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October 3, 2013

Packing the house for business

1si Business Expo a big draw for companies from around region

JEFFERSONVILLE — Kye’s in Jeffersonville is a popular spot for receptions and meetings because of the openness of its two gathering halls and the courtyard separating them.

But Thursday, the facility was a bustling labyrinth of convention booths.

Kye’s was the site of the One Southern Indiana 2013 Business Expo, the area’s largest annual business convention. Now in its third year at Kye’s, the expo provided booth space for 111 area businesses. But the event, which was free to attend and open to the public, played host to many more than just those who occupied the booths, said Wendy Dant Chesser, 1si CEO.

“It’s not only open to the businesses that are participating in the expo, it’s also open to all of the businesses in the community,” Dant Chesser said. “We have a very diverse community in terms of the number of different businesses and the type of businesses that we have, and this is a great opportunity for them to share what they can do for other businesses.

“It’s local networking — it’s all about increasing the local economy and keeping the stimulation of those dollars here.”

The expo provided opportunities for each of the businesses represented, and those opportunities were as varied as the companies in attendance. For some, it was a chance to load up the Rolodex with new leads. For others, it was a chance to perform community outreach.

“We like to do community service, and when we come here, we usually bring some of our community service offerings,” said Carol Guilfoyle with Clark Memorial Hospital, which provided information on heart disease and lung cancer screenings.

The event had plenty to offer to those in attendance besides networking opportunities. Small businesses had a chance to win inexpensive advertising — like a full-page ad in Southern Indiana Business Source Magazine, a sister publication of the News and Tribune — at a silent auction conducted in the courtyard.

“Our member businesses have been fantastic about donating billboard space, ad space, marketing space, so things that a small business may not be able to afford, they can come to the auction to get advertising at half the price,” said Melanie Douglas, director of marketing and public relations with 1si. “So that really helps them out if they don’t have an advertising budget.”

There were plenty of freebies to be had. Virtually every booth gave out information pamphlets in addition to promotional materials like pens, bags, can koozies and cups. And from 3 to 5 p.m., attendees got a chance to sample a taste of what local restaurants, caterers, breweries, wineries and bakeries have to offer.

And for business people looking for nourishment of the mind, international sales coach and author Jeff Peden provided two free workshops.

“I’m telling you, of all the people, he’s actually motivated me unbelievably,” said Rick Barr, a 1si ambassador and owner of Clarksville-based Big Frog Custom T-Shirts.

Barr estimated that 1,500 people would traverse the expo before the day was done, concluding with a networking happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.

“They know it’s a great way for them to meet new people and build those relationships,” Douglas said. “You build those relationships, and hopefully you’ll be able to do business together.”

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