SOUTH BEND -- It's an opportunity for the South Bend business community to get creative and network.
And to have fun at the same time.
Last year about 1,500 people attended the Business Expo After Hours at Century Center. This year, the aisles were already crowded 15 minutes after the Expo began on Wednesday.
"The excitement builds each year," said Shari Carroll, director of marketing and program development at the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County. She explained that the event is part of the overall marketing and sales program for many vendors.
It's also a way, she said, for businesses to find out what new and innovative products other local businesses have available.
This year -- as it has every year for the past decade -- the Expo sold out of vendor space, with 145 vendors manning booths.
Even before the Expo opened, vendors were trading business cards and networking.
With musicians performing and restaurants offering samples, the Expo has what Carroll called a "cool vibe." It gives the business community a chance to have fun and celebrate the community, she explained, and keeps the energy level high.
"It's a lot of fun," said Lindsey Bauer, a senior accountant at Kruggel Lawton & Co. of South Bend. She believes the event is a great opportunity for local businesses.
She enjoys working the company's booth, but also takes the opportunity to walk around and see what other companies are doing.
"In one day, you can make several new contacts," she said.
Lucinda Lowe, a sales executive at Interlogic Outsourcing Inc., a payroll processing company, agreed: "A lot of our clients are here and it's so much fun to see them. And it's nice to meet new faces."
Interlogic has had a booth at the Expo all 10 years, and Lowe said that the event is "definitely great exposure" for the business.
"It's our investment in the community. We belong to the Chamber and believe in the Chamber," she said. "It's an opportunity to come together. It's a sense of community. It's fun."
"It's all about how to get somebody's attention -- how to be creative," said Jeff Rea, chief executive officer and president of the Chamber.
Last year, he said, one of the vendors generated five new customers from the event.
"It's easier than a cold call," Rea said. "Instead of knocking on 50 doors and holding 50 conversations. I can come here and talk to 100 people in several hours."
But, mostly, people were at the Century Center to network and find out what else the area business community has to offer.
"It's all about commerce, visibility," said Carroll. "This is the business community on display."
Staff writer Alice Culp: