In response to member requests for more educational and networking opportunities, the event is the first of its kind for the chamber, featuring 150 exhibitors, free seminars, 2,000 attendees and free entertainment.
“More than 80 percent of our members have 25, 50, or fewer employees,” said Ann Kassouni, vice president of business development services for the chamber. “We’re showcasing smaller businesses that don’t always take part in traditional trade shows. We tried to appeal as a business-to-business networking atmosphere, and we are trying to highlight a variety of businesses. The chamber has such a variety of businesses that are members.”
Business Showcase will immediately follow the Small Business Celebration Luncheon, and will also run in conjunction with Business After Hours, the chamber’s monthly social networking event, also at Devos Place.
“I think a lot of people will go to all three,” Kassouni said. “By scheduling the events in conjunction with each other they will draw from different audiences. We decided to make it one big, exciting day.”
The chamber presents the Small Business Celebration each May “in celebration of contributions small businesses make to the West Michigan economy.”
Delivering the keynote address at the luncheon will be Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer of Yahoo!.
“We thought he would be a great person to speak on the areas we were looking to hit,” Kassouni said, “which are ways to promote your business in a very positive and energetic way. It seemed to fit Tim perfectly.”
At Yahoo!, Sanders delivers next-generation marketing programs to world-class brands and leverages resources to add value to his clients’ growth strategies. His knowledge of sales and marketing combined with his high-energy presentation has made him one of the most sought-after speakers in the nation.
Also at the luncheon, the chamber will honor GYMCO Sports as its 2004 Small Business of the Year. Former college gymnasts and physical-education teachers Doreen and Mark Bolhuis opened GYMCO as a part-time business in 1980 and a full-time operation in 1991. The company teaches athletic skills to children, with a variety of programs including martial arts, gymnastics and cheerleading.
The Small Business Celebration will last from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., with Business Showcase following from 1:30-7 p.m. Business After Hours runs from 5-7 p.m. Costs for members are $40 for the luncheon, with free admittance to both Business Showcase and Business After Hours.