On February 3, a wealth of products and services on display inside the Recreation and Wellness Center drew customers to the tables of 60 small business owners of color. The event also celebrated Black History Month.
The Saturday afternoon pop-up created a buzz on the Mount Carmel Campus, drawing over 500 shoppers from surrounding communities together with many members of the Quinnipiac community. The event was once again sponsored by Quinnipiac M&T Bank Center for Women and Business and Quinnipiac M&T Bank Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
M&T Bank Executive Vice President/Regional President Frank P. Micalizzi said M&T Bank was proud to team Quinnipiac to support these entrepreneurs and provide networking opportunities for a third year.
“It’s very important. When you think about the backbone of our economy, it really is small businesses,” said Micalizzi. “We’re very proud at M&T to play a part in being able to highlight small businesses of people of colorand to have them get together to share stories and commonality, learn from each other’s experiences and help each other get to the next level of their development.”
The event was additionally supported by Grameen America, the U.S. Small Business Administration, M&T Bank, Women’s Development Business Council, CitySeed and the Connecticut Community Outreach Revitalization Program (ConnCORP).
Last year, the ConnCORP/Quinnipiac University Community Entrepreneurship program was launched. It helps guide local entrepreneurs in underserved Hamden-New Haven communities toward achieving their small business ownership and operational dreams.
M&T Bank Center for Women and Business co-directors Tuvana Rua, associate professor of managementand Tamilla Triantoro, associate professor of business analytics and information systems, greeted the gathered entrepreneurs, event supportersand shoppers on February 3.
Rua thanked the day’s participants and supporting organizations, as well as many Quinnipiac students assisting with the event and sharing their talents. Rua said there were many others to thank, including Quinnipiac President Judy Olian, Provost Debra Liebowitzand School of Business Dean Holly Raider and its leadership, for their continued support.
“This year we have been blessed with great enthusiasm and we have 60 businesses present with a wide variety of products and services,” said Rua. “We would like to thank all our guests who are here with us today in support of our community and attending businesses.”
Triantoro introduced Erik Clemons, CEO of ConnCORP, who gave the opening remarks. Clemons shared a profound personal lesson with the entrepreneurs which he said taught him to present himself first before presenting his product or project to an audience.
“I present who I am, my values, what I care about. Hopefully they see some integrity and some character in who I am; and not only who I am, but who I’m trying to be,” said Clemons. “The thing that makes you distinct as it relates to your business model, as it relates to your product, is not your profits and loss, it is not your marketing plan, it is not only your website. It is who you are as you present yourself to the people.”
Among the day’s entrepreneurs welcoming customers to their table was small business owner Elle Pearson. Pearson is also a graduate of the first ConnCORP/Quinnipiac University Community Entrepreneurship cohort. She said the program helped her to launch her menswear personal shopper, clothing designand tailor business, Elle. Kay Styling and Design Company.
Pearson said she loved the positive energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie she was experiencing at Quinnipiac during the Sip & Shop event.
“When you’re surrounded by people with positive energy and who are creatives and entrepreneurs just like you, it gives you a complete boost. You know we’re all in the trenches together, trying to grow our businesses, trying to network and maximize sales,” said Pearson.
Marsha Jones, owner of Beautiful Floral LLC, said she had established her floral arrangement small business in her home country of Jamaica in 2000. But, she didn’t carry on the business upon moving to this country in 2018, until a neighbor offered to purchase a wreath she made and hung on her door last fall.
Jones connected with the Women’s Development Business Council and met some other entrepreneurs through classes offered by the council. She said she was browsing the internet, looking for new ways to get exposure for her products, when she came across the invitation to join Sip & Shop and registered for the event.
“I like it because there’s a variety of suppliers who are all small businesses and all Black people. I am ecstatic,” said Jones.
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