Business Expo seeks to increase local businesses’ exposure

Gallery of Hair Design owner Tami Blacknall (right) reserves her space at next week’s business expo, as Coreen Haydock Johnson supplies the details. - Charlie Bermant
Gallery of Hair Design owner Tami Blacknall (right) reserves her space at next week’s business expo, as Coreen Haydock Johnson supplies the details.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant

Local businesses are hoping to raise their visibility and boost sales by attending the South Kitsap Business Showcase, scheduled for May 28 at the Port Orchard Armory.

“It’s a place for business owners to make contacts and see what other business owners are doing,” said Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson. “It’s a place to socialize, and for businesses to interact with the public.”

The showcase is presented in conjunction with the Best of SK Awards, which tallies the popular vote about the leading local businesses in a variety of categories.

The awards are sponsored by The Port Orchard Independent.

This is the seventh annual showcase, but only the second to take place in the armory and the second to dovetail with the award ceremony.

The first five were held as part of the chamber’s monthly luncheon meeting, and prompted networking between people who were already members.

The new format is more festive and less pressured, since it occurs after hours.

That it is open to the public, and with no admission fee, opens the possibility that vendors may develop new contacts outside of the sometimes insular circles that comprise the chamber.

“We wanted to bring in the public and make them aware of businesses they may not know about,” Johnson said. “Many home-based businesses don’t have a traditional storefront, so they find it difficult to do effective marketing. And some others are in out of the way places, and people might not know they’re there.”

Tami Blacknall, owner of the Gallery of Hair Design, is hoping the Expo will raise her business’ profile. Blacknall is pulling out all the stops for her booth, developing a beach theme and dressing her employees in florescent outfits.

Her hope is that the business will generate interest, even if attendees aren’t in the market for a haircut at the moment.

Johnson said the expo will be most successful for businesses who can convey their personality and make an impression, instead of expecting the customers to come to them.

“Someone who can talk about their business in an informed way will do a lot better than someone who just sits there reading a magazine,” she said.

Johnson said the Expo can comfortably host about 35 businesses, with about 21 signed up so far.

She’s preparing for one of two possibilities: That not enough businesses take part or, as it has been in the past few years, or there will be a last-minute rush of participants they they may not be able to accommodate.

Exhibition space is available to businesses that belong to the chamber, as well as those that do not.

Members get a break, paying $100 to participate. Non-members are charged $200.

A chamber membership itself costs $200, so cash-strapped non-member businesses can save money by not joining the chamber.

Johnson understands how some businesses will skip their membership payments in order to make payroll, but feels the chamber still offers a good deal.

“Even if you do nothing at all, I can get you more than $200 marketing value if you buy a membership,” she said.

Johnson is optimistic about local businesses, feeling that the worst economic conditions have already passed.

While it may be difficult to sell larger items, a small business that sells a niche product could very easily make a profit, she believes.

Additionally, Johnson advises that people continue to spend, although within their means.

“If you continue to spend money it helps to keep the economy going,” she said.”

Th Business Expo will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. on May 28 at the Port Orchard Armory.

For more information call (360) 876-3505.

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