SYCAMORE – The DeKalb/Sycamore Community Expo on Tuesday, March 26 was the biggest networking and marketing event of the year for many area businesses.
“It is a two-part event. It's a business-to-business event, and then we open up to the public and we reach out to the them,” said Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.
The annual event, which is hosted jointly by the Sycamore and DeKalb chambers of commerce, alternates between locations in the two cities. Organizers held a networking event for business owners from 3 to 4 p.m., and then held a larger event beginning at 4 p.m. for members of the general public to attend free of charge.
“They can come here and see the businesses that are in their community,” said Rose Treml, executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce. “This is an opportunity for all our residents to meet and ask questions of our local business owners.”
Both Duffy and Treml estimated more than 90 percent of their member businesses are nonprofit organizations and small businesses.
“In the last hour I have talked to so many people who have not even heard of the Lincoln Inn,” said Christine Kyler, general manager of the downtown DeKalb restaurant. “(This event) brings in people that we can tell we do catering now.”
The chambers encouraged their member businesses to have give-aways, samples, raffles or games that would attract and engage visitors. Other attractions included bounce houses for children, autograph signings from Northern Illinois University football players and dance demonstrations.
“It's great that the restaurants are here because they get people in the door,” Treml said. Once attendees were at the event, business owners and employees could engage them casually and answer questions.
Duffy said that from a marketing perspective, such face-to-face meetings with potential customers can be invaluable for business owners..
“Sometimes it's a different audience, and sometimes it's meeting people in a different way,” he said.