12th Annual CRAIN's New York Business Expo + + +
By Al Berrios

Although I haven't written about it, sometime in 2001 (most likely January), I attended the 10th Annual Crain's New York Business Expo where Barbara Corcoran gave a keynote speech. At this event, I sat in the back and pretty much pitched interactive marketing services to my table mates. The economy had just been flushed down the toilet and the mix of businesses present wasn't as appealing as it should have been since I was still slightly caught up in the remaining internet craze. The event was semi-interesting, and this year's event was about the same.

Attending gratis (as opposed to paying a $50 fee), on Friday morning, October 31st, 2003, as a representative of the not-for-profit I counsel at, I got to see things way differently than I did before (particularly from the front table). Back then, I was the newbie. This time, I was the experienced consultant, objectively probing and appreciating everything, looking at opportunities from multiple angles.

The breakfast (it was an 8am thing) was fruit at the Hilton New York (a typically ok spot). I followed my fruit with tea, because by this day, I had already gone to two other trade events and hosted one of my own the prior evening, in the process consuming gallons of coffee. The sponsors and Crain's publisher spoke. And the keynote was Liz Lang, who 2 years ago, I may not have cared for, but this time, introduced me to an underserved and lucrative demographic - expecting moms. Liz Lang made fashionable clothing for them, and recently closed major deals with Nike and Target. In 6 years, this sort of growth is phenomenal, and Crain's was honoring her by letting her tell us her life story. Personally, I felt this was a waste of time, since she actually wrote a speech, more than an inspirational story about herself.

After about an hour of this, the expo started. It was only for half day, but during this time, there were two workshops on becoming a better business owner, and tons of exhibitors catering to the small businesses. From banks and insurance vendors, to small business consultants, to attorneys, to ad agencies, and even government services, everyone seemed to want my money. But the unfortunate reality was that, like many small business owners, the free gifts were all that attracted them. It reminded me why top executives prefer to do their public speaking and business at exclusive events - the general public is just ghetto.

There were individuals leaving the expo with as many as two bags filled to capacity with crap. These are the type of people that grab business cards just to say they know someone cooler than they. It's hard to believe that I once was the same way. I suppose it's part of human nature to want to grab as much free stuff as possible, and it's only when you have too much of it that you become mature about it.

Anyway, I met lots of interesting folks there and I've already done some business with one of them. I believe I'll be doing some more business later on with another firm there. It's a pretty cool thing for me to say that there are actually vendors I can use there, without caring whether or not they can use me. If that's the definition of success, then I suppose my wife is successful, too, because to see her spend, you'd think she was a Rockefeller. Overall, I'd give this event three pluses (+ + +), because for what it was, an event for entrepreneurs, it was good. But if you're interested in something more sophisticated and higher level, this certainly isn't an event for you.


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