Often, "east" was literally meeting "west" as business owners from both sides greeted each other at the event.
Hundreds of local business people poured into Robarts Arena on Sept. 19, eager to take advantage of the networking and connecting opportunities provided by the East Meets West Expo.
The Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance for the 11th year. Members of both organizations set up vendor booths to meet other business people and grow their endeavors. Local restaurants provided food to fuel the event, which buzzed with people during the entirety of its three hours.
“We had someone come up who remembered us from three years ago,” said Priya Parikh, director of outreach and operations for A Life Story Foundation. “It’s good to make those lasting connections.”
The event was set up a bit differently this year, with less structure between aisles of booths so attendees could stroll through and take a peek at what's happening on the other side. The networking created a clamor in the arena while old and new friends and allies in supporters of local business mingled.
“It’s good to be a part of and get more involved in the community,” said Jason Bell of Sherwin Williams, participating in the event for the first time.
Bruce Abramson of LegalShield, who’s been a vendor at multiple previous events, advised greener vendors to arrive early to set up and that giving something away at the booth never hurts. Many booths echoed that advice in practice, with tables brimming with candy, branded pens or coupons.
Though the goody bags were full of great bonuses just for coming to the event, the folks there seemed grateful for the networking above all else. Though focused on business, the event felt more like a large party.
“It’s about connecting the group,” said Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance CEO Dom Dimaio. “And people have fun!”
Longboat Key businesses had a strong showing, with Chamber members including Veteran Air and Jack Dean Flooring talking it up all evening with attendees.