I've been to the small business expo for the past several years and have found some great ways to use this free event for my business (I even got a new client from it one year!) I put together an article to share some tips that I've found to be useful. --Mary M.
1) Get clear.
Map out your business needs for improving your product AND define your ideal client. Should you look for PR professionals to help you offer better marketing for clients or businesses who can connect you with the entertainment community? Keep your eyes open for these people. They may be event vendors or attendees in workshops. Getting clear on your goals will help you map out your day.
2) Think relationships.
Practice true networking. After you introduce yourself and your company, ASK:
What does your business need most right now?
This will get the other person thinking and gets you explaining your business’ value. Don’t worry if there’s no direct connection. Listen and keep the person’s info for future reference.
3) Network everywhere.
The Small Business Expo has great speed networking sessions (get in line early enough for these, to make the cut) but also smaller sessions and workshops. Start conversations and make connections before and after workshops as well.
4) Take note.
When you meet someone briefly note anything that stands out. Jot down a few points on the back of their card or flier to prep for Step # 5.
5) Make the call!
After the event set aside an hour or so to call (that’s right) CALL the people you connected most with for some good old fashioned human interaction. Find out more about their business and if they can help you with the goals you noted in Step 1. Set up a time for coffee if appropriate.
Roberts Event Concepts Client Lands Funding from Billionaire’s Foundation
We are so excited to share in the good news
of Blooming Soyinka, Entrepreneur and Founder
of Africa Blooms, who was selected as one of the
1,000 businesses to receive funding from the
Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Foundation! Africa
Blooms was chosen from a pool of over 20,000
applicants and for good reason: the online
retailer not only provides quality, African-made
products but is growing to become a true
global instrument of change by planting
seeds in the lives of small businesses
all over the African continent.
Blooming Soyinka shared her vision with Roberts Event Concepts, Owner, Mary Miller, this month in an inspiring interview.
First of all congratulations on being selected for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Program! So, tell us, how’d you come up with the idea to create Africa Blooms?
Africa Blooms really started after I read “Made in America” by Sam Walton. The moment I read this, I saw an opportunity to create something like the Walmart business model, in Africa. Sam Walton included his name in the business and I wanted to include my name that way too. Africa Blooms is really about building communities and transforming lives. I want to tell the story of Africa in a different light than how it’s usually told and the way I can do that is to create a global enterprise. I want to build communities in different parts of Africa and build capacity across the continent to change the story.
In what way will Africa Blooms build communities?
The people whose products I carry are people from very, very low income neighborhoods. In the process, maybe a women who has 2 kids makes a product and Africa Blooms sells it; It gives her the opportunity to feed her kids but it also gives her hope so that she can send her kids to school. Africa Blooms gives people more meaning to their lives. It gives them a sense of pride knowing that ‘I was able to make this and someone in Canada (for example) is using my product.’
How do you choose items for your store?
One of the things that African Blooms really stands for is quality and making sure that the items we sell are things that our customers are going to appreciate. I ask people ‘what do you like about this product?’ Sometimes I look for consumer insights and sometimes I use my own judgment to choose products. In the long run the goal of the company is to be like an Amazon where all products are made in Africa. The product has to be from someone in Africa who put in the work to create it. So, number 1, I look for quality, 2. consumer insight, and 3. It must be made in Africa by an African. In the future we still hope to expand and sell electronics, furniture, accessories, home décor…anything.
What opportunities do you think your business will create in the future?
The first thing is value creation. I can’t tell you the number of jobs this will create. It’s about creating jobs and giving people hope, the hope that a person can live beyond $1 a day.
I could see the sense of pride on my mom’s face when I went to college. I want to give that same hope to others. It’s also about changing the perception about Africa. I see Africa Blooms as a home of brands that showcases the intellectual prowess and creativity of the continent. There’s a different story of Africa that I want to tell through Africa Blooms. I want small business owners to be able to say ‘When Africa Blooms came into the picture I was able to produce more products.’ It’s creating a story of creativity.
What’s something that people don’t know about Africa that you want them to know?
Everyone is talented, but everyone may not get the same opportunities that are available in other countries. There are people doing extraordinarily well in Africa but you don’t hear many stories of people creating value on the continent. That’s something that I think we really need to highlight more. There are numerous stories of positive things that are really going on on the continent that we need to showcase more. But yes, people should know that we Africans are taking the destiny of the continent into our very own hands.
Is there any advice you would give to entrepreneurs who want to start a business while helping people?
Just start it. Just do it, as the Nike slogan says.
You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to screw up. Yeah (laughter). You’re going to doubt yourself, beat up yourself, call yourself stupid and say ‘nobody’s going to buy into my ideas’. But in the long run you’ve just got to do it. I’ve had people say to me ‘so you want to sell clothes? You went to study abroad and this is the only thing you can accomplish?’ And I say ‘No, it’s not about selling shoes or clothes. It’s bigger than that’.
When I set up Africa Blooms it was my idea about Africa that got me into UBC(University of British Columbia), the school where I am right now. It was the same vision that I shared with the Master Card Foundation. I told them ‘this is my vision for Africa’ and they decided to sponsor my education here in Canada. Full ride. I’m not paying anything. That’s only because I decided to go for my vision and tell people what I believe in. I just think that if I did not start and write out and craft the vision, I don’t think opportunities I have now would’ve materialized. So the advice I would give is that you just have to start.
How does it feel to be selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneur Program? As I understand, there were 20,217 applicants.
The day I saw my name I went blank. I was speechless.
I started crying and it wasn’t because I accomplished something. No. It was because I realized that I’m getting closer to the dream and to helping different communities. I thought about that man or that woman who is struggling to make ends meet and how I can invest funding into his or her business. I thought about the ripple effect, the kind of value it’s going to bring. It’s just priceless. The exposure that the entrepreneur program brings is great but knowing that I’m going to be adding value to different communities is rewarding. And that’s only because somebody else that I’ve never met before, called Tony Elumelu, believed in my vision.
You’ve shared your big vision. Now I have a random, wild card question that I want to ask you: If your business was a person, what would it’s favorite color be and why?
(Laughter). You didn’t tell me this was coming. I can’t choose just one color! Africa Blooms is about the beauty of the whole rainbow!
The reason why I chose the rainbow is because it represents all the potential on the continent that we haven’t even developed or tapped into yet. One color cant’ tell the whole story. Even when you look at the logo of Africa Blooms, it’s a rainbow of colors. The reason why I chose that logo is because I wanted to pick something bright and positive. That’s the way I see Africa. There’s just so much potential and one color would not do justice to represent that.
Roberts Event Concepts is so excited for Africa Blooms and we know that the company will accomplish every thing it sets out to do while being a great help to a “beautiful rainbow” of businesses.
For more information on Africa Blooms, visit www.africablooms.com .
Whether you’re having an exclusive marketing soiree or community-wide gathering, there’s one thing that can hurt your best event and cause a huge set back for everyone: starting too late!
We know things come up, but starting an event well after the expected start time is a big no-no. It may seem like it’s not a huge deal to accommodate guests who are running behind or to allow more time for set up but starting your event late can really throw things off track.
1. It penalizes those who arrive on time.
We wanted to address this topic first because it’s so important. One rule of thumb for quality event planning is great time management. Your guests could be anywhere else doing anything else so you want to value their time as much as possible. If all the excitement starts when latecomers arrive it’s unfair to those who came on time; unless they’re a key part of the success of the event, carry on and let latecomers catch up on the fun once they get there. After a good start, you can keep all other parts of of your event on track and on time.
2. Starting too late can alter everyone’s plans. Your event is important and your guests show that by being present. However, busyness is everyone’s business these days so keep in mind that the later your event starts, the later your guests are able to attend to other important tasks. Keep in mind that starting too late can also alter service times and costs for DJs, photographers or any other vendors you may have on site.
3. It gives your events a bad rep. Guests can sense when you’re not quite ready for them. We understand that the unplanned can happen at any time but sticking to your start time and "wowing" your guests keeps the focus on the overall experience and off of the planning details (which your guests shouldn’t have to worry about at all). Your invitees will look to you to set the tone for future events so give them a good impression and build a reputation of being timely and organized. It makes it that much easier for them to decide if they'll come back.
4. It alters the experience. Have you ever gone to an event with an “exit time” in mind? Most of us do because we want to attend a great event, meet new people or reunite with friends before it’s time for bed, work or something else. You never know what someone has planned before or after your gathering or if they need to get home before it’s too late to prepare for the next day. If you start your event late, guests may have to step out early and miss the best part of what you’ve planned, leaving them with an incomplete event experience.
Ways to avoid a late start:
1. Be sharp. Be sure to list your start time with the word “sharp” on any publicity or invitations. This plants the thought in people’s minds that “they’re starting on time so I should get there promptly”.
2. Plan a smart set up. Getting a head start on event set up is key to timeliness. Having everything and everyone involved and in place at least 1 hour before start time is a good rule of thumb for most events. So if your party starts at 6pm, try to have everything ready to go by 5pm at the latest. It’ll also give you more time to handle any unexpected changes or delayed arrival of vendors. Avoid planning to pick up any last minute items on the day of as this can get you off schedule and create unnecessary stress. Keep in mind: the larger the event, the longer the set up time.
3. Plan easy. Have a designated planner or planning team to take care of important details to avoid a late start. Having yourself as one point person works well but a team of planners can be in several places at one time to make sure every aspect of your event runs without a hitch.
4. Reward promptness. Offer a special incentive for those arriving early. Create some pre-event excitement by staging a guest reception with specialty food and drink that are only offered during the start of the event. The possibilities are endless so feel free to get creative!
We hope that you found this article to be helpful! If you have ideas on other content that you’d like to read about on our site, email us at email@example.com .
Can you use help with designing timely and timeless events? Click here !
Nurturing Business Relationships
Kick off Women's History Month with this interactive workshop! Hear from Roberts Event Concepts owner, Mary Miller, on practical ways to work relationship building into your business routine.
Hear from Special Guest, Blooming Soyinka, Founder of Africa Blooms, who will join us via Skype to share her experiences all the way from Vancouver, Canada! For more on Blooming Soyinka, see interview below, Roberts Event Concepts Client Lands Funding from Billionaire’s Foundation.
Four Tips for Hosting a Fun-Filled,
Food-Themed Giving Party
written by Mary Miller, Owner of Roberts Event Concepts
Roberts Event Concepts is excited to partner with Catalyst Counseling to bring you EntrepreneuHER - A "Networkshop”. Check out the interview below to learn more about the company and owner, Jasmine Menser-Lust LCPC. You’ll be happy to find out ways Jasmine is creating change in the lives of others.
MM: Why do clients choose Catalyst Counseling? What is your approach?
JML: Clients choose Catalyst Counseling when they are actively ready to make a change. I work with clients who come in and might feel stuck or may have tried different approaches in the past where they may not have been successful. Now they are ready to make a change in their lives and try something new even if it feels uncomfortable. They realize they have made it to a point where they would rather risk trying something different than sticking with the pain of the familiar. My approach to counseling is usually a strengths-based collaborative approach that allows me to chose the counseling modality that would best meet my clients needs. I went to Adler School of Professional Psychology where I was trained in Adlerian therapy which reinforces my individualistic approach to counseling. I always say this is not a “one shoe fits all field”. I believe in meeting my clients where they are, which means I try to fully understand all the current circumstances before making assumptions or guiding them where they are not ready to go. My goal is to get clients to a place where they feel self-assured and no longer need my regular support.
MM: What are some indicators that a person needs to get counseling?
JML: Of course we all have demands in our lives that at times make things more challenging. When it gets to a point where, for example, symptoms of anxiety or depression are getting in the way of your accomplishing day to day tasks, impacting your relationship and impacting your job on a more frequent basis, that's when it would be encouraged to seek out additional support. There are so many tools such as books or online resources that can be helpful, however, when it feels you can no longer manage it alone where it would be best to have an unbiased third party perspective, counseling can be extremely helpful so you have that professional guidance and support.
"...mental health is something we can't see. There is no stigma against going to a medical doctor for diabetes or a broken arm however some feel that to seek out help for depression or a broken heart is not justified."
MM: Describe results you’ve helped clients achieve.
JML: I’ve had clients come in reporting difficulty functioning at their jobs due to lack of motivation and focus. They began to call off of work more frequently due to work dissatisfaction. Through therapy it was realized that the job was not really aligned with the clients’ values and pieces of their day-to-day job put them in conflict with themselves. Once these clients were able to recognize the conflict, it became easier to cope. It's hard to fight something when you don't know what it is. These clients were on the verge of quitting and/or committing acts of self harm due to the level of pain and lack of fulfillment they experienced in their workplace. I worked with my clients to concretely identify what their values are, clarify their goals, increase awareness of negative thoughts and focus on elements that they could control. In the end clients gained hope that they had the capability to achieve a life that allows them to be fulfilled at work through transitioning to a more suitable role within their company or working towards their bigger career goal and balancing the day to day. So the main results were increased insight, better coping skills and increased motivation and hope.
MM: When might someone benefit from a support group rather than individual counseling?
JML: Group support is a great resource in that it can unite those who experience a similar pain or symptom and is very beneficial when you might feel you have a good foundation of coping skills however you might struggle with the isolation of experiencing your problem. Group support helps you to learn from others and learn more about yourself, as people tend to open up more once they feel connected to other people who have almost walked a similar life path. In most cases it's recommended to have a support group coupled with individual support so the client has that platform to further discuss any individual issues that may have been triggered in a group setting. For instance, I have an Infidelity Support group where clients may not only have an individual counselor but a marriage counselor as well. We call this having a team approach. When we have a negative event disrupt our lives it's ok to call out for back up. There is no reason to suffer alone and group support reminds clients about this.
MM: What do you wish people knew about your profession? Why is there such a stigma about counseling?
JML: I wish people knew that counseling isn't that scary. To oversimplify it, counseling is a conversation. Some of us may have people in our lives that play a strong support role and motivates us to change. I find that for some people it may be hard to come into counseling because you are actively choosing to look yourself in the mirror and take steps to become the person you want to be. I tell my client's all the time that it took courage for them to show up to session. We get so use to carrying our problems that it's hard to imagine it another way or feel that the path to change will be met with much resistance. I wish people knew that even through it feels scary at the beginning to invite a stranger into your life, the whole goal of counseling is to build a relationship. There are parts of the relationship that are familiar to that strong support person you may already have in your life however the difference is that this is the only relationship that is all about you. It’s a relationship that challenges you, holds you accountable, supports you and focuses solely on your needs.
The stigma against counseling varies by culture but overall is perpetuated by a lack of trust and understanding of what happens in counseling. Terms like "shrink” or thinking if you talk about a problem that it will get worse, are all fear-based perceptions of counseling. The other part of it is that mental health is something we can't see. There is no stigma against going to a medical doctor for diabetes or a broken arm however some feel that to seek out help for depression or a broken heart is not justified. Mental health can be a secret symptom where it's hard for people to fully understand the pain until they've been through it or are supporting a family member who is struggling.
MM: What's the easiest way to get set up with an appointment at Catalyst Counseling?
JML: The easiest way is to schedule an appointment online. I love providing that convenience for my clients. I don't want to put a time limit on when people can take that first step. The most common time of day people are struggling is at night or very early in the morning and I wouldn't want "business hours" to get in the way. If someone is ready to make a change I offer the option to set that appointment right when he or she is ready. Those interested can go to my website jmltherapy.com to select the day/time that works best for their schedule. I offer evening and weekend hours as well to accommodate various work schedules.
To reach Catalyst Counseling call 224-325-4513 or visit jmltherapy.com
Registration is open for our next ENTREPRENEUHER event, Monday October 1 in Schaumburg. Early bird tickets are available until September 17!
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Building Your Network at the #SmallBizExpo
Giving is living.
What better way to celebrate another year of life than to gather friends, family and colleagues for a fun food drive.
I recently hosted a giving party at my home. I got the idea from a friend who asked for online donations for a non-profit instead of gifts, for her birthday. I was so happy to steal the idea and collect all kinds of goodies. I chose a homeless shelter in Chicago. You should try it. Check out these tips for giving a fun party with a purpose.
1. Pick your passion. Choose a charity that stands for something you care deeply about. This will help you stay diligent when planning and collecting donations. Is there a cause that sticks out? Is there an issue in a disadvantaged community that you just can't stand? Search online for charities or do what I did: ask friends on social media. My friends helped me find a hidden gem that gets little exposure and not much support: You Can Make It Inc. homeless shelter.
2. Take some time. Choose a good chunk of time that allows people to give. I recommend sending a donation wish list out at least 3 weeks before the party. This will also give you time enough to clear out your fridge if you're collecting perishable items. Don't forget to send out reminders about the giving party itself too. Which leads me to tip #3...
3. Ask for help. Since a giving party involves planning an event and coordinating donations, you'll need some extra hands. Choose a friend to help carry bags and take coats as guests arrive. Ask for someone to bring extra boxes for packing things up. Designate a friend to decorate. You may also need someone's help when dropping off donations. People will love to be more involved.
4. Play with your food. Yes, I said it!
At the party, have fun with all the donations you collect by challenging guests to a building contest. Create teams and put out a chair for each group. This will be the base for building the tallest food tower possible in 5 minutes. Tiny Tip: Cans are dangerous! Use boxes and bagged foods only and skip the bread and eggs for obvious reasons. My guests also played a "Guess Your Grub" sort of game. I wrote out food pairs on separate slips of paper and taped them to everyone's back. Then I asked my group to work the room, asking "yes" or "no" questions to guess which food item they were. After they guessed correctly, each person had to find his or her pair. By the end of the game "cookies" and "milk" found out they had a lot in common :)
I hope you found these tips helpful. Consider hosting your own giving party. Want help planning? Feel free to contact us. Happy planning!
@ Hub 83
6 Executive Ct. South Barrington, IL
Detroit Families Find Fun Ways to "Be Well. Together."
Own Your Life is a “must-attend” workshop for every new entrepreneur. It’s the place to examine your approach to business to see if it matches up with the mindset of the most successful entrepreneurs, according to research. There’s no one-size-fit-all way of doing business but there are some foundational principles that we all should keep in place. The principles are good for anyone working towards any goal because it provides a focused and fresh perspective. We'll be viewing our goals through 10 different lenses.
Come learn and brainstorm with me at Own Your Life. Register online:
Your partner in success,
p.s. I love meeting new people and hearing about their ventures so I hope to see you there.
The One Little Mistake That's Having a HUGE Negative Impact on Your Events.
Sponsor Spotlight: Catalyst Counseling
Interview by Mary Miller, Owner of Roberts Event Concepts
Did you know?
There's a specific set of skills needed to make a business successful. But did you know these same skills can be applied to your personal growth?
Roberts Event Concepts will host its 5th annual Family Fitness Day Event in Detroit, Michigan this July at Pingree Park on Detroit's Eastside. The event will include fitness games, a group workout, and nutrition information from a guest instructor and fitness specialist. Family Fitness Day is a fresh dose of positivity and fun for the entire family.
Reserve your spot at this free event on Eventbrite http://bit.ly/1CYUDSU