Sebastian Flores

Sebastian Flores, 13, man’s his booth of OctoGifts, featuring an array of card-stock candy dispensers that double as greeting cards. Sabastian’s mother, Melanie, an MIT graduate, said Sebastian has the mind of an engineer.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Hundreds of visitors wound their way past an array of some 80 exhibitors Aug. 23 for the seventh annual Alpharetta Business Association Expo held at the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta Hotel.

The show was a lot more engaging this year, with many tables inducing passersby with food, games, free samples and other activities.

Andy Jordan, executive vice president and chief credit officer for Providence Bank, said he used to wander through the exhibits at the expo until the bug hit him. This is his third year as an exhibitor.

“I was sold on the idea,” he said. “It’s a great place to meet people and develop new relationships.”

Jordan’s booth drew extra attention with a gizmo that featured a metal washer dangling on a string. Visitors swung the washer toward a mounted hook for a chance to win a Bluetooth speaker.

Another highlight at the expo was a LinkedIn workshop presented by “The LinkedIn Guy” Gregg Burkhalter, a recognized expert on personal branding and a former radio personality at stations throughout the Southeast.

Meanwhile, Beth Johnson, partner with Savory Gourmet, was walking the aisles with a tray of delectables from The Savory Gourmet, which just had its grand opening earlier this month on Canton Street in Alpharetta.

Their chef, she said, is from New York, so a lot of the customers who hail from that part of the country love dining on an authentic New York Reuben or pastrami sandwich, she said.

Just down the aisle, another hands-on item garnered steady interest.

Sebastian Flores’ OctoGifts featured a multi-colored array of small, decorated, upright candy dispensers.

“It’s a combination greeting card-candy dispenser,” said the Alpharetta 13-year-old. “It’s something you would give to a friend or family member on a special occasion. 

Each dispenser is made of card stock with a window of acetate that displays the level of candy still in the container.

Flores’ mother, Melanie, is a former educator who received her degree in engineering from MIT. She said she left her career as a coach to STEM educators to concentrate on her two sons.

Her eldest son, T.J., is a junior at Denmark High School. Sebastian is a student at DeSana Middle School in Alpharetta.

Melanie said Sebastian has sold about 66 of the devices over the past few months, bringing in about $1,000.

“We are just so proud of him,” Melanie said. “He just has this amazing ability to see things in his head and unzip them to see what they’d look like.”

Sebastian was one of three presenters earlier in the day for the ABA’s Tech Showcase, which features three entrepreneurs pitching their products to a panel of tech start-up experts.

The showcase included TGen Tech, which provides proprietary medical device technology that augments cardiac tissues and grows with the patient. Espy Data Science, another presenter, combines statistics, math, computer programming and IT to help dealers run their businesses more effectively.

Then, there was Sebastian, inspired by LEGO and origami, presenting his pitch for his candy dispenser.

“I think we did well,” he said after the presentation. “I wasn’t nervous. It was natural.”

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