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.

Happy networking!

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  • Meet and discuss your business with other ambitious women
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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

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,

Mary M.   

p.s.  I love meeting new people and hearing about their ventures so I hope to see you there.

March 3

@ Hub 83

6 Executive Ct. South Barrington, IL

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 for my 32nd birthday. 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! 

Building Your Network at the #SmallBizExpo

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

Detroit Families Find Fun Ways to "Be Well. Together."

The One Little Mistake That's Having a HUGE Negative Impact on Your Events.

What's New?

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, v
isit 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.

Here’s how:

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 info@robertseventconcepts.com .

Can you use help with designing timely and timeless events? Click here !