The first Urban Business Expo was held on August 28th, 2012 at the Artist’s Collective in Hartford. This event, sponsored by the NAACP, was designed to bring together Connecticut-based minority and women small business owners with different organizations that educate and assist with funding, development, certification and marketing issues. In addition to business assistance organizations, also present were different companies and agencies in the healthcare, education, government, professional union, and infrastructure development and maintenance fields. Vendor booths were also set up to showcase some local small business owners. The University of Connecticut’s School of Business was represented by Seanice Austin from the Office of Diversity Initiatives and Kathryn Huntington from the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CCEI).
The event was well attended, and small business owners in industries ranging from yoga studios to independent cable providers mingled and networked with representatives in the over 70+ booths. Vendors were able to network with each other at the event, and many promising connections and plans for collaboration between different organizations were made. In addition to the expo booths, there were panel discussions and themed sessions running throughout the day. The theater-style seats were filled, and some sessions were filled to the point of standing-room only. Speakers included Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segara, and representatives from various organizations who provide business assistance to new ventures in the state. Also present on the panels were successful individuals who gave their stories and perspectives, and urged the audience members to take advantage of the different programs and organizations that are able to provide assistance for their business challenges.
It is often the case that small business owners are unaware of programs, funding, or initiatives that are available to them. The Urban Business Expo was designed to create awareness of all these different opportunities, and inspire an increase in the number of minority and women business owners in Connecticut. Austin remarked, “Participating in this event with the NAACP allowed the School of Business to reach out to minority small business owners in Hartford. We connected with some promising individuals and are excited to build relationships with business owners throughout the state.”