll meet.”

One of the event’s longest-standing traditions, the Black-Tie Preview Party, again will feature cocktails and the culinary specialties of more than 25 of the region’s finest chefs from 6 to 9 p.m. May 13. Tickets for the Black-Tie are $65 for members and $75 for nonmembers and can be purchased at info@swcrc.com or by calling (734) 284-6000.

The show is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 14 and from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. May 15. Admission on Friday and Saturday is $2 for adults. Children 12 and under will be admitted free.

The event also will feature a business workshop Friday morning and a networking event for young professionals at the end of the day.

Mull said the show floor also will feature two stages this year instead of one to accommodate more presentations. One of the presentations will feature the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is helping Downriver businesses look at ways to cooperate in marketing tourism-related businesses and events.

“We’ve been working with the Pure Michigan campaign for some time now to help our members promote tourism Downriver, and this is another way of accomplishing that,” Mull said, adding that some other new additions to the event still are in the works.

Businesses and organizations interested in sponsorship opportunities or reserving exhibit space can e-mail mary@swcrc.com or call (734) 284-6000, ext. 28.

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