MARKETPLACE is Wisconsin’s capstone event for minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses. Now in its 36th year, MARKETPLACE continues to grow and thrive, with this year’s event slated for Dec. 13-14 at Potawatomi Hotel and Conference Center in Milwaukee.

A free Small Business Academy is also offered the first day of the conference for startups or individuals planning to start their own business. This includes a resource booth area with lenders and business resource providers specializing in supporting new businesses in their early stages.


Q: Why should I attend MARKETPLACE?

A: The most unique aspect of MARKETPLACE is the opportunity for business owners to meet one-on-one with buyers from federal, state and local governments, as well as large corporations in the private sector. These markets represent billions of dollars of annual purchasing, with special programs for minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses. The contacts that attendees make at MARKETPLACE have opened up new markets for hundreds of Wisconsin companies over the years; in fact, at last year’s conference, 54 buyers representing 34 organizations held a total of 667 meetings with attendees to discuss potential purchases from their businesses.

In addition to one-on-one meetings, MARKETPLACE offers informational workshops, a Small Business Academy for startups and newer businesses, networking opportunities and an expo hall with exhibitors including lenders, vendors and business development services to support emerging companies. The second day of the conference features a luncheon with the MARKETPLACE Governor’s Awards program celebrating the accomplishments of Wisconsin businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans.

“The event helps business owners from diverse groups forge connections and learn from one another, as well as connect with buyers,” says Barb LaMue, WEDC’s vice president of business and community development. “With each passing year, the event only improves in terms of quality and the number of connections that are made.”

Q: How do I participate in buyer meetings?

A: Attendees can sign up to meet one-on-one with buyers when they check in at the conference. The Wisconsin Procurement Institute (WPI) coordinates the buyer meetings and will have the final list of buyers available. Buyer meetings are held in a dedicated meeting area inside the Expo Hall on Dec. 14, 2017, and MARKETPLACE conference registration is required. Attendees may also sign up inside the expo hall for any time slots still open. View the current list of participating buyers; note that agencies and companies are added up until the start of the conference.

Q: What is the Small Business Academy?

A: The Small Business Academy is a separate event geared for startups, newer businesses or individuals planning to start a business of their own. This free event takes place Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. before the MARKETPLACE afternoon workshops begin. This free half-day program connects attendees with lenders, small business specialists and other business owners. In addition to workshop presentations on funding, marketing and business resources, the Small Business Academy includes small roundtable discussions led by experts on a wide range of topics such as sales, IT, employees, e-commerce and much more.

The Small Business Academy begins with a complimentary continental breakfast with networking time to meet other business owners, entrepreneurs, lenders and business resource providers. The Academy is free, but requires separate registration from MARKETPLACE at

Q: How do I submit a nomination for the MARKETPLACE Governor’s Awards?

A: The MARKETPLACE Governor’s Awards recognize outstanding Wisconsin businesses owned by minorities, women and service-disabled veterans. Small and large businesses are honored in two categories: the Outstanding Business Award, which recognizes established businesses that have demonstrated the capacity to grow over the past five years and have plans for continued expansion in the future, and the Rising Star Award, which honors businesses established after January 1, 2013, that have demonstrated strong growth potential. Winners are honored during the MARKETPLACE event.

Companies must be certified as a Wisconsin-based minority-owned (MBE), woman-owned (WBE) or service-disabled veteran-owned (DVB) businesses by the State of Wisconsin to qualify. Learn more about becoming a certified business.

Unfortunately, the nomination deadline for the 2017 MARKETPLACE Governor’s Awards has passed. Check in fall 2018 for the next opportunity to apply.

Q: How do I register for MARKETPLACE?

A: Online registration for MARKETPLACE is available at, along with more information on the agenda, speakers and award programs.