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Businesses come together at Sarasota Chamber Grand Expo

A chamber executive staff member said the turnout at the event saw a significant increase over previous years.

Items from Daiquiri Deck are displayed at the expo.
Items from Daiquiri Deck are displayed at the expo.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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When the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce held the annual Sarasota Chamber Grand Expo on Thursday at the Robarts Arena, there was one major difference from previous years, said Vice President Ed Hill.

He said attendance in the past typically approached 300-350, but this year, it was over 500.

“Everyone who attended felt the attendance was much, much greater than it had been in previous years,” he said. 

Bringing together 83 exhibitors from the local area, the expo, sponsored in part by and presented by Sam’s Club, provided an opportunity for Chamber members to connect with the community.

Hill said as a former business owner, he considers it essential that businesses have a forum for generating leads for deals with other businesses through a direct-to-consumer model.

For instance, if an exhibitor performs wedding planning, the exhibitor could connect with someone who is planning a wedding, or someone who knows a person who is.

“That’s what the Chamber is about,” he said. “We want to help businesses grow.”

Maggie Rodriguez speaks with Janice Gillogly, Mariah Miller, and Kathy Bender of Dutchman Hospitality.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Hill said a public expo also provides a unique environment for businesses to form connections. One company, Beneva Flowers & Plantscapes, he said, generated substantial interest by distributing free glasses of Champagne.

Hill said among the organizations that could benefit greatly from the expo was Sarasota Paradise, a men’s pre-professional soccer team that is starting play this year.

“Last night, over 500 people could become more familiar with that organization,” he said. 

Hill said the public at large being invited to the event, with no restrictions, increased the exposure exhibitors could receive. Attendees included other members of the Chamber, business owners in the community, and even retirees, he said.

One reason for the increased attendance, Hill said, could be a more robust advertising campaign than was seen in previous years, which involved additional ads, and mailers being sent to households within a given zip code. Another possibility, he said, was that the public was more eager to engage with the community after COVID-19.

The expo also provided an opportunity for business-to-business services as well, Hill said, while noting the presence of both local businesses and larger companies such as Sam's Club and Comcast. 

Angélica Castañeda Ríos of C&C Supplies and Services LLC said the event could lead to local businesses supporting one another.

Angélica Castañeda Ríos of C&C Supplies and Services said the event created connections between local businesses.
Photo by Ian Swaby

“I think it was a good opportunity, because everyone wants to know local businesses,” she said. “We can make business together between us.” 

She said she had successfully generated a business deal during the event. 

Hill said the feedback the chamber received was extremely positive.

“People just had a good time,” he said. “They enjoyed themselves.”

Margie Pierrelouis of Margwine Organization, which seeks to empower young girls to reach their potential, called the expo an exploration of the “endless opportunity and possibilities of Manatee and Sarasota counties.”

“As a Chamber member, I was just waiting for it to come around, and am excited for it every year,” she said. 



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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