Small Business Expo set for Tuesday

Sep. 22, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

The 25th annual Lee County Small Business Expo, which was postponed earlier this year, is back and will be held Tuesday afternoon.

Past shows had attracted 80-100 exhibitors, so when this year's show had fewer than 40 signed up, officials struggled with canceling the event altogether or moving it from the spring to the fall and hoping for more interest. They took the latter route, and now the event is nearly back to full-speed, with 70 local businesses who will be on hand touting their services.

"Everything from car dealers to banks, health care, yogurt, dentists, lots of financial, some restaurants — it really just covers everything," Jennifer St. Clair, marketing director for the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, said. "We've got a few a nonprofits as well. And everything's local."

The event will last from 12-4 p.m. Tuesday at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, and admission is $2 or two cans of food to be donated to charity. More information is available at

St. Clair said the point of the expo is to connect Lee County residents with local businesses so they can learn about what all is available to them here in town. Many people, she said, drive out of the county for services that are offered here just because they don't know about them, so an event like this helps both businesses and consumers.

Sam Sillaman, who co-owns All Digital Printing Service on Wilson Road, serves on the expo steering committee and has attended all 25 years. He said it's not some magical event that will make a business successful just by being there, but that those who are there have a definite leg up on the competition.

"The expo isn't going to double your business overnight," he said. "But I'm a firm advocate that you should always be in the public eye, and this lets you meet a lot of people in a single day. ... I just feel like it's a good marketing tool for you to get out there, meet some people, shake some hands."

And as a small business owner which works with other local businesses, Sillaman said he also enjoys the aspect of the expo that lets business people connect with each other. The Chamber of Commerce ran with that idea this year, changing not only the date of the event but also the scheduling. Now, instead of a single all-day event at the civic center, the event has been broken up into two days with that business-to-business connection now getting an official function of its own.

Monday evening, an invite-only event will bring dozens of business-minded people together for music, food, entertainment and casual networking. It's a first-time thing, St. Clair said, but she hopes it will remain in the future and help build stronger connections in the local business community.

Sillaman said he also favors the new, staggered schedule.

"The nicest thing for me, as a business person, is having this two-day thing means I don't have to miss a full day of work," he said. "I can work half a day on Monday, half a day on Tuesday."

St. Clair said she's hoping, and guessing, that the postponement actually worked out for the better despite all the uncertainty this spring and summer.

"We are very excited to be holding (the expo)," St. Clair said. "And we're excited to be having it in the fall. The spring is just so busy, but the fall is more open."