MARKETPLACE 2019 was another record-breaking year for the Governor’s Conference on Diverse Business Development, with new records set for the number of registrants and exhibitors, as well as the number of tickets sold for the evening reception.
The two-day conference brings together minority-, woman-, veteran- and LGBTQ-owned businesses for networking, education and training, and one-on-one meetings with buyers to forge connections or even make deals on the spot. The businesses can also connect with service providers to help them expand their capacity.
Held Oct. 23-24 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Conference Center in Milwaukee, MARKETPLACE drew 841 total registrants this year—including more than 400 people who registered for the Wednesday night reception. Nearly 50 buyers attended to meet with businesses one on one, and 105 businesses and service providers sponsored booths in the Expo Hall.
The conference kicked off Wednesday morning with a half-day Contracting Academy. Organized by the Wisconsin Procurement Institute, the multi-track workshop featured speakers from federal and state government, as well as service providers and the private sector, offering insights on how to win government contracts. (The Small Business Academy that was previously held the morning of the first day of MARKETPLACE was instead broken out into a separate event held in different locations across the state.)
A series of workshops on Wednesday afternoon offered information on demographic trends in Wisconsin, the state supplier diversity certification programs, cybersecurity tips for businesses, and contracting opportunities including the new Komatsu campus, the Wisconsin Center expansion and the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Companies also got a chance to hear about the Wisconsin Supplier Network, where they can create listings and allow their products to be found by companies specifically looking to buy what they offer.
At the reception on Wednesday evening, the following award recipients were recognized:
- Belonger Corporation and City Supply received State Contract Awards.
- Jessica Cavazos of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County received the Minority Small Business Champion Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Manisha Dotson of Nisha Group LLC received the SBA’s 8(a) Graduate of the Year award.
- David J. Kircher, who spent 20 years with the Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corp., received the Minority Business Development Award.
- Herb Miller, supplier diversity program manager for Michels Corporation, received the contract Mentoring and Business Development Award.
- Tru Mwololo, equal opportunity specialist for the Wisconsin Supplier Diversity Program, received the State Diversity Development and Advocacy Award.
- May yer Thao, the former executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce and current assistant deputy director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, received the Community Economic Development Award.
At the reception, WEDC Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer Tricia Braun thanked the award recipients, partners, sponsors and all attendees for their contributions. “The work that we do with all of you is incredibly important to moving the needle forward” for Wisconsin’s economy, she said.
Additional awards were presented Thursday morning at breakfast by Governor Tony Evers and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes.
In a new award category this year, the Legacy Award was presented to recognize perseverance and growth in a family-owned company. The inaugural recipient was JCP Construction of Milwaukee.
“You should all be incredibly proud of what you’ve accomplished,” Hughes told the award recipients and finalists as they came onstage for pictures with the governor.
A lunchtime panel on contracting and procurement featured David Goudreau, of Northern Wings Repair Inc.; Rashi Khosla, of MARS Solutions Group; Herb Miller, of Michels Corporation; Jean Marie Thiel, of Belonger Corporation; Nick Weissenborn, of Aeroforce Logistics LLC; and Andrew Shuck, of the Wisconsin State Bureau of Procurement.
Style & Grace by Pang Vang LLC was featured as a small business success story. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee-based business was honored as Emerging Business of the Year by the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce.
In a video produced by the Hmong chamber, Vang described opening her salon in 2013, and seeing it grow so much that within three years, she was working past midnight to serve customer demand and knew she had to expand. Since then, she has hired additional employees and has branched out from hairstyling and color to additional services including lashes, facials and other skin care. She has also been involved in training other cosmetologists through the state’s apprenticeship program and opened her own “lash academy” to train technicians. That academy became a second location for her business where trainees can rent space to practice their craft and serve clients.
“My advice to those who want to open up a business: don’t stop being a student, especially on how to run your business,” Vang said. “How much you are open to learning is now much your business will grow.”
To receive notices when next year’s conference is scheduled, visit marketplacewisconsin.com and find the box to subscribe at the bottom of the page.