ROSWELL, Ga. — Close to 200 veteran business professionals and veteran-owned businesses flocked to the Country Club of Roswell on April 30 for the first Veteran Business Expo of Georgia.
The expo allowed veterans who own businesses, entrepreneurs and corporate purchasing professionals to gather for a reverse trade show and matchmaking event.
The expo is the brainchild of the National Veteran Supplier Diversity Coalition, a nonprofit that supports veteran-owned businesses, in partnership with Roswell Inc, the city’s economic development arm.
Brent Moeller, events director for the coalition, said the idea for the expo was born out of frustration with existing trade shows for veterans. He, along with other veterans, had traveled across the country for such events and wanted to see something more engaging in Georgia.
“What we saw was a real frustration on the side of the exhibitors,” Moeller said. “They were trying to get in front of more veterans, and veteran business owners like ourselves were trying to get in front of more companies who want to buy from veterans.”
Many of these trade shows, Moeller said, were open to the general public and tended not to result in fruitful matchups.
To fix the problem, Moeller said he and his group decided to create their own trade show.
“These companies who we’re partnering with for the expo are really focused on veteran-supplier diversity,” he said. “They’re passionate about giving veterans more opportunities.”
Moeller added that choosing Roswell was a no-brainer.
“We picked Roswell on purpose, even when we started our own business,” Moeller said. “It’s specifically because of what an awesome place it is to do business… We’re blown away by the community, the resources here, and all of the other amazing business here to network with and grow.”
The signature aspect of the first Veteran Expo of Georgia was its one-on-one matchmaking, where veteran business owners sat down with corporate buyers and government procurement officers to pitch their products and services. Appointments were 15 minutes each in a round-robin style. The format beforehand after organizers screened and researched the best fit for the businesses and veterans.
It was an opportunity for veterans to pitch their company or ideas to prospective clients.
Matching up the businesses to the veterans before the expo was key to the program’s success, said Jack Ryan, event organizer and Southeast sales director for TMG Contracts.
“It helped people get off on the right foot,” Ryan said. “Hopefully, it helped more people get business out of it and helped them feel that they were being put to more use than some of the other trade shows that we’ve been to.”
More than 30 exhibitors attended the inaugural Veteran Expo of Georgia, with Lockheed Martin as the title sponsor and SAS Software as the partner sponsor.
Moeller said the group plans to host more conferences and expos, including in areas outside of Roswell, such as Texas and Atlanta. Between events, the National Veteran Supplier Diversity Coalition will continue to be a year-round resource for companies to find veteran-owned businesses through job listings.
“Our passion is to see these veteran-owned businesses be wildly successful, and we want to do it in a way that’s mutually beneficial for other companies,” said Jon Bass, outreach officer for the coalition.
For more information about National Veteran Supplier Diversity Coalition and future events, visit nvsdc.org.