MARKETPLACE, the Governor’s Conference on Minority Business Development, was held Dec. 12-13 at Potawatomi Hotel and Conference Center in Milwaukee, drawing more than 700 registrants, as well as a sold-out crowd of more than 200 to the Small Business Academy event held in conjunction with the conference.
This year’s conference, the 37th annual MARKETPLACE, attracted a record number of exhibitors in the Expo Hall—88—as well as a record number of buyers from the private and public sectors—50—who held one-on-one meetings with potential suppliers to discuss their procurement needs.
“MARKETPLACE is the banner event of the year for minority, woman and veteran business owners in Wisconsin,” says WEDC Vice President of Business and Community Development Barb LaMue. “WEDC is proud to be the host of this important event that brings the business community together and connects business owners with valuable resources to help their companies grow and thrive.”
The two-day conference kicks off with the Small Business Academy, which was held for the fifth straight year after Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch came up with the idea in 2014 to hold a free half-day workshop for aspiring business owners and those who are just getting started.
The workshop typically includes sessions on accessing funding to support a new business and navigating regulatory requirements, as well as topics such as marketing, branding, cybersecurity and financial best practices—and each year, small business owners with a track record of success are invited to share lessons they’ve learned along the way.
The MARKETPLACE conference officially kicks off in the afternoon, with pre-conference workshops on business topics, as well as updates from state government and an evening networking reception that honors state-certified minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses that have been in business for more than 25 years.
The next day, awards are conferred in multiple categories at the Community Award Breakfast and the Governor’s Award Luncheon. A partial list of 2018 award winners can be viewed here. The main conference also includes an Expo Hall where Wisconsin companies promote their products and services and professional service providers promote their services to companies. One-on-one buyer meetings are pre-arranged so that companies interested in finding new customers can connect with procurement officials from the private and public sectors.
“Each year, MARKETPLACE not only provides an opportunity to recognize the achievements of Wisconsin’s minority-, woman- and veteran-owned businesses,” says WEDC Minority and Small Business Development Director Seyoum Mengesha, “it also produces results for the companies that attend, in the form of meaningful connections and contracts for new business.”